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Re: [E_Rapier] Digest Number 88

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  • Artus Faucon
    Wow, Good discussion on blade lengths & fencing masters. I ll just add my 2 bits of experience and familiarity. As was pointed out correctly, Capo Ferro
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 11, 2007
      Good discussion on blade lengths & fencing masters. I'll just add
      my 2 bits of experience and familiarity. As was pointed out
      correctly, Capo Ferro recommended a sword that would reach from "the
      sole of the foot to under the arm" (That's an approximate quote from
      a translation), which is actually a coincidental equivalent to his
      first length measurment: "2 bracchio", roughly translated as "2 arm
      lengths". In my experience, it's the actual arm, not including the
      hand, but the armpit to floor (while standing) is the easiest way to
      measure it. This is also conveniently the exact distance that should
      separate your feet in a lunge ;-)
      I will point out that these are relative measurements: he's quite
      clear that there is not ideal absolute blade length, but that it
      should be proportional to your body. So if you're short, use a
      shorter blade ;-) Other (particularly later) Italian practitioners
      may have had other standards. Just because it was written in a
      manual doesn't mean that's what everybody (or even most) people did.
      That would be a reasonable assumption for popular masters & manuals,
      I'll warrant, but there may have been many teachers who left no
      written account of their practices.
      In my experience at Academie Duello, where we're played with
      everything from historical and classical rapiers to sabers, arming
      swords (1-handed cutting jobs) and longswords ("hand-and-a-half"), I
      have found the following: Shorter, tapered blades with a wide base
      are better weighted for cutting styles (Marozzo / Bolognese Italian,
      etc.), while the longer, thinner blades are better suited to
      thrusting styles (Capo Ferro, Fabris, DiGrassi and others). This is
      to say nothing of individual masters and is more of a continuum than
      discrete intervals. Even the "thrusting styles" of Italian rapier
      had cuts, and the "cutting styles" had lots of opportunity for thrusts.
      My impression of Spanish styles (coming from a different perspective
      than Maestro Ramon Martinez, for certain) is of precise footwork
      involving thrusts at a distance, but also some nasty cuts from the
      shoulder when close enough. I'm not familiar enough with the
      original material, or the Martinez school interpretation other than
      what I've heard second hand, but my main point is that there is
      variation within and among historical styles, not to mention their

      I've had many discussions about interpretation in person and on
      swordforums (entertaining reading if you have time), and I haven't
      found many clearly superior philosophies to this work. Some are more
      interested in sport that martial art, others more interested in
      History than either. To me, it's all interesting and much more
      enjoyable if we acknowledge our perspective and goals. I like to
      approach the historical styles in a much more "applied manner", with
      the caveat that I might not be doing things exactly the same way the
      original masters did, and I'm ok with that - I'm more interested in
      what I can learn along the way, using the historical material as
      strong guides. One key point highlighted by this discussion is that
      techniques must change to be effective with different weapons: it
      would be difficult to use Marozzo's teachings as written with a
      modern epee, and some "adaptation" would be required. Not that you
      couldn't learn anything useful in the process, but it helps to be
      clear. But if you want to try to understand the original manuals,
      you'd have to re-create the same conditions as closely as possible,
      starting with an appropriate weapon (if possible), and possibly even
      taking it as far as recreating the social context - Hey Look! the
      SCA! ... up to a point ;-)

      Thanks for the links & references (and annotated evaluations). If it
      hasn't been mentioned, I also recommend Eagerton Castle's "Schools of
      Fence" (or Schools of Defense or something). It is essentially an
      overview of historical schools and masters written much earlier by
      someone doing essentially what the SCA and WMA community are doing
      now. A great place to start if you're trying to pick a master to
      start with.
      And I highly recommend picking one historical system and learning it
      well before moving on to others. I have found it to be most useful
      in helping to interpret, adapt, and understand other systems before
      being able to synthesize, rather than picking up tricks from a bunch
      of disparate styles.

      Back to lurking - I miss you guys! :D

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