11. The Means to DefendΒΆ

The means of defending a blow given either with the edge or point of the sword, are three. one is when the weapon is opposed to the blow, in such sort that the weapon which comes striking either at the head or at the body, cannot hit home to the place whereunto it is directed, but hindered by some thing or other then set against it, be it sword, dagger, target, bill, javelin, or any thing else, which at that instant a man has in his hand. For it chances not always to wear or carry weapons of purpose, or ordained to that extent. framed to that end: for which cause, it may well be said, that the soldier differs from other men, not because he is more skillful in handling the sword or javelin, but for that he is expert in every occasion to know the best advantage and with judgment both to defend himself with any thing whatsoever, and therewithal safely to offend the enemy: In which and no other thing consists true skirmishing.

He that persuades himself that he can learn this Art by the exercise of a few particular strokes of the point and edge is utterly deceived: for besides, that by those particular tricks, there is small knowledge gotten: So the chances in this Art are so dangerous and diverse, that it is impossible to deliberate suddenly, except he have the universal knowledge and understanding of all the rules and principals hereof, being grounded upon offending and defending, and not only upon the sword, the dagger, the target, the javelin and the bill. For a man at all times (when he is occasioned to strike or defend) does not carry these weapons about him, but is constrained to defend himself with a piece of wood from a javelin, with a stool or form from a sword, or with a cloak from a dagger, in which case men commonly use many other things not ordained for that purpose, doing that therewith which natural instinct teaches them. And this instinct is no other thing then the knowledge of the rules before laid down: which knowledge, being it is naturally grafted in the mind, is something the rather helped and qualified by Art, and makes a man so assured and bold, that he dares to enter on any great danger, and judges (when he sees the quality of the weapon, and the site wherein it is placed) what it may do, or in how many ways it may either strike or defend. From which his judgment springs the knowledge of all that he has to do, and how he has to handle himself to encounter any danger.

But returning to my purpose, to wit, of the way how to defend, which is to carry the weapon opposite, this manner is commonly used, but is not so profitable, being used as it is. And the reason is, because when men endeavor themselves to encounter or oppose themselves against the weapon which comes to strike them, (neither making bold that their weapon can, neither knowing how it should defend) they withdraw their body with their foot, and commit all these faults following:

  1. First, by withdrawing of themselves, they encounter the enemy’s sword towards the point, in which place it bears most force, and therefore with great difficulty they sustain the blow.
  2. Another is, if they would strike the enemy, of force they must return their feet and weapons thither, where they were before, and yet increase forwards somewhat more, if they would strongly strike him: And in this they spend so much time, that the enemy may not only easily defend, but also, very well and safely strike. To him then that would use this manner of defense without danger, it is necessary and needful, when he encounters the enemy’s sword, that he do not withdraw himself, but with his left foot increase a crooked or slope pace forwards, the which shall encounter the sword, which before was coming striking with the edge, on that part thereof, in which it has least power to offend, and shall by that means easily withstand the blow. But if the sword come with a thrust, he must find it and beat it aside: for every little motion is sufficient to drive the point far enough from danger of hurt. And there is the advantage gotten, aswell in the blow of the edge as of the point, that the body is voided out of the straight line, by means of the said slope pace: and it stands so apt and so near to offend the enemy, that one may strike in the very instant, neither can the enemy so much withdraw himself as is sufficient to avoid the stroke: For a man has to use the straight pace of the right foot to follow the enemy, which pace is so strong and so swift, that the enemy may not avoid it. And because this manner of defense, in mine opinion, seems to be most sure and short, I will use it above all other. There is another way, to wit, when one perceives the enemy’s sword in the delivery of an edge blow, to fetch a great compass, he may strike him before the fall of his sword with a thrust : or else when the enemy thrusts, (but yet spends many times in the doing thereof) he may likewise strike him in as short time as may be. The which manner of defending is most profitable, and perchance the better of the two. For there is no man that will run himself headlong upon the weapon, or that, perceiving himself ready to be struck, will not suddenly draw back and withhold that blow which he had already prepared to discharge. And although there be some, who being struck run rashly on, yet generally, men will not so do, albeit they be struck when they are most choleric, but will, when they are struck or wounded, give back and be dismayed and by reason of the blood which goes from them, always more and more be weakened.  But when they be so wounded, it shall be for their profit to be well advised, and not to discomfort themselves for the greatness of the blow, but to bear it patiently : for that which they do in disdain and fury shall turn them to much displeasure.
  3. The third manner of defense is, when the body voids out of the straight line towards this or that side, but this is seldom used alone and by itself, but rather accompanied with the opposing of the weapon, or with the second manner of defense aforesaid. If it be used alone, the manner is to slip the blow, and to strike the enemy in the same time that he is over reached in his blow.
preferred manner of defense

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