98. Of the exercise and strength of the armsΒΆ

Let a man be never so strong and lusty, yet he shall deliver a blow more slow and with less force than another shall who is less strong, but more exercised: and without doubt he shall so weary his arms, hands and body, that he cannot long endure to labor in any such business. And there has been many, who by reason of such sudden weariness, have suddenly despaired of themselves, giving over the exercise of the weapon, as not appertaining unto them. Wherein they deceive themselves, for such weariness is vanquished by exercise, by means whereof it is not long, but that the body feet and arms are so strengthened, that heavy things seem light, and that they are able to handle very nimbly any kind of weapon, and in brief overcome all kind of difficulty and hardness. Therefore when one would exercise his arms, to the intent to get strength, he must endeavor continually to overcome weariness, resolving himself in his judgment, that pains is not caused, through debility of nature, but rather hangs about him, because he has not accustomed to exercise his members thereunto.

There are two things to be considered in this exercise, to wit the hand that moves, and the thing that is moved, which two things being orderly laid down, I hope I shall obtain as much as I desire. As touching the hand and the treatise of the true Art, in three parts, that is to say, into the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder, In every of the which it is requisite, that it move most swiftly and strongly, regarding always in his motion the quality of the weapon that is borne in the hand, the which may be infinite, and therefore I will leave them and speak only of the single sword, because it bears a certain proportion and agreement unto all the rest.

The sword as each man knows, strikes either with the point or with the edge. To strike edgewise, it is required that a man accustom himself to strike edgewise as well right as reversed with some cudgel or other thing apt for the purpose, First practicing to fetch the compass of the shoulder, which is the strongest, and yet the slowest edgeblow that may be given: Next and presently after, the compass of the elbow, then that of the wrist, which is more prest and ready then any of the rest. After certain days that he has exercised these three kinds of compassing edgeblows one after another as swiftly as he may possible And when he feels in himself that he has as it were unloosed all those knittings or joints of the arm, and can strike and deliver strongly from two of these joints, to wit the Elbow and the Wrist, he shall then let the Shoulder joint stand, and accustom to strike strongly and swiftly with those two of the Elbow and the Wrist, yet at the length and in the end of all shall only in a manner practice that of the Wrist, when he perceives his hand and wrist to be well strengthened, delivering this blow of the Wrist, twice or thrice, sometimes right, sometimes reversed, once right, and once reversed, two reverses and one right, and likewise, two right and one reversed, to the end that the handle take not accustom to deliver a right blow immediately after a reverse. For sometimes it is commodious, and does much advantage a man to deliver two right, and two reversed, or else after two right, one reversed: and these blows, ought to be exercised, as well with one hand as with the other, standing steadfast in one reasonable pace, practicing them now, aloft, now beneath, now in the middle. As touching the weight or heft, which is borne in the hand, be it sword or other weapon, I commend not their opinion any way, who will for the strengthening of a man’s arm that he handle first a heavy weapon, because being first used to them, afterwards, ordinary weapons will seem the lighter unto him, but I think rather the contrary, to wit, that first to the end, he does not over burden and choke his strength, he handle a very light sword, and such a one, that he may most nimbly move. For the end of this art is not to lift up or bear great burdens, but to move swiftly. And there is no doubt but he vanquishes which is most nimble, and this nimbleness is not obtained by handling of great hefts or weights, but by often moving.

But yet after he has sometime travailed with a light weapon, then it is necessary according as he feels himself to increase in strength of arm, that he take another in hand, that is something heavier, and such a one as will put him to a little more pain, but yet not so much, that his swiftness in motion be hindered thereby. And as his strength increases, to increase likewise the weight by little and little. So it will not be long, but that he shalbe able to manage very nimbly any heavy sword. The blow of the point or thrust, cannot be handled without the consideration of the feet and body, because the strong delivering of a thrust, consists in the apt and timely motion of the arms feet and body: For the exercise of which it is necessary that he know how to place them in every of the three wards, to the end, that from the ward he may deliver strongly a thrust in as little time as possible. And therefore he shall take heed that in the low ward, he make a reasonable pace, bearing his hand without his knee, forcing one the thrust nimbly, and retiring his arm backward, and somewhat increasing his forefoot more forwards, to the end, the thrust may reach the farther: But if he chance to increase the forefoot a little too much, so that the breadth thereof be painful unto him, than for the avoiding of inconveniences, he shall draw his hind foot so much after, as he did before increase the forefoot. And this thrust must be oftentimes jerked or sprung forth, to the end to lengthen the arm, accustoming to drive it on without retiring of itself, that by that means it may the more readily settle in the broad ward, For that is framed (as it is well known) with the arm and foot widened outwards, but not lengthened towards the enemy. And in thrusting let him see, that he deliver them as straight as he can possibly, to the end, they may reach out the longer.

At what time one would deliver a thrust, it is requisite that he move the body and feet behind, so much in a compass, that both the shoulders, arm, and feet, be under one self same straight line. Thus exercising himself he shall deliver a very great and strong thrust. And this manner of thrusting ought oftentimes to be practiced, accustoming the body and feet (as before) to move in a compass: for this motion is that which instructs one, how he shall void his body. The thrust of the high ward is hardest of all other, not of itself, but because it seems that the high ward (especially with the right foot before) is very painful. And because there are few who have the skill to place themselves as they ought to deliver the thrust in as little time as is possible. The first care therefore in this so to place himself, that he stand steadily. And the site thereof is in this manner, to wit: To stand with the arm aloft, and as right over the body as is possible, to the end he may force on the thrust without drawing back of the arm or loosing of time. And whilst the arm is borne straight on high (to the end it may be borne the more straight, and with less pains) the feet also would stand close and united together, and that because, this ward is rather to strike than to defend, and therefore it is necessary that it have his increase prepared: so that when the thrust is discharged, he ought therewithall to increase the forefoot so much that it make a reasonable pace, and then to let fall the hand down to the low ward, from the which if he would depart again, and offend to the high ward, he must also retire his forefoot, near unto the hind foot, or else the hind foot to the forefoot, And in this manner he shall practice to deliver his thrust oftentimes always placing himself in this high ward with his feet united, discharging the thrust with the increase of the fore foot. But when it seems tedious and painful to frame this ward, then he must use, for the lengthening of his arm, to fasten his hand and take holdfast in some nook or staff, that stands out in a wall, as high as he may lift up his arm, turning his hand as if he held a sword, for this shall help very much to strengthen his arm, and make his body apt to stand at this ward. Now when he has applied this exercise, for a reasonable time, so that he may perceive by himself that he is nimble and active in delivering these blows and thrusts simply by themselves, then he shall practice to compound them, that is to say, after a thrust to deliver a right blow from the wrist, then a reverse, and after that another thrust, always remembering when he delivers a blow, from the wrist, after a thrust to compass his hind foot, to the end, the blow may be the longer: And when, after his right blow, he would discharge a reverse, he must increase a slope pace, that presently after it, he may by the increase of a straight pace, force on a strong thrust underneath. And so to exercise himself to deliver many of those orderly blows together, but yet always with the true motion of the feet and body, and with great nimbleness, and in as short time as possible, taking always or a most sure and certain rule, that he move the arms and feet, keeping his body firm and steadfast, so that it go not beastly forward, (and especially the head being a member of so great importance) but to keep always his body bowed rather backward than forward, neither to turn it but only in a compass to void blows and thrusts.

Moreover, it shall not be amiss, after he has learned to strike, (to the end to strengthen his arms) if he cause another to force at him, either with a cudgel, or some other heavy thing, both edgeblows and thrusts, and that he encounter and sustain them with a sword, and ward thrusts by avoiding his body, and by increasing forwards. And likewise under edgeblows, either strike before they light, or else encounter them on their first parts, with the increase of a pace, that thereby he may be the more ready to deliver a thrust, and more easily sustain the blow. Farther, when he shall perceive, that he has conveniently qualified and strengthened this instrument of his body, it shall remain, that he only have recourse in his mind to the five advertisements, by the which a man obtains judgment. And that next, he order and govern his motions according to the learning and meaning of those rules. And afterwards take advise of himself how to strike and defend, knowing the advantage in every particular blow. And there is not doubt at all, but by this order he shall attain to that perfection in this Art which he desires.


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97. How a man by private practice can obtain strength of body thereby

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