Contents | Dedication | Advertisement | Poem | Introduction | CHAP. I. | CHAP. II. | CHAP. III. | CHAP. IV. | CHAP. V. | CHAP. VI. | CHAP. VII. | Postscript

Chap. V

How a man is to parie or defend himself, from either blow or thrust, upon the hanging guard in seconde.

Being to preceed to my directions, as well for the defence as offence, flowing from this excellent hanging-guard; the explication of it would appear to come in very properly in the beginning of the chapter, where I am to treat of the parade, or defence that may be drawn from it: But having done it exactly already in the first chapter, to which I remit the reader, I intend at this time to save myself that trouble; especially seing such a repetition would be altogether superfluous: and therefore, I shall in place of it offer to him a very necessary advice or precaution, particularly if he be altogether a novice, and has never been at fencing school; Because if he be already well grounded in the art, and consequently a piece of a sword-man, he will not stand so much in need of it.

The difference between a speculative science and a practical art, does no doubt chiefly consist in this; that the former may be acquired by meer theory or meditation, whereas the latter requires both; that is, a man must not only understand the theory pretty exactly, but he must also by practice, acquire such an easy habite of performing such and such actions and motions, which a complete and useful dexterity requires in that art, as that it may appear to be almost natural to him; so that at this rate I account, it is generally more easy for any man to become absolutely master of a science, than it is for him to become perfectly adroit, and an exquisite master, of any practical art; because to the first, there is only required an exact speculation; but to the later, not only speculation, but an habitual and consummat practice.

Now of the nature of this last, is the Art of Fencing; for altho' it's speculation be diverting and necessary, yet it's great use is practical: And therefore, altho' the theory of it may be by reading, acquired to such a degree, by any person of quick apprehension, and good judgement, as that he can not only express himself easily, according to the nicest terms of art, but also converse readily and easily upon all its different heads; yet that knowledge and glibness of tongue, will signify little or nothing to him, when he shall have an occasion with sharps, or be engaged in a skirmish where, perhaps, he may have to deal with more persons than one. It is only a dexterous practice, that must then carry him thorow and save him; it is not his words, but the warding of the thrusts and blows discharged against him, that will in such a case, make him be reputed a true and great artist.

As therefore, the practical part of fencing, is absolutely the most useful; let no man be so far mistaken, as to imagine he can become wholly master of it by reading: Books, as I have said elsewhere, are useful, necessary, and instructive; and will certainly do a great deal of good to a man, who hath been grounded in the schools; but it is the thrusting, first upon a master's breast plate, and next, thrusting frequently upon another at the wall, and defending himself from his comrade's thrusts in school assaults, that must bring a man to be perfectly dextrous, either in the offensive or defensive parts.

Therefore I would advise all such, in whose hands this piece may fall, and who are altogether ignorant of the first principles of fencing, to apply themselves for two or three months (for I desire no more of them) to some judicious master, who at their desire will no doubt comply with them; and instruct them in this new method, altho' very much differing from what is commonly taught; and which none who pretens to be a master, but in twice reading over, will understand to teach; and when they are thus grounded, they need then no more of them, but only to practice with their comrades and fellow schollars in assault.

And in all assaults, let this be their chief aim, to acquire a firm and sure parade, or defence, which is the only true art of the sword; the offensive part having by degrees crept into the art, more for diversion, and the gratifying of peoples passions, when in an occasion, than for any absolute use in the art: For this art was at first never intended to kill or destroy, but to defend and preserve; and therefore it always was, and will be called (when rightly named) the Art of Defence: Besides, the offensive part will intrude itself upon a man whether he will or not; so very prompt is mankind to be revengeful, and do mischief.

But for such as cannot have the opportunity of a fencing master, by reason of their living either in the country, or in some city or town, where such masters are not to be had; and yet who being of a quick and smart apprehension, and desirous to improve themselves, would gladly be instructed without the assistance of a master; in such a case, they are to make choice of some judicious comrade, and then reading over attentively the instructions in this book, endeavour first to follow them himself, by practicing them upon his comrade, and next cause his comrade to play them upon him, but still to ply more the defensive part as the offensive; and by thus mutually assisting one another, they will by daily practice, make in a short time, such a considerable advance in the art, as can in reason be expected from any, who wanting the benefit and advice of a master, are necessitate to become as dextrous as book learning can make them; whice altho' it cannot be thought, that it can reach to such a degree of dexterity, as that aquired from a master, yet will be a great deal better than none; and considering the easiness of this new method, succeed even to a surprizal, and beyond what can possibly be expected from the common method: But to proceed to my directions.

A man's only true defence consisting, as I formerly said, (see advantage 2nd.) in the cross that his weapon makes upon his adversary's; it follows of consequence, that the more exact and dextrous he is, in crossing his adversary's weapon, the more firm and certain will his defence prove; and he is to chiefly observe this one direction, that he alwise apply such a force in crossing, let the position of his sworf hand be what it will, (for it is the cross which makes the defence, not the position of the sword hand: a formal nicety but too much observed heretofore amongst fencing masters;) that whatever part of his adverary's weapon he meets with, whether fort or foible, he may alwise master its motion; because the fort of a sword, as I have elsewhere observed (in the article 3rd of fort and foible, page 60) may be mastered and overpowered as well as its its foible, and that sometimes even with that part of a man's sword which in other respects may be accounted the foible, according to the strength communicated to it by the sword hand. This direction is of great consequence, therefore punctually to be observed; a man's certain defence flowing from it.

But as a man's adversary can present his sword in several positions, that is, in a manner either level, or with the point of it high or low; so a man is to consider, by what method he is to form the greatest or most securing cross, against any of these positions; for as was also formerly told in advantage 2nd, the greater the cross is, and the nearer it approach to a right angle, the longer time must a man's adversary take to disengage, and consequently the longer will his thrust be in coming home, and so the slower, whereby a man can more easily defend himself: One of the great advantages redounding to a man from his keeping this hanging guard, and forming the crosees aright from it.

If your adversary then, shall present the his sword either near upon a level, or with the point any ways sloping towards the ground; the very ordinary postition of your sword upon this hanging guard, will sufficiently cross and oppose it: see fig. 5. 6. Only observe this, which is also very material, that whatever side you cross him upon, you alwise press his sword so far out of the line of your body upon that side, as that thereby it be secured from a plain thrust upon the same without disengaging unless he wholly force your sword, whice indeed you are chiefly to guard against, especially when your opponent presents towards your right side, that being the greates hazard to which, in such a postiton of your sword, you will be most exposed; for if your adversary, upon this postioin of your sword, neither attempt to force an enclosing or plain thrust upon the same side, without disengaging; but shall attack you by disengaging; then you will find his motions so very slow, by reason of the great tour he has to make, that you will easily meet with his sword, and cross or oppose it.

But if your adversary present his sword with the point of it high, which he may do to what side he pleases, then there are two ways of crossing it; if his sword be presented with a high point, and towards your left side, the the very postion of this hanging guard, will also form a sufficient cross against it, by only turning you swords point towards his right side; but if his sword be presented with a high point, either directly towards you, or inclining towards your right side, then the ordinary position of this hanging guard will not make so good a cross, nor so easily meet with or oppose it; and it is only in this case, and scarcely any other that I know of, where you are to alter the position of your sword and hand, and form a cross with it against your adversary's, by raising of your sword's point towards your left side a-squint from you, tuning at the same time, the nails of your sword hand upward, and from you, sheering outwards to the right side, as we commonly say, and your head and shoulders inclining much forwards for your better defence; so that by this alteration of your guard, you will form an excellent cross against his sword; see fig: 2. 3. but still with this precaution, that so soon as ever your adversary strikes or thrusts upon you, or alters the position of his sword; that then immediately you cross him, by falling into your ordinary guard or posture again.

Having shown, how you are to cross or oppose your adversary's sword, which upon this guard, is equivalent to what upon the ordinary quart and tierce guards, we call, securing or engaging the sword, which a man ought alwise to do, whatever guard he takes himself to, at the first presenting of his sword for greater security. I shall next let you see, how you are to perform exactly, the two parades or defences naturally flowing from this guard, and which are abundantly sufficient for the defence of all attacks, that can be formed against it, whether by blow or thrust.

It is one of the great advantages of this hanging guard, that a man's adversary can only attack him upon it in two different parts, viz. without and below his sword, and without and above it; whereas, upon the ordinary quarte and tierce guards, a man can be attackt in four, to wit, without and above, and within and below his sword; and within and above, and within and below it.

There being then only two parts, in which your adversary can attack you upon this guard, that is, either without and above your sword, or without and below it; if he offer to give in a thrust, or discharge a blow upon you, without and above your sword, as you percieve them coming home upon you, immidiately, without altering in the least the position of your sword hand upon this guard, parie or turn off his thrust or blow, by moving your sword hand and arm towards your left side, and a little upwards, and for the beeter gaining of the foible of his sword, you are also by bending your sword arm a little, make the motion, incline towards your body or left shoulder: By this squint inclination of the motion of your parade, towards your left shoulder, you will better gain the foible or weak of his sword, and consequently prevent your adversary's forcing home (especially his thrust upon you; for the blow is not so easily forced upon this guard, as the thrust is; and after you find that you have paried him, then you may attack him from your parade from the riposte, as you please, and as shall be hereafter taught; see fig: 9. and 10.

But if it be a streight and downright blow at your head, that your adversary designs against you, and not towards your left side, then you are to parie it with your sword quite across your face, the nails of your hand turn'd a little upwards from you, and be sure to meet hos stroak with the fort of his sword, by carrying of your shoulders upwards and level, bringing down your head and shoulders a little, at the very instant you raise your sword; by all which, you will not only form an excellent cross, the only true defence against blows as well as thrusts, but also by this little motion of your head and shoulders downwards, answering the motion of your sword hand upwards, make your design the so much more quick, and consequently the more certain; because your sword hand has only the one half of the way, to go to meet with the adversary's sword, (your head and shoulders performing the other half) which otherwise it would have did you keep your head and shoulders fixt and unmoveable. See Fig. 15. and 16.

Again, if he attack you with a plain thrust or blow, without and below your sword, you are to carry your sword-hand and arm as before directed, in the preceeding paragraph save one; but it must be to the other side, and to put by his thrust or blow towards your right side, as before you did it to your left; only that bending of the sword arm, and sloaping or squint motion towards your body, whice I recommended in the former parade, towards your left side, is much more to be observed, upon the thrust given in upon this; because, if there be any weakness at all upon this guard, it is when a man is attacked upon the right side and below his sword; the position of this guard, making it most easy for a man's adversary, to force home a thrust, or procure and enclosing upon this side, which last, altho in some respect, a considerable advantage in my opinion to both parties, as I have declared in advantage 6th; yet when a man is upon the defensive part, he ought to take great care to prevent, and therefore it is to be observed, that in parieing a thrust given in without and below the sword upon the right side, it requires a great deal more strength, as well as quickness, to perfom it dextrously, than the parade upon the left side doth; and that because of the great opportunity a man's adversary hath in engaging the foible of his sword, and so by a sudden pressure of it, forcing either a thrust, or enclosing.

Now, altho the strength of a man's parade should be alwise, as near as possible, proportioned to the strength and swiftness of the motion of his adversary's weapon; yet this being very nice, and difficult to be observed, but by such as have made a considerable advance in the art; therefore, it is much safer to err upon the sure side, and alwise to perform one's parade, with that degree of strength, as that it may be sufficient, whether it meet with either the adversary's fort or foible, to turn aside any blow if thrust whatsoever: For, that strength which can master and parie a strong thrust, will alwise ward or defend a weak one. And this direction holds likewise, as well for the swiftness of a man's parade, as for the firmness and strength, with which he ought to perfom it; that is, after a man's adversary's sword is once in motion, and the thrust or blow coming home.

For, if a man should begin the first motion of his parade, before his adversary's sword were in motion towards his body, he might come to miss his adversary's weapon, and so, because of his anticipating, in a manner, his adversary's motion, come to receive a thrust, or wound; of which I have had several times the experience myself in school-assaults, when I have judg'd my adversary, with whom I was not accustomed to assault, to have a swifter hand than really he had; so that in this case, the quickness of my parade proved a disadvantage to me; but I must confess, only by my own fault in going too soon to the parade, by reason of my wrong judging (thro' my great earnestness to parie) the swiftness of the thrust; (to be dextrous and adroit at which, is a very great nicety and perfection in fencing, and requires not only a great presence of mind, but also a considerable as well as frequent practice) whereas, if a man were to meet with his adversary's sword, it is impossible for him, to be too quick in the motion of his parade: but as this, of being too quickly upon the parade, very rarely falls out, I think I may safely recommend you to this direction, of being at least as quick and sudden, but as much stronger than your adversary, in the motion of your parade, as the strength and vigour of your nerves will with easiness, and without any unbecoming constraint, allow of.

Besides, this fault of being sometimes too quick in the parade, cannot, except by meer chance, be comitted by any but good sword-men, who having acquired a great dexterity and swiftness in the parade, are too forward and eager upon it, whereby they precipitate their defence, and lose the benefit of it; and therefore, it is a great happiness upon an occasion, to have that sedateness and presence of mind, as that by too great eagerness to meet with the adversary's sword, a man do not precipitate or over hasten his parade, whereby he may render his art and dexterity in the parade, rather a disadvantage than a benefit to him: And altho I cannot but acknowledge, that it is very difficult to observe this direction, especially at sharps, by reason that in such a juncture, a man's blood and spririts are raised, and that a man of mettle and vigour, especially if of a sanguine and passionate temper, cannot possibly, in such a case, restrain himself from being too forward; yet it is what all men should endeavour to practice, expecially those who have a greater share of art or skill than others; otherwise their art, which ought, and would certainly be in such an occasion a great benefit and advantage to them, will become as it were a snare, and draw more quickly their run and destruction upon them, than if they had been a little more cool, and judiciously slow in perfoming their artificial motions, especially defensive; which brings to my memory, a passage in Sir Roger L'Estrange's abstract of Seneca, chap. 5. where discoursing of anger, he says;

that the hunts-man is not angry with the wild boar, when he either pursues or recieves him: A good sword-man watches his opportunity, and keeps himself upon his guard, wheras passion lays a man open: Nay, it is one of the prime lessons in a Fencing School to learn not to be angry.
And in the preceeding chapter, he compares anger to a short madness, and says;
There is so wonderful a resemblance between the transports of choler and those of frenzie, that 'tis a hard matter to know the one from the other, it being commonly accompanied with a bold, fierce, and threatening countenance, as pale as ashes, and in the same moment as red as blood; a glaring eye, stamping with the feet, the hair staring, lips trembling, with a forc'd and squeaking voice.
And in that same chapter, he calls it,
A wild tempestuous blast, and empty tumor, the very infirmity of women and children; a brawling, clamorous evil.
So very strange and unaccountably masterful a passion it is; and therefore so much the more to be restrained, and mastered, if possible, by all men of sound judgement and sense, especially sword-men, who design really to reap benefit by their art.

But in this case, I look upon the nice and excellent directions given to sword-men in fencing, to have much the same influence upon them, as the good and wholesome admonitions delivered from the pulpit, for the better regulation of our lives, with respect to morals, have upon most christians; we hear them, approve of them, and sometimes resolve to put them into practice; but GOD knows with how little exactness and sincerity it is done by the very best of us: Our passions and corrupt inclinations master us, whether we will of not, and we are overcome by them with, I may say, a kind of unvoluntary willingness or compliance. However as in this, it is even a degree of virtue, to have good inclinations and resolutions, notwithstanding our bieng overpowered by our infirmities, so it is no less commendable in sword-men, to put on the strongest resolutions they possibly can, to restrain theor forwardness, and master their passions, when in an engagement; altho the motion and heat of their blood should wholly, but indeed contrary to their strictest resolutions, master and overcome them; for in such a juncture, there is a kind of conflict betwixt nature, and reason or art; and we find by experience, to our great disadvantage, that for the most part, nill we, will we; the former hath the better on't.

Nay, so very great influence and power hath heat and passion over us, that there are I belive few, who have come any length in the world, but who may sometimes have found the strange effects of it, in themselves; for to such a degree does it move the vital spirits, when we are seased by it, that they rarifie the blood to that height, that it not only swells, but is even like to break, and burst throw our very veins, whereby when we are in action, our lungs and other vessels and passages for respiration, are so filled, or rather obstructed or choked, that we lose immediately our wind, oand become quite out of breath, until we be allowed a little respite to recover it again; which is the true ground of those reasonable lists or intervals for breathing, we observe allowed by people to other between bouts, as they are commonly termed, when either fighting for a prize, or engaged for the life (altho in this last case, I think it very consistent with honour, unless there by some previous capitulation to the contrary, for a man to take the benefot of his wind, if he thinks he can thereby master his adversary) for predominant is this unreasonable, though very natural passion, ANGER, over the strictest resolutions we can put on against it. For NATURE! ALMIGHTY and prevalent NATURE! who without somewhat more of a natural aid and assistance, can possibly, with ease, resist and overcome her? But our defence again.

In parieing of the blow, you are also to take care, that you parie always with the blade of your sword, by forming a good cross upon your adversary's weapon, and never suffer your shell, or rather back-ward of the hilt to recieve the stroak; because this is not only a false parade, but might also endanger the loss of your fingers, if not the whole hand; by reason, that such defence can only safely be made use of against the blow, when a man has a back-sword with a closs-hilt or guard, and that now a days there are few such swords made use of, except amongst the Highlanders in Scotland, and backsword-masters or gladiators in England; altho I cannot but acknowledge, that such closs hilts are most safe and useful for both horse and foot, when they come to a closs fight; because they are mighty preservers if the sword hand, from any unexpected stroak, when a man is engaged against more than a single man, and consequently cannot form two different crosses and one and the same time, so that hos closs hilt supplies the place of one cross, while his sword's blade a performing the other; and therefore I earnestly recommend the use of them in the army for both foot and horse.

If I mistake it not, the Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons are furnished with such closs hilted swords, whereof they have no doubt found the benefit, in the several engagements they had in these two or three last campaigns, in which they acquired more than a proportionable share, in the glory of the great and surprizing victories obtained over the French. And I doubt not, but as the benefit and security of such hilts in a closs engagement, for the preservation of one's sword-hand, where perhaps two or three are engaged against one, are more known, the government will hereafter order the army, to be better provided of them; because, for a general and closs engagement, better swords there cannot possibly be, than those kind of stiff, well-edged sheering-swords, of a moderate length, and with good, closs, or as they are more commonly termed by the vulgar, shell or sheep-head hilts.

I shall therefore once again repeat it; that I wish the great benefit of so general and safe a defence, flowing from this parade, in a closs engagement, where people come alwise to sabring, and sharp blows and thrusts, may be a sufficient recommendation of this hanging guard, and consequently to all persons, but especially to such as serve in the army, who it is very probable, may be more frequently so circumstantiate as I have been showing, than other gentlemen, whose chief concern is only for their defence in private quarrels, not in publick engagements; altho such persons may come sometimes to be surrounded with a mob; where this general defence will prove as serviceable to them for their preservation, as it can be to those who carry her majesty's commission; and therefore it ought to be neglected by neither, the one perhaps having his life to defend in the midst of a rabble, as well as the other has his to preserve in the face of a closs, pitched battle.

But perhaps, some hotspur of and officer may say, to what purpose is this advice to us officers of the army, who are mostly amongst bullets; will this parade ward and defend a pistol or a musquet bullet? If it could, then indeed fencing were a useful art, and this a most excellent book; but seeing it cannot do that, what signifies it to us in the army?

In answer to which, (for I have sometimes to my surprise, heard such weak discourse, which makes me gaive an answer to it; otherwise it were not worth my while) I say, that altho with this parade, he can neither parry cannon nor musquet bullet; because for these I remit him to his trenches, and back and breast, or perhaps sometimes heels, when he has not the courage to stand it. Yet seeing and officer, whether of horse or foot, is many times tristed with a closs engagement, where they come to sabreing; this excellent parade, though it can parie neither cannon nor musquet, (though it can do that also, as much as any other whatsomever, which is NOT AT ALL;) yet it will save a man a great deal better, if dextrously made use of, from many a slap and wound, he would otherwise receive, than any other parade of the sword he could possiblly make use of: If this gentleman will not believe me, I allow him to go on in his old method, and I doubt not, by the end of the next campaign, he will be the first that repent it. So leaving it to be perfectly practised by him, if he pleases, (for he can never chuse nor make use of a better) I shall proceed to the offensive part, or pursuit most naturally flowing from this hanging guard.