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The Private Schoole of Defence.


The Defects of Publique Teachers, ex-actly Discovered, by way of Objection and revolution. Together with the true practise of the Science, set downe in judicious

Rules and Observations; in a Method never before expressed.

By G. Hale Gent


Printed for John Helme, and are to be found At his Shop in S. Dunstames

Church-yard in Fleet Street. 1614

To The Hope of Great Brittaine, Prince Charles

Practise is the ending all Arts, the perfection of Prise is onely in Eminence, which begets Example and Admiration. Seeing then (Genrce Prince)(?) your birth gives you the best privilege to express the worthinesse of Vertue, I fee not but her followers, eyther in Art or Action, should necessarily flie to your High Patronage. This consideration makes my low deserts looke upward, which in this at least will marit your view, that the Science of Defence, not unworthily stiled Noble, (if eyther truly practiced, or rightly understood) was never before in our Language brought to any Method. The Professors thereof being so ignorant, that they could rather doe, then make demonstration, or reduce their doing to any certaintie of principle.

Many are the imputations laid upon this Art, (for such I dare now affirme it) the chiefe whereof is, the increasing our bloudy and irreligious Duels, which is the name of this Science, being called Defence, will not avoyd, yet the most licentious age of the Romanes shall sufficiently cleare: No History of those times making mention of any Duello or single fight to the losse of any Noble Person in that State, or disreputation of the publique justice. Yet that this kinde of battell was knowne and in some cases approved amonst the Romanes. The Hiperduels betweene the Curatij and the Horatij, and that famouse Duell betweene Torquatus and the French-man, apparantly speake.

It is not then the publique profession of this Science, nor the multiplicitie of Professors that increase these desperate assassinations: for, Knowledge begets Wisedome, and Wisedome by how much it particpates of skill with Discretion, mi doubteth the same in another, and concludes safety as the summe of her abilitie. This is manifest in the Italians, the first inventers of Foyle-weapon, and the cunningst Practisers, where notwithstanding these single Combats are rather reported then seene; and yet in ruder Countries as Poland, &c. nothing more common; which I impute wholy to a daring Ignorance. Neyther had this knowledge of Defence, if justly taxt with any so wicked effects, been graced with so many Authentick priviledges in all well goverened States, nor the Professors thereof had received such honor and respect, insomuch that amongst the Romanes some of them had their statues erected, as Plutarch witnesseth. These Reasons (if my judgement faile not) forcing the same.

First, Necessitie at home, as a Remedie to an unavoyded disease, in opposing sodiane assaults, which from Caine, pleading Antiquitie, will not now lose their plantation. And since Innocence is no protection against murtherous intents, God and Nature tollerate this Defence.

The Second is, Publique good abroad, for avoyding bloud, if the State of a War should require a single Tryall, which howsoever was presumption in Goliath, was true valor in David: the imitation of this example, hath beene frequent in great Persons in forraigne, and memorable in our owne Country: as betweene Edmund, surnamed Ironside, and King Canute, to a happy issue. Neyther can I forget an offer in the same kinde made in more late yeeres, betweene Frances the first, King of France, and Charles the fift, Emperour, though without effect.

The last reason is, Commendable and profitable Exercise. First, no other recreation carries so generall imployment both of body and minde, as this doth: for here the Feete labour equally with the Hands, the Eye and the Judgement walke together: and for the profit, it leads to as much use in making the person ready and daring to the warre; as Horsemenship begets dexteritie for the shocke. The Schoole of our private Practise being the same to the Battell, that the Muze is to the Troope: for with what confidence shall hee goe on upon many, that hath no knowledge to give him hope of safety from one.

Pardon my tedious discourse (most Excellent Prince) if it be a Crime, not Error but Zeale offends: for how can I choose but speake much of Armes to you, whom wee all expect the most Heroyicke Professor and Defender of the same: to which your future abilitie in your high Atchieuements, if my poore endevours may give the least furtherance (as I promise my selfe much herein) I returne from your Acceptance, loaden with full reward and happiest expectance: whome no second respect could induce to the undertaking this so difficult a Labour, which my person shall in your command, in all humble service, be ever at attendance to make good resting.

The most devoted Servant to you and Your Princley Vertues,

G.H. Gent.


Private Schoole of


The Induction.

Some hold opinion that Skill avayleth little or nothing in fight; and therefore to soone as they shall see this Title, will cast away the Discourse, as an unprofitable Argument. Hee that is the most obstinate enemie to himselfe, in rejecting the benefit of skill most needes confesse it no vaine Exercise, if the aptnesse and facilitie be onely thought on, to which the active practice of it brings the body, and enables it for enduring in fight. But to the point of materiall use.

Of such mens understandings I would know how comes it (then) that an ignorant handler of a Weapon meeting with an ordinarie Professor of Defence at Foyles, can neyther certainely give offence, nor avoid it.

They will answere mee, that at blunt, a man comes boldly on, and is not troubled with any such considerations, as at sharpe most of necessitie discorder his remembrance, and put him out of the fight.

To that, thus; All rules (indeed) must admit some exceptions: heat or cold may some what distract a fighter; heate in casting him too forwardly upon a danger: coldnesse in not preparing him to follow an advantage of offence, yet these come never wholy to prejudice the use of skill: for speaking of such an heate as alwayes falls upon this perill; wee must not understand it to be simply that heat needfully belonging to courage; for then it is an orderly Vertue, and loseth no strength eyther borne with it, or taught it; but it must be forced up into much anger (which seldome happens in the Defendant, for whole-cause onely wee professe teaching) before it can turne a man into that weaknesse. Where it doth happen, it is a kinde of madnesse, which (for the time) loseth all reason, as much as that part of skill: and shall good advice be altogether neglected because a madde man is incapable of it?

Then touching Coldnesse, though it be brought downe into the very basenesse of Feare in one, yet it is impossible to make Skill utterly of no use to him. For the gesture of the body upon such a danger, will naturally fall into those motions that it hath got by practice.

So that skill to every reasonable man is something a friend. But when it is entertained by one naturally of a good temper, it can by no meaness fall under any of their Objections that dispise it; for such a man brings no more fury, nor lesse assurance with him into the Field, then the Schoole, and therefore will have as much advantage of an ignorant man in fight, as there is difference between them in practice.

To exemplifie this, you may read of one Coranso, a Noble man, who from two and twenty Duelleoes returned Conquerour: Being demanded the reason by some that considered the qualitie of his adversaries in shew, and the uncertaine chances of the field: hee answered, Strength, Length, Courage, Temper and Cunning So he concluded Nature in Art, and attributed the managing of those parts hee was borne with, to the ability of those hee was taught.

Since therefore that the Science of Defence is understood to be a profession of use, it followes to examine the defects of Teachers, and to resolve upon the worth of the knowledge which followes immediately after our Defintion.


The Definition of the Science of Defence, with the parts thereto required.

The Science of Defence is an Art Geometricall, wherewith the body is guarded with a single or double weapon from wrong of the Offender, or the greatest disadvantage of his Offence.

The Parts thereto required are Strength and Judgement. Under strength are comprehended swiftness of motion and quickness of eye: where abilitie is without perfection of these, it is but a supply of defects, drawne from the judiciall part or judgement.

Under judgement fall the considerations of time, place, and distance. It hath seemed to many that there is no certainty in this Science, which granted, it must sole his tytle; in whose behalfe wee cannot but with great reason averre, that as the body is punctuall, to it hath a just circumference in the hands and feet, which to defence and safeguard thereof, runne in an equall line, which extended with strength in a just proportion; make the body the same as the poynt is in Circle, untoucht or impossible to be violated.

To them that objection Example against Knowledge, in that none or few, have ever attained this height of assurance, I can make no other answere, then argue from their owne Schoole, and say, that none or few, in disputation, ever gave satisfaction without some doubt, therefore Logicke is no Art of true disputing. True is, all Arts and Sciences have their just and absolute bound, to which though in the speculative part or Theorie, many have arrived, none ever did in practise. Since as in those words, many subtilties and nimble inventions oppresse and wrest the best expositions so in those of exercise of the body, the inequalitie of place, as the flipping of ground, dazeling of flight, many times disorder the best and surest way of Defence and Knowledge. Wherefore though by the weaknesse of mans causall nature, wee can promise to our Scholler no positive securitie, yet the imperfection in the learner, makes the Art no whit lesse certaine or singular.

To those that reject the Science, because they cannot promise themselves supreame excellence , is to reject the study of Physicke, because hee cannot be a Galen, or a Paracelsus; or if any shall from the fall of some man of the sword (as our word men tearme them) by the unskilfull arme of some rude assailer, contemne our instruction, I would have such a youth turne Muletor, because Ventidius that rubd Asses, came to be Consull, and Valerius Cato the Grammarian became a hackney-man: Fortune not Science herein is to be blamed.

Notwithstanding, that the excellence of this Science may not want Example; I cannot forget the memorable perfection of the two, Romanes Bithus and Bacchus, who having fought eighteene overall Combats or Duelloes, returned both without hurt, and at the last were both, at one Passage, runne through and slaine, leaving no place to judgement, that could give preeminence to eyther: whereupon it became a Prouerbe in Trials of equalitie, Bithus contra Bacchum. But I have digrest too farre in magnis rebus voluisse sat est; In high matters it shall suffice to sit in Plaebus Chayre, though wee cannot runne his full dayes journey: wherefore wee returne againe to handle the parts derived, which make to approve our Definition; the Eye and the Foote.

That which wee call strength, is not onely a Bucke-beating abilitie of the arme; for the point, to which all use of weapon is now with great reason reduced, is not so blunt but small force makes it enter: neither in Longe or Passage is the force required so much as sift of body, to which the Eye must like a fairthfull Centinell give warning, and the feete nimbly give performance: for if the Eye faile in perceiving opportunitie, or the feete in taking it, in vaine is the force of arme: on these two then we ground Abilitie, to which the judgement gives the crowne or conquest.

Now for judgement, as wee said before, time must be observed when distance where, place how. Occasion of time and distance may seeme faire to the eye, yet the place may justly barre it. As where open way is given to a passage with advantage, the incertaintie of footing may cast you too forward, and disorder your weapon by unsetled motion. Againe, place and distance may both draw you on, yet time may promise by letting slip that occasion, some opener way to greater advantage: for upon every fleight baring of the arme, it is better to make offer of hurt to that part, then put home; for such proffer many times drawes the adversary to a Guard, that neglects a place of more deadly danger. Lastely, time and place may both succeede to your wishes, yet distance may justly checke your resolution: for to no observation more than this is the judgement required, which being from our purpose to set downe in figure, I referre you to the laborious worke of Giona deGrassi, the Italian, who handles this point at large, and hath tooke up much ground in the expression thereof.

This much for our speculative part of this Science, wherein I know none can disagree with me: which I could not omit to set downe, because it makes to the honour of the worthy professors of this Science, whom I desire the courtious Reader by no meanes to imagine that I am so ignorant to meane, where any question is made of their sufficiencie in this Booke: for I dare bodly affirme, for generall Weapons no Country can afford more able and sufficient professors then this our owne in their performance; whose teaching I will not dispraise, if it come not within compasse of these following Taxations, which by way of Objection and Resolution, I presume, I have made apparantley worthy of censure to all indifferent practisers.

The Defects of the Teachers

Of Defence, discovered by way of

Objection, and the true use

Thereof set downe in the



Objection I.

Most of the common Teachers use but one forme of place, and teach all men alike without observing the nature of the Scholler, whether he be of a hot spirit or a cold; or whether hee have advantage or disadvantage in length, shortnesse, strength or weaknesse of arme or body.


Hee that shall teach a strong man with a single weapon to runne passages with shift, takes from him the advantage of his strength, who should eyther attend the close, or having length to his strength, should standing offend to the nearest, as in this Booke you shall finde under the title Order for fight: Or hee that shall teach a weake man single weapon or binding passage for the cloke of advantage, forfeites him to a strong mans mercy, though he hath much lesse courage or skill. Whereby the defect in the Objection plainely appears, as in many other, rising from this example.


Objection II.

The publike teachers teach, as many weapons, as they give it out in their challenges, as though every weapon were used with severall guards and defences, one contrary to another.


This is meere deceipt, to blinde the eyes of their spectators in publicke, as they doe their Schollers in private: for all mentioned in the defect are contayned in two weapons, that is single Rapier and Quarter-staffe, and their defences, as you shall finde in the rules of Practise.


Objection III.

They teach all men to lye at a setled guard with their whole brest toward their enemies, and doe likewise make them trust to a Daggers defence.


To give the whole brest, when the more thin the body offers it selfe to the offender, the more free it is from being hurt, is no lesse absurd, then if they should teach only to guard the bead & leave the brest open: for of dangers choose the least. Lastly, for defence, he that trusts to his Dagger, cannot possibly at that instant offend with the same. And there is no surer principle then this; there is no good defence without offence: neither good offence without defending, which since onley the Rapier or Sword can most certainly doe, the mayne of both must necessarilie be cast upon them.


Objection IIII.

The publike Professors of this Science, teach nothing at BackeSword, and Sword and Dagger, but the bare blow.


If the point beates the blow in fight as lesse ingaging him that proffers a thrust, then him that offends with edge, which I know and they cannot deny, it is as much prejudiciall to their Schollers, to teach them the bare blow at Sword and Dagger, as if they should teach at Rapier onely to thrust and not disorder: the necessary use whereof you shall finde in the next Resolution.


Objection V.

In single Rapier, and Rapier and Dagger, they teach all their Schollers as they call them, Stucks, otherwise Longue, to throw them into hit without disordering their adverse Rapier: and doe likwise teach Passages, to runne them right forward upon their enemie. 


To may knowledge there is no offending Longe, otherwise Stuck, upon any many, with any safetie without disorder: and no passage that is done without shift, can be without great danger.


Objection VI.

They will suffer their Schollers to see one another practise, and likewise they themselves will discover every mans play to any man.


To let any man see anothers practice, giveth much advantage to the spectator, and is much prejudiciall unto him whole practise is seene: and most murtherouse and damnable in the Teacher to betray their owne Schollers to death.


Objection VII.

They will seldome or never fight in the same guard they teach others: no so much as hold the same guard good tomorrow they used yesterday.


Their knowledge is accidentall, not materiall, they have forme generall notions, which (wanting Art) they cannot reduce to heads and principles: how can hee then be constant in one guard, that cannot set downe any for best and yeeld a reason thereof?

Hence it comes that I was taught more in a weeke by an understanding Artist, then I could learne in seaven yeares practise in publique Schools. And if any of their Schollers happen to be excellent, in proceedes rather out of their owne wittie and industrious observance upon the accidents of practise, then from any certaine demonstration of their Teachers.

Considering all these advantages and disadvantages, let every man make his owne Practise private, and with those hee may have no cause to deale withall: for their nice trickes in Schooles, or Playerlike fights at many Weapons upon Stages, are mere shadowes without substance. Therefore let Art and Nature by joyned in one.

Order in fight.

The managing of a Quarrell is halfe the performing thereof, let every man be rather Defender, for hee hath the advantage of the Offender in choyse of Weapons. Let him if hee bee strong make choise of a single Weapon, eyther being a long Rapier, or a long Sword: for the Challenger hath thereby the disadvantage of a strong man; for hee cannot command his point to help his weakenesse upon the Close. Or likewise a Turkey Samatorie, for his is crooked, and hath a broad point that will not enter, and therein is the least danger of all; and is much avalleable for a strong man for the close of advantage to disarme.

Let him that is weake of body, and hath a short reach, make choise of a double Weapon, being a short Rapier and Dagger, or short Sword and Dagger: so may he the easier command them to help his weakenesse: for he must keepe his enemie from the Close. Therefore let him give a little ground, for that will encourage his enemie (a strong man disirous to close) to come forwards. Then is your passage, or crosse passage and shift unexpected: or if he hath length and not strength, let him offend to the nighest parts, otherwise anywere.

Likewise if a strong many be offender and hath a long reach, let him offend at length to the nighest part, or else to seeke for the Close of advantage as aforesaid.

To help the length of a short man.

If a weake man be offender having a short reach, let him runne passages upon his enemie, with as much shift of body as he can: Shun the close: for if hee seeke to hit at length, hee gives advantage to his enemie to hurt him: for his enemie hath advantage a length by reach, and advantage of strength upon the close; or if he be strong though short of reach, let him make choyse of a single Weapon to disarme.

To help the strength of a weake man.

Three things help the strength of a weake man: change the point when the adverse seekes to take it; change backe to reecover it; or leave open your side, and then it is not well to be taken.

A good Guard.

Is hee that lyeth with the right side as thinne as he can, towards his enemie, and the point no higher then the shoulder, trusting to your Rapier or Swords defence; for thereby your enemie hath lettle roome to hit, and you the lesse to defend. And also a good guard discourageth the enemie to offend, and is ready alwayes to defend. He that dazels much never defends well: for if you offend when hee dazels, he can neyther certainly defend himselfe, nor offend you.

Hee that doth practise many guards, is most commonly constant in non; and in fight that behooves one most to be constant in a good guard, and flow to put out without great advantage: for hee that offends is thereby the easier hurt; and if you offend upon one that lies at his guard, offend to the nighest part, for then you may goe quicke off: and if you offend to the other parts that lyeth further off, your offence is flow, and most commonly past recovery, if it doe hit or not; for a Rapier enters, and doth not as the Foyle doth, helpe the offender off againe, but rather thereby fals himselfe.

Principles belonging to Fight.

Stay no longer within reach of your enemie then you are offending.

Offend alwayes upon the adverse coming forward.

In offending goe off with your weapons point straight upon your enemies brest, for then you are alwayes ready to defend your selfe, and offend your enemie.

Many tickes doe too much trouble the minde: know all, use few; three defends the whole.

Rules of Practise.

There is but three defences in a single weapon.

    1. Longe.
    2. Passage.
    3. Change backe and binde, and then backe to your guard.

And likewise three Offences.

    1. Disorder Longe.
    2. Disorder passage
    3. Your binding passage for the close of advantage.

The Dagger helps the Rapier especially in two things in Offence.

    1. Passage.
    2. Crosse-passage.

And two in Defence.

    1. When the Rapier bindes high, the Dagger bindes low.
    2. Or when the Dagger binds high the Rapier bindes low.

The chiefest way to force a man to good practise for play or fight, is to make him maintaine a single wepon against all advantages.

First, let him learne single Rapier: then to maintaine single Rapier against Rapier and Dagger; and likewise against Sword and Dagger: and lastly, to maintaine short Sword against all the aforesaid advantages.

I have concluded my rules of Practise, and the whole Booke, with the most necessary instruction belongs to this Science, and the least observed in Schooles, which is the maintaining of Defects: This being the scope and true end of our skill, to help the weake, wherein the strongest shall also confesse himself to want this knowledge, if he consider the use thereof in accidentall quarrels, which cannot be denied much to exceeded occasions for the field: for supposing himselfe incident to sodaine on-sets, how is hee provided with his wearing weapon, being for the most part, a single Rapier or short Sword, to defend himselfe from the advantage of a Sword and Dagger, Rapier and Dagger, or Halbert? Whereas by practise against this unequall opposition (as tin the Chapter before prescribed) he shall finde himselfe enabled not onley for defence in this extremity, but also may offend his adversarie, as I have seene opon the publique Stage, a single Rapier most shamefully foyle both Halberd and halfe Pike. To adde to his supply of defect, I would have a man wanting one hand, or one ye, by practise, to helpe his imperfection: with his feete and shift of body, to cleare that defect (all cunning in this Art consisting more in feet than hands.) Further, should one be lame in feet having eyes and armes, I would have him practise those Weapons and Guards may best perfect his condition, being neyther able to pursue nor retyre. This I could expresse, being a man my selfe defective, but that act and demonstration, not words, must make this apparent, wherein I referre, my selfe to judicious tryall, concluding with an Answere to one Objection, that will arise from meanest understanding, being this.

Why should so few of our Fencers arive to this knowledge, or to not more height of doing, then this discovery of their defects hath manifested?

I answere, these two conditions must concurre to make a Fencer absolute, Art and Nature; now for Art examine the equalitie of those Ushers our Masters brings up, you shall finde most of them Butchers, Byt-makers, Shooe-makers; or Truncke-makers, men enured to the hide, rather able to bear blowes than avoyd them. Whence wee see a Gentlemen or Artist, who can reduce knowledge unto rule, in small time out-goes his Teacher having both Hands, Art and Nature, his Schoole-master wanting one, and many times both of them. Not that this my taxation reacheth to all Masters of Defence: for I have seene some, whom I must confesse to be both knowing and able, who detest our commonly applauded, rude, and buffeting play: whose judgements will be as far from depraving mee or my worke, as I shall be from the least envy toward them, whom I confesse much worth of esteeme and reward.

I N I S.

Transcribed for the ARMA online by Belinda Hertz

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