Chapter Two: Positions of the hand

Comment/Interpretation:

In this section, Don Manuel is trying to offer precise instructions on how to hold the sword. He uses the positions of the fingernails to do this – up, down, inside etc. In doing this, he follows the tradition of earlier destreza rapier texts – Carranza/Pacheco etc. The hand position most commonly illustrated by De Brea is with the fingernails turned inside. Again, this coincides with the earlier texts and so we can assume that this is initial starting position and hand position will then vary according to the circumstances of the fight.

Translation:

To hold a foil, one needs to learn six hand positions: fingernails turned inside, fingernails turned outwards, fingernails turned down, fingernails turned up, fingernails halfway between turned up and outwards and fingernails turned halfway between turned down and out[1]. These are the ways that the hand has to perform defensive and offensive actions – always remembering that the inside line of a man is his chest and the outside line is his back.

[1] Fingernails turned inwards: corresponds to high quart

Fingernails turned outwards: corresponds to seconde

Fingernails turned down: corresponds to tierce

Fingernails turned up: corresponds to quart

Fingernails halfway between turned up and outwards: corresponds to low quart

Fingernails turned halfway between turned down and in: corresponds to low tierce

Original Text:

CAPITULO II.

Posiciones de la Mano

Las posiciones de la mano son seis; á saber, teniendo empuñado el florete, uñas adentro, uñas afuera, uñas abaxo, uñas arriba, participio uñas arriba, y participio de uñas abaxo. Estos son los modos con que la mano ha de executar sus defensas y ofensas; teniendo presente que la parte de adentro del hombre es el pecho, y la de fuera la espalda.

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