Chapter 17: Defence According to the True Art


In this chapter, De Brea describes how to defend oneself. He asserts that there is no such thing as a perfect, or unbeatable attack as any possible attack can be defended against by one or more of the steps, parries and movements that he describes.

He goes on to describe three ways of defending and three techniques. De Brea points out that they are similar but that how they are put into practice is different. It is difficult to interpret what exactly is meant in this chapter and De Brea is writing assuming a degree of knowledge in his readers. I feel that his ways of defending are best described as simple actions of one or two movements. His techniques can be more easily seen as a sequence of actions.

Throughout the chapter, De Brea stresses the need for the fencer to remain balanced, being prepared to move backwards to assist in parrying, binding, escaping from a bind, keeping the point online as much as is possible and using forte to foible where possible. He also specifically describes using raising and lowering the body and sword arm to assist with parries and binds.

De Bea’s three ways of defending can be summarised as using quarte parries to defend the inside line, tierce parries to defend the outside line and using stop hits to take advantage when an opponent tries to free his sword from a bind placed upon it.

The three universal techniques are described to act basically as a full sequence. If the first action does not work and the opponent recovers and responds, then the fencer moves on to the next stage. So first, the fencer parries, binds his opponent’s blade and ends in the first position and can riposte. Second, if he has not been able to riposte, and his opponent tries to lunge, then he moves his left foot backwards to give himself more time to parry and riposte. Third, if the opponent advances the back foot to recover to second position after the lunge rather than retreating. This will create a situation where both fencers are in second position but WITHIN close measure. The fencer should now advance the front foot (closing measure a bit more, whilst maintaining contact with his opponent’s blade. This will enable the fencer to increase the pressure he applies to his opponent’s blade and control it and force it lower and offline. As the fencers are now within close measure, the fencer can then use his left hand to grab his opponent’s hilt and disarm him.


Chapter XVII

Defence according to the True Art

There are three ways to defend against an attack, no matter how quickly or robustly it is made. These are deflecting the blade, controlling the blade or through the use of a stop hit. These can be performed in different ways and they have different names.

The first way is named after the three defensive areas: inside, outside and lower. Let us imagine the fencer standing in second position, with his weapon covering the outside line. If his opponent attacks the face or an exposed area of the chest, the fencer will respond by parrying and moving his body backwards and transferring his weight onto his back foot. To carry out the parry, the fencer will turn his hand so that the nails are pointing upwards and as he transfers his weight onto the back foot, he will ensure that his arm is straight and crossing the chest with the point slightly off the diameter line and slightly raised so that the fencer can be ready to riposte quickly, if necessary. The fencer’s heels will be turned inwards with the right leg straight and the left leg slightly bent with body and feet triangulated. This is the inside line defence, even if the attack has been made with a diagonal cut, a sabre or a pole as can be seen in figure 2 of plate 15.

Fig 2 Plate 15

Second: If, whilst the fencer is in a triangulated and balanced position, his opponent manages to recover and tries to attack an exposed part of the body, which will probably be either the face or arm, then the fencer can respond by placing a bind over his opponent’s weapon and turning sideways on and moving into second position. This is an example of defending by controlling the blade in a lower position. To do this, the fencer needs to use the true edge and the forte of the sword.

The third way to defend is by a stop hit. If, whilst the adversary’s blade is held in a bind. the fencer’s adversary should try to recover by disengaging his weapon and thrusting at the centre or right hand side of the chest, then the fencer has two ways of countering. The first way is to raise his body and move his feet into third position. With the feet in this position, the angle created between the natural position of the body and the arm and weapon extended straight out – as can be seen in figure one of plate eleven –

Fig 1 Plate 11

will be greater than ninety degrees. This will both hit the opponent and defend against the attack at the same time. The second way is by diverting the opposing blade. This is easy and the fencer simply moves his arm and weapon from a lowered position into the eighth angled guard position.

It would appear that I have introduced another type of defence, ‘diverting’ the blade. This is despite having earlier said that there were only three ways to defend, which were deflecting, controlling and a stop hit. In reality, there is no real difference and diverting is really just deflecting the blade, whether in an upper or lower plane. So, I would like to affirm that there are, in reality just the three aforementioned ways of defending.

Three universal techniques

The three universal defensive techniques are not really very different from the ways I have mentioned to deflect the opponent’s weapon. This said, the ways of putting them into practice are different.

First: Imagine the fencer waiting in second position with the point of his sword following the line of his arm. The opponent attacks by disengaging his sword and gliding it along the fencer’s weapon trying to hit an exposed area. The fencer should oppose this by raising his body and moving his feet into first position. At the same time, he needs to bind his opponent’s weapon by placing his sword over his opponent’s and pointing straight at his opponent. This will control the blade and if his adversary continues to advance, he will be the victim of a stop hit as can be seen in figure one of plate eleven.

Fig 1 Plate 11

Second: If the fencer starts in first position and is opposing his opponent’s profile and if the opponent should try to attack the chest or face, then the fencer should defend himself by moving his left foot backwards until he is in the second stance. He is then in a good position to parry his opponent’s attack and riposte. This can be seen in figure two of plate eleven.

Fig 2 Plate 11

If the fencer is waiting in the second stance as described above and his opponent recovers by advancing his left foot into second position whilst disengaging his weapon at the same time and trying to hit, then the fencer should advance his right foot into the third position. At the same time, he will parry his opponent’s attack by placing forte to foible and pushing his opponent’s sword into a lower position, whilst keeping his point on line. Whilst he does this, he will advance his left foot forward and use his left hand to grab his opponent’s hilt. All of these actions need to be carried out at the same time and if he does this, then fencer will control his opponent’s sword and also have the initiative and be able to wound his opponent as can be seen in figure three of plate eleven.

Fig 3 Plate 11

As can be clearly seen, these three universal techniques are more important than anything else. Although they do not wound the adversary by themselves, they create the opportunity to hit. Without these defensive techniques, nothing is possible in the True Art. To be even clearer, if the fencer is waiting sideways on to his opponent, along the line of the diameter and his opponent places a bind on his weapon, then if his body is a lower position, then he raises his body and uses the first technique described above. If his body position is raised and he needs to deflect his opponent´s weapon or defend himself, then he can safely use the second technique. The third technique will help him, if he needs to wound with the point. Even if the attack is being made with the edge of the sword, then one of these defensive techniques needs to be used.

I have met some people, who state that there is a universal or perfect thrust. I believe that this is impossible. The reason is that whatever one fencer does will be countered by the other using one of the steps, stances or parries. As a result of this, my experience shows that a fencer will only hit his opponent successfully, if he is playing off one of the three universal defensive techniques and is taking advantage of an opening that has been created.

Original Text:


Defmsas  segun   destreza.


De uno de tres modos se puedc el diestro  defender  de su contrario por riguroso que sea en la execucion  de sus tretas ,y son , des’Vidndole el arma , sujttdndosela 6 dc­tmiendole. Su execucioil es de varios modos , y con  distin­tas voces 6 nombres.

Primer modQ c6n el nombre de las tres defensas , pordentro, f ucra  infrrior.  Sup6ngase  al   diestro  esperan­do en su segunda pianta , ofreciendo punto por la postura del arma , y parte  adentro.  Quando  su  contrario  le aco­meta para exccutar herida en el rostro o pecho que se  ha­Ila desubiCf tQ I  Se   defend.era  el diestro agregandose  COOla suya ,desviando la contraria, y en el. tiempo ha de equi• librar el cuerpo hacia atras , cargand.ole sobre la pierna iz­ quierda , la mano que participe ufias arriba, el brazo estiv rado todo lo que pueda , y transversal  al pecho  la   punta del arma poco apartada del diametro , y un poco obtusa, para que este pronta a ocuparle si le conviene: los pies VUeltos los talones a SU parte de adentro t la pierna derevcha estirada , la izquierda un poco encogida , el cuerpo y pies tria.ngulados; hechos los movimientos en los terminos diehos habra executado su primera defensa. por su partr d# adentro , aun quando la execucion sea de tajo diagonal, de palo 6 sable ,y lo demuestran las figuras 2,  de la estampa I S .

Segunda : Si estando el diestro triangulado, como en la anterior posicion , se recuperase el adversario y recurriese a cxecutar heriJa , al punto que ve descubierto , que sera  por  la jurisdiccion  del brazo  o rostro ,  se  le opondra el diestro cayendo  con su  arma  encima  d.e  la  contraria , y en cl t iernpo se volvera a perfilar , )’ quedarse en su segun­da planta Como se hallaba al pr i ncipio : hecho  en  los re­ feri 1os tcrminos , habra executado  la segunda defensa  por su part: d: a/ uera ; de modo que as1 en esta corno en la anterior el desvio ha de ser con el tercer tercio y filo in­ ferior.

Tercer modo detn,iendo. Si hallandose el contrario  con el arma sujeta quisiese executar herida recuperando­ se y librando el arma , y encaminandola a la diametral del pecho o vertical derecha que se halla descubierta ; se le oponJra el diestro de UllO  de dos modos }evantandose a SU tercera posicion de pies , forrnando angulo mixto de oos lineas la <lel cuerpo curva , y la del brazo y arrna recta, segun la .6gura num. Ide la estampa n um. I, Jograra derener a su contrario , y en el tiempo quedar defondido.

El otro modo es di11irtimdo ; se le da este nombre por ser inferior , y hacerse con mucha facilidad y sin el menor riesgo ; porque en el tiempo se levanta  a su  plano  supe­rior y octava dia:nal , y fograra desviar el arma contra­ ria , y quedar ·defendido.

Pa.rcce se ha introducido en esta exp\icacion otro ge• nero de defcnsa , habiendo dicho en el principio ser solo tres , des’Viar , suj:tar y dttener ; mas no obstante afirmo scr solos los tres dichos, porqn solo hay diferencia en la l’OZ de div,rtir , pero no en su especie , vicndose clara­ mente que solo se desvia el arma , y se le quita la d.irec­ cion , y asi lo mismo es sea superior 6 jnferior: es sufi­ ciente explicacion para el conocirniento de lo propuesto.

Los trcs med ios universales de la defensa no son otra cosa que  lo dicho  en quanto a los  desvios del  arma  6 pri­vaciones ; pero son distintos en el rnodo de executarlos.

Primera :Se ha de suponer al diestro espcrnndo en su segunda planta , ofrcciendo punto daro por la jurisdiccion del brazo , y al adversario puesto en la general flaqueza debaxo de la total fuerza contraria , y valiendose del mo­ vimiento accidental , Jibrando el arma en el tiempo , y en­ caminando a executar herida en el punto descubicrto.  En este caso  se  le  debe  oponer  el  diestro , levantandose  a su primera posicion de pies  cayendo  en  el  tiempo  con  su  ar­  ma sobre la contraria formando angulo recto: hecho en los tcnninos dichos  lograra  la  sujecion ; y si se  le  aproximase su contrario  le ofendera  , y  quedara  defendido y executado el primer medio de defensa , como lo rnanifiesta la figura sefia!ada con el num. 1 de 1a estampa  nu.m.   1 I .

Segundo : Si estando el diestro en la oposi<:ion de angulo recto , su contrario se recuperase y le acometiese con animo de execnta r  herida  en  cl peeho o rostro,  se defen­dera el diestro disminuyendo solo con el  pie  izquierdo hasta  quedarse  en  su  segunda  planta , y en  el tiempo des­viar.i con su arma Ja contraria, logrando por  este  rnedio  la pr ivacion a su contrario , y buena disposicion para s1, como lo Jemuestra  la figura sefialada con e1 nurn.   .

Ter_ero ;Si estando el diestro esperando en su segun­ da pbnta , y en los tcrminos dichos, el advemrio se re­ cuperase metiendo el  pie  izquierdo , y quedandose  en su segunda planta , e instantaneamente librase su arma , y laencaminasc   con   el  movimiento   accidental  a exccutar heri­da : en este caso se le opondra el diestro aumentando con el pie derecho a su terccra planta , y en el tiempo caera con su arma sobre la contraria ; de  manera  que  la  punta participe de la rectitud alta , y con el tercer tercio suje­ tarle, y alargando la mano izquierda , le agarrara la guar­ nicion ; bien entendido quc estas tres  acciones  de  entrar  con el  pie , caer  con  su arma , y concluir  11an    de ser  he­chas a un  ticmpo,  y lograra  el diestro tres  efectos , pri1.:adon , .rujecio1t , y di’sposicion para executar herida si le conviene , segun la  figura  senalada  con  el num.  3.

Bien claro se manifiesta la realidad y firmeza de los tres medias universales. Estos , aunque por s1 no executan, privan , y dan disposicion suficiente para executar ; y tie­ nen  la  preeminencia   en  todo ,  porque   sin  ellos   nada se puede hacer en destreza. Para mas afirrnacion , con el an­gulo recto y primer rnedio,  se elige el medio de  proporcion ; con el se ocupa la Hnea  del diametro , y se pone el atajo , si el cuerpo esta baxo, y se ha de levantar , ha de forrnar angulo recto y primer media : si estando lcvan­ tado sc ha de defender 6 desviar el arma contraria con al­guna seguridad ha  de  ser  con  el segundo medio:  si se ha de  executar  herida  punzante  o concluir  ha  de  ser  con eltercero ; y por ultimo , aun quando la herida sea de corte, le ha de ser preciso al diestro valersc de uno de los tres medios universales.

He  tratado  a algunos  sugetos  que  quieren  defender haya treta universal. A mi ver es imposible la haya : la razon es porque lo que el uno d.ispone , u contrario se lo desbarata por medio de los compases , plantas 6 desvios que se hacen  con el arma..Pot lo que tengo experimentado se lograra solo quando  se  execute  herida , o se  conclu­ ya  a su contrario;  y esto se conseguira  por  medio de uno de los tres dichos medios que facilita el arte , pues de lo contrario no se encontrara , ni es posible quepa en la parte practica.


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