Dante wrote a book!

Dante, frequent contributor and goad to this blog, has been busy the past six months putting together a book.

On Historical Fencing with the Rapier and Dagger 

by Darren Di Battista et al.

When old HMA practitioners gather around the campfire, they talk about the good old days when all there was was Di Grassi, Saviolo, and Silver.  To this day, many fencers of that generation still “fight Di Grassi,” and it’s a very recognizable style (sword held in second in the “broad ward”, weight a little forward of center – you’ve probably seen it).

Then, in 2004 Jared Kirby published his translation of Capoferro.  There had been a translation by Jherek Swanger and William Wilson available on the internet since 1999, but it suffered from low visibility.  However, by the time I began paying attention in 2005 or 2006, the Kirby book was on every fencer’s bookshelf.  Still, nobody had dug in, read, studied, and applied Capoferro’s teachings.

During a coincident temporary leadership vacuum in Atlantia, Dante turned to Capoferro.  He devoured it obsessively.  In 2005 Tom Leoni published his translation of Fabris, which Dante also consumed.  In 2008 it was Leoni’s translation of Giganti.  All of the teachings of these ancient masters Dante studied and applied.  He fire-tested his interpretations on the list field until he found the most successful interpretations (and considering the Italians had set out to fight in a way that directly overcame the style of Di Grassi’s era, it’s been a not insignificant level of success).

The result is that he does not just possess an academic knowledge of period teaching, but a practical understanding of how to use it against opponents of all stripes.  This understanding is codified in On Historical Fencing with the Rapier and Dagger.

That understanding is expressed through the voice of an experienced teacher – ten years (or was it more?) teaching high school English classes, plus at least half a decade of teaching SCAdians and non-SCAdians the Italian system (including a massive day-long track of classes which I endured exactly once).  The result is a clear guide to fencing.  However, the clarity of the manual does not sacrifice nuance and detail, ensuring the reader is provided a full discussion of rapier technique.

The manual is laid out as a study guide, building from the basics of form (stance, guards, and lunges) to the fundamentals of combat (time and measure) to the techniques applying the theory to combat.  It’s useful for students from the rank beginner up through intermediate fencers, and even more advanced fighters will find details they may not have previously considered (for instance, the benefits of retreating at a slight angle).  Also included is helpful advice for some of the scenarios we encounter on the SCA and HEMA lists, where rule structures and safety equipment permit or reward actions and strategies that would have been rapidly excised through natural selection in the 16th and 17th century.

The forms and techniques are illustrated with side-on and head-on photographs, providing a three-dimensional demonstration of the art not available in period manuals or most modern interpretations.

I’m currently working with a brand new fencer, my Student who’s been around for a little over a year, and a fencer who’s been fencing for at least six years and has earned his kingdom’s scarf and white belt.  All of these students, with their wide range of experience and knowledge of combat, will benefit from this book, and I’ve told them all to get it at least once.  You should, too.

 

 

 

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