Principles to good fencing

We should never forget what the underlying principles of fencing are. While there may be differences between one style and the other, some things do not change.

fencing is to wound without being wounded, only attacking when you have a tempo, striking with the blowyou intended, to thetarget you intended andin the way you intended, with courage, judgment, strength and skill.

The first fundamental is to dare e non ricevere or toccare senza essere toccato, to give and not to take or to touch without being touched. As far as I am aware this was originally written down by the French playwright Molière, but it is perhaps not wrong to speculate that he was citing a living fencing master when he wrote it down.

The reference to tempo is of course a very Bolognese thing. It echoes the first fundamental but also opens up a deeper tactical discussion, as well as references the roots of fencing in music, as Filippo Vadi claims, and geometry, since a tempo can only exist within the measures.

The third fundamental is reflected in the Bolognese competitive rules, where a strike to the leg is awarded extra points for being a difficult target. Weighing the different areas of the body may indicate an attempt to simulate a real duel in competition, more likely it highlights the importance of skill. Manciolino even suggests leaving the hands off-target, probably to decrease the amount of hits that happen by accident. While luck plays a part in fencing, and one should be brave (as we shall soon see), it is far better to have a plan and execute it flawlessly than to throw yourself at fortune.

Lastly, the Bolognese are not the only ones to list the virtues of a swordsman, but for me it makes sense to follow their advice. Courage, judgment, strength and skill are the choices of the Anonymous writer of the so-indexed manuscript Ms345, and I can’t really think of better ones.

By following these guidelines in all kinds of fencing, be it for fun, competition or even the theoretical real thing, I believe you will not only be efficient and successful but also look good while doing it!

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