George Hale's The Private School of Defence.

Published: 1614, London, UK

The Priuate Schoole of Defence. Or The Defects of Publique Teachers, exactly diſcouered, by way of Obiection and Reſolution. Together VVith the true practiſe of the Science, ſet downe in iudicious Rules and Obſeruances; in a Method neuer before expreſſed.

By G. H. Gent.


Printed for Iohn Helme, and are to be ſould at his Shop in S. Dunſtanes Church-yard in Fleetſtreet. 1614.

To the Hope of Great Brittaine, Prince Charles.

Praiſe is the end of all Arts, the perfection of Praiſe is onely in Eminence, which begets Example and Admiration. Seeing then (great Prince) your Birth giues you the beſt priuiledge to expreſſe the worthineſſe of Vertue, I ſee not but her followers, eyther in Art or Action, ſhould neceſſarily flie to your High Patronage. This conſideration makes my low deſerts looke vpward, which in this at leaſt will merit your view, that the Science of Defence, not unworthily stiled Noble, (if eyther truely practiſed, or rightly vnderſtood) was neuer 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 chief whereof is, the increaſing our bloudy and irreligious Duels, which if the name of this Science, being called of Defence, will not auoyd, yet the moſt licentious sge 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 Iusſtice. Yet that this kinde of battell was knowne and in ſome caſes approued amongst the Romanes. The Hiperduels betweene the Curatij and the Horatij, and that famous Duell betweene Torquatus and the French-man apparantly speake.

It is not then the publique profeſsion of this Science, nor the multiplicitie of of Profeſſors that increaſe theſe deſperate aſaßinations: for, Knowledge begets Wiſedome, and Wiſedome by how much it participates of skill with Diſcretion, miſdoubteth the ſame in another, and concludes ſafety as the summe of her abilitie. This is manifeſt in the Italians, the firſt inuenters 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 iuſtly taxt with any ſo wicked effects, been graced with ſo many Authentick priuiledges in all well gouerned States, nor the Pofeſſors thereof had recieued ſuch honor and reſpect, inſomuch that amongst the Romanes ſome of them hsd their Statues erected, as Plutarch witneſſeth. Theſe Reaſons (if my iudgement faile not) forcing the ſame.

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

The ſecond is, Publique good abroad, for auoyding bloud, if the ſtate of a War ſhould require a ſingle Tryall, which howſoeuer was presumption in Goliah, was true valor in Dauid: the initation 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 one or more late yeeres, betweene Frances the firſt, King of France, and Charles the fiſt, 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 Iudgement walke together: and for the profit, it leads to as much vſe in making the perſon ready and daring to the warre; as Horſemanſhip begets dexteritie for the shocke. The Schoole of our priuate Practiſe being the ſame to the Battell, that the Muze is to the Troope; for with what confidence ſhall hee goe on vpon many, that hath no knowledge to giue him hope of ſafety from one.

Pardon my tedious diſcourſe (moſt Excellent Prince) if if be a Crime not Error but Zeale offends: for how can I chooſe but ſpeake much or 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 endeuours may giue the leaſt furtherance (as I promiſe my ſelfe much herein) I returne from your Acceptance, loaden with full reward and happiest expectance: whom no ſecond reſpect could induce to the vndertaking this ſo difficult a Labour, which my Perſon ſhall in your command, in all humble ſeruice, be euer at attendance to make good, reſting

The moſt deuoted Seruant to you and your Princely Vertues, G. H. Gent.

The Priuate Schoole of Defence.

Some hold opinion that Skill auayleth little or nothing in in fight; and therefore ſo 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 reiecting the benefit of skill muſt needs confeſſe it no vaine Exerciſe, if the aptneſſe and facilitie be onely thought on, to which the actiue practiſe of it brings the body, and enables it for enduring in fight. But to the point of materiall vſe.

Of ſuch mens vnderſtandings I would know how comes it (then) that an ignorant handler of a VVeapon meeting it vvith an ordinarie Profeſſor of Defence at Foyles, can neyther certainely giue offence, nor auoid it.

They will anſwere mee, that at blunt, a man comes boldy on, and is not troubled with any ſuch conſiderations, as at ſharpe muſt of neceſſitie diſorder his remembrance, and put him out of 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 vpon a danger: coldneſſe in not preparing him to follow an aduantage of offence, yet these come neuer wholy to preiudice the vſe of skill: for, ſpeaking of ſuch an heate as alwayes fals vpon this perill; wee muſt not vnderſtand 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 vp into much anger (which ſeldome happens in the Defendant, for whose 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 aduice be altogether neglected becauſe a madde man is uncapable of it?

Then touching Coldnes, though it be brought downe into the very baſeneſſe of Feare on one, yet it is impoſſible to make Skill vtterlyof no vſeto him. For the geſture of the body vpon ſuch a danger, will naturally fall into thoſe motions that it hath got by practiſe.

So that skill to euery reaſonable man is ſomething a friend. But when it is entertained by one naturally of a good temper, it can by no meanes fall vnder any of their Obiections 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 haue as much aduantage of an ignorant man in fight, as there is difference betweene them in practiſe.

To exemplifie this, you may read of one Coranſo, a Noble man, who from two and twenty Duelloes returned Conquerour: Being demanded the reaſon by ſome that conſidered the equalitie of his aduerſaries in ſhew, and the vncertaine 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 abilitie of thoſe hee was taught.

Since therefore that the Science of Defence is vnderſtood to be a profeſſion of vſe, it followes to examine the defects of Teachers, and to reſolue vpon the worth of the knowledge: which followes immediately after or Definition.

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 the wrong of the Offender, or the greateſt diſaduantage of his Offence.

The Parts thereto required are Strength and Judgement.

Vnder Strength are comprehended ſwiftneſſe of motion and quickneſſe of Eye: where abilitie is without perfection of theſe, it is but a ſupply of defects, drawne from the Iudicial part or Iudgement.

Vnder Iudgement fall the conſiderations of Time, Place and Diſtance.

It hath ſeemed to many that there is no certainty in this Science, which is granted, it muſt loſe his tytle; in whoſe behalfe wee cannot but with great reaſon auerre, that as the body is punctuall, ſo it hath a iuſt circumference in the hands and feet, which to defence and ſafeguard thereof, runne in an equall line, which extended with ſtrength in a iuſt proportion; make the body the ſame as teh Poynt is in Circle, vntoucht or impoſſible to be violated.

To them that obiect Example againſt Knowledge, in that none or few, haue euer attained this height of aſſurance, I can make no other anſwere, then argue from their owne Schoole, and ſay, that none or a few, in diſputation, euer gaue ſatisfaction without ſome doubt, therefore Logicke is no Art of true diſputing. True it is, all Arts and Sciences haue their iuſt and abſolute bound, to which though in the ſpeculatiue part of Theorie many haue arriued, none euer did in practiſe. Since as in thoſe of words, many ſubtilties and nimble inuentions oppreſſe and wreſt teh beſt expoſitions: ſo in thoſe of exerciſe of the body, the inequalitie of place as the ſlipping of ground, dazeling of ſight, many times diſorder the beſt and ſureſt way of Defence and Knowledge. Wherefore though by the weakneſſe of mans caſuall nature, wee can promiſe to our Scholler no poſitiue ſecuritie, yet the imperfection in the learner, makes the Art no whit leſſe certaine of ſingular.

To thoſe that reiect the Science, becauſe they cannot promiſe themſelues ſupreame excellence, is to reiect the ſtudy of Phyſicke, becauſe hee cannot be a Galen or a Paracelſus; of if any ſhall from the fall of ſome man of the ſword (as our word men tearme them) by the vnskilfull 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 Valerious 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 prefection of the two Romanes Bythus and Bacchus, who hauing fought eighteene ſeuerall Combats of Duelloes, returned both without hurt, and at the laſt were both, at one Paſſage, runne through and ſlaine leauing no place to Iudgement, that could giue preeminence to eyther: wherevpon it became a Prouerbe in Trials of equalitie, Bethus contra Bacchum. But I haue digreſt too farre In magnus rebus volurſſe ſat eſt; In high matters it ſhall ſuffice to ſit in Phabus Chayre, though wee cannot runne his full dayes iourney: wherefore wee returne againe to handle the parts deriued, which make to approue 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 vſe of weapon is now reduced, is not ſo blunt but ſmall force makes it enter; neither in Longe or Paſſage is the force required ſo much as ſhift of body, to which the Eye muſt like a faithfull Centinell giue warning, and the Feete nimbly giue performance: for if the Eye faile in perceiuing opportunitie, or the Feete in taking it, in vaine is the force of the arme: on theſe two then we ground Abilitie, to which the Iudgement giues the crowne or conqueſt.

Now for Iudgement, as we ſaid before, Time muſt be obſerued when, Diſtance where, Place how. Occaſion of Time and Diſtance may ſeeme faire to the eye, yet the Place may iuſtly barre it. As where open way is giuen to a Paſſage with aduantage, 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 greate aduantage: for vpon euery ſleight 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 aduerſarie to a Guard, that neglects a place of more deadly danger. Laſtely Time and Place may both ſucceede to your wiſhes, yet Diſtance may iuſtly checkd your reſolution: for to no obſeruation more then this is the Iudgement required, which being from our purpoſe to ſet downe in figure, I referre you to the laborious worke of Giovan de Grassi the Italian, who handles this point at large, and hath tooke vp much ground in the expreſſion thereof.

Thus much for our ſpeculatiue part in 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 courteous 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 boldly 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 apparantly worthy of cenſure to all indifferent practiſers.

The Defects of the Teachers of Defence diſcouered by way of Obiection, and the true vſe thereof ſet doune in the Reſolution.

Obiection I.

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


Hee that ſhall teach a ſtrong man with a ſingle weapon to runne Paſſages with ſhift, takes from him the aduantage of his ſtrength, who ſhould eyther attend the Close or hauing length to his ſtrength, should ſtanding offend to the neareſt, as in this Booke you ſhall finde vnder the title Order for fight. Or he that ſhall teach a weake man ſingle weapon or binding Paſſage for the Cloſe of aduantage, forfeites him to a strong mans mercy, though he hath much leſſe courage or skill. Whereby the defect in the Obiection plainely appeares, as in many other, riſing from this example.

Obiection II.

THE publicke Teachers teach, at many weapons, as they giue it out in their Challenges, as though euery Weapon were vſed with ſeuerall Guards and Defences, one contrary to another.


This is meere deceipt, to blinde the eyes of their ſpectators in publicke, as they doe their Scollers in priuate: for all mentined 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.

Obiection III.

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


To giue 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 head, & leaue 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 onely the Rapier or Sword can moſt certainly doe, the mayne of both muſt neceſſarilie be caſt vpon them.

Obiection IIII.

THE publicke Profeſſors of this Science, teach nothing at Backe-Sword, 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 preiudiciall 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 vſe whereof you ſhall finde in the next Reſolution.

Obiection V.

IN ſingle Rapier, and Rapier and Dagger, they teach all their Schollers as they call them, Stucks, otherwiſe Longe, to throw them into hit without diſordering their aduerſe Rapier: and doe likewiſe teach Paſſages, to runne them right forward vpon their enemie.


To my knowledge there no offending Longe, otherwiſe Stuck, vpon any man, with any ſaftie without diſorder: an no Paſſage that is done without ſhift, can be without great danger.

Obiection VI.

They will ſuffer their Schollers to ſee one anothers practiſe, and likewiſe they themſelves will diſcouer euery mans play to any man.


To let any man ſee anothers practiſe, giueth much aduantage to the ſpectator, and is much preiudiciall vnto him whose practiſe is ſeene: and moſt murtherous and damnable in the Teacher to betray their owne Schollers to death.

Obiection VII.

They will ſeldome or neuer fight in the ſame guard they teach others: nor ſo much as hold the fame guard good to morrow they vſed yeſterday.


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

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

Conſidering all theſe aduantages and diſaduantages, let euery man make his owne Practiſe priuate, and with thoſe hee may haue no cauſe to deale withall: for their nice trickes in Schooles, or Player-like fights at many Weapons vpon Stages, are mere shadowes without ſtubſtance. Therefore let Art and Nature be ioyned in one.

Order in fight.

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

Let him that is weake of body, and hath a fhort reach, make choiſe of a double Weapon, being a ſhort Rapier and Dagger, of 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 giue a little ground, for that will encourage his enemie (a ſtrong man deſirous to cloſe) to come forwards. Then in your Paſſage, or Croſſe-Paſſage with ſhift vnexpected: or if he hath length and not ſtrength, let him offend to the nigheſt parts, otherwiſe anſwere.

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

To help the length of a ſhort man.

IF a weake man be offender hauing a ſhort reach, let him runne Paſſages vpon his enemie, with as much ſhift of body as he can: Shun the Cloſe; for if hee giues aduantage to his enemie to hurt him; for his enemy hath aduantage at lenght by reach, and aduantage of ſtrength vpon the Cloſe, or if hee 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 fo a weake man: change the point when the aduerſe ſeekes to take it; change backe to recouer it; or elſe 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 hee can, towards his enemie, and the point no higher then the ſhoulder, truſting to your Rapier or Swords defence; for thereby your enemie hath little 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 neuer 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 none, and in fight that behooves one moſt to be conſtant in a good guard, and ſlow to put out without great aduantage: for hee that offends is thereby the eaſier hurt; and if you offend vpon 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 ſlow, and moſt commonly paſt recouery, 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 vpon the aduerſe comming forward.

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

Many trickes doe too much trouble the minde: know all, vſe few: three defends the whole.

Rules of Practiſe.

THere is but three defences in a ſingle weapon.

  • 1


  • 2


  • 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 aduantage.

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

  • 1


  • 2


And two in Defence.

  • 1

    When the dagger bindes high, the Dagger bindes low.

  • 2

    Or when the Dagger bindes 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 weapon againſt all aduantages.

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 aduantages.

I haue concluded my rules of Practiſe, and the whole Booke, with the moſt neceſſary inſtruction belongs to this Science, and the leaſt obſerued 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 himſelfe to want this knowledge, if he conſider the vſe thereof in accidentall quarrels, which cannot be denied much to exceede occaſions for the field: for ſuppoſing himſelfe incident to ſodaine on-ſets, how is hee prouided with his wearing weapon, being for the moſt part, a ſingle Rapier or ſhort Sword, to defend himſelfe from the aduantage of a Sword and Dagger, Rapier and Dagger, or Halberd? whereas by practiſe againſt this vnequall oppoſition (as in the Chapter before preſcribed) he ſhall finde himſelfe enabled not onely for defence in this extremity, but alſo may offend his aduerſarie, as I haue ſeene vpon the publique Stage, a ſingle Rapier moſt ſhamefully foyle both Halberd and halfe Pike. To adde to this ſupply of defect, I would haue a man wanting one hand, or one eye, by practiſe, to helpe his imperfection: or being lame in both armes, with his feete and ſhift of body, to cleare that defect (all cunnning in this Art conſiſting more in feete then hands.) Further ſhould one be lame in feet hauing eyes and armes, I would haue 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 defectiue, but that act and deminſtration, not words, muſt make this apparant, wherein I referre my ſelfe to iudicious tryall, concluding with an Anſwere to one Obiection, that will ariſe from meaneſt vnderſtanding, being this.

Why ſhould ſo few of our Fencers ariue to this knowledge, or to no more height of doing, then this diſcouery 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 Vſhers our Maſters brings vp, you ſhall finde moſt of them Butchers, Byt-makers, Shooe-makers, or Truncke-makers, men envred to the hide, rather able to bear blowes then auoyd them. Whence wee ſee a Gentleman or Artiſt, who can reduce knowledge vnto rule, in ſmall time out-goes his Teacher hauing 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 haue ſeene ſome, whom I muſt confeſſe to be both knowing and able, who deteſt our commonly applauded, rude, and buffeting play: whoſe Iudgements will be as far from deprauing mee or my worke, as I ſhall be from the leaſt enuy towards them, whom I confeſſe much worthy of eſteeme and reward.