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Thread: Announcing: Ancient Swordplay, by Tony Wolf

  1. #1
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    Announcing: Ancient Swordplay, by Tony Wolf



    In late Victorian England, even as the sword was being rendered useless on the battlefield, swordsmanship was experiencing a unique revival. Captain Alfred Hutton and Egerton Castle, both devoted fencers and amateur historians, led a systematic study and reconstruction of combat with all the weapons of the Elizabethan arsenal - the elegant rapier, deadly sword and buckler, and the massive two-handed sword. Their work found practical expression in classes, exhibitions, academic lectures and theatrical combat, for audiences as diverse as school children, soldiers and the Prince of Wales.

    Yet for all of their efforts, Hutton and Castle did not establish a tradition of historical swordsmanship that survived their own generation. Instead, their books and essays were largely forgotten until the second revival of ancient swordplay in the late 20th century, and today’s researchers often view these early efforts with a cavalier or dismissive eye.

    For the last decade or so, modern students of Historical European Swordsmanship learns that the Victorians saw fencing as a linear evolution toward the "perfection" of their own day, dismissed medieval swordsmanship as "rough and untutored", and generally, missed the.er...point of the earlier systems entirely.

    Enter 19th c martial arts scholar, theatrical fight director and martial artist Tony Wolf to take a closer look.

    In Ancient Swordplay: the Revival of Elizabethan Swordplay in Victorian London, Tony reexamines Hutton and Castle’s work, both through their own words and those of their enthusiasts, students and critics. Every student of historical European martial arts, especially those who believe they know what Castle, Hutton and their circle thought and taught will be in for more than one surprise:

    * A tradition of Medieval fests and swordsmanship – some of very dubious derivation – had already become popular throughout Europe and Canada;

    * Nearly a generation before Hutton and Castle, Maestro Gregorio Villaamil had already attempted to save La Verdadera Destreza from extinction by reconstructing earlier methods;

    * Castle’s views on medieval fencing evolved considerably over the years, and the dismissal of “the rough, untutored swordsmanship” written by a 26 year old prodigy did not reflect those of the mature man;

    * If Hutton and Castle had a true “heir” it was not an Englishman, but rather Maitre George Dubois, whose reconstruction of Gladiatorial combat prefigured the field of “Living Archaeology” by over 60 years, and whose syncretic system of modern rapier and dagger fencing would survive into the late 20th century;

    * Although the Ancient Swordplay movement failed to survive its founders, they would have considered it to have served its purpose – the preservation of modern fencing.

    But what this look into a world of top hats and rapiers best shows is that the modern view of the Victorian revivalists as earnest but misguided amateur scholars is both unfair, and a bit arrogant. Instead, they are revealed as the inventors of a systematic study and practice of lost fighting arts that has only been exceeded in recent years, worthy of being celebrated as the true pioneers in the field.

    With Ancient Swordplay, we are very pleased to bring the old boys (and girls! wait until you read about the swordswoman-actress-suffragette-role-reverser Esme Beringer!) back into the limelight, and in the weeks to come we will be uploading a number of images and manuscripts that couldn’t make it into the book. Keep watching this space!
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  2. #2
    I've been looking forward to this one! I placed my order yesterday!

    Keith

  3. #3
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    Well Keith, we both came into this in the era when the "dis the Victorians" was at its height, so I think you will probably enjoy the new look at them! Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  4. #4
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    In my own defense, I was 23 when I wrote "Daggers of the Mind."

    Dubois' system survives to today, BTW.

  5. #5
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    Ken,

    Re: Dubois. True; we saw at least one flavor of it at WMAW 2002 years ago. Do we know if it is still alive in France, since the Salle Lacaze days in the 30s, 40s? I know that it grew into Escrimme Fantastique, but was not sure how much it is still practiced as a fencing discipline.

    Certainly, if there were nothing else to come from Tony's work, it is that we should all know Dubois' name better.!
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  6. #6
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    Pioneer Valley, MA
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    Maître Gerard Six teaches it. Also Rob Handelman and a lot of other people who studied with Pierre Lacaze. Lacaze, who is perhaps best known for popularizing the modern Hungarian style of sabre in France, was Dubois' student. The Rohdes sword and dagger is clearly related.

    I need to translate Dubois' book; Chris Amberger sent me a copy. It's a great guide to sword and dagger fencing—though intended for the theater, it's presented as a workable fencing system.

  7. #7
    Gents,

    the perpetuation of the Dubois/Lacaze method through the 20th century is discussed in the final chapter of "Ancient Swordplay", and also in the Appendix.

    Tony

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