Thoughts on Reading Swetnam

Well I’m kinda back.  I’m only allowed to pick up my sword for 15 minutes at a time, but I have my strength coming back to most of my body and I’m on a lot fewer drugs, so my head is much clearer.  This means that I can get back into some of my studying.  After my work with Saviolo I very much wanted to move on to Joseph Swetnam.  So it’s time for that now.  With Saviolo I found that I didn’t like his writing style as much as I did Di Grassi (though I liked the content more), so it’s interesting to me to see Joseph Swetnam’s style which seems very different from the earlier masters.  I’ll be writing this as I go through his Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence which was published in 1617.Cover

Similar to Di Grassi and Saviolo I’m reading Swetnam in the original.  This is the big reason why I’m starting with the English masters and not the Italianate ones.  I would like to get a grounding in the thought of the time rather than read it through the eyes of a translator.

First Di Grassi published his work in 1570 (translated into English in 1594) and Saviolo published in 1595.  I still think that Saviolo’s work is derivative of Di Grassi’s, and subscribe to the thought that Di Grassi’s manual was taught in Saviolo’s school before his own manual came out.  I did find a number of parallels between Saviolo’s work and dall’Agocchie’s work which came out a few years prior.

Joseph Swetnam published in 1617 – 22 years later.  Saviolo should thus be a completely new generation of fencing.  His work is more likely to be derivative of Fabris, Giganti, and Capoferro but from an English perspective.


Fencing Styles

Nearly everyone in the Lower Mainland fencing community fights similarly.  In fact most of Tir Righ fights similarly.  It’s often refered to as Tir Righ Standard.  It’s effective, it’s safe, it’s defended, and it’s worked well for a lot of fighters.  This is how we teach new fighters.  It’s how we retrain fighters who are doing poorly.  This style is ingrained in us.  At Investiture the other week Master Guido was commenting to another fighter, one of the very few who fight differently, that as most of the people fight the same here you can use the same techniques to defeat almost all of them.  And he’s right.  Everyone is used to fighting same style vs. same style.  We’re becoming a little stagnate in our style.  We found one that generally works for most people, and are sticking to it.  And it is a good general style.  It melds clasical and period fencing, and allows for variation and experimentation within a construct.  But if you face 1/2 of the fencers in Tir Righ you have a general concept of what they are going to do and how they are going to fight.

And it’s so ingrained that when I was trying out something a little different I had someone adjust my entire style about a 1/2 hour before a tournament… I did very poorly in that tournament.  Immediately before a tournament is not the time to make sweeping changes.  But the bigger issue is that other styles of fencing are not seen as “different” but “wrong”.  What really got me thinking was this post: at a clasical fencing blog I read.  It brought up the idea that maybe we need to examine why we do what we do.


Academic Rapier

I currently have a lack of both time and money, which makes it difficult for me to attend more than my local practice for fencing.  What I do have is a lot of time for reading while on the train.  So, similarly to what I did when I decided to learn more about bread making I picked up some books.

The first one had very little to do with rapier: Warrior to Soldier, 449-1660.  It’s a history of warfare in England from the Saxons right through to the New Model Army.  It’s a great overview for anyone in the SCA with an English persona.  It helped me to understand the rapiers position in England, as that of a day to day sidearm.  I knew that it wasn’t a military weapon, but to see the evolution of the military sword and armour was very enlightening.  Though the rapier came to prominence in England, the decrease in armour was actually because of the firearm.  I always figured that firearms in general brought about the change in armour, but it wasn’t actually until the advent of the musket (which at the time was so heavy it needed a prop) that armour became useless.  The first muskets allowed a half trained man to kill someone in the heaviest armour who had been trained from childhood.  Although new armour was designed that could withstand a musket shot, it was so heavy that it required a man to be on horseback, and slow.  It was useless on the ground, and couldn’t be used to protect the horse as it was too heavy.  So if the cavalry had the bulletproof breast plates on their horses were still vulnerable, and the musketeers just aimed for the horses instead.  The armour was so heavy that people refused to wear it.  They would rather wear little armour and be fast.


Medieval Style Bread Part 2

Only a few days later, and I already have to update the post.

On Yeast:

I’ve been doing some research into yeast and have come to the conclusion that I am using way too much yeast in this dough.

Small amounts of yeast will reproduce rapidly given the right stimulants.  So, if I decrease the amount of yeast, but let the sponge work for longer (a few hours instead of 20 min) then the resulting yeast will be stronger, and I won’t need to use as much.

Some people seem to recommend using 1 tsp of yeast in a sponge to get the same effect of a normal 1 tbsp.

I am thinking 1 1/2 tsp, or 1/2 a tbsp instead.  It’s a little more, but this should work.  My plan is to make the sponge in the morning, let it grow all day, then make the dough in the evening and let it rise all night, then make the bread the next day.

A very medieval system.


Medieval Style Bread Part 1

So I’ve decided to give medieval bread a shot.  Everyone knew it was coming eventually, it’s the natural progression from my other baking projects.

I want to work on this in steps though.  This post will be about the theories behind the bread, and then I will have future posts about different aspects of it.

Now, if you’re wondering if this counts towards my A&S 50, the answer is: “Kinda”.  In order for a project to count I need to create something.  For years I’ve done research but never done anything with it.  Part of why I wanted to do A&S 50 was so that I would start actually producing something from my research.  As such, my bread experiments will only count when I actually make the bread, rather than just researching it.

Now, on to Bread.


July 8

Had a fun practice time on Thursday.  Lions Gate practice has been moved to two hours, so it now runs from 8-10pm.  I still have to head home at about 9 in order to be home and functional the next day, this created a problem in that I would only get an hour of practice.  So I went over to Blood and Iron on Front Street in New West (not that far from Saperton Hall where Lions Gate Practice is).  I hung out with Lee, the head instructor there and talked rapier and research, then did some warm-up and drills.  I did cutting drills for about an hour, and worked on accuracy and control.

After that I went over to Lions Gate practice and did sparing for about 45 minutes total, against Godfrey and a gentleman I hadn’t fought before.  I had a blast, working on integrating cutting, and trying different things.

When I started this fencing journal I had a few goals:

  • To learn to use the advantages of a shorter blade against the disadvantages of a longer blade
  • To learn better use of the dagger in both defence and offence
  • To increase my aggression

Since then I’ve added a few goals:

  • Knowing my thrusting range better
  • Controlling my cuts better