Monday, January 4, 2010

Addendum: The Rapiers Place in the Greater Art

My friend was right when he said that I love the rapier, but this post is not emotionally biased. His Silverian exclusion of the rapier from the greater Art may leave some confused as to what we mean by “the Art” in the first place, so allow me to place it in its proper context.

The rapier is, in point of fact, governed by the Art of which we speak.

I’m sure, as divided as our audience may be, that they can agree that the rapier is, obviously and practically, a specialization of the more common and versatile sword.

A specialization, by nature, is not an exclusion from, but, particularly in regards to weapon forms and their styles of use, a discarding of other elements, and to a lesser degree, a focus on the particular strengths of that specialized weapon’s design (for the design, though derived from the Art and its pre-existing weapons, governs how it may be used). What this means is that the rapier, and thusly the way it is used, did not appear in a vacuum, upon its own foundation, any more than the Art of the Longsword appeared from nothing and entirely separate from the pre-existing sword. This very specialization was, in part, why Master Silver felt the Art of the Rapier was “false,” or lacking. Because it was a specialization of the greater Art, it excluded certain elements which he felt were proper to have in a more rounded methodology.

Though a specialization, the rapier is part and parcel of the same Art of which we speak.

Even if the rapier was favored in a certain area and then exported, it was quickly exported and popularized in all nations nonetheless. Just as the knights of the feudal age were borderless and their art shared, the rapier was itself borderless and those who instructed in its use exported. Though regional styles were more “regionally” pronounced with the rapier, they were just that: styles. The frill on the Art itself. Some Masters preferred a peripheral weapon, some did not. Some stood this way, some stood that. Some held their weapons here, some there. However they decided to stand when they were still, they all stepped, lunged, passed and thrust, with the aim of piercing the opponent while themselves not being pierced, while using a rapier (as with the longsword, while there were many designs, a rapier is a rapier is a rapier). There was no more a separate art to the rapier than there was with the longsword, just as the rapier is no more disconnected or separate from the Art itself than was the use of the mace; simply specialization. All styles of the Art of the Rapier were based upon the principles of the Art itself. They had to be as they were subject to intense natural selection in a dueling and self-defense environment, and they could not spontaneously arise experimentally with no basis.

The Art is the trunk of a tree. The branches are the styles. The branches, however, intertwine and grow within and without one another. The use of the rapier is a twig upon each branch, and those twigs likewise entangle and merge with one another, growing inward as well as out.


Copyright Jan. 2010, Casper Bradak


Lessons on the English Longsword said...

My friend, you are - of course - correct.

But I still hate the pigeon-spit.



IaMaPh said...

I know I am necromancing this post by commenting on it, but I have to agree that the rapier is not a "different" art or "excluded" but is still governed by the same principles just to different degrees.

I have been working on an article that explains the universal principles of melee combat both with and without weapons, ages past, present, and future, and how they serve as the irreducible frame work wherein everything specific has its own respective wiggle room. I'm sure an article like this as been done to death by others, on a technique basis and not a principle basis, so I may be unoriginal there.

However, I was going to to the extra mile to and contrast the art of melee combat with the "ignoble gun" and the principles that govern projectile combat, and to show that sure there may be "some" very general principles in regards to bows, slings, and firearms, but that projectile combat not only "equalizes" combatants too much (allowing the unskilled, heavyset, and unathletic to blow away a fit and talented trained individual with no danger to himself), but that it also evolves too quickly to make a proper "art" out of it.

For an example of this, try having the arts of swords, daggers, wrestling, and spears of the bronze and iron ages and those of the migration and chivalric eras, I would say it is pretty safe to assume that a few aesthetic differences aside, the principles that govern their use would be the same in the end.

Now try contrasting this with projectile weapons: a sling and a bow are radically different, yes, but the real "smoking gun" (pun very much intended lol) is with the introduction of portable hand-held firearms. If you see the methods of use regarding a matchlock musket or a wheel-lock pistol and try to apply them to your automatic M-4's and glock's of today, you cant apply the older principles to fit the new weapons. Despite their outward similarities, and principles of aiming and factoring in bullet drop among others, the arts of using them are fundamentally incompatible. You wont see "muzzle loading" taught today, you wont factor in taking 5 minutes to reload, etc.

In fact, I dare you to find out of your average band of military men to find one who knows how to properly load prepare and fire a matchlock, wheel-lock, flintlock, or schnapphaus pistol or rifle? Chances are you wont. They would look like an infant trying to figure out a rubiks cube if you placed one in their hands. And thats where the problem lies, the art of the firearm is not grounded on the principles of yesteryear, it is fleeting and adapts very quickly over a wide range of possibilities, and upgrades beyond its older counterparts. Whereas if you placed a bronze age sword or modern day broomstick in the hands of a renaissance swordsman, he would understand the principles of melee combat enough to know the proper ways how to utilize this tool to his advantage in combat.

Sorry for the rambling, just a few thoughts to consider. Feedback?



Richard Marsden said...

I see in Italian rapier remnants from Fiore, in one case even a near-identical play!

The Fiore technique to throw a cut, then half-sword, with the counter being a half-sword in reply, is seen in Capo Ferro!

JH said...

I appreciate what you have to say. But I still dislike the rapier ;-)