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Title: A New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry
Author: Burton, Richard Francis, Sir
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A New System of Sword Exercise for Infantry" ***







  His Royal Highness Field-Marshal the Duke of Cambridge,
  ETC., ETC., ETC.,



  Introductory Remarks                                    11

  Sect. I. Preparatory Instruction without the Sword      20

       II. Preparatory Instruction with the Sword         26

      III. The Manchette, or Fore-arm Play                45

  Conclusion                                              56

  Appendix (Note on Sabre handles)                        57




Before proceeding to develop my New Sword Exercise for Infantry, I
would offer a few remarks upon the changes proposed in these pages.
Whilst the last half century has witnessed an immense improvement in
the projectile weapons of the civilized world, the theory and practice
of the sabre or cutting arm have remained _in statu quo ante_; indeed,
if there has been any change it is for the worse. The two systems
authorized in the British army are completely behind their time. First
and senior is the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ (with plates): Revised
Edition, Adjutant-General’s Office, Horse Guards. London: Printed under
the superintendence of H.M. Stationery Office: 1874. The second is
the ‘Instructions for the Sword, &c. (without plates), for the use of
Cavalry.’ Adjutant-General’s Office, Horse Guards. June, 1871.

The latter can be despatched very briefly. Despite the late date,
it is as obsolete as the older system; it is, in fact, only the
‘Infantry Exercise’ with the addition of “pursuing practice,” and
“post practice”--the latter upon a sort of modern Quintain not made
to revolve. So far, so good. The practised swordsman has little to
learn when mounted, except the few modifications which he can teach
himself. His real study is on foot. But some of the remarks appear not
to have been written by a practical hand. For instance, we read (p.
27): “In delivering a forward thrust, very little force is necessary
when the horse is in quick motion, as the extension of the arm, with
a good direction of the point, will be fully sufficient.” “Fully
sufficient”--I should think so! The recruit must be carefully and
sedulously taught when meeting the enemy, even at a trot or canter,
to use no force whatever, otherwise his sword will bury itself to the
hilt, and the swordsman will either be dragged from his horse, or will
be compelled to drop his weapon--if he can. Upon this point I may quote
my own ‘System of Bayonet Exercise’ (p. 27):--

“The instructor must spare no pains in preventing the soldier from
using force, especially with the left or guiding arm, as too much
exertion generally causes the thrust to miss. A trifling body-stab
with the bayonet (I may add with the sword) is sufficient to disable
a man; and many a promising young soldier has lost his life by
burying his weapon so deep in the enemy’s breast that it could not
be withdrawn quickly enough to be used against a second assailant.
To prevent this happening, the point must be delivered smartly, with
but little exertion of force, more like a dart than a thrust, and
instantly afterwards the bayonet must be as smartly withdrawn.” In
fact the thrust should consist of two movements executed as nearly
simultaneously as possible; and it requires long habit, as the natural
man, especially the Englishman, is apt to push home, and to dwell upon
his slouching push.

The ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ is nought but a snare and a delusion.
Except in pagination, it is the same as the “Revised Edition” of
1845--the only difference or revision that I can detect is the omission
of a short sentence in p. 26 of the older issue; it even retains
the General Order of Lord Hill, 23rd April, 1842. Thus “Revision”
is confined to the plates. In 1845 the figures wear the milk-pail
shako widening at the top, the frock coat and the scales; the last
edition, dated April, 1874, dons the tall modern chimney-pot, the
tightly buttoned tunic with stiff collar and, like its predecessor, the
sash and the scabbard. It is no wonder that the figures display an
exceeding _gêne_, the stiffness of pokers, as the phrase is: here we
might with profit borrow from the French or Italian artist.

I am opposed to almost every page of this unhappy _brochure_,
especially to the “Seven Cuts and Guards” of the target; to the shape
of the target--I never yet saw a man absolutely circular; to the grip
of the sword; to the position in guard; to the Guards or Parades,
especially the inside engaging guard (Carte); to the Lunge; to the
angle of the feet, and to the system of “loose practice.”

The “Cuts” will be noticed in a future page. Of the grip I may remark
that the one essential, the position of the thumb, both in attacks and
parries is, as a rule, neglected by the ‘Sword Exercise.’[1] As early
as 1828, Müller made his _point d’appui_ a grasp of the handle with
the four fingers, the thumb being stretched along the back, in order
to direct the edge, and to avoid the possibility of striking with
the “flat.” The only exception to this universal law is when doing
the “Moulinet” movements, which will be explained farther on. Some
professors, both with broadsword and small-sword, would stretch the
index, when pointing, along the right of the handle. I have objected to
this practice in the rapier and the foil: except when done to change
position for relief, it serves merely to fatigue the wrist. But the
proper use of the thumb, “_le pouce allongé sur le dos de la poignée_,”
which is troublesome at first, and which demands some study, especially
from those who have acquired bad habits, is the base of all superior

The position on guard is a debated point. Many, indeed I may say
most, of the moderns follow the rule of all the older swordsmen,
namely, reposing two-thirds of the body-weight (as in p. 19 of the
‘Exercise,’ which, however, is an exaggeration) upon the left leg. The
reasons usually given are that in this position the person is not so
much exposed; moreover, that the centre of gravity being thrown back
adds spring and impetus to the Lunge. We may remember how Cordelois
(1862) made a step towards change in his fencing-schools at Paris.
My objection to the old style is that the farther you are from your
opponent, the longer and slower will be your attack; moreover, I have
ever found, in personal practice, that it is easier and more convenient
to “sit on guard” with the weight equally distributed on both haunches
and legs. In fact, that the backward position is not natural any pair
of thighs can ascertain for itself after trying it for five minutes:
whilst the muscles of the right or forward limb are relaxed as much
as possible, those of the left are tight strung, so as to do double
work and threaten cramp. This single objection is serious enough to
counterbalance any other claims to superiority.

[Illustration: First Guard. (Prime.)

(“What to avoid.”)]

Again, there is no excuse for the guards in the ‘Exercise.’ The
“Hanging guard” (p. 18, in the older issue p. 21) is the worst that
can be imagined--a painful spectacle, a lesson of “what to avoid.” The
head ignobly cowers, and the eyes look up, in a forced and wearying
position, when the former should be held upright, and the glance should
be naturally fixed upon the opponent’s eye and blade-point; the body
is bent so as to lose our national advantage of height and strength,
and the right fore-arm in such a position is, and ever must be, clean
uncovered. Let the recruit, however strong may be his haunches, stand
a few minutes in this “Hanging guard,” and he will soon feel by his
fatigue how strange, awkward, and strained it is. The Carte or inside
Engaging Guard (pp. 19, 22), again, endangers the fore-arm. The
Tierce or outside Engaging Guard (pp. 20, 23) holds the hand too low,
and unduly shortens the arm, thus offering an undesirable amount of
exposure; it is in fact not a Guard, but a bad parry in “low Tierce.”
Worse still is the Lunge (pp. 14, 17): here the body is placed bolt
upright, instead of being easily bent, without exaggeration, to
the fore, prolonging, as every man instinctively would do at his
first attempt, the line of the left leg. The former position is not
only fatiguing and “against the grain;” also shortens the reach and
carefully places the opponent safely out of measure. Many swordsmen
still contend for the stiffly upright position in Lunge:[3] I am
disposed to consider it a mere survival of the classical and artificial
French school of arms, which aimed at opposing nature as sedulously
as the Italian, who always leans to the fore, attempted to follow her
dictates. Moreover, their arguments are founded upon the abuse, not
the use, of the inclined pose which the body naturally assumes. In
teaching the recruit it is well to see that he does not fall into the
dangerous habit of throwing the chest forward (_poitriner_) to meet his
opponent’s point; but the truth of muscular motion must be consulted.

Finally, I would note the mistake of “loose practice” with the
single-stick instead of the sabre; it probably arose from a mistaken
economy in saving swords and paddings. Single-stick is a different
weapon, a cane or light cudgel with a basket-hilt covering the back
of the hand, like the imperfect guard of the Highland Clay-more; it
is straight, not curved, and, as the rod has no edges, so in practice
every blow equally represents a cut. Single-stick has merits of its
own, but its practice is fatal to excellence with the broadsword, and
even the ‘Exercise’ seems to recognize the fact, for the _guindés_
figures are armed with officers’ Regulation swords.

[Illustration: Inside Guard--(Carte).

(Weight all thrown back.)]

Both ‘Sword Exercises’ carefully avoid naming “Tierce” and “Carte;”
preferring “right” and “left” (of the Sword) or “outside” and “inside,”
as if such mysteries were too high or too deep for our national
intelligence. I would again quote a few lines from my ‘System of
Bayonet Exercise’ (Introductory Remarks, pp. 8, 9):--

“But why, it may be asked, should the English soldier be deterred by
difficulties which every French voltigeur can master? We admire the
intelligence of our neighbours in military matters: we remark that they
are born soldiers, and that their men learn as much in four months
as ours do in six. Is not this, however, partly our own fault? In my
humble opinion we mistake the cause of their quickness, attributing
to nature the effect of art. When our system of drill is thoroughly
efficient; when the _Manual and Platoon_ is much simplified, when a
_salle d’armes_ is established in every corps, and when the bayonet
exercise becomes a recognized branch of instruction; then, I believe,
we shall find our soldiers equal in intelligence to any others.” These
words were written in 1853; in 1875 I add, “When we enlist the right
kind of recruit either by improving his condition and his prospects,
not his pay, or better, far better, by securing a superior man through
the conscription of modern Europe.” We Britons are no longer physically
divided from the total orb; nor can we afford to remain morally
insulated and isolated. The logical effect of union with the outer
world will be to make us do as the world does, and all our exceptional
institutions, such as the system of volunteer recruiting, must sooner
or later go by the board.

[Illustration: Outside Guard--(Tierce).

(A Parry not a Guard.)]

Nor is the most modern French Treatise (pp. 229–256, _Manuel de
Gymnastique et d’Escrime_, officially published by the _Ministre de la
Marine et des Colonies_; Paris, Dumaine, 1875) “_Escrime au Sabre_”
much superior to our home growth. The position of the left hand (pp.
232, 233) is bad throughout: it must slip during the Lunge and make the
play loose. The retreat of the left leg (Fig. 5, p. 235) is carried to
an extreme of caution. The body is always perpendicular in the Lunge,
whereas the same volume shows (Fig. 16, p. 20) the trunk naturally
inclining forwards. The Cuts are not double nor continuous, as they
should be. The “Hanging Guards” (pp. 240, 244, 245) are deplorable.
On the other hand, the _Manuel_ (p. 231) places the thumb along, not
around, the handle; the _moulinets_, the _enlevés_, and the _brisés_
(presently to be explained) are good stuff, and, moreover, they are
applied to the Cuts (p. 239). Finally, nothing can be better than
the advice (p. 249), “Après avoir touché, retirer vivement le sabre
en arrière en lui imprimant une direction oblique dans le sens du
tranchant, de manière à _scier_.”

Of the points or thrusts with broadsword nothing will here be said:
they belong to another order of things, and they should be studied
in the fencing school.[4] But the soldier must be taught that if his
adversary attempt a thrust, the broadsword is easily disarmed. When the
opponent comes to the position of pointing, that is, extends his blade,
a sharp glissade along its length will make the grip fly out of his
grasp. Another way of embarrassing the attack is to cut right and left
at the hand, the wrist, or the fore-arm, when the adversary begins to
present point.

General Lamoricière was a firm believer, as we all are, in the
thrust, and the French Sword Exercise for Cavalry (p. 178 _Règlement
Provisoire sur les Exercises de la Cavalerie_, officially published at
the _Ministère de la Guerre_; Paris, Dumaine, 1873) justly remarks:
“_Les coups de pointe doivent toujours être employés de préférence,
comme exigeant moins de force et ayant un résultat plus prompt, plus
certain et plus décisif_.” The reason of its confessed superiority
to the Cut is as old as the axiom, “a straight line is the shortest
way between two points.” The Thrust describes a diameter, the Cut, a
segment, of a circle and, with equal velocity, the Cut will traverse a
distance occupying some two-thirds more of time than the Thrust. The
French tactician therefore proposed to abolish the use of the edge
for cavalry, thus traversing the instinct of the man-at-arms who,
especially on horseback, loves to slash at his enemy, and who runs
far less risk of entangling his blade. But he of course advocated
a straight and tapering sword with no edge to speak of; indeed the
cuirassier’s _latte_ is still a kind of rapier, but it is rendered
useless by prodigious length and by the weight of the handle. The
modern Italian School of Sabre uses, especially in single combat, all
the _dégagements_ of the _salle d’armes_: this is thoroughly illogical;
the weapon is chosen because it is supposed to be less fatal than foil
or rapier, and yet it is so used as to become even more deadly. I
need hardly say that the weight and shape of the broadsword, together
with the positions of guard, render pointing with it awkward in the

I have now finished with the ungrateful task of criticizing, and I
proceed to propose a system which it is hoped will be as severely
criticized by others. It is only candid to state that its pretensions
are high, that it contains two distinct novelties, the Manchette System
and the Reverse or Back-cut; and, finally, that it aspires to be the
first Treatise in which the broadsword is scientifically taken in hand.



§ 1. _Preliminary._

Nothing will here be said concerning the “goose step of the sword,”
the “Balance Motions,” and the “Extension Motions,” of the official
‘Infantry Sword Exercise.’ They are essentially a part of ‘Squad and
Setting-up Drill,’ and as such they have been treated in several good
manuals, especially by Serjeant-Major S. Bertram Brown: A ‘Practical
Guide to Squad and Setting-up Drill, in accordance with the Principles
laid down in Part I., Field Exercise of the Army.’ Adapted for the use
of Recruits, Rifle Volunteers, Militia, Police Force, Schools, and
Families: Illustrated with sixty-eight figures, representing each Stick
and Club Exercise, Extension Motions, and Sword Exercise Positions.
London: Allen and Co., 1871. 2nd Edition.[6] Considered in a wider
sense they belong to the Branch of Science so thoroughly developed in
‘A Military System of Gymnastic Exercises for the Use of Instructors:
Adjutant-General’s Office, Horse Guards, 1862; Physical Education,’
_Clarendon Press Series_, Oxford, 1869; and in ‘Training in Theory and
Practice’ (London, Macmillan, 1874), by Archibald MacLaren,[7] whose
excellent code for the army, and whose influence with successive war
ministers, as some one truly said, have aided largely in introducing
that admirable training which is transforming the stiff, slow-moving
grenadier of past times into the vigorous, rapid, and enduring soldier
of the present day.

Squad drill is not likely to make a good swordsman, yet economy of
time renders it a necessity. It must be practised first without,
then with, weapons, after which those who show unusual capabilities
should be taken individually in hand by the master. The latest French
system (_Manuel, etc_.) divides the four lessons into two degrees: 1.
Preparatory Movements; moulinets and simple attacks and parries. 2.
Compound attacks and parries.

The formation of the squad is in the usual line, with open order at
arm’s length from the right or left. The men are then taught the three
positions as follows:--


  First Position.      Second Position.     Third Position.

  In two movements.    In two movements.    In two movements.

§ 2. _First Position in Two Motions._

_One._--Place the hands smartly behind the back, the left grasping the
right arm just above the elbow, and the right similarly supporting the
left elbow.

_Two._--Make a _half-face right_ by pivoting smartly on both heels,
which must be kept close together; the feet at right angles; the left
pointing to the front, the face looking towards the opponent, or the
right-hand man, and the weight of the body balanced equally upon both
haunches and legs.

_Second Position in Two Motions_ (Guard).

_One._--Bend the knees gradually till they are perpendicular to the
instep, keeping the head and body erect, and both feet firm on the
ground. The instructor must be careful that the knees do not incline
inwards--a general fault.

_Two._--Advance the right foot smartly about 20 inches in front of and
in line with the right heel, and rest the whole weight of the body upon
both haunches and legs.[8]

In the second position, that of Guard for the feet, care must be taken
that the left foot remains firm on the ground, without shuffling or
turning inwards or outwards. Many swordsmen find a better balance when
the right heel is on a line with the hollow of the left foot.

_Third Position in Two Motions_ (from Guard to Lunge).

_One._--Advance the body slightly forward, and bring the right
shoulder and knee perpendicular to the point of the right foot.

_Two._--Advance the right foot smartly, about 20 inches, or double
the distance of No. 2, Second Position (Guard), taking care that the
foot does not overhang the instep; extend the left leg with a spring,
the left foot remaining true and firm, and the left knee perfectly
straight; let the shoulders expand and the body be profiled and
slightly inclined forwards, or towards the opponent.

This is the position of the legs in the Lunge, and the greatest care
must be taken to prevent the recruit learning it in a careless,
shuffling way. Above all things he must accustom himself to separate
the action into its two composing parts, otherwise the lower limbs will
often take precedence of the upper (shoulder, arm, and hand), and the
Lunge become worse than useless. When recovering guard the contrary is
the case; the left knee must be bent before the right foot is moved,
and the latter should exert a slight pressure on the ground; at the
same time the body must be drawn backwards, not jerked upwards.

These measures of Guard (20 inches) and of Lunge (40 inches) are
best fitted for average-sized men; in exceptional cases they must
be shortened or lengthened according to the stature and stride of
the recruit. The rule for guard is the measure of two foot-lengths;
the Lunge doubles that span; and the least vigorous men require the
greatest distances.

These movements must be learned, first in slow, and afterwards in quick
and in double-quick, time; the same may be said of all practice with
and without the sword. _Squad attention!_ and _Stand at Ease!_ need
hardly be explained. The recruits’ muscles soon become fatigued by the
unusual and monotonous exercise, causing them to remain too long in one
position; the easiest way to relieve them is to change front, making
the left leg stand on guard and lunge, as a left-handed fencer would
do. This double practice is as useful and recommendable in fencing and
broadsword play as in bayonet exercise: it gives additional balance
to the body, it equalizes the muscular strength of both sides, and it
makes the soldier feel that if his right arm be disabled he can still
depend upon his left.

The word _Steady_ must not be used as a command: it should be a caution
given at the completion of any part of a practice with the view of
correcting faults.

§ 3. _Attacking, Advancing, and Retiring._

_Single Attack._--Raise the right foot well off the ground and beat
smartly with the whole sole, the greatest force being upon the ball of
the foot, and the least upon the heel.

_Double Attack._--The same movement made twice. The instructor
should carefully avoid the directions of the ‘Infantry Sword
Exercise,’--_first with the heel, then with the flat of the foot_.
Nothing jars the leg more than this use of the heel; it is a bad habit
to use it for anything but “pivoting.”

_Advance._--Smartly advance the right foot about six inches and bring
up the left as nearly as possible to the same distance. The soles must
just clear the ground, and the toes be kept on a straight line with
the knee, and never turned inside or outside. Neglect of the latter
precaution leads to a loose, unsteady, and slovenly style which, easily
learnt, is hardly to be unlearnt.

_Single Attack._--As before.

_Retire._--Move the left foot lightly to the rear about six inches,
and let the right foot follow it. Recruits are uncommonly apt to
“step short,” and this can be remedied only by making them retire for
considerable distances. The weight and balance of the body must be
equally distributed on both haunches and legs, not resting upon the
left, which can serve only to give cramp.

_Double Attack._--As before.

_Front._--Resume the position of “Attention.”



§ 1. _Explanation and Use of the Target._

The Target prefixed to these pages explains itself. The shape is
oblong, the frame measuring 6 feet by 3, and the figure 5 feet 8 inches
by 1 foot. As the latter represents the opponent, the centre should
be about 4 feet from the ground, the height of the recruit’s breast.
Perpendicular to the foot of the figure in each Target a horizontal
line is drawn, forming for the feet, the legs, the body, and the arms,
the “directing line” of the scientific schools. At a distance of 10
feet the recruit is placed in the position of “Attention,” with his
left heel on the line, so that at the command “First Position” his
right foot may cover it.

The parallelogram shows the direction and the numbering of the Cuts,
concerning which further details will presently be given. They should
be regulated according to the lines described upon the Target; nor
should the recruit be practised in any other mode until he has gained
the proper direction of the blade.

Nothing need be added to the directions of the ‘Infantry Sword
Exercise’ (pp. 12, 13, 14), as regards the movements subject to the
following words of command: much, on the other hand, with great
advantage, might be taken away, and the result would be the increased
efficiency that results from simplicity.

_Draw Swords_ (should be much abridged; after the modern French School,
pp. 165, 166: _Règlement Provisoire_, &c.);

_Slope Swords_;

_Return Swords_ (should be simplified);

_Stand at Ease_;


_Prepare for Sword Exercise_;

_Right prove Distance_;

_Slope Swords_;

_Front prove Distance_; and

_Slope Swords_.

At the order, _Stand on Guard_, the recruit having assumed the Second
Position, No. 2, falls on Guard: the pommel of the sword fronts his
right breast; the point is directed at his opponent’s right eye; his
right arm is extended with an easy bend at the elbow; the wrist is
inclined, with the knuckles slightly turned upwards, to his own right,
so as to cover him in case of a straight thrust, and the left hand is
placed upon the left flank just below the ribs, with the fingers to the
front and the thumb to the rear.

The several guards (parries) are learned by holding the sword opposite
to and in the inclination of the dotted lines which have sword-hilts
attached to them; the recruit is thus taught from the Target the angle
of the blade and the position of the wrist.

The Target directs the recruit _how_ to make the Cuts and to form the
Guards, but not exactly _where_; this must depend upon how the opponent
acts during the attack and the defence. Cuts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 (odd
numbers) are all from Carte, which the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ calls
_Inside_. The corresponding even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12) are
from Tierce, or _Outside_. The same nomenclature applies to the Guards
or parries.

When the recruit thoroughly understands the use of the Target he need
no longer be practised in front of it; but the instructor (sword in
hand) should consider it a sure guide and reference for correctly
forming the Guards and for giving a suitable direction to the edge when
making the Cuts.

§ 2. _The Moulinet._[9]

This rotation movement should be learnt before the recruit proceeds to
the Cut.

There is nothing better for “breaking,” as the French say, the
recruit’s wrist than this sweep of the sword; and the style of a
swordsman may always be known by his Moulinet. We will divide it into
three kinds, viz. (1) horizontal, (2) diagonal, and (3) vertical; the
latter again may be either (a) ascending or (b) descending; but as the
second (diagonal) is a mere modification of the first and the third, it
will be sufficient to notice only two; these are:--

1st. The horizontal movement, or _Moulinet_ proper, circling the sword
round the head. The grip is held as lightly as possible, chiefly with
the thumb and the first finger, resting the pommel upon the palm, and
carrying the nails upwards. The blade should be moved as horizontally
as it can be, with the back just clearing the swordsman’s crown: it
should describe, not a true circle, but an oval with a long diameter
in the directing line to the centre of the Target through the heels or
ankles of the recruit. Finally, the point should be lanced or thrown
out, as it were, towards the opponent’s face. Evidently it may be done
in two ways, first, from right to left, which I will call the “Tierce
Moulinet” (_Moulinet à gauche_); this is by far the easiest and the
more habitual, corresponding with Tierce “Counter,” opposition, or
describing with the blade a circle round the adversary’s blade, in the
fencing school. The reverse movement (“Carte Moulinet,” _Moulinet à
droite_), from left to right, requires, like the Counter of Carte, much
more practice.

In these directions “right and left” apply to the right and left of the
swordsman’s wrist.

2nd. In France the term “Moulinet” is mostly applied to these two
rotations of the sword round the head, but we will extend it to all
circlings of the point. The vertical form is also made from the hand
in Tierce (Outside Guard), the blade is brought sharply round with the
back towards the breast and left shoulder, and returns to its original
position; we will call this the “Inside Moulinet,” having reference to
the performer, not the adversary. The “Outside Moulinet” is when from
“Tierce or Outside Guard” the blade passes along the right shoulder, it
is simply the former done in the outer line.

[Illustration: Horizontal Moulinet.]

Again the “Inside Moulinet,” which ends with the Cut from above
downwards (the French _enlevé_), may be inverted so as to cut from
downwards upwards (the _brisé_). The same may be done with the “Outside
Moulinet,” when the wrist must be turned upwards, and the Cut given
in the ascending line. This difficult movement should be practised
in order to ensure a flexible wrist, but it exposes the whole arm. In
the four latter “Cuts,” the one invariable rule is to circle the point
as vertically as possible. The French _Manuel_ (pp. 234, 235) gives:
1, the _enlevé_ cutting from above downwards; and it may be either
_à gauche_ (Tierce Moulinet) or _à droite_ (Carte Moulinet); 2, the
Moulinet proper; and 3, the _brisé_, cutting from downwards upwards,
thus reversing the _enlevé_; and this also may be done _à gauche_
(Tierce Moulinet) or _à droite_ (Carte Moulinet).

[Illustration: Vertical Moulinet.]

The “Moulinet” should be practised first without, then with, the sword,
and on foot, before attempting it on horseback. In the earlier stage
the recruit must turn the hand, with the arm nearly extended, in the
horizontal and vertical movements, without stiffness and displacement
of the elbow. In the second he may, if no Target be procurable, work
before a cross chalked on the wall so as to secure horizontality and
verticality. Finally, the soldier will combine the two, Tierce and
Carte, by passing rapidly from one to the other.

Whilst practising the Moulinet the recruit must be taught the two
main divisions of the sword-blade. Fencers have introduced an immense
complication into this simple matter; and some have proposed eight
parts: for broadsword it is sufficient to divide the length. The
“Feeble,” or weak half, is that contained between the point and the
centre; this, the proper part for the Cut or attack is ground to a
thinner edge, and consequently is more liable to an injury from another
sword if the Cut be not very true. The “Fort,” or strong half, is from
the centre to the hilt, and upon this we must rely for defence.

A few hours’ practice and a few pressings upon the different parts
of the blade under the surveillance of the instructor will teach the
recruit the high importance of this lesson. He will learn that in
opposing the adversary’s sword the strength of the defence decreases
from the hilt upwards in proportion as the Cut is received towards the
point; and that, _vice versâ_, it increases from the point downwards
to the hand. The strongest man cannot “force in” the opponent’s Guard
if the Cut or Thrust be received upon the part near the handle. With
a true Guard the ordinary fencing foil can turn off the thrust of a
musket and bayonet weighing 10 lbs. The practised swordsman always
attempts, when attacking, to gain with his “Fort” the “Feeble” of the
opponent’s weapon, in which case the superior leverage will often
beat down the parry; and this manœuvre should be carefully practised
by men of superior muscular strength. The Cuts must, as a rule, be
delivered within eight inches of the point and at the “centre of
percussion,”[10] so that the sword may clear itself and the arm escape
a “jar.”

The two virtues of the Cut are its trueness and its velocity. Unless
true it will become a blow with the flat that would shiver to pieces
any brittle Eastern blade. Assuming the _vis viva_ or force of a moving
body to be its weight multiplied by the square of the velocity, let us
suppose a strong man cutting with a sword weighing 4 lbs., to which he
can give a velocity which we will call 1, or 4 × 1 = 4: a weaker man
who applies double the velocity to a 2 lb. sword will thus produce a
momentum of 8, doubling the force of the blow. But let the stronger man
take the lighter sword, evidently he will obtain a higher velocity,
which we will assume at 3: in this case the effect will be 18. Thus the
power of the Cut is enormously increased by increased velocity, but
much less by increased weight in the moving body.

§ 3. _The Cuts._

The Target prefixed to the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ gives Seven
Cuts, an insufficient number. The German systems add an eighth blow
perpendicularly upwards, when the whole of the swordsman’s arm from
wrist to shoulder would be completely at the opponent’s mercy.

The French _Manuel_ has only seven, viz. the _Coup de Tête_; 2, the
_Coup de Banderole_; 3, the _Coup de Figure à droite_; 4, the _Coup de
Figure à gauche_; 5, the _Coup de Flanc_; 6, the _Coup de Ventre_; and
7, the _Coup de Manchette_.

[Illustration: German System.]

The subjoined diagram shows the Twelve Cuts[11] which serve to “loosen”
the rigid arm of the recruit.

[Illustration: The Twelve Cuts (shown by the thick strokes), the dotted
lines denoting the course of the blade in “Moulinet”, or rather in

  CARTE.                         TIERCE.

  Cut 1.                         Cut 2 (Head Cuts).

  Cut 3.                         Cut 4 (Face Cuts).

  Cut 5.                         Cut 6 (Shoulder Cuts).

  Cut 7.                         Cut 8 (Breast Cuts).

  Cut 9.                         Cut 10 (Stomach Cuts).

  Cut 11.                        Cut 12 (Groin and Thigh Cuts).

The figure represents the opponent; the thick lines show the direction
of the edge when cutting; and the dotted continuations denote the
course of the blade when describing the several “Moulinets.”

The Cuts should be continuous, the regular succession always beginning
from Carte or the Inside, that is, from the rear of the left shoulder.
As in the “Moulinet,” the less the arm is bent and the sword-hand is
moved from the line of direction (to the front), the greater is the
value of the movement. The recruit, who must walk before he runs,
should deliver the whole dozen in continuous sweep without pause, but
at first very slowly, till, by the proper and timely use of the wrist,
the Cuts lead into one another. The more advanced swordsman, whose
pliability of strength is free from contractions and other vicious
habits, should practise the series of twelve with increased rapidity
till the blade whistles through the air. All the Cuts should be given
strong, with the edge leading well forwards and with the arm extended
to its utmost in the delivery.

The following are the Twelve Cuts:--

I. and II. These Cuts are made, after falling into Tierce or Outside
Guard, from above downwards at the opponent’s head. In No. I. the
point, beginning as usual from the left shoulder (Carte), describes
a full circle (“Inside Moulinet,” the _brisé à gauche_ of the French
_Manuel_), the hand moving as little as possible so as to cover the
body; the knuckles turned up and the blade passing close to the breast:
it finishes by delivering a vertical Cut, with the “Feeble” close to
the point, at the right half of the adversary’s crown. No. II., which
follows without interruption, reverses the process; the knuckles are
turned down and the blade sweeps past the right shoulder (_brisé à
droite_); ending with the left half of the opponent’s head. The latter
Cut is by far the more difficult to make without moving the hand, but
it is good practice for “breaking” the wrist.

III. and IV. The horizontal face-cuts, also beginning from the left
(Carte), an invariable rule, and ending with the right, that is, at
the adversary’s left cheek. The reason of this practice is to make the
movement habitual to the recruit; cutting from left to right always
causes less exposure of the inner wrist than cutting from right to left.

V. and VI. The slanting shoulder-cuts, also from above downwards
(Nos. 1 and 2, or rather 2 and 1, of the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise,’
pp. 14, 17, and the _Coups de Banderole_ of the _Manuel_); describing
two diagonal Moulinets, first from left to right, and then from right
to left. The sword again makes a double “Moulinet” with the edge
downwards, and descends first upon the opponent’s right and then upon
his left shoulder.

VII. and VIII. The horizontal breast-cuts, parallel with the face-cuts,
and, like them, delivered with the blade as horizontal as possible.

IX. and X. The horizontal stomach-cuts, parallel with, and lower than,
the breast-cuts.

XI. and XII. The slanting groin or thigh-cuts, diagonally from
downwards upwards; in fact, the reverse of the shoulder-cuts (Nos. 4
and 3 of the ‘Exercise,’ and the _brisés_ of the _Manuel_). In these
diagonal Moulinets, the elbow must not be bent; the hand should deviate
as little as possible from the directing line under pain of dangerous
exposure; and the two movements should follow each other without a

Whenever the recruit fails to carry the edge well forward in making the
attack, he should be practised slowly and repeatedly in combining the
opposites, as Head-cut (No. 1) and Thigh-cut (No. 12), Head-cut (No. 2)
and Thigh-cut (No. 11), and so forth. The instructor must see that the
edge leads on to the respective lines of the Target, the point being
darted out at the end of each cut.

The Cuts will be practised first in No. 2 “Second Position” (Guard),
and afterwards in No. 2 “Third Position” (Lunge).

[Illustration: Prime, or Hanging Guard.]

§ 4. _The Engaging Guards, or Engagements._

As the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ has a deficiency of Cuts, so it has a
superfluity of “Engaging Guards.” I have already expressed my opinion
concerning the Guard (p. 18 of 1874) popularly called the “Hanging
Guard.” Even with the best position, the head erect and the eyes
looking straight and not upwards, it is utterly faulty; it displaces
the arm and the sword, and, as no serious attack can be made directly
from it, it necessitates a movement entailing a considerable amount of
exposure. It is now chiefly confined to students’ duels with the German
Schläger, wherein slitting the opposing nose, which can be done with a
mere jerk upwards, is the swordsman’s highest aim and ambition.

The “Engaging Guards” are thus reduced to the two following:--

Tierce (or outside) Guard; defending the outer lines, arm, shoulder,
back, and flank. The recruit having assumed the “Second Position” (No.
2), brings the pommel of his sword to the centre of his right breast;
opposes the point to the adversary’s right eye; extends his right arm
with an easy bend of the elbow; inclines the wrist with the knuckles
upwards to his own right, so as to cover himself in case of a straight
thrust, and places his left hand upon his left flank with the fingers
to the front and the thumb to the rear. In Tierce of course the edge of
the sword is to the right or outside.

[Illustration: Engaging Guard in Tierce (Outside).]

Carte (or Inside) Guard. This movement defends the inner lines, chest
and stomach; the knuckles are turned down; the opposition is made to
the left, and the edge is carried in the same direction.

[Illustration: Engaging Guard in Carte (Inside).]

When engaging in guard (joining weapons), the swords should meet each
other about eight inches from the points. If the distance is diminished
the opponents are “out of measure” (or distance); if increased, they
are “within measure.” The recruit must be taught slightly to press upon
the opponent’s blade, but not to rest upon it; by this “opposition”
his hand and wrist will be more ready to follow the weapon during the
attack. Thus also the “Engaging Guards,” Tierce, and Carte (outside
and inside) afford protection preparatory to the movements for offence
and defence. The eye must be fixed upon the eye and the hand or the
blade-point of the opponent, not upon the eye only.

Guard may be partly defensive when the bust is advanced and the point
approaches the opponent, or it may be purely protective when its sole
object is the “parry.”

The right-handed recruit must be taught always to attempt Engaging
in Tierce,[12] with his opponent’s blade in the outer line (_sur les
armes_). The reason is simply that in the reverse position (_dans les
armes_), the fore-arm, from the elbow to the wrist, is comparatively
unguarded; whereas Tierce facilitates the defence of the “low lines”
(i. e. those below the wrist). Tierce therefore has invariably the
advantage with the sabre, as Carte carries off the palm with the
small-sword, the foil, and the rapier.[13] But the right-handed man
engaging in Tierce puts his left-handed opponent in Carte; and the
latter, if a skilful sworder, will manœuvre, by withdrawing his blade,
by coupés or degagements over the point, and by other feints, to regain
the ground of vantage. The best treatment of this case is to make a
time-cut in Seconde (“inner Moulinet,” or _brisé à gauche_) at the
adversary’s knuckles, a movement which will presently be explained.

§ 5. _The Guards or Parries._[14]

The ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ proposes Seven Guards, a number which can
hardly be reduced for practice on the drill-ground or in the schools:
the _Manuel_ contains the same number, including one for the Point.
But of the seven no less than five are “Hanging Guards,” and Nos. 3 and
4 serve only to defend the inside and the outside of the advanced leg.
This limb requires no assistance of the kind: an able swordsman never
exposes his head and shoulders by cutting so low, and, if he does, the
leg can be smartly withdrawn (_parade retrograde_, or _en échappant_),
rendering the attack not only useless but dangerous to the assailant.
Even in fencing, “low thrusts,” that is, at the body below the wrist,
are never made, for fear of the “Time” being taken, until the upper
line has been closed by a feint. In our Single-stick practice the first
thought seems to be to attack the advanced leg--which may be well
enough for Single-stick.

[Illustration: Lunge and Cut in Carte (Inside).]

The following are the full number of guards or parries in which the
edge must invariably be used: they are evidently dividable into two;
(1) Head (with face) Guards, and (2) Body Guards:--

I. Prime (p. 38), so called because it is the “first” position of
defence after drawing the blade, that which the unpractised man would
naturally assume to defend his head. It is the 7th Guard of the
‘Infantry Sword Exercise.’ In practice the point is more inclined to
the horizontal line than when the blade is unsheathed; the edge is
carried somewhat inside or to the left; the arm is shortened and so
raised that the eyes look under it, but the head remains upright. The
recruit must be careful _not_ to “bend the body;” _not_ to “draw in
the chest and neck;” and _not_ to “bring the left shoulder a little
forward.” The defect of Prime is its being a “Hanging guard,” rendering
the riposte or reply difficult, and modern practice prefers “High

II. Seconde (4th Guard), so termed because following Prime: the arm
is extended, the edge is carried to the outside or to the right; in
practice the hilt is lowered, and the point, threatening the opponent’s
loins, is depressed to the half of a right angle. This position must
be learned for the sake of feinting: as a parade it is not much used,
because it defends only the hip and leg, and a good swordsman will
never expose himself to exceeding danger by making low cuts. Modern
practice prefers “low Tierce.”

III. Tierce (2nd Guard) has been described (p. 39) under “Standing
on Guard” and “Engaging Guards;” it defends the outer lines, arm,
shoulder, and back.

IV. High Tierce is a head-guard: the hand is raised to above the
shoulder to the maximum level of the swordsman’s right eye, and the
blade is carried at an angle of 45° with the edge up and the point to
the left.

V. Low Tierce is a flank-guard; the arm is shortened, the hand is
depressed six inches; the opposition is to the outside, and the point
is held vertically or almost vertically, as the attack demands.

VI. Carte (1st Guard) has been described (p. 40) under “Engaging
Guards,” as defending the inner lines, chest and stomach. For the
purposes of parrying, the arm is withdrawn till the elbow, almost
touching the belt, forms an equilateral triangle with the hilt and the
left side.

VII. High Carte is a head-guard like high Tierce: the hand is raised to
the left of the left eye, and the blade, crossing the face at an angle
of 45°, carries the edge up, and the point to the right.

VIII. Low Carte is a stomach guard. As in Low Tierce the arm is
shortened, the hand is depressed six inches; the opposition is to the
inside, and the point is held vertically or almost vertically, as the
attack demands.

In practice the advanced swordsman will confine himself to Tierce
and Carte with their natural modifications. He will consult his own
feelings about the head-guard, abolishing Prime in favour of High
Tierce or High Carte, and he will prefer Low Tierce or withdrawing
the leg (_rassemblement_) to using Seconde. Of these movements the
simplest are always the best. When parrying, the sword-arm must
invariably be drawn for defence nearer the body, and the grip should be
sensibly tightened to receive the cut. No strength is necessary when
making the parries: I cannot accept the “Sforzi” or guard-forcings of
the neo-Italian broadsword school, dry blows upon the blade, which,
intended to disarm, are essentially dangerous.

The Guards or Parries will be practised like the Cuts, first in the
“Second Position” (Guard), and afterwards in the “Third Position”



§ 1. _Preliminary._

The recruit is now sufficiently advanced to begin the system of
Manchette, which, as it is the most valuable part of sword-drill, has
been practised the least, and should be practised the most. A swordsman
thoroughly trained in this section does not allow the opponent to
deliver a cut. It is certain that hand and wrist, short-arm and
elbow, are capable of as many different attacks and defences as the
whole body: these are the parts most prominent, most exposed, and
consequently most readily made the _point de mire_. Yet this true and
simple secret of the broadsword has been universally neglected, or
rather not worked out: in England we content ourselves with the parades
technically called _retrogrades_, that is, withdrawing the limb from
the assault, by shortening the arm and, sometimes, by retiring the
right foot either near to, or up to, or behind the left heel: even this
evasion which cannot expect to pass for a Guard, is not described nor
figured in the official ‘Infantry Sword Exercise.’[15] In France, and
even in Italy where most subjects are exhaustively treated, Manchette
is dismissed with a few careless words. The _Manuel_ gives to the _Coup
de Manchette_ only these few lines: “_Exécuter un enlevé_ (vertical
Moulinet from above downwards) _en arrière à droite, et arrêter le
sabre vis-à-vis le milieu du Corps, le tranchant en dessus, le poule
légèrement à droite; diriger l’enlevé de manière à empêcher en arrêtant
l’avant bras, l’exécution d’un coup de tête_.” Capitano Settimo del
Frate (p. 50, _Istruzione sul Maneggio e Scherma della Sciabola_) in
one of the latest works on swordsmanship contents himself with the
following desultory observations:

“Manchett” (_sic_) “can attack the fore-arm either above or below,
according as the opponent gives an opening.

“Manchett is generally used against an adversary whose guard is
defective. By merely extending the arm with a turn of the wrist, this
attack may readily succeed should the opponent neglect to provide
against it.

“One of the most dangerous guards against Manchett is Tierce; the
surest is High Seconde, which indeed is also the best parry adapted to
this system of attack.”

The first member of the last paragraph is sensible; the second is
thoroughly fallacious. As has been stated, the right-handed man must
always engage in Tierce, and, as will presently appear, Tierce is the
safest, indeed the only safe guard against Manchette cuts. Another
Italian writer of our day describes and figures the “Position of the
weaponed arm to escape the arm-cut” (_Colpo di braccio_), with the
elbow-joint left clean open. The ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ limits
itself (p. 30) to these few lines: “If opposed to the Small Sword
(_sic_, meaning straight sword or rapier) have recourse to Cuts _Three_
(No. 13 of this system) and _Four_ (No. 11), directing them at the arm,
by which means there is every probability of the cuts taking effect,
as it must always come within range of the edge, before the point can
be sufficiently advanced to reach your body: if the above cuts are
quickly given and continued, they will also be found advantageous in
advancing against the Small Sword, as they constitute an attack and
form a defence at the same moment; but should the opponent be the most
skilful and quickest (_sic_) in his movements, then it is best to
retire whilst giving them, cautiously preserving the proper distance,
so that each cut may just reach the fore part of his arm.” The French
content themselves with single oppositions of Tierce and Carte. But why
multiply instances of ignorance?--they would fill many a useless page.

Finally I meditated upon the comparative humanity of “Manchette,” of
disabling the opponent by an arm-cut, rather than laying open his flank
or his head. During single rencontres in the field, especially at the
end of Indian battles, it is so often necessary to put _hors de combat_
some unfortunate, whose pluck or sense of honour induces him to prolong
the hopeless attack.

These considerations led me to reflect seriously for a number of years
upon the Jeu de Manchette, the Colpi all’ avambraccio, or fore-arm
play, which has been so much neglected by master-swordsmen. At last an
unlooked-for opportunity, a short study in the _Salle d’armes_ of Herr
Balthasar Reich of Trieste, enabled me to reduce it to a system, and
present it to the public.

I should premise, however, that the following observations are intended
for professional men. It is therefore necessary only to name and
number the Direct Cuts, the Guards and the Feints, the Reverse Cuts,
and the Time Cuts of Manchette, as in most cases the simplest mention
will suffice. The proficient will at once perceive that I offer a
mere outline of the system whose many details must be learned by long
practice. It is enough to give first principles: the minutiæ could not
even be noticed without stretching description to a wearisome length.

There is no objection, I have said, to teaching squads of recruits all
the simpler preparatory matter: the Three Positions; the Moulinet;
the Engaging Guard, and the Guards or Parries. At a certain stage of
progress, however, especially when beginning Manchette, the quick and
intelligent soldier, who is likely to qualify himself as a master, must
be instructed singly.

§ 2. _The Direct Cuts in Manchette._

The following are the direct attacks in Manchette, simple and
compound; all are done from the “Engaging Guard,” the Lunge being here

I. _Carte de Manchette._--Extend the sword-arm to the full length and
deliver the cut, with a flip as it were, at the opponent’s fore-arm,
between the elbow and the wrist. This can be done with the back of the
blade (Reverse Cut) under circumstances presently to be described. No.
I. is useful if the adversary unwisely engages you in Carte otherwise
(from Tierce) it must be avoided, as he easily parries by withdrawing
the arm and replies with a Tierce Cut.

II. _Carte de Manchette and Cut Tierce._--This movement is No. I.
followed by a close rotation of the point (“Tierce Moulinet”); if,
however, the circle be too small, it will not clear the sword-guard.

III. _Double Carte de Manchette and Cut Carte._--No. III. is to be done
when the opponent, as he generally will after an attack of No. II.,
successively parries Carte and Tierce. It is simply the double of No.
I., and thus the “Tierce Moulinet” cuts, of course, inside the arm.

IV. _Double Carte de Manchette and Cut Tierce._--Useful when the
adversary parries Carte, Tierce and Carte; it is the double of No. II.
and thus cuts outside the arm.

No. II. guards the arm and is therefore unexceptionable. Nos. III. and
IV. are dangerous, because, like No. I., when opposed to an agile hand,
they may lay the wrist open to a Time Cut.

The two first and all four against a slow unready swordsman may be
varied by combinations with _coupés_, or passing the blade sharply over
the adversary’s point. For instance, if the adversary come too wildly
to the Tierce parade of your double Carte and Tierce (No. III.), _a
coupé_ will reach his arm in Carte.

A golden rule which cannot be repeated too often is that all the
Manchette-Cuts in Tierce (outside), either from above or from below,
must be as nearly vertical as possible, whilst all the Cuts in Carte
(inside) should be as horizontal as they can be made. The reason is
simply that these positions cover the arm and render the attack less

§ 3. _The Guards (Parries) and Feints in Manchette._

The Guards of the Target will be found sufficient for parrying all
attacks in Manchette. The soldier, however, should especially practise
the retrograde parades, that is withdrawing the right fore-arm with and
without the right leg.

Feinting with the broadsword is necessarily more simple than with
the foil, being generally confined to _Coupés_ and _Secondes_. The
neo-Italian school of sabre uses, I have said, the fencing movements,
but it is at best a bastard style. If the opponent attempts to
“degage,” that is to pass his point under your blade from Tierce to
Carte, or _vice versâ_, retire by withdrawing the right heel to the
left, and cut at the arm which his movement has exposed.

The _Coupé_, the reverse of the degagement, passes the point over, not
under, the opposing blade; this legitimate feint, used in every school,
may be effected in four several ways.

I. _One._ From the usual engagement in Tierce pass the blade over the
opposite point, just clearing it, and cut inside. The two movements
raising and dropping the point should be as rapid as possible.

II. _One, Two_, a double _Coupé_, with the cut in Tierce.

III. _One, Two, Three_: as with the foil; against a nervous opponent
the cut should be made at the face with a dart and a jerk (the Italian
_Slancio_); against a slow player the cut may be Carte de Manchette.

IV. _One, Two, Three, Four_; like the former, but cutting in Tierce: to
be attempted only with the most unready of opponents.

The two latter may be combined with a breast (inside) or shoulder
(outside) “Moulinet” between the penultimate and the last (cut)
movement; but these long feints are radically vicious, because they lay
the swordsman open to Time Cuts. They are, however, useful, as will
appear in making the Reverse Cuts.

Perhaps the Seconde-feints are better than the _Coupés_.

I. _One_: the simple Seconde Cut.--Make a little more opposition in
Tierce, sweep the blade past and along the breast; (inside Moulinet,
or the _brisé à gauche_) and, lowering the hand a little, cut upwards
with a jerk and a flip. The nearer the swordsman’s own body his blade
circles the better, because the cut will be more in the vertical line:
if it be much out of the perpendicular the opponent can “take a time”
in Carte. The Moulinet serves also to embarrass the adversary and to
add strength to the cut. This simple and most valuable movement must
not be confounded with the old-fashioned Seconde cut at the leg: the
latter is objected to, as I have said, by swordsmen; the parry is too
easy, and the ripost far too dangerous.

II. _Feint Seconde._--From Tierce make a short and sharp movement to
Seconde with the knuckles turned upwards; the opponent will probably
come to the Seconde-parry, thereby exposing the fore-arm. You then cut
Tierce perpendicularly as usual, from above downwards (the _enlevé_),
either without or with a breast “Moulinet.”

III. _Feint Seconde, Feint Tierce and Cut Carte_, with two short, sharp
movements, and deliver the horizontal cut in Carte.

IV. _Feint Seconde, feint Tierce and Cut Seconde_, from downwards
upwards, always with a breast “Moulinet.”

At times the two first feinting movements in Nos. III. and IV. may
be done more emphatically: this of course makes the movement slower,
but it is a variety which embarrasses an adversary accustomed only to
short, quick action.

§ 4. _The Reverse or Back Cuts in Manchette._

As the Manchette system has been strangely neglected, so the Reverse or
Back Cut may be pronounced unknown to the majority of the profession:
the latter, instead of utilizing the “false edge” of the blade, still
lose time and incur great danger by turning hand and wrist in using
the true edge, especially when “Cutting within the Sword.”[16] More
extraordinary still, although almost all the civilized world prefers
what is technically called the “flat-backed and spear-pointed” sabre,
yet no one seems to think of employing, or even of sharpening one of
the most important parts of the weapon.

The Regulation blade with the false edge, that is to say, the blade
sharpened from the point to the Centre of Percussion, about one-third
of the length, was introduced into England about 1844, and the first
specimens were made by the late Henry Wilkinson, acting with the
late Henry Angelo, then Superintendent of Sword Exercise.[17] This
back-edge of the blade should be ground to the sharpness of a razor.
When practising the Reverse Cuts (_Revers_ or _Rovescio_), the handle
is held loosely with the thumb and the two first fingers, and the wrist
and fore-arm should bring the blade up with a jerk, the grip being
at the same time sharply tightened. Practice will soon enable the
swordsman to deliver a strong “drawing” cut, equal to the Thrust-cut of
the so-called “Damascus” blades. This valuable movement has the immense
merit of not uncovering the swordsman, and what makes the sabre so rude
a weapon is that every movement of attack, in the old systems, lays
the body open by raising hand and point when a blow is to be given.
With the Reverse Cut no such dangerous process is necessary; the point
is still directed at the opponent whilst the cut is being delivered.
Finally, it is always unexpected by the opponent who has not practised
it, and although it rarely begins an assault, except against the
inexperienced, nor should it be done alone as a rule, it may either
follow or conclude every attack, feint or “time.”

I. _The Half-Feint_ (_Revers de dessous_, _Rovescio di sotto_, or
_Revers von unten_) is done thus.--When in Tierce extend the arm as if
intending to cut Tierce; the opponent makes an opposition of Tierce;
drop the point, and cut sharply upwards with the false edge at his
fingers, wrist, or fore-arm, drawing the blade towards you and keeping
the point opposite the adversary’s breast. This movement is one of the
neatest known, and it is sure to succeed with one who does not expect
it. The first part of the feint, or dropping the point, may lead to a
cut with the true edge, but this movement, which is still practised
in the schools, involves delay by turning the hand. Again, it may be
combined with the inside (breast) or outside (shoulder) Moulinet.

II. _Feint Seconde and Cut upwards._--This movement may be varied by
feinting Tierce and cutting upwards.

III. _One-two-three._--This is not the succession of simple _Coupés_,
the dangerous movement before described. No. 1 _Coupé_ shifts the hand
from Tierce to Carte with the nails up; No. 2 turns the nails down,
still remaining in Carte; and No. 3 delivers the Reverse Cut, of course
in Carte, where it is least expected.

When the point is passed well under and within the sword-arm it is very
difficult to parry the horizontal Reverse Cut in Carte. The true edge
may be used, but again it wastes time by turning the hand.

IV. _The Pass_, properly called “_en passant_.”--From Tierce make a
feint-movement in Seconde, and, when the adversary attempts to parry
it by lowering the point, turn the knuckles up (in old Tierce), sweep
the blade over his sword-arm and as close as possible to your right
leg from left to right with the arm well raised, and, returning from
right to left with a similar sweep, but with the blade held higher,
cut, in Carte, with the false edge and close to the point, inside his
wrist. Unskilfully attempted, this feint is equally dangerous to both,
but it will do yeoman’s service in the hands of a practised swordsman.
The true edge may be used, but that involves a change of position and
the delay of turning the hand with the knuckles downwards. Some make
a double sweep, and, after the second movement, cut outside or in
Tierce--the exposure is too great, unless confronted by an unusually
phlegmatic temperament.

§ 5. _The Time Cuts in Manchette._

The Time Cut is the flower of the Manchette system, as the Manchette
is of the broadsword; and it is, perhaps, the part least capable of
being taught in books. When well mastered it never allows the opponent
to raise his arm without imminent risk, and, even if it fail, the
intention, once recognized, tends greatly to cramp and embarrass the
adversary’s play. The natural man cuts as if he were using a stick or
a club, and the preliminary movement lays open the whole of his body;
indeed, exposure, I have said, is the main danger of every attack with
the sabre, however closely and skilfully conducted. A cut through the
muscles of the fore-arm, either inside or outside, causes the sword
instantly to be relaxed and dropped; the man in fact is hamstrung in
the upper works.

I. _Carte de Manchette._--When the opponent from Tierce makes a _Coupé_
or any attack in Carte, stop further movement by a Carte de Manchette,
a horizontal Cut in Carte. The same may be done with the false edge, in
which case the blade should be advanced as far as is possible; and this
is to be preferred because it loses less time.

II. _Parade Retrograde and Cut Tierce._--When the opponent from Tierce
attempts a Manchette in Carte withdraw the arm (_parade retrograde_)
and deliver the vertical Cut in Tierce downwards at his extended arm;
both movements being combined in one. It is not necessary even with
the tallest man to withdraw the right leg; the Cut will amply suffice.
This Tierce Cut serves to defend from all attacks when the Guard does
not cover the adversary; and it has lopped off many a careless arm. If
slowly done it becomes a mere parade and ripost.

III. _The Reverse Cut-upwards_, _Revers en montant_, _Rovescio
montante_, Ger. _Revers montant_.--You feint in Seconde; the opponent
comes to its parry and replies in Tierce; you withdraw the arm, leaving
the heels as they were, and cut upwards with the false edge, tightening
the grasp of thumb and fore-fingers as much as possible. This movement
is especially useful; it is one of the best of Time Cuts, when the
adversary indulges in long and complicated feints and false attacks. It
may be done with the true edge, but the latter is less safe.

IV. _The Time Pass_; which is merely “The Pass” turned into a Time
Cut. When the opponent attempts a “Manchette” or any movement in
Seconde, and expects you to reply by a time Cut in Tierce with the
true edge, turn the knuckles up (in old Tierce), sweep the blade over
his sword-arm as close as possible to your right leg, from left to
right, with the arm well raised, and returning from right to left with
a similar sweep, but with the blade held higher, cut in Carte with the
false edge and close to the point inside his wrist. The true edge may
be used, but, again, it wastes time. The double sweep possible as in
“The Pass,” but it causes too much exposure.

This Time Pass may also be done with the hand held high in Prime or
rather “demi-circle” with the nails turned up, the arm outstretched,
and the point lowered. In this case the leg must be shifted till the
fore heel touches the rear heel, so as to give additional height to the
hand. This is not a Reverse or Back Cut as you use the true edge; it is
in fact one of the old movements called “Cutting within the Sword.”

§ 6. _Résumé._

The following is a synoptical table of Manchette or Fore-arm play,
showing the Cuts, the Guards (Parries) for the Cuts, and the Riposts or
replies that should follow each Parade. The Instructor will remember
that instead of Prime we use High Tierce or High Carte, and for Seconde
Low Tierce or withdrawing the leg.

_Direct Cuts._

            CUT.                         PARRY.              RIPOST.

  1. Carte de Manchette.         IV. (Carte).            II. (Seconde).

  2. Ditto and cut Tierce.       IV. and III. (Tierce).  III.

  3. Double Carte de Manchette   IV., III. and IV.       II.
       and cut Carte.

  4. Double Carte de Manchette   Parade Retrograde by    III. or IV.
       and cut Tierce.             withdrawing arm.

_Reverse Cuts._

  1. Half-feint.                 II. or III.             III. or IV.

  2. Feint Seconde and cut       II.                     Cut with false
       upwards.                                            edge upwards.

  3. Feint Tierce and cut        III. and II.            II.

  4. One-two-three, and cut      Parade Retrograde.      III. or IV.

  5. The Pass.                   II. and I. (Prime).     III.

_Time Cuts._

  1. On all Cuts in Carte.       Parry with time in IV.  IV.
                                   (Carte de

  2. On feints in Carte ending   Parade Retrograde.      III. or IV.
       with Cuts in Tierce.

  3. On Cuts in Tierce.          Reverse Cut upwards.    III.

  4. On Reverse Cut upwards.     II. and III.            IV.

  5. On Cuts in Seconde.         The Time Pass.          III.

Feints of _Coupé_ in Manchette.

  1. Single _Coupé_.             III. or IV.             II.

  2. One-two ( „ ).              IV. and III.            III.

  3. One-two-three.              II., III. and II.       III. or IV.

  4. One-two-three-four.         Parade Retrograde.      III.

Feints of _Seconde_ in Manchette.

  1. Simple Seconde.             II.                     III.

  2. Feint Seconde and cut       II. and III.            III. or IV.

  3. Feint Seconde, feint        II., III. and II.       III. or IV.
       Tierce, and cut Carte.

  4. Feint Seconde, feint        Parade Retrograde.      III. or IV.
       Tierce, and cut Seconde.


I will end this system of Manchette with the words of old Achille
Marozzo, written some three centuries and a half ago: “I would that ye
swear upon your sword-hilts never to use this knowledge against me,
your master.” But, in lieu of insisting that my readers never teach it
without obtaining formal permission, I only hope that they will favour
me by spreading it far and wide.


In p. 26 allusion has been made to an improved form of sabre handle;
it was first attempted by the Capitano Settimo del Frate in the work
before alluded to. The gallant officer’s Plates show that in the
Italian cavalry-sword the upper portion of the handle is at least
horizontal, whereas in ours it droops backwards and downwards, giving
the grip additional facility for slipping out of the swordsman’s grasp.
The author’s remarks[18] being even more applicable to the English
military sabre; I give them at full length.

“The equilibrium of the sabre, and the facility of firmly grasping the
handle, are the two prime requisites for a good weapon.

“When properly balanced and easily held, the sword calls for less
exertion of strength; and the quickness and true direction of the Cuts
are greatly facilitated. In direct proportion to the economy of force,
we find the swordsman enabled to continue his exertion.

“However well made and scientifically poised be the blade, it is
subject to several variations of equilibrium according to the position
in which it is held.

“The nearer the centre of gravity approaches the hilt, the lighter and
the better balanced will be the weapon, and _vice versâ_.[19] Therefore:

“_It should be our principal object to effect this improvement without
changing the proper centre of percussion and the other requisites for
offence and defence._”

The following Plates fully explain the author’s meaning.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.

Sabre handle actually used by Italian cavalry.]

[Illustration: Fig. 2.

Capt. Del Frate’s improvement.]

[Illustration: Fig. 3.

Capt. Del Frate’s last modification.

  a. Thumb-plate.
  b. Rest for the little finger.
  c. Support for the index finger.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.

Improved handle with thumb-guard.

(R. F. Burton.)]

[Illustration: The hand grasping the actual handle.

The hand grasping the modified handle.]

I would further modify his Fig. 1, so as to give more fulcrum to the
hand. The thumb-plate should be made weighty and the guard light,
otherwise the blade will be over-balanced, that is, heavier on one
side than on the other. It need hardly be said that the grip before
going into battle should be whipped round with thin whipcord, or better
still, with web-cloth.



[1] The exceptions are in “_Right Prove Distance_” (p. 13) and No.
_Seven_ Cut (p. 16). In the other Cuts the thumb “grasps the handle.”

[2] The French divide _l’Escrime_ into two parts: (1) _Escrime à
l’épée_, or _Escrime pointe_; and (2) _Escrime au sabre_, or _Escrime

[3] The question is considered at great length in my forthcoming volume
entitled ‘The Sword:’ here it is sufficient simply to state results.

[4] When every regiment shall have its _salle d’armes_, the fencer
will modify his own fencing thrusts to suit the clumsier weapon. I
do not, however, see any reason why the three Points of the Infantry
Sword Exercise should not be delivered in the _posizione media_ of the
Italian school, with the thumb upwards and extended along the back
of the sword-handle: nor why, as in the French _Manuel_, they should
not be reduced to a single _Coup de Pointe_ (p. 239), which is thus
described. “_Baisser la pointe du sabre à hauteur de la poitrine et
déployer le bras en tournant la main, le pouce en dessous, le tranchant
du sabre en dessus._”

[5] As Mr. John Latham justly says (“The Shape of Sword-blades,”
‘Journal of the Royal United Service Institution,’ vol. vi.):--“The
proper shape for a thrusting sword is pre-eminently straight.” The
Clay-more, for instance, moving in a direct line, cuts a hole exactly
the size of the blade; the Regulation sword, slightly curved, widens
it to about double, and the bent scimitar and the Talwár, to five or
six times, thus meeting with five or six times the resistance to its
penetration. Mr. Latham is again quoted in another part of this System.

[6] My only objections to this volume are the two following:--

(_a_) The author _will_ “throw the whole weight of the body on the
left leg.” (Fig. 2, p. 69.) Yet in his Introductory Remarks (p.
5) he sensibly says, “To the haunches, as to the common centre of
motion of the human figure, are ultimately referred all the movements
performed in military tactics” (and swordsmanship); “as just poise is
important to the correct exertion of action, whatever it may be, it is
necessary that poise or balance be studied, understood, and tried in
all positions. It is clear that bodily action cannot possess compass,
power, and ease, unless the movement be made justly and correctly upon
the haunches, as on a central pivot. If the movement have not compass,
power, and ease; force and endurance will not be found in the Military

(_b_) In the Lunge our author not only keeps the body “perfectly
erect,” he even inclines it backwards whilst he allows both feet to
abandon the perpendicular in the most slovenly way: see Fig. 2, p.
70, and Figs. 1 and 2, p. 71. The same is the case with the official
‘Infantry Sword Exercise.’

[7] My old friend and instructor set out upon a thoroughly scientific
principle, and the able way in which he has worked out his system will
entitle him to the gratitude of the _posteri_. Having established
the fact that in all our popular athletic, as opposed to gymnastic,
exercises, our walking and running, cricket and football, fives,
tennis, and racquets, and especially rowing--which has advanced as
an art but has declined as an exercise--we circumscribe the line of
muscular operation by giving the greatest share of the work to the
lower limbs, and by developing one half to the injury of the other; he
resolved to cultivate the whole by a wider and more varied range of
training; hence he supplemented “Recreative exercise” by “Educational
exercise,” and hence his systematized national gymnasia, which, taken
up by H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge and by the late Sidney Herbert, have
been introduced into the military stations of the Cardwell system, into
Oxford and Cambridge, and into all our public schools, with one “base

Mr. MacLaren, in his ‘System of Fencing.’ &c. (p. 9), sensibly
advocates “resting the weight of the body equally upon both legs.”
He also lowers the right hand in the Lunge (p. 11), and (_ibid._) he
throws the trunk forward, perhaps with a little exaggeration.

[8] The ‘Infantry Sword Exercise (see the figures over the Target
representing the “Preparatory Positions”), “Second Position in 2
Motions,” makes No. 2 turn the left knee out instead of carrying it
square to the front; the same may be remarked in “Balance Motions” (No.

[9] The Moulinet (Ital. Molinetto) is even on horseback a favourite
movement with French sabrers (See _Règlement Provisoire_, &c., Tome I.
Titres I. et II.). It is divided into--

1. “_À gauche Moulinet_” (1 temps, 2 mouvements). The directions are:
“À la dernière partie du commandement, qui est MOULINET, étendre le
bras droit en avant de toute sa longueur, le poignet en tierce et à
hauteur des yeux.”

“Baisser la lame en arrière du coude gauche pour décrire un circle
d’arrière en avant ... et se remettre en garde.”

2. “_À droite Moulinet_” (1 temps, 2 mouvements). “À la dernière partie
du commandement, qui est MOULINET, étendre le bras droit en avant de
toute sa longueur, le poignet en quarte et à hauteur des yeux.”

“Baisser la lame en arrière du coude droit pour décrire un circle
d’arrière en avant ... et se remettre en garde.”

3. “_À gauche et à droite Moulinet_” (1 temps, 2 mouvements). “À la
dernière partie du commandement, qui est MOULINET, exécuter le premier
mouvement de _à gauche Moulinet_.”

“Exécuter alternativement et sans s’arrêter sur aucun mouvement le
Moulinet à gauche et le Moulinet à droite.”

  “À gauche et à droite = MOULINET.”

4. “_À droite et à gauche Moulinet_ (1 temps, 2 mouvements). À la
dernière partie du commandement, qui est MOULINET, exécuter le premier
mouvement de _à droite Moulinet_.

“Exécuter alternativement et sans s’arrêter sur aucun mouvement, le
Moulinet à droite et le Moulinet à gauche.”

  “_À droite et à gauche_ = MOULINET.”

5. “_En arrière Moulinet_ (1 temps, 2 mouvements). À la dernière partie
du commandement, qui est MOULINET, élever le bras en arrière à droite
de toute sa longueur, la pointe du sabre en l’air, le tranchant à
droite, le pouce allongé sur le dos de la poignée, le corps légèrement
tourné à droite.”

“Décrire un circle en arrière de gauche à droite, le poignet éloigné du
corps le plus possible, et se remettre en garde.”

  “En arrière = MOULINET.”

“Les cavaliers, exécutant bien les Moulinets, on leur en fait faire
plusieurs de suite, en faisant précéder cet exercice de l’indication;
_les Moulinets continueront jusq’au commandement_: EN GARDE.

“Les Moulinets ayant pour objet d’assouplir les articulations du
bras et du poignet, il faut que les cavaliers y soient exercés comme
préparation aux autres mouvements; on commence et on finit donc chaque
leçon par des Moulinets exécutés à un degré de vitesse proportionné aux
progrès des cavaliers.”

[10] In the Regulation sword the “centre of percussion” is about
one-third from the point; here there is no vibration, and consequently
the Cut exercises its whole force. The “centre of gravity” is in the
third nearest the hilt, and the “balance” of the sword results from the
relative positions of the two centres. In light swords these points
may be farther apart than in heavy blades; they should be closer in
straight than in curved swords, and nearer in thrusting than in cutting

[11] The following are the five principal ways of cutting:--

1. The Chopping or Downright Cut, from the shoulder and fore-arm. This
appears to be the instinctive method preserved by Europe; most men who
take up a sword for the first time use it in this way.

2. The Sliding Cut, common throughout the East. In this movement the
elbow and wrist are held stiff and the blow is given from the strong
muscles of the back and shoulder, nearly ten times larger than the
muscles of the arm, while the whole force and weight of the body
are thrown in. Hence the people of India use small hilts with mere
crutch-guards, which confine the hand and prevent the play of the
wrist; the larger grip required for the Chopping Cut only lessens the
cutting force. The terrible effect of these cuts is well known.

3. The Thrust Cut, with the curved (“Damascus”) blade; a combination of
point and edge, the latter being obliquely thrust forward and along the
body aimed at. This movement is a favourite on horseback, when speed
supplies the necessary force, which can hardly be applied on foot. It
must be parried like a Point.

4. The Whip Cut; in which the arm and elbow are kept almost motionless,
and the blow is delivered from the wrist. This is the principal Cut
allowed in my system; it is capable of sufficient effect upon the
opponent whilst it does not uncover the swordsman who uses it.

5. The Drawing or Reverse Cut, which will be explained in the following
pages; it is the reverse of the “Thrust Cut.”

[12] This fact is well known to the _Manuel_, which says, “_Des deux
engagements celui de droite par la position de la main a le plus
d’application_.” It therefore makes all the Cuts and Parries begin from
Tierce. This elementary rule is not recognized by the ‘Infantry Sword
Exercise’ (p. 32); “your defence is always more effective in the left
(Carte) than in the right (Tierce).” Such I assert is the case with
the foil and rapier, certainly not with the sabre or broadsword. On
horseback the left is of course the weak side.

[13] Used in this sense the “small-sword” is the triangular weapon, the
rapier is the flat, or rather the bi-convex blade.

[14] In p. 29 of the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise’ we read of “a circular
motion of the blade, termed the Parry;” but the latter word must not be
limited to this sense.

[15] The only allusion to it is the “shifting of the leg,” in p. 30.

[16] See the ‘Infantry Sword Exercise,’ p. 31.

[17] In France the false edge is hardly known; such blades are called
_à deux tranchants_; it is the Italian schiena or chine, mezzo-filo,
or falso opposed to vero taglio, and the German, rückschneide or
kurzeschneide, thus distinguished from the lange-schneide.

[18] See his Appendix, entitled “Modificazione all’ impugnatura e
guardia delle Sciabola di cavalleria per facilitarne l’equilibrio ed
avantaggiare la fermezza della mano sull’ impugnatura.”

[19] A notable instance of this is the old Highland Clay-more.

Transcriber’s Notes

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

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