Destreza

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La Verdadera Destreza is a Spanish type of fencing.

The Spanish sword system is a universal method of fighting based on reason, mathematics, and diverse other aspects of a Renaissance humanist education. Its practitioners called the system La Verdadera Destreza, “the True Skill”, and it is largely based on the works of Aristotle, the geometry of Euclid, and other classic authors.

The tradition is expressed in the work of two primary authors, don Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza and his student, don Luis Pacheco de Narváez. The system of combat is tied to an intellectual, philosophical, and moral ideal and Carranza expresses concern about the future of Spain if the young men are not well taught.

The fighting method was first documented in 1569 and describes a conservative system of swordplay using both thrusts and cuts. The weapons were shorter than the rapiers used by the Italians, and Pacheco specifically rebuts the works of many Italian authors in his text “The New Science”.

There is historical evidence indicating that the sixteenth-century fencing theorist Camillo Agrippa’s work was the inspiration for the Spanish school of swordplay. Pacheco makes the claim that Carranza based his text on the work of Camillo Agrippa in a letter to the Duke of Cea in Madrid on May 4, 1618. This seems to be reinforced by a common use of geometry and circular movement in both systems.

Unlike the Italian school, the Spanish system recognizes, instead of three degrees of strength in the blade (forte, middle and foible), ten “degrees” or sections on the blade, counting them from the point of the blade, and claims no superiority of the thrust over the cut nor viceversa. Also, unlike the Italian school, the Spanish system includes specific circular footwork as part of both offense and defense.

Following the work of Carranza and Pacheco was a collection of authors. One of the most notable was Girard Thibault (from Amsterdam) whose manual written in French, L’Académie de l’Espée (1628), was strongly based on the Destreza system.

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An English translation of Girard Thibault’s text was done by John Michael Greer and published in 2006 by Chivalry Bookshelf.

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