We are proud to announce that we have formed a new sister organization to determine if there is interest in starting a classical fencing salle in Springfield, MO:
Queen City Classical Fencing.
Our hope is to cultivate interest and focus that eventually leads to smallsword instruction.
Please visit us at our site or on social media, and consider liking and sharing to develop a presence. It would be greatly appreciated.
“In smallsword, the volte is a movement that is an evasive action—that is, an esquive—that sidesteps an attack while simultaneously thrusting into the opponent. When one executes this advanced move, one is simultaneously attacking and defending at the same time. Hence, the demi-volte can be considered a counter-attack. It is fraught with risk while remaining seductively elegant as an action that represents the epitome of classical fencing.”
In 1766, Guillaume Danet published the first of two volumes of L’Art des Armes. Volume I was Danet’s attempt to reassert the supremacy of the French school of fence in the wake of the Encyclopédie publishing Angelo’s plates as the sole entry for fencing the year before. In so doing, Danet advocated for an improved and unified nomenclature of thrusts and parries with a numerical system in a natural order relevant to smallsword play. It is Danet’s description of the demi-volte which we analyze here.
Given the advanced nature of the demi-volte, its use presupposes a depth of skill and experience. Likewise, this examination of Danet’s demi-volte assumes a familiarity with fencing actions and vocabulary. However, our use of terms in this article are defined here.
Phil Crawley, Provost with the Black Boar Swordsmanship School and administrator with the Smallsword Symposium, has released a new English translation of Danet’s 1766 treatise, the Art of Arms (vol I). Crawley’s translation is dedicated to memory of Victor Markland of the American Smallsword Symposium, and released upon the one-year anniversary of Markland’s death. You can download Crawley’s translation here. It is mirrored on the SmallswordProject.com with Crawley’s permission.
The new line of smallswords from Feather Smallswords in Serbia has piqued my interest. The specs look good, they are attractive, and reminiscent of a historical piece. If you have any firsthand experience with these, I would love for you to comment below.
The American Smallsword Symposium has been scheduled for 11-12 September, 2021. The event will be held entirely outdoors at the Carlyle House in at Alexandria, VA. There is ample parking, several hotels, and B&B’s in town. Early reports indicate the focus will be on Angelo this year. More details will be forthcoming. Check the American Smallsword Symposium group on Facebook and check back here for updates.
André Hajjar Sesé has released his English interpretation of de Brea’s 1805 destreza manual, Principios Universales Y Reglas De La Verdadera Destreza Del Espadin… on his blog, Destreza Nova. La Verdadera Destreza refers to the Spanish school, a school of rapier uniquely rooted in geometry, philosophy, and an amazing use of footwork. For the uninitiated, it may appear somewhat like a geometric alchemy.
Some may argue that Destreza is tangential to the study of the smallsword, and there is some merit to that argument. However, one can consider Destreza somewhat as an ancestral cousin of the smallsword. Regardless of where you fall in this argument, there is no doubt that a smallsworder of the French or English school could easily have crossed swords with a Spanish practitioner. To that end, I offer you Angelo’s plate 43 from his 1783 publication:
Hajjar Sesé interpretation has focused on the practical use of the Spanish school while omitting the mathematical and philosophical components. His efforts are substantial, resulting in a nearly 100-page publication.
We have added a citation to our Study page that links to Destreza Nova’s publication page, in part due to the expectation that filenames will change in the future as Hajjar Sesé addresses errata. The citation and link is also presented below.
de Brea, D. M. A. (2021). Principios Universales Y Reglas De La Verdadera Destreza Del Espadin, Segun La Doctrina De Francesa Italiana Y Española, Dispuestos Para Instrucción De Los Caballeros Seminaristas Del Real Seminario De Nobles De Esta Corte, por su Maestro D. Manuel Antonio de Brea, Maestro Mayory Examinador de Todos los del Reyno. [The Epic Study & Interpretation of the1805 Manuel de Brea’s Destreza-FencingTreatise]. (A. Hajjar Sesé, translator). Québec:, Canada: destrezanova.ca. [English] (Digitally sourced from destrezanova.ca here).
The original Spanish version of de Brea’s 1805 manuscript has also been added to the SmallswordProject.com’s online resources. It can be accessed via the study page or at the the link below:
Escrime Mont Royal Escrime Mont Royal (EMR), located at the NDG Community Center in Montreal, offers both modern & historical fencing. Within its approximate 120 members, 21 participate in the Historical Fencing program. Early French Smallsword is their main weapon; Basket Hilt & French Cane being secondary weapons under study.
Kévin Côté is the head Instructor for the Historical Program.
This early French smallsword (ca. 1655 C.E.) has few parallels. Its style reflects early French Classicism from the reign of Louis XIV, and was likely made in Paris. Its hilt features ornate foliage and figure motifs executed in gold inlay, and a faceted pommel. Its length measures 41″ (104.1 cm) overall with a blade length of 34 1/2″ (87.5 cm). The fullers on both sides of the blade are marked, “XX INTE X DOMINE X ESPADERO X” with an anchor-like cross at the forward end of the groove followed by three flat indents. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum, accession no. 2011.63.