Destreza: Sword and dagger, according to Texedo

My birthday’s on the seventh, so in the spirit of gift-giving, I’m releasing my translation of the dagger section (and the short subsequent buckler and rotella secion) from Pedro Texedo Sicilia de Teruel’s Escuela de Principiantes, y Promptuario de Cuestiones en la filosofia de la verdadera destreza de las armas (Primer and summary of questions in the philsosphy of the true skill at arms). The dual-language format book was published in Naples in 1678: Spanish on the left, Italian on the right. Naples was under Spanish rule from the early 1500s through the early 1700s.

I ended up poking around in this book because of conversations I had with folks at the 2019 Western Martial Arts Workshop (more at wmaw.us, but the website isn’t working at the moment), and just went ahead and translated that particular section.

I was prepping a workshop around LVD sword and dagger; Figueiredo calls out Viedma’s method of using the dagger, as does Texedo, but for different reasons. And all three authors defend their particular methods of using the dagger, as different as they are, with destreza precepts that work, and make sense. Pacheco says little to nothing about how to hold and use the dagger. Rada’s dagger positioning matches Texedo. So much stuff to dig into….

Anyway! Happy birthday to me! Here’s an updated translation of Texedo sword and dagger that includes a correction made by Tim Rivera. Thanks, Tim!

An update of sorts

Hello! It’s been a few months, and the world’s a completely different place now, except the same in all the strangest ways. Like many of us, I lost my job due to the pandemic. Problematic because my bills don’t stop, but a possible boon for folks because it means, when I’m not working on the freelance I manage to draw in, I’m working on translations.

There’s one ongoing project I can’t really talk much about (though you likely know about it if you’re involved in any way in the world of modern destreza). There’s also the dribs and drabs of free stuff that I will always post here. I want to make that clear: I will not stop working on things that I send out into the world for free.

That said, though, I do need to supplement my income in any way possible. And that’s why I’ve started a Patreon. I’m happy to spend my time translating, but I can’t afford to do much of that while finding a new job and seeking new freelance contracts. With Patreon, the translating can become a freelance contract of its own, so to speak (at least in the ledgers of my accounting).

Compendio frontispiece

I’ve chosen to translate Pacheco’s Compendio de la filosofía y destreza de las armas, de Geronimo de Carranza, published in 1612. It may seem like a strange choice, but I like it because it’s a bridge between the highly philosophical original book by Carranza and the studied, almost didactic works by Pacheco. In the Compendio, Pacheco extracts all the bits from Carranza’s book that are directly relevant to fencing and gathers them up with brief asides, commentaries, and identified throughlines. Most of the works that have any substantial translations come from the later eras of destreza, and I felt it was important to get earlier works available, too.

I’ve made a range of tiers on the Patreon, because I know a lot of us are badly affected by the pandemic. And even if you can’t contribute, that’s okay; the things that get published on the Patreon to subscribers will eventually get published here (they get first dibs, but I won’t keep things behind a paywall permanently).

At any rate, I hope you’re doing as well as possible under the circumstances. Take care of yourselves.

Destreza: Sword and dagger, in Oplosophia

Okay, as promised: Here is a very, very rough initial translation of the dagger section (which now includes the correction provided by Eric Myers in the Destreza in the SCA Facebook page). Unlike previous translations, I’m not including the bulk of the work in the body of this post; I have <checks document> 41 footnotes over eight pages. And one of those footnotes spans more than one page. One thing to note here is that this is not Rada’s or Texedo’s or Viedma’s dagger. Read the whole thing through (he makes a lot of noise in the early bits saying his way is different but obviously superior if you just try it, etc. etc.), then read it again. If you need help visualising some of these things, the scholar class notes from the Brisbane School of Iberian Swordsmanship may help. 

CLICK HERE for translation of sword and dagger section in Oplosophia.

That said, one of the neat things Figueiredo does is include a section in the book with aphorisms for a bunch of different subjects. The dagger section has a list of interesting stuff, and I offer that here so you’re not just coming by and downloading. Although, is there anything wrong with that, really? Probably not. And as always, if you want to pick up a copy of the original, you can find a print edition of Oplosophia (in the original language, not English) here

Anyway. Aphorisms!

  • The dagger was naturally invented for the defence of the off-hand[1].
  • The proportion of the dagger is universal.
  • The centre of the dagger is the origin of the off-hand arm[2].
  • The dagger, in its applications, should never move the centre.
  • The dagger, within the measures, can wound[3] just as well as the sword.
  • The dagger is most suitable for people who are not strong.
  • The dagger deviates[4], atajos, and serves in some parries within the measures.
  • The dagger cannot be subjected well sue to its short length.
  • The dagger enters with atajos and deviations at the start of circular motions of the opponent’s sword.
  • The movements of one who only has a dagger should be supported by footwork, and the profile of the body.
  • The dagger resists the sword on the sword’s weak parts.
  • The dagger, without moving the centre, can make all its circles with just the wrist.
  • The dagger should always be applied in deference to the sword.
  • In every angle in which the dagger is controlling the sword, the body can enter.
  • The dagger will always be applied in the moment and place where the opponent begins to liberate their sword to strike[5].
  • The circles made by the dagger interfere with the opponent’s thrusts.
  • Against the circles made by the opponent in the proportion of the sword, it is dangerous to apply the dagger.
  • The dagger cannot resist the natural movements of the sword on its weak parts.
  • The dagger arm should only very rarely be curved or bent.
  • The dagger should be held in such a way that its guard covers the centre of the dagger arm.
  • The blows[6] given with the sword and dagger should be made below the dagger.
  • The dagger is obligated to cover for the swords faults [in other words, the dagger saves the destrx’s bacon when the sword screws up]
  • The dagger is better than the rodela when within the measures.

[1] Figgy says ‘left hand’, but we’re being hand-agnostic here.

[2] Origin: ‘nacimento’, literaly birth. Where the arm emerges.

[3] Wound: ‘ferir’

[4] Desvía: deviate – push the opponent’s oncoming thrust or point to the side, not up, and not an atajo.

[5] Strike: ‘ferir’

[6] Blows: ‘golpes’

On practice and the new year

Before I begin, I just need to say I hate the new WordPress text editor and need to figure out how to revert. This is infuriating.

Anyway. Back when I was in New York, practicing iaido, every new year of practice we’d rededicate ourselves to our studies by performing a thousand cuts. I can’t entirely remember if we only did one kind of cut, but these days, I have to vary it up. That said, the cuts aren’t the meat of the matter of this post.

A significant part of my Destreza practice is reading and translation. There’s painfully little original LVD material available in English, and I’m one of the handful of people well placed to solve it. So here’s a variation on the thousand cuts, and symbolic rededication to my practice.

I’ve been working on the off-hand section of Figueiredo’s Oplosophia for a few years now, very intermittently. So here’s my 2020 new year’s promise to you: On New Year’s Eve (today) and New Year’s Day, I’ll be working on getting all of the off-hand weapon section translated and (eventually) available to the public.

But — there are a few caveats.

  1. It’s a rough translation. There may be errors in there, but I’ve footnoted the living daylights out of this document so you know why I made my decisions and can help ferret out where I went wrong, or where I went right.
  2. It’s a rough draft. I’ll do my best to make the English nice and clean, but my concern is getting the work done, not polishing. Polishing is a separate task requiring a slightly different skill deployment. Maybe I’ll get around to that at some point in the future. I do have other projects that are also in progress.
  3. This is a free work (Creative Commons 4.0). You’re free to share, remix, add. Just please credit the work I’ve done.
  4. You will probably not see the full document by New Year’s Day. But I do live at the vanguard of the international date line, so my January 2 may very well be your January 1. The document should be out by the middle of January the latest depending on day job workloads.

So, there you have it. Some solid new year’s rededication practice that promises to bring you wonderful goodies, too. Hey! Now that I think of it, maybe I should set a January 6 deadline — it’s Three Kings Day, and the end of the twelve days of Christmas. Better than a bunch of nuts and sweets in your shoe, but only just.

In the meantime, I hope folks are having a good holiday season. I know for many of us it’s not easy at all for all sorts of reasons. If that’s the case, be kind to yourselves and seek out the company of people who cherish and celebrate you, even if it’s via electronic means.

Mendoza on the flail

The Brisbane School of Iberian Swordsmanship is celebrating its fourth birthday by releasing Ron Koks’ introduction to using the Iberian mangual. In it he references two assertions from the Resumen de la verdadera destreza de las armas, en treinta y ocho asserciones (Summary of the true skill of arms: in thirty eight assertions), by Miguel Perez de Mendoza y Quixada (published in 1675).

When Ron was first working on this document, I drew up a translation of Assertion 32, which describes how to use the flail, and how to build it. It’s an early translation that I haven’t taken a second look at, so I place it here with some trepidation. Holler at me in some way if you see a howling error that needs quick correcting. Anything that’s not a footnote that’s in square brackets is an editorial insertion either for clarity, or to indicate why I might have chosen to interpret a word or phrase in a given way. The grammatical conventions are Australian since I wrote it for an Australian.

Happy flailing!

Assertion XXXII

57r – 59r

I would like to mention the forms and paths that should be kept when moving and using the flail. With it you observe the same paths as with the montante, with[1] the exception of the Accidental Movement [forward movement, or thrust], because you cannot attack with the tip of the flail. Instead, use diagonal cuts and reverse cuts. The flail should be governed by both arms, but you should avoid bending the shoulders and elbows too much because the turning of the flail is accomplished through the circling of the wrists, and their four bends, so that the flail balls will not return against you when attacking an opponent. If you do not keep to this doctrine, the weapon will turn on you.

The flail balls should be attached with rivets[2] from the chain, so it won’t shrink[3], and the links should be made of iron or steel, and should be attached to each other with rivets, just like the ones connected to the flail balls, so that they cannot be pulled open, because when in this arrangement, the links can turn and twist but will remain open and not ride up on each other, shortening the chain.

The flail’s use and its doctrines are the same as the montante, again with the exception of never using Accidental Movements that serve to form thrusts, which are useless to this weapon that has no point and is instead a weapon of blunt force.

You can attack with Natural Movements [downward] when the opponent lowers his weapon to the centre, and with Movements of Reduction when[4] your opponent directs his weapon in Remiss Motions [motions away from the centre line]. Attack using cuts and reverse cuts, and half cuts and half reverse cuts, taking the distances necessary to execute these attacks. If up against one opponent, conform your path and disposition to his weapon and his use of it. If up against more than one opponent, your attacks should be with broad circular motions, taking the path that offers the greatest number of opposing weapons, which, when deprived of their violence, must resort to Remiss Movements [off line movements]. When these arms are separated from their centres, take the disposition that they once held and attack them where they are open. Take advantage of distances and various kinds of footwork, which will help in reducing their capacity for any offence they want to make.

First guide your defence to the nearest threats using quick forward steps, maneuvering the flail with the[5] arms to effect those circular attacks. Use lateral steps when your opponents take the medio proporcionado that you had chosen, in order to establish new medios proporcionados, and so on, with your first motion giving rise to the next. If you need to re-establish medios, continue moving as noted above, but use curved steps and not rear steps, and use forward steps in conformance with your opponent’s weapon and footwork.

The dimensions of this weapon conform to the montante. When held, the distance between the hands should be a little less than half a vara[6] and the shaft should be the same thickness as that of a pike, and should have four riveted bands[7] of steel or iron, which [vertically] divide the flail into four parts granting strength and defence, since the bands cannot be cut. But make sure these things are light, to keep the movements as small as possible, and do not sweep the flail behind you, because that will only cause you harm. It is a very robust weapon, and of equal rigor (as I’ve said) to the montante, and its attacks are more dangerous and harmful due to it being a weapon of blunt trauma[8], and executed mostly with Natural Movements. You should place all due care in executing its doctrines, in part because of how difficult it is to master without broad comprehension of using this weapon.


[1] 57v

[2] Tornillos: literally, screws, but in this case means rivets.

[3] Encogerse: Literally, to shrink. I believe this refers to how a chain, when under a lot of torsion, will shorten because the links are not all resting within each other in an open state.

[4] 58r

[5] 58v

[6] A vara is approximately 83 cm long. A little less than half a vara should be about 40 cm.

[7] Listas: related to listón; strips, lengths. I’ve confirmed that it’s metal bands that run vertically along the haft, riveted into the wood. There is a photo of a German halberd from 1620 that clearly shows that kind of metal banding.

[8] 59r

A review of Manuel Lozano’s translation of Ettenhard’s Compendio

If you just want to get into the evaluation of the translation, scroll on down to the EVALUATION section below. If you want the summary conclusion of my review, you can scroll on down to CONCLUSION. You can always scroll back up here to read the rest later.

INTRODUCTION

This post is a partial review of Manuel Lozano’s translation of Compendio de los fundamentos de la verdadera destreza y filosofía de las armas – or Compendium of the Fundamentals of the True Skill and Philosophy of Arms by Francisco Antonio de Ettenhard y Abarca. It is a partial review because I did not read the translation in its entirety. The reasons for this will be detailed in the EVALUATION section of this post.

Any non-Spanish-speaking practitioner of la verdadera destreza is keenly aware of the lack of translated materials, and has very good reason to get excited when translations are announced. Ettenhard is a concentrated source of destreza fundamentals, and while parts of the Compendio are freely available as translated by Dr Mary Curtis, the more translations we have, the better off we are: each translator approaches a work with their own personal experiences and contexts, and the choices each translator makes can inform the reader and illuminate details and nuances in the original that might otherwise remain unnoticed.

This, however, is entirely contingent upon the quality of the translation. While I have no desire to make less of Mr Lozano’s efforts, this translation has significant flaws and cannot be relied upon by a non-Spanish speaker to transmit the Compendio unharmed.

QUALIFICATIONS

I grew up bilingual in Mexican Spanish, which is roughly as close to Castilian as American English to British. I am a writer and editor in English and Spanish and have over twenty years of editorial experience across a broad range of industries. I have around five years of HEMA experience, four of those with destreza. I am currently an instructor with the Brisbane School of Iberian Swordsmanship.

EVALUATION

I present below four examples illustrating why the whole of the translation cannot be relied upon for study. The first three examples come from my first day with the book. In these three cases, I started reading a passage, found issues with the English, and consulted a reproduction of the original Compendio to determine whether the issue stemmed from irregularities in the Spanish, or if they arose from something else. For the fourth example, I intentionally sought out a section included in Dr Mary Curtis’ openly available partial translation of the Compendio to cross-check my own translation work. While I only present four examples here, I want to make it clear that I did a number of other spot-checks through the translation and came across similar problems the vast majority of the time — so much so that I cannot recommend this translation for study, even if approached with significant caution.

  • Each example starts with a reference to the section in question.
  • The original Spanish (transcribed from the openly available PDF scan of Compendio) then appears in red.
  • Mr Lozano’s translation appears in blue, transcribed from a hard copy of his book.
  • My translation appears in green. I note here that anything appearing in square brackets is material that I add for clarification. In some cases, I explicitly note the understood subject of a phrase; in others, I add information that would be the sort of thing you’d put in a footnote.
  • Dr Curtis’ translation appears in orange, copy-pasted from her work available online.
  • After each excerpt, I add my notes regarding the problems with Lozano’s translation.

Example 1

Preface, second paragraph and (1) – (3) [unnumbered page in translation | PDF page 33-4, non-italic section on left of 33 and right of 34]

ORIGINAL

Las Glorias de la espada (a quien como a más propia imagen de Marte dieron Culto, y adoración los Scytas) (1) la Estimación, y antigüedad de la Destreza (a que atendieron los Persas [2] de que usaron las más cultas Repúblicas de Grecia [3] y fue particular estudio de los Romanos)

 

Mr LOZANO

The Glories of the Sword (to whom since to more proper image of Mars gave cult and adoration by the (Scytas);

(1) the Estimation and Antiquity of the Skill to who heeded the Persians,

(2) that used the most cultured Republics of Greece,

(3) and was a particular study of the Romans).

 

SPANGLER

The glories of the sword (to which the Scythians gave worship and adoration, as the most appropriate representation of Mars), (1) the esteem and antiquity of the skill [at arms] (to which the Persians paid close attention to (2), that the most cultured republics of Greece used, (3) and was the subject of acute study by the Romans)…

 

My notes

Before we address the translation itself, the English here is ungrammatical and incorrect. “…[T]o whom since to more proper image of Mars gave cult and adoration…”, while not necessarily containing any information about performing destreza, is meaningless, and this kind of error appears throughout the translation.

Additionally, there are some serious faults of Spanish grammar comprehension here, generally in the realm of subject/object identity, relation, and agreement. If the Spanish is not properly understood, there is little hope of translating its meaning correctly into English. The structure of the original Spanish is quite tortured (and we only get to the proper subject of the sentence at (4)), but it is decipherable. This kind of fundamental grammatical fault is deeply problematic. It’s the LVD equivalent of the difference between “dog bites man” and “man bites dog”. This kind of ambiguity renders the text highly unreliable as a source for learning or teaching.


Example 2

Preface, line (6) [unnumbered page in translation | PDF page 34, non-italic section on right of page]

ORIGINAL

(6) fue tan necesaria la segunda, que sin ella, ni el Valor fuera Virtud, ni la Bizarría dexara de ser Temeridad

 

Mr LOZANO

(6) the second one was so necessary, that without it neither the value would be a virtue, neither the Bizarria would cease to be reckless.

 

SPANGLER

(6) the second being so necessary, that without it, neither valour would be a virtue, nor would gallantry cease being foolhardy.

 

My notes

Mr Lozano has mistranslated Valor as value, not valour/bravery. An easy initial mistake to make, but the context makes the correct word choice clear. This kind of error should not appear in a published final work.

He left Bizarria completely untranslated, as if it were a place name or similar. It’s not a common word, but it’s certainly not archaic or out of modern use. This is also problematic for a book that is a published final work, and not released for free.


 

Example 3

Fourth Treatise, first paragraph [page 42 in translation | PDF page 174]

 ORIGINAL

Tratado Quarto

 De la declaración de las disposiciones, por donde se logran con perfección los Medios Proporcionados.

 Tres convenientes Disposiciones ay, por donde se logra el acierto en la elección del Medio Proporcionado, que son el Ángulo Recto, el Atajo, y el Movimiento de Conclusión, ayudándose el uno al otro, con admirable conformidad, y conveniencia: Y asi tratare de lo que cada uno toca, y haré todas las prevenciones, y advertencias que más al propio me parecieren, para la más fácil inteligencia de lo que tratare.

 

Mr LOZANO

Fourth Treatise

Of the Declaration of the Disposition from Where The Perfection of the Fighting Measure is Obtained

There are three convenient dispositions by which one can obtain success in the selection of the Medio de Proporción (Fighting Measure); and they are the Angulo Recto (Straight Angle), the Atajo (Engagement), and the Movimiento de Conclusión (Concluding Movement or Finishing Technique).

Assisting one another with admirable and conformity and convenience; I shall treat all preventions and warnings close to my purpose for the easy intelligence of what is treated and because it has already…

 

SPANGLER

Fourth Treatise

On the declaration of the dispositions through which the Proportionate Measures [this is Dr Curtis’ English standardisation of Medios Proporcionados] can be achieved with perfection.

There are three expedient dispositions through which success is achieved in the selection of the Proportionate Measure (Medio Proporcionado), which are the Angulo Recto (the right angle), the Atajo (a specific form of subjection), and the Movimiento de Conclusión (Conclusion), each one assisting the other with admirable agreement and appropriateness. Thus I will discuss what each one involves, and I will offer all the warnings and caveats that seem most appropriate to me, for the easier understanding of what I will describe.

 

My notes

Medio de Proporción (called the Fighting Measure in the body of Mr Lozano’s translation) is the Defensive Measure (this term is the one Dr Curtis uses; the literal translation would be “Measure of Proportion”) — it is the closest one can get to one’s opponent without being in danger of being struck in a single action. It is usually described as the point at which the opponent’s sword point touches your guard, and no closer. Medio de Proporción is not mentioned anywhere in the original text of this section. Medio Proporcionado (which does appear in the original text of this section, both in the subheader and in the body text), translated literally, is Proportionate Measure or Proportional Measure (Dr Curtis uses Proportionate). It is the distance required for you to strike your opponent given whatever technique you’ve chosen to use (which is likely why Mr Lozano chose to translate the phrase as Fighting Measure). It means you are also in danger of being struck if you’re not in control of your opponent’s weapon. Mr Lozano makes the egregious error of using the wrong phrase (Medio de Proporción) in the first paragraph (though he uses the correct phrase in the section subheader). The original text contains the correct phrase. This is an introduced error. Without having some background in destreza, or the ability to read Spanish, the reader is given incorrect information that they will not necessarily be able to recognise as incorrect. This excerpt is destructive to correct interpretation or practice.

Translating atajo as engagement is problematic because an atajo is a specific kind of subjection. Pacheco notes that an atajo must have three key qualities, and Ettenhard generally agrees: it must be a subjection applied from above, made with greater or equal degrees of strength, and must remove the ability of the opponent to strike you in a single action. Inherent in this is the avoidance of using the blade with the quillons parallel to the ground (fingernails up and fingernails down in destreza terms), which is possible in blade engagement, but never a quality of an atajo. This is a little like translating “Formula 1 car” as “vehicle”; a Formula 1 car is a vehicle, but so is a truck, and a truck would never be allowed to participate in a Formula 1 race.

Mr. Lozano ignores the punctuation of the original. His paragraph break is contrary to the punctuation and general meaning of the text. Where he starts his new paragraph with “Assisting,” that phrase clearly relates back to the three dispositions, as reflected in my translation. This worries me because it reminds me of a bad habit I had early in my translating career. When I would get overwhelmed by the text, or couldn’t disentangle the grammar or structure, I would break things up if I felt I could sort of get things to match up with my preconceived notions. It is clear how destructive this habit is to the actual meaning of the original text.


Example 4

Chapter IV Second Treatise 

ORIGINAL

De la definición del Compás, y sus Especies

Compás es un movimiento que hace el cuerpo, cuando deja un lugar para ocupar otro: y para mayor claridad, es cierto, que dar un Compás es lo mismo que dar un paso: es género, y tiene cinco especies simples, cuyos nombres son Recto, Curvo, Transversal de Trepidación, y Extraño: Otros dos hay Mixtos, que son el de Trepidación y Extraño, y el de Transversal y Curvo; pero para su declaración, y conocimiento, se necesita de la Demostración del Círculo que se imagina entre los dos Combatientes… 

 

Mr LOZANO

Of the Definition of the Compas and its Kinds

Compas (footwork) is a movement of the body makes to leave one space and occupy another and for major clarity; it is true that to execute footwork is the same as stepping. There are five simple types of Compases (footwork), they are Recto (straight), Curvo (curved), Transversal (transversal), Trepidacion (sideways), and Extrano (there are two types of extrano, moving the forward foot back past the rear foot and vice versa). There are two mixed (Mixtos) types of footwork, which are Trepidacion with Extrano and Transversal with Curvo. But for its declaration and knowledge it is necessary to demonstrate the imaginary Circle between both combatants…

 

SPANGLER

On the definition of footwork [steps], and their kinds

A [footwork] step is a movement made by the body when it leaves one place to occupy another. To be clear, it is true that to perform footwork is the same as taking a step. It is a class with five simple members, which are Advancing, Curved, Lateral Transverse, and Retreating. There are two other kinds, which are mixed. These are the Lateral Retreating and the Curved Transverse, but to explain them, and for better understanding, the illustration of the Circle imagined between the two Combatants is needed…

 

Dr CURTIS

Concerning the Definition of the Steps and Their Types.

A Step is a Movement that the body makes when it leaves one place to occupy another, and for greater clarity, it is true that taking a Compás is the same as stepping. This is a category with five simple types, which are the Forward, Curved, Transversal, Lateral, and Backward. There are two other Mixed Steps, the Lateral-Backward Step and the Transversal-Curved Step, but to better explain this footwork, we need the Illustration of the Circle that is imagined between the two Combatants.

My notes

Again, there is a misattributed clause in Mr Lozano’s first sentence, separated from the statement it’s meant to modify. And his parenthetical about the extraño/retreating step — this is not in the original text. It’s okay for translators to add their own extrapolations, but they must be clear about what is translation, and what is their own extension; this can be noted in the parenthetical itself, or in a footnote, or in an end note. It just needs to be clear.


CONCLUSION

I note here again that I found the first three examples by randomly selecting a page in Mr Lozano’s translation. The problems I saw on my initial read were obvious enough that I cross-checked them against a reproduction of the original Compendio. I selected my fourth example not by picking a random page in Mr Lozano’s translation, but by picking an easily findable section of Dr Curtis’ translation: the beginning of a chapter in the second treatise. I had not read that section of Mr Lozano’s translation before selecting that excerpt.

I did attempt to read the book from start to finish and was unable to. The kinds of errors in the examples above exist throughout the work (I’ve done more spot-checks to verify), and the English itself in many places is not correct in the first place. While this would not be a problem for a work made available to the public for free, the high price of this translation of Compendio is not justified by its pervasive flaws.

The translation is frequently inaccurate, and in places entirely incorrect. The English is often unclear and at times incomprehensible. A work like this does more harm than good by forcing the reader to engage in guesswork and creative interpretation instead of being able to follow the relatively clear directions in the original text.

In sum: I cannot recommend Mr Lozano’s translation of Compendio as a text from which to learn destreza, even if approached with significant caution.

Destreza: Sword and buckler, in Oplosophia

Hello, everyone! It’s been yonks, hasn’t it, but here we are. Today I’m offering a translation of the section in Oplosophia* that discusses the use of the sword and buckler. This is now an old translation that I’ve left largely unedited, so there are potential inaccuracies, and there will certainly be refinements I’ll want to add in future (since I’m currently revisiting Oplosophia). But I wanted to get this out into the world anyway, as raw as it is — keeping these caveats visibly in place. Finally, anything in square brackets [] is my own note (or in a couple of cases below, a footnote).

Modern Spanish translation:

Capítulo Noveno, Libro Tercero (AGEA Edition pg. 204-206)

Cómo usará el Diestro el Broquel cuando hace compañía a la espada, y de los primeros que lo inventaron

Hoy día es tan conocido el uso de la espada y broquel, asi por su liviandad como por la comodidad de que se puede traer más fácilmente, que veo casi olvidado el ejercicio de la espada y rodela, tan propio entre la nación portuguesa; más cómo los costumbres se usaron asi como se apreciaron, y el Broquel se solicita su estimación con los atributos ya referidos, no hay mucho que no se practican tanto las excelencias de la rodela, que siempre fue muy poderoso el costumbre para mudar ante la misma naturaleza: (Supuesto que ya los antiguos practicaban este modo de armas, porque a primera orden dos falanges macedónicos se armaban con escudos Argólicos, que se ven a ser como broqueles, y Eliano [Claudio Eliano] dice que la usanza macedónica trajo a los Romanos los escudos redondos, y las astas o Sarissas se comparan a manera del broquel y estoque, pues aquella se empuñaba con la mano, y a este fue[1] semejante a los botes [como botar, ataque repentino] de las astas mencionadas.) por lo que me parece notar, asi lo en que se distingue el broquel de la rodela cuando se [[tras]?], como la diferencia que hay en las aplicaciones de una y otra arma, para que el Diestro batallando no le cambia los oficios. Las espadas largas, o los estoques, en algún modo son mas propias armas para hacerze compañía al Broquel, por razón de que como anda separado[2] de los pechos, y por esta causa queda el cuerpo casi en cuadro, es conveniente que la espada tenga largueza que supera, o no va a poder con perfección perfilarse el cuerpo para el lado derecho, y poder asi mejor ofender de fuera de los medios ordinarios:

[[Porem] sin embargo?], como la verdad de mis preceptos no se suponen excesos, ni ventajas para lograr los efectos de la Verdadera Destreza, la espada será la común, y el Broquel que acompaña de bastante grandeza, como tener dos palmos de diámetro, porque no lo considero bien que sea demasiadamente grande como para quitar la vista, y de impedir en algunos termos los movimientos de la espada, y se debe ser compuesto de acero, or de madera [[ennervada]?], o de corcho con sus vergas de hierro en las circunferencias; se debe traer con el brazo izquierdo tendido naturalmente, bien empuñado en la mano, con mucha advertencia en el sentido de tacto, y para mayor fortaleza con el dedo pulgar apoyándolo, y tener el Broquel un poco ladeado para que no interrumpe la vista, y para que las estocadas que repare se resbalan a la parte de afuera. Y queriendo impedir algunos golpes contrarios, no serán nunca los movimientos tan grandes que descubren el centro del brazo izquierdo, porque puede el contrario con rapidez convertir las heridas a los partes que vio descubiertos, y todos los golpes se recibirán n la verga de circunferencia del semidiámetro superior, porque este lugar más los resiste, y más devia las espada.

De suerte que[3] asi tendido el Broquel, y siempre en su lugar, guarda más el cuerpo, anda con mayor gracia, y los golpes tienen mas espacioso camino para ofender el contrario; y todavía las heridas que ejecuta la espada en compañía del Broquel son en menos cantidad, se dan con mayor gentileza se nacen de los movimientos remisos de las estocadas naturales, nunca por encima del Broquel, ni obligando que mude el centro con grandes [[desmanchos]strikes? Blows? Undoings?], ni ladeándose con quebrar la muñeca solamente para donde conviene, las estocadas de [[fio] hilo? Cadena?] proceden con facilidad a las estocadas de puño, y son muy provechosas con el Broquel dándose sucesivamente. Lo que domina la espada son los reparos o desvíos por dignidad[4], y todos los demás oficios por acontecimiento. Y generalmente sus aplicaciones serán siempre donde se desagrega a la espada, o del lugar donde se mueve.

Modern English translation:

Chapter Nine, Book Three

How the Diestro shall use the buckler when it accompanies the sword, and on those who first invented it

Today the use of the buckler is very familiar for many reasons, including its lightness and ease of carrying. So much so that I see that the exercise of the rotella is almost forgotten, once well known in Portugal, though there is little in the excellencies of the rotella that is not carried into the use of the buckler, which it seems right for me to note, both in terms of the similarities and differences between the buckler and the rotella, as well as the similarities and differences in their applications, so the Diestro while fighting will not change or mistake techniques. (Given that the ancients already practiced this style of fighting, firstly because two Macedonian phalanxes equipped themselves with Argolic shields, which can be seen to resemble bucklers, and (Claudio) Eliano says that the Macedonian use brought these round shields to the Romans, and the pikes or sarissas can be compared to the bucker and estoc, because the estoc could be held in one hand and offer thrusts like the pikes.) Longer swords, or estocs, are often better company for bucklers, because the buckler must remain distant from the chest, which then causes the body to be almost squared to the opponent. Therefore a longer sword offsets the shortening of reach, because the body while holding a buckler cannot perfectly profile itself against an opponent, and lets the Diestro better offer threat outside of regular measures.

Nevertheless, since my perceptions and thoughts cannot imply excesses or advantages to achieve the effects of LVD, the sword shall be the common one, and its accompanying buckler of fairly large size, at least two palms in diameter[1], but no more; because it is not good for it to be so big that it impedes sight, or certain movements of the sword around it. The buckler should be made of steel, or wood, or of cork edged with steel along its circumference. It should be held with the left harm extended naturally, well gripped in the hand with the thumb supporting it, for greater strength, though not so tightly that the buckler cannot be read by feel. It should be held a little off to the side so as not to impede sight, and so that the thrusts it parries slide off to the outside. And when attempting to parry the opponent’s attacks, the buckler arm should not move so broadly as to leave the center of the left arm uncovered, because the opponent can quickly shift his attacks to those places left unprotected. All blows should be taken along the circumference edge of the upper half of the shield, because this place best resists and deviates the opponent’s sword.

By holding the buckler in this way, and always in its proper place, it will better guard the body, move with greater grace, and the Diestro’s blows will have a more spacious path to threaten the opponent, and though the number of attacks the sword subjects against the opponent are fewer with the buckler, they are given with greater precision and care and arise from the remiss motions of natural thrusts, never given over the buckler, nor obligating it to move from its center by giving great blows, nor leaving it to the side, opening only the wrist to arrive at where the opponent’s sword comes in. The estocadas de hilo[2] proceed easily from the estocadas de puño, and are very advantageous with the buckler when attacking consecutively. What will dominate the sword are the parries or desvios by dignity, and the remaining actions should be responded to on a case by case basis. And generally, the buckler should be applied always where the opponent’s sword breaks contact, or applied to the point from where it moved.

[1] One Portuguese palmo is 22 cm; one Spanish palmo was a little less than 21 cm. That is a big buckler.
[2] Literally, “string thrust” or “chain thrust”. I honestly don’t know what to think here. Does this mean thrusts strung together? How does this proceed from a “punch thrust”, as Tim Rivera has called the estocadas de puño? Requires futher investigation.
* De Figuereido, Diogo Gomes. Oplosophia e verdadeira destreza das armas. 2013 critical edition by Manuel Valle Ortiz and Francisco Castro Nieto, 210-212. Compostela, Spain: AGEA Editora.

Swords, and intermittency

Yeah, it’s been like, forever. But I’m still alive, and around, and still writing and editing and swording and translating.

I hope all of you are well and feeling reasonably successful in your endeavors. I’m still plugging away, feeling like it’s three steps forward and two steps back, but at least I’m making some small headway.

While I’m here — I have yet to receive my copy due to logistical kerfuffles, but I’m eagerly awaiting Tim Rivera’s translation of Godinho’s Art of Fencing! Not only has he translated the text, but he’s also included a lot of additional material, extracting and collecting key points in easily findable ways.

In other news, I presented a taster course workshop on Godinho at Swordplay 2017 which was well-received, and learned a ton from other presenters (including Skye Hilton and Steaphen Fick), and had a lot of (never enough) bouts with fantastic friends old and new.

Somehow, I ended up taking fourth place in mixed medium saber, which was a blast!

At any rate, I’m hoping to finally post up the remaining translations I’ve done of the off-hand weapons in Oplosophia (except dagger) before poking around a bit in other texts, mainly to collect and compare approaches to foundational techniques (atajo, right angle guard and defense, measure of proportion and proportional measure, that sort of thing) and maybe track how things evolve over time. I’ll post excerpts of my translations where appropriate.

Finally, I’m considering setting up a Patreon where folks can pay me per translation. It’ll be a single-fee structure, because I don’t have the time or the organization to supply appropriate bonuses and goodies, and it’ll be per translation and not per month (at least not yet).

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of my new custom Castille Armory hilt.

CalatravaHilt

It’s gorgeous, robust, and changed the balance on my blade for the better. <3

 

It’s been a while

People reinvent themselves all the time, sometimes willingly, and sometimes not. I try to improve, you know, refine myself as best I can. Some of it’s for selfish reasons — I want more attention, adulation, admiration, but other reasons are more sensible. I want to lessen cognitive load. I want to be more efficient about the things I do and how I do them.

I’m coming to the end of my fortieth year on this earth, and it hasn’t been so much of a reckoning as it’s been a deliberate slowing down. It’s not perfect by any means. I still commit when maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m no longer drowning. I still get angry with myself, but I find more spaces for kindness and forgiveness than I once did, however hard that may be.

I want to come to see this blog as a thing I look forward to. Right now I feel weighed by obligation, and anxious in the face of obligations I feel I can’t possibly comply with, now, or maybe ever. What is usual? What is the norm? Am I imagining a bar to meet that’s entirely fabricated?

And even if it’s real, what’s the need to meet it?

I spent this past weekend at a wonderful game convention, one of the most accepting, friendly, warm, and laid back places I’ve had the privilege to be. How can I bring that forward? How do I let that inform how I treat others, and more importantly, how I treat myself?

That’s the hard part. The hows. The whats feel hard, but it’s easy to get lost in the theoretical and never press on to the practical, made all the more dangerous by feeling like you really are accomplishing something. Synthesis and analysis have their place, but you have to come down from the mountain sometime.

And that’s what I’ve been doing this year, I think. I was astonished and humbled at how many people remembered me, or recognised me, and greeted me warmly, like an old friend. I get so caught up in my own tangled thinking, in constantly worrying whether I’m being kind, compassionate, fair, that I don’t actually see how I manifest in the world. If the actions of these people I admire and trust are to be believed, then I’m doing okay.

The generosity and kindness I experienced today, from people who understand some of the things that I go through, and from people who don’t, but have troubles of their own and know what a gift it is to have patience and show support, is both a gift and a goal. May I remember, when the little voices in my head lie to me, how appreciated I really am, and may I remember to show the same courtesies to those I meet.

Good night.

Organization! Or, how I learn to cobble myself a system.

I have alway been terrible at organizing. I used to think it was a deep character flaw, some horrible persistent weakness of will and manifestation of laziness until my ADHD diagnosis. Now I know it’s neurological.

That does not stop me from wanting to be organized, though. So here’s the thing: what strategies and tools are out there for folks like me who go into brain static lock at the idea of putting things all in a row?

Truth be told, there’s not much, at least not that I’ve found. A lot of suggestions involve post-its or catastrophic decluttering or getting an org-buddy or fancy containers. If you’re like me, though, none of this works — it’s just inert stuff or unrealistic divestiture of goods or more clutter. But there are some things that have drawn my attention; their concepts are appealing, or there’s a subsonic hum of logic that I feel like I can grasp and turn into something more concrete.

From here on, I’ll be tagging certain posts with the term organization, and placing them in the ADHD category. These posts will cover my trial and error approaches to finding things that work for me, and I’ll describe and unpack my reasoning behind these approaches and their underlying decisions.

I admit that I will never be perfect at organizing, and that despite my best efforts, things will fall through the cracks. But that’s okay, because that happens to the best organizers, to the most put-together people. So if you’re hopeless at keeping things together, follow along because I hope there’s something I end up wrestling with that will be helpful to you, too.