This is an unusual book for me to review. I’ve spent a total of about eight hours fencing in my entire life. I have however dabbled in various martial arts for the best part of two decades (reading this has made my palms start to itch). It should be clear that I know next to nothing about the specifics of European sword play. I have done a bit of Japanese sword work and one thing is clear. The body moves in certain ways and across the world different systems used similar theories to take advantage of the inherent weaknesses of various attacks. This treatise is useful regardless of the art you study as it seems very precise and practical (much more than I’d expected).
The best piece of advice I can give you for this book is to start at the back. The glossary is an essential first read. You may well know what a mandritti is but it never hurts to step back and start from the basics. Make sure you understand the terms as they apply to this work. For instance the word measure. You have probably heard the phrase getting the measure of somebody. That is an old fencing term. The distance or spacing between combatants is an essential part of determining what your opponent’s level of knowledge and style of fighting is likely to be. Pay attention to it. Giganti shows has practical side several times by urging people to fight people of different styles as well as those with none. You can defend what you know a lot better than that which you can’t. Bloody sensible advice if you ask me. This is the kind of usable advice that is often missing from even modern writing on fighting arts.
I assumed at first that the concise nature of this book was due to the excellent translation work but I’m assured by Piermarco Terminiello that Giganti was an unusually concise and accurate writer for that time which made the job of translation a lot easier than most. It is good to see the translators did not try and flower the language up to be more like the works of his contemporaries. This book really works and I’ll be getting the Nerf swords out with my 6yr old later.
There is a section in this book about the Targa shield. I was unaware that it was a Greek weapon. I knew about the Norse and Scottish Targe which is similar so it was interesting to see the parallels. There is also an interesting section near the end about fighting with a dagger and how every gentleman should know how to fight with just a knife for when that is all they are allowed to carry. As somebody who’s had a knife pulled on them several times (stabbed twice) I can vouch the the benefits of knowing how to control the distance and the weapon against a knife wielder. An old instructor of mine used to tell us that in a knife fight everybody gets cut. Again this section illustrates the practical use of this treatise.
If you have any interest in historical swordplay or European martial arts this book really is a must have. It looks good and all the descriptions are concise and usable. I know I’ll be reading this book again and thinking about it even longer. Damn I’m going to have to try that HEMA class after all.