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Lee Pupo

Location: Pennsylvania
Joined: 30 Mar 2014

Posts: 26

PostPosted: Fri 20 Mar, 2015 9:40 pm    Post subject: George Silver on the Target         Reply with quote

In extrapolating Silver's principles to medieval sword and shield, I came upon his comments on the sword and target vs the sword and buckler. He seems to think that the target disallows the usage of True Guardant (a high hanging guard covering the inside line) due to the target's "bredth" and that the "bredth" also makes it so useless in Open Fight (sword above the head, point up or back, ready to be brought down to deliver a blow) that one might as well be using the sword alone for all the good the target will do (none at all, apparently). I do not understand as to why a shield's breadth would disallow one holding his sword above his head or to use a high hanging guard. Silver's comment on the target with Open Fight makes very little sense to me. I have looked up pictures of English targeteers and various pictures of targets from the period, and they all look quite usable with True Guardant and Open Fight. If full blows that pass through cannot be thrown with a target in the way, why not pitches? Do other sources have more details on using the target (if we can establish as to just what shape and/or size Silver is referring to)?

From Wiktenauer:

THe Sword & Target together hath but two fights; that is, the variable fight, & the cloſe fight, for the cloſe fight, the nūber of his feet are too many to take againſt any mā of skill hauing the Sword & buckler, & for the variable fight although not ſo many in number, yet too many to win the place with his foot to ſtrike or thruſt home. The ſword & buckler-man can out of his variable, opē & gardāt fight, come brauely off & on, ſalle and double, ſtrike & thruſt home , & make a true croſſe vpon euery occaſion at his pleaſure: if the Sword & Target mā will flie to his gardāt fight, the bredth of his Target will not ſuffer it , if to his open fight, thē hath the Sword & Buckler man in effect the ſword and Buckler to the ſingle , for in that fight by reaſon of the bredth, the target can do litle good or none at all.
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Jon Pellett

Location: Kamloops, BC, Canada
Joined: 01 May 2007

Posts: 14

PostPosted: Mon 23 Mar, 2015 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For other sources on the target, there is Page on broadsword and target, and the Italian sources on sword and rotella (DiGrassi, Marozzo, Manciolino, etc). I think Silver is just talking about an ordinary target of the period, nothing special.

Your question is interesting, though I can really only speculate as to the answer. Certainly you can stand in Open or Guardant Fight just fine, and perform many actions from them. So we have to look at the context of the actions. This is actually a good clue to proper interpretation: if you can easily carry out these fights while covering yourself with a target, then you are probably *not* doing what Silver intended!

What are you actually supposed to do from Open Fight? To me it seems that counter-cutting from a distance is its primary role. If you are holding your shield extended in front of you, then your left side is turned forward and your reach with the sword is significantly reduced, besides the shield getting in the way of some cutting angles. If on the other hand you turn your right side forward to maximize your reach and freedom of striking, then your shield can only cover a small part of your body and therefore does "little good or none at all".

From Guardant Fight, on the other hand, you move forward to attack under the cover of your ward, ready to parry attacks from any angle. If your sword is hanging down on the inside (right side) of your extended shield, then you can easily thrust, or parry point down to your right, but if you want to cut around from the left, or parry across from the left (as in Brief Instructions 5.1), your shield gets in the way. It's not so bad if your sword is hanging to the outside of your shield, but if you want to "fly to your guardant ward" - recover to it quickly - it takes a larger rotation of your sword to get it to the outside of the shield than to the inside.

With a buckler it only takes a small movement of the left hand to let the sword swing around at any angle (I.33 guys do this very well), so you can use all four fights.

Mind you, it's been a very very long time since I worked with any of this, so I could be completely off my rocker.
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Lafayette C Curtis

Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,673

PostPosted: Wed 01 Apr, 2015 7:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congratulations -- you're starting to run into Silver's limitations already. He was really popular back when I was just starting to do HEMA due to his manly trash-talk and the fact that he laid out his instructions in accessible English, but soon enough too many people found that his works can sometimes be seriously lacking in depth and clear biomechanical clues.

In any case, his complaint about the target's large size could have meant that he envisaged holding the target face-on towards the opponent (as opposed to the edge-on position seen in contemporary Italian manuals). It's a particularly appropriate position for fighting in line or for protecting the Shot (firearm-equipped soldiers) in group combat, but too rigid and restrictive for one-on-one fighting. And this is in no way inconsistent with his views on these weapons since he considers the sword and buckler superior to the sword and target in single combat but he also mentioned that the sword and target or the two-handed sword were superior on the massed battlefield.
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Lee Pupo

Location: Pennsylvania
Joined: 30 Mar 2014

Posts: 26

PostPosted: Sat 04 Apr, 2015 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote


My thanks to the both of you for your contributions! In playing Dagorhir as a supplement to normal drills, I found myself taking hints from the Italians, I.33, and Roland Warzecha when assuming an Open-Fight-esque stance. In my case: right foot forward, shield edge forward and angled to provide some cover and throwing pitches and moving the shield and feet to close lines. Silver struck me as one to overblow weaknesses of most anything, so it seems reasonable (though not concrete) to me that he had a specifically militaristic method of target use in mind when he wrote Paradoxes.
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