Swetnam – Does He Lunge?

On page 82 of The English Master of Arms (generally an excellent overview) J. D. Aylward says

Although the Italian masters had been feeling their way towards the lunge, or botta lungha, for at least half a century, and Capo Ferro had developed the movement completely by 1610, Swetnam is not yet aware that the problem of reaching the enemy at a greater distance has been solved.

I was fairly certain Mr. Aylward was mistaken, so I ctrl-F’ed a transcription of Schoole of Defence for the word “lunge.” Nothing. Is Aylward correct, then? It is certainly true that Swetnam never mentions the lunge explicitly. He does, however, say this:

To observe distance, by which is meant that thou shouldest stand so far of from thine enemy, as thou canst, but reach him when thou dost step forth with thy blow or thrust, and thy foremost foote and hand must goe together, and which distance may be twelve foot with a rapier, or with a sword four foote ling, and yet thy best foote which should be the hindermost foot of a right handed ma, should bee mored fast and keepe his standing without moving an inch…

He says that the correct distance is as far from your opponent as you can stand, but still reach him when you thrust or cut while stepping forward with your foremost foot – but make sure that you keep you back foot planted, and don’t drag it!

Add to this the fact that Swetnam expects you to make this sort of attack from 12 feet away, and I think the conclusion is clear. Does it sound like a lunge to you? It sounds like a lunge to me.

Shame on you Mr. Aylward – it appears you just read the titles of Swetnam’s chapters, but never the content.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was going to point you to a discussion over on SFI awhile back where many knowledgeable people suggest that a 12 foot lunge is biomechanically impossible, but then I saw that you were part of that thread. Here it is anyway for any of your other readers:

    I was surprised to see the quote from Aylward, having read that discussion. Exactly how Swetnam had lunges, and how far they stretched: these are reasonable issues for discussion. But stating that they didn’t exist seems absurd.

    However, I’m starting to see that this is a trend among older fencing historians. Egerton Castle described Marozzo’s “Opera Nova” as a collection of tricks, with no underlying philosophy and principles. This makes it pretty clear that he’d never read the book, even in a cursory fashion.

  2. Yes. I had hoped that Aylward, writing later, would not fall to that trap. These historians go over such a huge range of works that I think it is difficult not to glance through some of the less central works just long enough to confirm your opinions.

  3. […] Swetnam’s Lunge – pt 2 Some time back, I wrote about Aylward’s incorrect assertion that Swetnam did not know of the lunge. […]

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