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Arms & Armor
Arte of Defence: An Introduction to the Use of the Rapier

by William E. Wilson

$24.95 / Chivalry Bookshelf / 2002

The art and science of historical fencing, in contrast to modern or classical fencing, has recently come into vogue with the translation and publication of several texts written in the 16th and 17th centuries by Italian masters of arms. Disseminating these often complex and esoteric writings into a clear and usable format for those unaccustomed to the traditions of fencing is a Herculean task, one beautifully conquered by William E. Wilson, founder of the Tattershall School of Defense.

Lavishly illustrated with superb photographs and woodcuts from the original texts, Arte of Defence covers both basics and advanced techniques. Beginning with a brief yet comprehensive history of the rapier, Wilson follows the development of the weapon as a response to the popular, although illegal civilian duel as a method of settling disputes.

Alone or paired with a dagger, main gauche, buckler, or even a cloak, the rapier rapidly became the weapon of choice among civilians all over Europe. It was never, however, used as a military weapon. So Wilson also discusses its anachronistic use in films and novels such as The Three Musketeers, where Dumas' intrepid heroes are improperly depicted fighting with rapiers on the battlefield.

In this book, every drill and technique has corresponding illustrations that further clarify the text, which is a tremendous boon in visualizing how to execute certain maneuvers. In addition to covering many variations in fighting a bout- from single sword to sword and dagger, buckler or cloak, or even with two swords-Wilson also discusses safety precautions, types of weapons available, and what to look for when purchasing a historically accurate weapon that can stand up to the rigors of actual fencing. Finally, he gives pointers on teaching historical fencing to students of the sword.

Whether as a companion to historical fencing classes, as a historical reference, or even as a guide to help an author accurately reconstruct fencing techniques for action scenes in a novel, Arte of Defence is a valuable and accessible resource for all.

—Richard Mackenzie

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