What appears below is a transcription of Giacomo di Grassi's Case of Rapiers from the 1595 edition of "His True Art of Defence". I have not included the image from the source, but the spelling and punctuation is as close to the original as could possibly be transcribed. The "long s" has been replaced by "f" as was done for the most part of the original document. Enjoy.
P.S. A .docx or .pdf version of this document is available on request.
Of the Cafe of Rapyers
There are alfo vfed now adaies, afwell in fcholles, as in the lifts, two Swordes or Rapiers, admitted, and approued both of Princes and of the profeffors of this art, for honourable and knightlie weapons, albeit they be not vfed in the warres. Wherefore I fhall not varie from my purpofe, if I reafon alfo of thefe, as faire as is agreeable to to true art. To him that would handle thefe weapons, it is neceffary that he can afwell manage the left hand as the right, which thing fhalbe (if not neceffarie) yet moft profitable in euery other kind of weapon. But in thefe principally he is to refolue himfelfe, that he can do no good, without that kind of nimblenes and dexteritie. For feeing they are two weapons, & yet of one felffame kind, they ought equally and indifferently to be handled, the one performing that which the other doth, & euery of thẽ being apt afwel to strik as defend. And therefore a man ought to accuftome his bodie, armes and handes afwell to ftrike as defend. And he which is not much practifed and exercifede therein, ought not to make profefsion of this Arte: for he fhal finde himfelfe to be vtterly deceiued.
It is moft manifeft that both thefe weapons may ftrike in one and the fame time: for there may be deliuered ioyntly togither two downright edge-blowes on high and two beneath: two reuerfes, and two thruftes, and are fo rich and plentifull in ftriking, that it feemeth they may be vfed onely to ftrike. But this ought not to be practifed, neither may it without great daunger. For all that, whatfoeuer may be done with either of hem, is deuided into ftriking and defendinge. That this is true, it may be perceiued in the fingle Sworde, which affaieth both to ftrike and defend. And thofe who haue taken no fuch heede, but haue beene bent onely to ftrike being moued either through coller, either beleeuing, that they had to deale with an ignorant perfon, haue remained therby mightily wounded. Of this, there might be laid downe infinite examples, which I leaue to the entent I may not fwarue from my purpofe. I faie therefore that of the two Rapiers which are handled, the one muft be applyed towardes the other to ftrike, regarding alwaies to vfe that firft which wardeth, then that which ftriketh: for firft a man muft endeuour to defend himfelfe, and then to ftrike others.
Prefuppofing alwaies, that either hand is very well excercifed, afwell in ftriking as in defending, this high ward fhalbe framed after two waies, which yet in manner is all one. The one with the right foot, the other with the left foot, fo working continually, that the hinder arme be aloft, the former beneath in maner, as when the lowe warde is framed at the fingle fword. And as a man ftriketh, he muft alwaies maintaine & continue this high warde, which at the two rapiers, is moft perfect & fureft and he may eafily performe & do it: for whileft he entereth to giue a high thruft with his hinder foote, although that foot be behind yet it muft accompanie the arme vntil it hath finifhed his thruft, & fettled it felf in the low ward. The other fword & hand (which was borne togither with the former foote in the lowe ward) remaining behind by reafon of the encreafe of the high thruft, muft prefently be lifted vp, & be placed in the fame high ward.”
Therefore it is to be noted, that whofoeuer meaneth to fhift from this ward & ftrike, whether it be with his right or left foot, before or behinde, it is requifite that he ftand without, & when he would ftrike, he fhal firft proue with his low fworde, whether he can finde the enimies weapons, & hauing fuddenly found them, he fhal nimbly beate them back, and (in a maner) in the fame inftant force on a high thruft, with the increafe of a pace of the right foot: from the which, if the enimie (for fauing of himfelfe) fhal haftily and directly giue backwards, he fhal follow him, deliuering prefently the other high thruft behind, alreadie lifted vp. And this thruft wil fafely hit home & fpeede, becaufe it is not pofsible that one may go faft backwards, as an other may forwards.
Farther, afwel in this ward, as in others, the warde may be framed with the right foote before, & the right arme lifted, & fo cõtrariwife. But becaufe there is fmal force in this ward both in the feete & handes, which ftand not comodioufly either to ftrike or defend, and feeing there is required in the handling of thofe weapons, great ftrength and ftedfaftnes I haue thought good, not to laie it downe, as to fmall purpofe.
The direct oppofition & defence of the high warde is the lowe ward, the manner whereof fhal be feen in his proper place. That which principally is to be confidered (for the lowe warde alfo, in like fort as the other may be framed after two fortes) is this, that of neceffitie a man ftand with the fame foote before as the enimie doth, to wit: if he beare the right foot before, to put foorth the right foote alfo, and to endeuour as the enimie doth, to ftand without, for of both wayes this is of the more aduantage and fafetie. Finding himfelfe therefore without, in the lowe ward, he muft not refufe, but rather fuffer his fword to be found and beaten by the enimie: for this doth redowne much more to his own aduantage then to his enimies becaufe the enimie carrieth fmall force in his low hande wherewith he endeuoureth to finde and beart off the fword, confidering it is born to farre off frõ the other: for that which is flẽderly vnited, is leffe forcible: whereas ftanding at the low ward, he bereth both his hands low neere togither and fufficiently ftrong. Therfore as foone as the enimie hauing beaten back the fword, shal refolue himfelf to giue a thruft, he muft encreafe a flope pace, & with his hinder low fword, driue the enimies high thruft outwardes towarde the right fide, if it chaunce that he were in the low warde with his right foot before, And fuddenly with the other low fword behind (which was fuffered to be beatẽ off by the enimie, becaufe it might turne the more to his difaduantage: for feeing the enimies fword being flenderly vnited, as I haue saide before, carried but fmall force, it was the rather beaten off and difappointed: So that as foone as the flope pace is encreafed, and the faide high thruft warded, before the enimie place his other fworde alfo in the high warde, hee may with the ftraight pace of the right foot deliuer a low thruft continuing ftill to beate downe the enimies fworde with his owne lowe fworde, that is borne before: And this manner of warding is moft fafe and fure: for befides that it ftriketh the enimy with the flope pace, it doth likewife in fuch fort deliuer the bodie from hurte, that of force the enimie is difapointed. Neither is there any other fure waie to warde this high thruft, being fo ftrong, and befides, hauing fo great encreafe of pace.
This manner of defence is moft ftrong and fure, & is done with that fworde which is fartheft off. Yet there is another waie, & that is, with the low fworde before, the which is no leffe ftronger and fure than the other, but yet much fhorter. For looke in what time the other defendeth, this ftriketh.
Therefore in the low ward is to be noted, (when the enimie moueth, pretending to beate off the fword and there withall to enter,) that then the poynt of the fword before be lifted vpp, keeping the hand fo ftedfaft, that it oppofe it felfe and keepe outwards the enimies high thruft, and hauing made this barre, to keepe out his weapons, then & in the felffame time, he fhall encreafe a ftraight pace, & with the low fword behind fhal ftrike the enimie in the breft, to whome it is impofsible to do any effectual thing, or to auoid the faid ftroke, for that (by meanes of the point of the fworde lifted vp in maner aforefaid) both his fwordes are fo hindred, that they may not fafely ftrike, either with the edge or point.
This broad ward, may in the felfe fame maner be framed in two waies, and it may deliuer the felf fame blows, in the one as in the other: This ward is framed with one foote before, and one foote behind, the arme (which is borne on the fide of the hinder foote) being ftretched wide & broad outwards. Therfore when one ftandeth at this ward, and would as ftrayght and as fafe a thruft as is poffible, he fhal firft proue with his low Rapyer, whether he can find the enimies Rapier, which being found, he fhal turne his fift outwards, and force the enimies Rapier fomuch, that it may do no hurt, and then withall increafing prefentlie a flope pace, fhall go forewards to ftrike the enimie in the thigh, with the wide thruft. He might afwell alfo thruft him in the flanke, or in the head, but yet the other thruft is vfed, becaufe the Rapier, which is directed to the thigh, is in place to hinder the enimies other Rapier to light on the legges.
And as in the high ward, fo likewife in this, he muft alwaies ftand without, and hauing deliuered the wide thruft, he ought prefentlie to widen the other arme, and fettle himfelfe in the broad ward.
For the defence of the thruft of the broad ward, it is neceffarie that a man ftand at the lowe ward, and there withall diligently obferue, the mocions of the enimies bodie, how it compaffeth and paffeth to and froe, by knowledge and due confiderations whereof, he may eafilie defende himfelfe. Yt therefore the right arme be ftretched out wide, the right foote alfo (being behind) fhall be in like maner widened, the which, when it increafeth forwards, fhall alfo carrie with it the right fhoulder, voyding alwayes with the left fide.
And the felfe fame muft be confidered, & practifed, when he ftandeth at this ward, the contrarie way. That therefore which he muft doe, for the defence of him felfe, fhalbe to voide that part of his bodie, which may be hurt by the enimies wide and broad thruft, and to oppofe himfelfe againft that part of his enimie, which commeth forwards pretending to ftrike: And this he fhall doe, at what time the enimie (finding the fword) would come forwards in his thruft. And in the felfe fame time, (affuring himfelf with his own low fword) fhall increafe a flope pace, thereby inuefting and incountring that part of the enimie, which came ftriking, and with the which he framed the broad ward. Neither can it be fafe ftriking at any other place, for either, he fhall find nothing to incounter, by meanes of the mocion of the bodie, or els if he do not oppofe himfelfe againft that fhoulder of the enimie which carrieth the hurt, he is in hazard to be ftroken by the enimies broad thruft.
The low ward fhall be framed after two waies, the one with the right foote before, the other with the left, and each of them may ftrike, either within, either without. The way which ftriketh within, hath one blow, the way which ftriketh without hath two, and in all, they are fixe. I will lay downe but three, becaufe they differ not from the other three, but onelie in the hand and foote, which muft be placed before, fo that they are the felfe fame, for I haue alreadie prefuppofed, that he who taketh vpon him to handle thefe weapons, can afwell vfe the one hand, as he can the other. He may therefore finde himfelfe to ftand with his right foote before and within, (I vnderftand by within, when he beareth one of his fwordes betwene both his enimies fwordes, and likewife when the enimie carieth one of his, betwene the other two. Yt is likewife true, that this alfo may be faid within, to witt, when both weapons are borne in the middle betweene the other two. But I fuppofe no man fo foolifh, who handling thefe weapons, will fuffer both his fwordes to be without, being a verie vnfure ward whereof I leaue to fpeake.
That therefore, which he is to do, (finding himfelfe with both his rapiers below, & within, with his right foote before, after the faid firft way of being within) fhalbe, that marking when he may clofe in the enimies Rapier, betwene the which the enimies rapier fhall be fo fhut in and barred, that it may do no hurt, and one of the two Rapiers, that is to fay, the right Rapier fhall paffe under the enimies rapier, and thruft fafelie. And his other Rapier albeit, it may thruft directly, yet (for the better fauing of himfelfe, from the enimies other Rapier that is at libertie) he fhall beare it fomewhat abafing his hand, with the point vpwardes, the which point fhall fauegarde him, from the enimies faid Rapier, although this laft note, be fuperfluous. For feeing the enimie muft ward himfelfe from the thruft that hurteth him, he hath no leafure, nor happilie mindeth to ftrike, but onely to defend himfelfe, either by voyding his bodie, or els by fome other fhift, which he fhall then find out.
The waie of warding without, may ftrike directlie after two waies: The firft, by beating off the enimies Rapier, with his owne that is before, and by deliuering a thruft, either at the breft or head, with the Rapier that is behinde, increafing therwithall a flope pace, and fetling himfelfe in the low ward, with his left foote before.
The fecond is, by taking opportunitie, which he may do, if he be nimble. And he ought with the increafe of a flope pace, to driue the point of his former Rapyer directlie towards the enimie, and aboue the enimies Rapier. And his other owne rapier, which before the increafe was behind, he muft force on, under the enimies rapier. And thus, not giuing over, thefe two thruftes muft be ftronglie and nimblie driuen towards the enimie, by meanes whereof being ouertaken, the enimie hath no other remedie to fafe himfelfe, then to retire backe: for he may not come forwardes, but he muft runne himfelfe vpon the weapons, and that he will not doe. So then, the enimie retiring himfelfe may be followed, as farre as the increafe of the right foote will beare, then, fetling in the low ward.
Al three thrufts of the low ward, by ftanding at the fame ward, may eafilie be warded, and that after one maner. If a man remember firft to void his bodie from hurt, by the increafe of a pace, that is verie flope, or crooked, either before the enimie commeth thrufting, either as foone as he moueth himfelfe for the fame purpofe, or if he be actiue and nimble to trauerfe, and in defending himfelfe to ftrike the enimie.
Therfore when any of the fame three thrufts come, and before he perceiueth his Rapier to be clofed, and barred in, he fhall moue a flope pace, to th’entent to auoid himselfe from hurt, and with his Rapier, which is at libertie, he fhall go forwards and deliuer a thruft at the enimies face, which thruft, doth furelie fpeede, if he be refolute to enter.