La Destreza
September 3, 2003 7:07 PM   Subscribe

"The Spanish School of Swordsmanship, 'La Destreza,' is the most misunderstood subject in the history of fencing. It has been misrepresented by fencing scholars for the past one hundred years as an ineffectual and artificial system of swordsmanship full of absurdities. The intent of this article and others to follow is to present a clearer and more accurate picture of what 'La Destreza' is." 'La Destreza' was created by Jerónimo de Carranza in the 16th century. The system was featured in an episode of Highlander, and there are instructional videos.
posted by homunculus (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.
You killed my father.
Prepare to die.
posted by jeremias at 7:17 PM on September 3, 2003

[this is good]

Famous Duels from the second link is fun -- I like female duellist Catalina de Eruaso on manners at the poker table.

Catalina settles a card table dispute
"I sat down to play with the merchant, and the game was going along smoothly until one particular hand, the merchant, who was already smarting from his losses, said, "I raise you."
I said, "How much do you raise?" and he said again, "I raise you."
Again I asked, "How much?"
He slammed down a doubloon and said, "I raise you a cuckold's horn!"
"Fine," I said, "I'll see you that horn and raise you the one that's still on your head!"

Bloodshed ensues. This kind of thing never happens playing 7-card high/low at my friend Mike's house.
posted by BT at 7:28 PM on September 3, 2003

Exactly what I thought, jeremias.
"You're using Bonetti's defence against me."

"I think it's fitting considering the rocky terrain."

"Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro."

"Naturally, but I find Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, dont you?"

"Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa -- which I have!"
Inigo would love this link. And so do I, if only because I never realized they'd used the names of real fencing treatises in that dialogue (see here).
posted by Zonker at 7:34 PM on September 3, 2003

I didn't even think of Inigo when I was composing this. I can't believe I didn't think of that! Thanks for pointing it out, that makes this even more enjoyable.

Here's more on the symbolism of the "Mysterious Circle."
posted by homunculus at 7:53 PM on September 3, 2003

Highlander? Television Series? Theres way too much catering to dorks around here.
posted by Satapher at 7:56 PM on September 3, 2003

ARMA (previously linked here) has a 1681 text on their site called Comprehension of Destreza.

They also have video clips of training and practice and cutting tests with various swords (brought to you by the Society for Hitting Things with Sharp Metal Things.)
posted by homunculus at 8:07 PM on September 3, 2003

Thanks, that's important to know.
posted by HTuttle at 8:26 PM on September 3, 2003

posted by vacapinta at 8:44 PM on September 3, 2003

The idea of moving in a notional 3d matrix is not unique to this school, or fencing. I play capoeira, and I've had an advanced student explain to me how he visualises moving 3x3 cubes around himself and his opponent, using this to guide his choice of moves. I've also heard martial artists from other disciplines advance similar ideas.

It strikes me that only someone who doesn't actually practise fencing (or another art) themselves would misunderstand the Destreza treatises this way.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:57 PM on September 3, 2003

What little I know about fencing and swordsmanship has been learnt from Guy Windsor an englishman who teaches in Finland. He gave a really good demonstration in a con once where he showed various movie fencing clips and then showed what was wrong and what was right in that clip.
He definitely had not misunderstood La Destreza as ineffectual and he gave a small demonstration of the techniques involved as well. What I gathered from his speaking is that the ones getting mistaked about this stuff are usually the historians, not the fencers themselves.
posted by lazy-ville at 1:09 AM on September 4, 2003

Yeah, except it was released by an organization with this man as a member:

Let's just say having your back arm up grants you zero advantage on the strip. It's about looking """"cool"""" if you will, and not about pointing the pointy bit (or the edge, if you're a sabrist (and you should be)) into your opponent. I'm leery of there being [i]any[/i] practical value in a written work for anyone besides people who are already very good. If you're good, you may have a sort of style you generally work in, and you run across an idea, and you remove an inefficiency from the way you do things. Or the way he describes distance may lead you to an insight and you'll realize why you've lost touches or something.

For all the novice to average to intermediate fencers though, it's a lot of random, mostly outdated stuff to think about. And as it happens, there's no time for thought during an actual touch. A couple seconds after the halt, time before, and time after. When someone's about to hit you in the head though, you can't pull out a big catalogue of Stuff You Could Do, ask your opponent to hold that thought, and come up with a leisurely decision.

I dunno. The first site seems to be just another group of SCA people who'd get slaughtered on the tournament strip, but like to be able to sound like the afore-quoted bit of dialogue from Princess Bride.

Fencing and fighting aren't about rival schools and the arcane knowledge they teach. There are a few very simple concepts, and the process of teaching your body to implement those concepts efficiently.
posted by kavasa at 4:36 AM on September 4, 2003

The system was featured in an episode of Highlander

Good post. Is this the first in a series? Tomorrow do we get to hear the history of the Stone of Scone?
posted by Galvatron at 3:30 PM on September 4, 2003

Is this the first in a series?

No, there can be only one.
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on September 4, 2003 [1 favorite]

kavasa: You are right in saying that historical fencing and sport fencing are two completely different concepts. These people are not training for competition and as you say would probably get slaughtered. Still, these old techniques will probably teach you the same basic principles. It's not about rival schools and techniques and that quote from princess bride is complete nonsense (at least that is what I was told by a historical fencing teacher).
posted by lazy-ville at 12:44 AM on September 5, 2003

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