di Grasse
His True Art of Defense

Americanized, abridged and interpreted by Rick Orli

The First Part - The Basics 1

The Second Part - Attack and Defense
Tactics and Opening Moves from each Ward of the Several Weapons 13

VIII. Single Rapier 13

The Third Part
Deceits and Falseing of Blows and Thrusts 33

The Forth Part
How a Man by Private Practice may Obtain
Strength of Body Thereby 39

Index 40

The Third Part

Deceits and Falseing of Blows and Thrusts

he true art does not contain deceits, except perhaps indirectly to conceal one's true movement and intention. The essence is to strike in as little time as possible, and then always being well warded. Deceits, falsings, and slips increase the danger, because time is used to create the false move, time that can be exploited by an astute enemy. Of particular danger is a deceit that will confuse your opponent into thinking that you are not attacking when in fact you are; this embolds him to counter attack, increasing the chance of a double kill.(5)

It is true that deceits can be used against a weaker opponent to effectively cause him to uncover part of his body that can then be struck. However, it is necessary in a fight to the death to assume that your enemy is as strong or stronger than you. Using a deceit presupposes contempt for your enemy - and overconfidence is a path to sure death.

However, it is also necessary to know of the advantages and disadvantages of deceits, so that one can see through them more clearly. Also deceits and false blows are part of the game of skirmishing for exercise and pastime.

Deceits are of two sorts:

False attack - drawing a parry or dodge, followed by striking at the newly open area by either disengaging the first weapon or by striking with a weapon in the other hand.

Misdirection - as a card trickster will make a grand gesture with his right hand to draw the eye while subtlety exchanging cards with the left, so it is possible to distract in one direction while striking in the other.

Any false attack presupposes a predictable reaction from the opponent. Through careful observation, you will be better able to judge how your opponent will react.

My general advice regarding falses is, if you start with the intention to false, if your opponent does not ward you must be ready to make your false true, and hit home instantly.

Observable Tendencies include:

- fast/early reactions, sensitive to every small movement on your part, or

- broad reactions, or

- habitual actions, such as always retreating one step, or

- falling into rhythm, or

- cocking back their blade in preparation for a beat.

Single Sword

With the Single Sword falses are almost infinite - thrust, cut, high low, within , without. False high, strike low; false within, strike without: any combination is possible. The blow is different from the false only by intent. It is a common error to strive to encounter the weapon, and focus on that objective without regard to time or advantage. This tendency can be taken advantage of.


I do not see how to practice a deceit with the dagger which is not openly dangerous. One approach is to widen the position of the dagger as a "discovery" or probe, provoking your opponent to move. In my opinion, these sorts of falses ought not to be used. A wise practice of the true art is to first safely defend yourself; second, attack the enemy. These false moves do neither against a skillful opponent.

One strategy to be used in only the most desperate cases is to either feign throwing the dagger against your opponent's face or to do so indeed. Your opponent may ward by lifting up his arms or retiring, in which event one may step in nimbly, and safely hurt him.

To seize the enemy's sword, do not first cast away your dagger, as I have seen it often practiced. Do it dagger in hand, whether against an edge blow or thrust. At the instant of a parry with your sword, place the dagger close to the opponents point and force outward. This can easily disarm your opponent (or get yourself killed).


To deceive your opponent with the cloak, it is necessary to know the many ways it may serve, how to skillfully fold it about the arm, and how to take advantage of its size. It is necessary to know how to defend, attack and hinder the opponent. It is important to understand as well that not all techniques rely on wrapping the cloak about the arm.

The cloak is usually used about the arm, but is also useful when worn normally. When challenged and fight is inescapable, but you are not armed, take both sides of the cloak as near to the collar as possible, draw it over your head, and throw it at your enemy's face. Entangled and blinded, he may be thrown down, or disarmed. You can take advantage of a cloak which your enemy wears by taking hold of the cloak near the collar (best with one hand), and turning it into a noose ("ginne") which can be violently hauled. A punch to the face is a good follow through.

Besides using the cloak to ward blows, use it to molest your opponent by falsing to fling the cloak, and then to fling it indeed. Actually, flinging the cloak is part of the true art, since it is done by strength and directness. The only reason I treat of it here is that it is not seen as the way to conquer manfully, since one ends by striking a blinded opponent.

It is easier to throw a cloak when joining the throw with a lunge. By making the throw easy, it is more likely to be thrown widened and loose, the better to entangle and ensnare your opponent.

To fling the cloak with the sword it is possible to use the point or edge. Try the point at the low ward with the right foot behind and cloak before (cloak doubled on the arm, not wrapped), then thrust the cloak with the point toward your opponent's face while lunging left. This move is so forcible and covertly delivered that it can blind your opponent long enough to be stuck at your pleasure.

The cloak may be flung with the edge. When at the low ward, point back and to the left. False a reverse to the left, and fling the cloak toward the face with the edge following with a strike.

Many other deceits with the cloak are possible, but these few will do for an example.

Bucklers and Targets

The buckler, square target, and round target are sufficiently similar that they are well discussed together. All three should be born in the fist, the arm stretched out forwards. This is true even of the target, which though too heavy and large to be carried in the fist only, even with the rear strap in place it is carried much as a buckler would be. All three are used for the same sorts of falses - largely defensive. However, one difference is that the round target is excellent at warding both cuts and thrusts, the square target excels at warding cuts, and the buckler, though excellent against thrusts, is unsure against cuts (which may glance off, or flip over the buckler), and requires the aid of the sword.

Falses and deceits possible are infinite. Start with all those possible with the sword blow, and add carrying the shield wide from the body and uncovered, as an invitation. This is safest with the square target.

When attacking, do not false only against an area that can be safely covered by the shield. For, the enemy's sword is still free to do you harm. Instead, false in such a way that your opponent is obliged to defend at least partially with his sword (such as a high reverse, or to the knee).

Respond to a high false by pressing in with the shield and thrusting below. Respond to a low false by warding with the back edge of your sword, followed by your own immediate cut to their knee without any other movement on your part.

Generally, all attacks should be warded by both the shield and sword moving together, with the sword pointing toward the opponent at all times. An immediate riposte has an advantage, because you are within your measure and within the perimeter of the opponent's weapons, and a very quick riposte to the face or legs can beat the defense. I call this both defending and striking together in the shortest and most direct way.

If your opponent uncovers a part of his body to invite a strike, you must judge carefully. If your sword is closer to his body than his weapon, and your shield is close on hand to defend against his sword, the opportunity may be real and you should drive your strike home first as resolutely and nimbly as possible. But, if you truly strike where there is no possibility of a hit, you will lose much time and place yourself in grave danger. In that case, a false may be a suitable move.

Two Swords or Rapiers

Again the range of falses is limited only by the imagination. Each weapon can either attack or defend, or both can attack or defend at the same instance. One weapon can false and the other attack, or the same weapon can first false then thrust true. I won't try to list all possibilities. One thing that always hold true is that the fore sword is the first choice for defense against both falses and resolute blows.

Be cautious about lessons learned only in sport or play. It is too easy, for example, to fall into a pattern of using one weapon only for defense, and the other for attack. Or worse, to expect that your enemy will behave in this or other predictable manner.

A rule worth adhering to is keeping at least one weapon pointed right at the enemy at all times. This is more likely to encourage him to try a false so that you will create an opening. You can then take advantage of the opening your enemy makes and time he loses by falsing. To use this opportunity you must have deep judgement: knowing the intent of the false and the part of the enemy likely to be exposed, and striking through the opening in the shortest and safest way.

A very strong and direct way of striking is to false with the fore sword not once or twice, but several times in several ways - now high, now low, sometime thrust, sometime cut - to blind and occupy both of your opponent's swords. When opportunity presents, strike home with the hind weapon on the pass.

The hind sword is of little use for false attacks, because it is too distant to force a reaction. The best that can be done is to drive forward resolutely with the hind sword on the pass, and as the enemy moves to defend, hit with the same sword an area uncovered by the attempt to ward your first attack (with a disengage or coupe). The same sword must be used, because the sword that was in the fore will now be in the rear, and would be to slow to hit since it would need to be accompanied by another pass or lunge.

My rule for safe falsing is to use one of the following:

- false with the fore sword and hit with the same on the lunge or pass

- false with the fore sword and hit with the hind on the pass

- false with the hind sword and hit with the same on the pass.

In sport or play you can take up any posture you please. But it is more gallant to behold and more commodious to take the same stance as your opponent. This symmetry makes a false that will busy both of your swords less likely. I recommend standing every way as the enemy does and ward his false blows with the fore sword, on contact pass on the slope and with the hind sword thrust at an opening, for example cut at the legs. Best of all, reverse cut across the face or arms, which takes advantage of the fact that the opponent's fore sword is occupied (either bound in your ward or recovering), and the hind sword is poorly positioned to cover an attack from the reverse angle.

Reacting to the position of your opponent to the extent of copying his moves seems like bad advice, so I do not take di Grasse literally in the broad sense. I believe his narrow point here is valid, speaking purely of defensive position and attitude. However, an effective, winning attitude maintains the initiative with an attacking spirit to control timing, position, and ultimately the opponent..

Therefore, let every man resolve himself (as soon as he encounters the enemy's sword with his own fore sword) to step in and strike with his hind sword. Do not stand in fear of the opponent's hind sword as you do this, for it is always either just away from endangering you because of your opponent's position, or it will have to be committed to defense from your attack.

The Two-Handed Sword

Most wards in which the point is to the side or back do not facilitate a false, and the only one worth using is the false of an edgeblow. However, after the false edgeblow, one must continue with a true edgeblow in a circle, because the momentum of the swing will make finishing with the thrust too difficult. Therefore, frame the false as a thrust, and then follow through with an edgeblow or thrust elsewhere.

If you have a guard with the point more forward, such as with your arms crossed and the point sloping to the lower left, the only way to false with the edge is to false with the back edge, then follow through a full circle and hit on the full lunge. If you intend to finish with the reverse, you must finish with a left lunge, if from the right or straight, a right lunge.

Striking home with the edgeblow is effective with the two-handed sword because of its force and power. However, it is also dangerous because it is slower than the direct thrust of your adversary. Therefore, drive on with a thrust, not as if to false but resolutely and far forward. As the enemy retires, follow on with an edgeblow and with a lunge, which can be delivered with more safety.

If you thrust and the enemy takes a slope step sway, as soon as you realize that the thrust was in vain, bring the point back up and take the high ward.

The defense against the two hand sword requires a stout heart, because the great blows cannot be warded but must be defeated through use of timing - judging the best moment of opportunity.

When your opponent tries to attack with an edgeblow, try to not encounter it, rather back away as you anticipate the blow, and follow up with a lunge and thrust as he tries to recover.

If you have a single sword or sword and dagger, respond to a thrust by beating it off and retreating. Respond to a cut by attacking into the preparation with a fast lunge and thrust; or bear the blow near the hilt (where the force of the blow is small), grab the hilt with one hand, and strike with the other hand.

Staff Weapons - Partisan, Bill, Javelin, Halberd

Deceits or falses are easier to see through when done with these long, two handed weapons. Therefore, I recommend the false of the thrust except in special circumstances

Four wards are possible, three with the point up and forward, one with the point back:

Point low, hind (right) arm lifted up.

Point high, hind arm borne low.

Point and shaft level.

Point up on high, with the heel forward.

The ones with the point forward require a false thrust, followed by one indeed. Without, and delivery within; high, and delivery below; the usual combinations are possible. I recommend that the rear foot should move circularly away from the line of the true attack, so that you will be in a more protected position as you thrust home.

The point up on high ward is much used, especially with the bill. The use of this ward is to anticipate the enemy's attack, ward with the heel or middle of the shaft, and finish by lunging and delivering an edgeblow. To false: after the ward with the heel of the weapon, start the lunge and cut, then finish by withdrawing the weapon and giving a thrust underneath with a lunge.


The pike is a weapon void of any crooked forks, and is much more apt to show valor than deceit. The only false possible is to thrust falsely at one mark followed by a resolute thrust at another. Be sure to carry your hind foot (in a half circle sweep) toward the side against which you thrust resolutely.

Defense against staff weapons

To defend against deceits by staff weapons, practice the true art. Ward false attacks as if they were true, and attack into a preparatory move without hesitation. Do not try to take hold of the attacking weapon, for you will likely have only one hand on it while your opponent has two.

My final advice: if you start with the intention to false, if your opponent does not ward you must be ready to make your false true, and hit home instantly.

The Ende of the False Arts.

The Forth Part

How a Man by Private Practice may Obtain

Strength of Body Thereby

any believe that strength is a virtue bestowed by nature, just as sight and hearing is. If that were so, exercise would be a ridiculous waste of time. But that is not so, exercise does build strength, and the coordination necessary to be a good fencer as well. So, do it.(6)

Even a strong and lusty man without the proper type of exercise cannot deliver blows with the power and speed of one who is properly exercised. Many times a strong man will quickly tire so that he can no longer maintain hold of a sword, and give up on the practice of arms thinking that he is not suitable for the Art. This is not so, for exercise builds endurance as well.

One of the best ways to get the right sort of exercise is to practice fencing with or without a partner. Without a partner, simply go through the full range of thrust and edgeblows, with the full range of possible foot work - lunges and passes, slips and circles. Do not neglect wards and ripostes. Also practice starting and stopping an attack, and suddenly attacking again.


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bind 14

beat 4, 7, 9, 14

bill 28, 37


beat 7, 21

cuts 2

Deceits 33

down-right 27

edge blow 9

edgeblow 9

entangling 29

false 29, 33

falsings 33

imbrocatta 6

Misdirection 33

mustachio 20

pivoting 29

reverse 6, 27, 35, 36

reverse thrust 13, 17

riposte 11, 15

time thrust. 11

stocatta 8

stop thrust 13

thrust 2, 9

buckler 18, 19, 35

case of Rapiers 25

case of Swords 25

circular-pace 5, 13

cloak 16, 34

counter attack 15, 17, 20, 22, 33

crooked step 5

cross 14

dagger 14, 34

deceits 33

down-right 27

edgeblow 9

engage the blade 20

exercise 39

falsings 33, 35, 36

fleche 5

footwork 4, 17, 19

circular-pace 5

half-pace 4

lunge 5, 9

pass 5, 36, 39

pass-lunge 5

quart. 13

slip 5

slope-pace 5, 15

stealing a half-pace 13, 19, 20

thwart 5

transverse 13

traverse 5, 13

void 11, 17

volte 13

Whole-pace 5

ginne 34

halberd 28, 37

half-pace 4, 17

heel 28, 29

heel (of staff weapon) 28

hilt 14

hook 28

increase the pace 5

javelin 37

judgement 1


arc 1

right 1

straight line 1

lunge 4, 5, 9

measure 9, 11

mustachio 20

parry 11

partisan 28, 37

pass 5

pass-lunge 5

pike 30

pommel 27

rapier 2

reverse 6, 27

reverse thrust 13, 17

reverse thrust 13

riposte 11, 15, 35, 39

round target 23, 35

Saviolio, V. 4, 2, 7, 9, 14

shaft 28

Silver, G. 14

slide 14, 15, 17, 28, 29, 31, 33, 37

slip 5

slope-pace 5

square Target 21

staff 30, 38

steal a half-pace 17

stop thrust 13, 15

straight line 1

strength 39

target 21, 23, 24, 35

thrust 9

thrust underhand 13

trust above hand 13

thwart 5

time 1

time of advantage 2

time thrust. 11

timing 29

transverse 13

traverse 5

two-handed sword 27, 37

void 11, 17

volte 13

ward 7

base 7

break 11

broad 7

cross 14

high 7

lock 7

low 7

parry 11

ward 11

wide 7

whole-pace 5

within 20

References and Recommended Reading

Digrasse, Giacomo His Art of Defence, translated by IG, 1594

Silver, George

Available on the internet, transcribed by Steve Hicks


Three Eliz.

1. Keep the point in line, and within easy striking range of the opponent

2. To save time, use few motions as directly as possible.

3. Time of Advantage is a moment of opportunity during which a strike may be safely delivered.

4. The Rapier is long and lightweight , designed primarily to thrust. In 1550, it was a light and long broadsword variation that kept getting lighter year by year. By 1650 new rapiers had become so light that blades often broke, leading soon to blades forged with a triangular cross-section.

5. Di Grasse's text is uncharacteristically rambling in this section, and has been

substantially reorganized. - ed.

6. Some of the material of this section that explained proper form and body dynamics

of the lunge and pass has been moved to the footwork and offense section.

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