EVen as from our swathing bands wee carrie with us (as it were) an unbridled desire of knowledge: So afterwardes, having attained to the perfection thereof, there groweth in us a certaine laudable and fervent affection to teach others: The which, if it were not so, the world happily should not be seene so replenished with Artes and Sciences.
For if men generally were not apt to contemplation and searching out of things: Or if God had not bestowed upon every man the grace, to be able to lift up his minde from the earth, and by searching to finde out the causes thereof, and to imparte them to those who are lesse willing to take any paines therein: it would come to passe, that the one parte of men, as Lordes and Masters, should beare rule, and the othe parte as vyle slaves, wrapped in perpetuall darknesse, should suffer and lead a life unworthie the condition of man. Wherefore, in mine opinion it standes with great reason that a man participate that unto others which he hath searched and found out by his great studie & travaile. And therefore, I being even from my childhood greatly delighted in the handling of weapons: after I had spent much time in the exercise thereof, was desyrous to see and beholde the most excellent and expert masters of this Arte, whome I have generally marked, to teach after divers ways, much differing one from another, as though this misterie were destitute of order & rule, or depended onely upon imagination, or on the devise of hime who professeth the same: Or as though it were a matter impossible to find out in this honourable exercise (as well as in all other Artes and Sciences) one onely good and true way, whereby a man may attaine to the intire knowledge of as much as may be practised with the weapon, not depending altogether upon his owne head, or learning one blowe to day of one master, on the morowe of another, thereby busying himselfe about perticulars, the knowledge whereof is infinite, therefore impossible. Whereupon being forced, through a certaine honest desire which I beare to helpe others, I gave my selfe wholy to the contemplation thereof: hoping that at the length, I shoulde finde out the true principles and groundes of this Arte, and reduce the confused and infinite number of blowes into a compendious summe and certaine order: The which principles being but fewe, and therefore easie to be knowen and borne away, without doubt in small time, and little travaile, will open a most large entrance to the understanding of all that which is contained in this Arte. Neigher was I in this frustrate at all of my expectation: For in conclusion after much deliberation, I have found out this Arte, from the which onely dependeth the knowledge of all that which a man may performe with a weapon in his hand, and not onely with those weapons which are found out in these our dayes, but also with those that shall be invented in time to come: Considering this Arte is grounded upon Offence and Defence, both the which are practised in the straight and circuler lynes, for that a man may not otherwise either strike or defend.
And because I purpose to teach how to handle the Weapon, as orderly and plainly as is possible: I have first of all layd down the principles or groundes of all the Arte, calling them Advertisements, the which, being of their owne nature verie well knowen to all those that are in their perfect wittes: I have done no other then barely declared them, without rendring any further reason, as being a thing superfluous.
These principles being declared, I have next handled those things, which are, and be, of themselves, Simple, then (ascending up to those that are Compound) I shewe that which may be generally done in the handling of all Weapons. And becase, in teaching of Artes and Sciences, Things are more to be esteemed of than Wordes, therefore I would not choose in the handling hereof a copious and founding kinde of speach, but rather that which is more briefe and familiar. Which maner of speach as in a small bundle, it containeth divers weightie things, so it craveth a slowe and discreete Reader, who will soft and faire pearce into the verie Marrowe thereof.
For this cause I beseech the gentle Reader to shewe himselfe such a one in the reading of this my present worke, assuring him selfe by reading it, to reape great profite and honour thereby. And Not doubting but that he (who is sufficientlie furnished with this knowledge, and hath his bodie proporcionably exercised thereunto) shall far surmount anie other although he be indewed with equal force and swiftnes.
Moreover, because this art is a principal member of the Militarie profession, which altogether (with learning) is the ornament of all the World, Therefore it ought not to be exercised in Braules and Fraies, as men commonlie pracitse in everie shire, but as honorable Knights, ought to reserve themselves, & exercise it for the advantage of their Cuntry, the honour of weomen, and conqueringe of Hostes and armies.