IF nature had bestowed strength upon men (as manie beleeve) in such sorte as she hath given sight, hearing, and other sences, which are such in us, that they may not by our endevour either be encreased, or diminished, it should be no lesse superfluous, then ridiculus to teach howe strength should be obtained, then it were if one should say, he would instruct a m an how to heare and see better then he doth alreadie by nature. Neither albeit he that becommeth a Painter or a Musition seeth the proportions much better then he did before, or by hearing lerneth the harmonie and conformitie of voices which he knew not, ought it therefore be saide, that he seeth or hereth more then he did? For that procedeth not of better hearing or seeing, but of seeing and hearing with more reason. But in strength it doth not so come to passe: For it is manifestlie seene, than a man of ripe age and strength, cannot lift upp a waight to daie which he canne doe on the morrowe, or some other time. But contrarie, if a man prove with the selfe same sight on the morroe or some other time to see a thing which yesterday he sawe not in the same distance, he shall but trouble him selfe in vaine, and be in daunger rather to see lesse then more, as it commonlie happeneth to studentes and other such, who do much exercise their sight. Therefore there is no doubt at all but that mans strength may be encreased by reasonable exersise, And so likewise by too much rest it may be diminished: the which if it were not manifest, yet it might be proved by infinite examples. You shall see Gentlemen, Knights and others, to bee most strong and nimble, in running or leaping, or in vaulting, or in turning on Horse-backe, and yet are not able by a great deale to beare so great a burthen as a Cuntrie man or Porter: But contrarie in running and leaping, the Porter and Cuntrieman are most slow and heavie, neither know they howe to vawte upon their horse without a ladder. And this procedeth of no other cause, then for that everie man is not exercised in that which is most esteemed: So that if in the managing of these weapons, a man would gette strength, it shalbe convenient for him to exercise himselfe in such sort as shalbe declared.
For the obtaining of this strength and actiuitie, three things ought to be considered, to witte, the armes, the feete and the leggs, in each of which it is requisite that everie one be greatlie exercised, considering that to know wel how to mannage the armes, and yet to bee ignorant in the motion of the feete, wanting skill how to goe forwardes and retire backewardes, causeth men oftentimes to overthrowe themselves.
And on the other side, when one is exercised in the governing of his feete, but is ignorant in the timelie motion of his armes, it falleth out that he goeth forwards in time, but yet wanting skill how to move his armes, he doth not onelie not offend the enimie, but also manie times remaineth hurte and offended himself. The bodie also by great reason ought to be borne and susteyned upon his foundation. For when it boweth either too much backewardes or forwardes, either on the on or other side, streight waie the government of the arms and leggs are frustrate and the bodie, will or nill, remaineth striken. Therefore I will declare the manner first how to exercise the Armes, secondlie the Feete, thirdly the Bodie, Feete & Armes, joyntly:
YET a man be never so strong and lustie, yet he shall deliver a blowe more slowe and with less force than an other shall who is lesse strong, but more exercised: & without doubt he shall so werie his armes, handes and bodie, that he cannot long endure to labour in any such busines. And there hath beene manie, who by reason of such sudden wearines, have suddenlie dispaired of themselves, giving over the exercise of the weapon, as not appertaining unto them. Wherein they deceie themselves, for such wearines is vanquished by exercise, by meanes whereof it is not long, but that the bodie feete & armes are so strengthened, that heavie things seem light, & that they are able to handle verie nimblie anie kinde of weapon, and in briefe overcome all kind of difficulty and hardnesse. Therefore when one would exrecise his armes, to the entent to gette strength, he must endevour continuallie to overcome wearines, resolving himselfe in his judgement, that paines is not caused, through debilitie of nature, but rather hangs about him, because he hath not accustomed to exercise his members thereunto.
There are two things to be considered in this exercise, to wit the hand that moveth, and the thing that is moved, which two things being orderlie laid downe, I hope I shall obtaine as much as I desire. As touching the hand and arme, according as I hae alreadie saide, it was devided in the treatise of the true Arte, in three partes, that is to saie, into the wrist, the eblowe, and the shoulder, In everie of which it is requisite, that it move most swiftlie and stronglie, regarding alwaies in his motion the qualitie of the weapon that is borne in the hande, the which may be infinite, and therefore I will leave them and speake onelie of the single sword, because it beareth a certaine proportion and agreement unto all the rest.
The sword as each man knowes, striketh either with the poynt or with the edge. To strike edgewise, it is required that a man accustome himselfe to strike edgewise as well right as reversed with some cudgell or other thing apt for the purpose, First practising to fetch the compasse of the shoulder, which is the strongest, and yet the slowest edgeblowe that may be given: Next and presentlie after, the compasse of the elbowe, then that of the wrist, which is more preste and readie then any of the rest. After certaine daies that he that exercised these three kindes of compassing edgeblows on after an other as swiftly as he may possible And when he feleth in him selfe that he has as it were unlosed all those three knittings of joyntes of the arme, and can strike and deliver stronglie from two of those joyntes, to witte the Elbowe & the Wrist, he shal then let the Shoulder joynt stand, and accustome to strike stronglie and swiftlie with those two of the Elbow and the Wrist, yet at the length and in the end of all shal onlie in a maner practise that of the VVrist, when he perceiveth his hand-wrist to be wel strengthened, delivering this blowe of the Wrist, twice or thrice, sometimes right, sometims reversed, once right, and once reversed, two reverses and one right, and likewise, to right and one reversed, to the ende that the hande take not a custome to deliver a righte blowe immediately after a reverse. For sometimes it is commodious, and doth much advantage a man to deliver two right, and two reversed, or else after two right, one reversed: and these blowes, ought to be exercised, as well with one hand as with the other, standing stedfast in one resonable pace, practising them now alofte, now beneath, now in the middle. As touching the waight or heft, which is borne in the hande, be it sword or other weapon, I commend not their opinion any waie, who will for the strengthning of a mans arme that he handle first a heavie weapon, because being first used to them, afterwardes, ordinarie weapons will seeme the lighter unto him, but I think rather the contrarie, to wite, that first to the end, he doe not over burthen & choak his strength, he handle a verie light sword, & such a one, that he maie most nimblie move. For the ende of this arte is not ot lifte up or beare great burdens, but to move swiftelie. And there is no doubt but he vanquisheth which is most niblie, and this nimblenesse is not obtained by handling of great heftes or waightes, but by often moving.
But yet after that he hath sometime travailed with a light weapon, then it is necessarie according as he feeleth himselfe to increase in strength of arme, that he take an other in hande, that is something heavier, and such a one as will put him to a little more paine, but yet not so much, that his swiftnes in motion be hindred thereby. And as his strength encreaseth, to encrease likewise the waight by little and little. So will it not be long, but that he shalbe able to mannage verie nimblie any heavie sword. The blowe of the poynt or the thrust, cannot be handled without the consideration of the feete and body, because the strong delivering of a thrust, consisteth in the apt and timelie motion of the armes feete and bodie: For the exercise of which, it is necessarie that he knowe how to place them in everie of the three wardes, to the ende, that from the warde he may deliver strongly a thrust in as little time as is possible. And therefore he shall take heede that in the low warde, he make a reasonable pace, bearin ghis hande without his knee, forsing on the thrust nimblie, and retiring his arme backward, and somewhat encreasing his forefoote more forwardes, to the end, the thrust may reach the farther: But if he chance to increase the forefoot a little too much, so that the breadth thereof be painfull unto him, then for the avoiding of inconeniences he shall draw his hinderfoot so much after, as he did before increase with the forefoote. And this thrust must be oftentimes jerked or sprong forth, to the end to lengthen the arme, accustoming to drive it on without retyring of it selfe, that by that meanes it may the more readily settle in the broad warde, for that is framed (as it is well knowen) with the arme & foote widened outwards, but not lengthened towards the enimie. And in thrusting let him see, that he deliver them as straight as he can possibly, to the end, they may reach out the longer.
At what time one would deliver a thruste, it is requisite that he move the body & feete behind, so much in a compasse, that both the shoulders, arme & feet, be under one self same straight lyne. Thus exercisinge him selfe he shal nimbly deliver a verie great & strong thrust. And this manner of thrusting ought oftentimes to be practised, accustoming the bodie & feete (as before) to move in a compasse: for this mocion is that which instructeth one, how he shall voide his bodie. The thrust of the high warde is hardest of all other, nor of it selfe, but because it seemes that the high ward (especially with the right foote before) is verie painfull. And because there are few who have the skil to place themselves as they ought to deliver the thrust in as little time as is possible. The first care therefore in this ward is, so to place himselfe, that he stande steddily. And the syte thereof is in this manner, to wite: To stande with the arme aloft, and as right over the bodie as is possible, to the end he may force on the thrust without drawing back of the arme or loosing of time. And whilest the arme is borne straight on high (to the end it may be borne the more streight, & with lesse paiens) the feete also would stand close and united together, & that because, this ward is rather to strike than to defend, and therefore it is necessarie that it have his increase prepared: so that when the thrust is discharged, he ought therewithall to increase the forefoote so much that it make a reasonable pace, and then to let fal the hand down to the lowe warde, from the which if he would depart againe, and affend to the high ward, he must also retire his forefoot, neer unto the hinder foote, or els the hinderfoote to the forefoot, And in this manner he shall practise to deliver his thrust oftentimes alwaies placing himselfe in this high warde with his feet united, discharging the thrust with the increase of the fore foot. But when it seems tedious and painfull to frame this warde, then he must use, for the lengthninge of his arme, to fasten his hande and take houldefast on some nooke or stafe, that standeth out in a wall, as high as he may lift upp his arme, turning his hand as if he held a sword, for this shall helpe very much to strengthen his arme, and make his bodie apt to stand at this warde. Now when he hath applied this exercise, for a reasonable time, so that he may perceive by himselfe that he is nimble and active in delivering these blowes and thrusts simplie by themselves, then he shall practise to compound them, that is to saie, after a thrust to deliver a right blowe from the wrist, then a reverse, and after that an other thrust, alwaies remembring when he delivereth a blowe from the wrist, after a thrust to compasse his hinderfoote, to the end, the blowe may be the longer: And when, after this right blowe, he would discharge a reverse, he must encrease a slope pace, that presently after it, he maie by the encrease of a streight pace, forse on a stronge thrust underneath. And so to exercise himselfe to deliver manie of those orderlie blowes togeither, but yet alwaies with the true motion of the feet and bodie, and with as great nimblenesse, and in as shorte time as is possible, taking this alwaies for a most sure and certaine rule, that he move the armes & feete, keeping his body firme and stedfast, so that it go not beastly forwarde, (and especially the head being a member of so great importance) but to keepe alwaies his bodie bowed rather backward than forward, neither to turne it but onely in a compasse to voide blowes and thrustes.
More over, it shall not be amisse, after he hath learned to strike, (to the end to strengthen his armes) if he cause an other to force at him, either with a cudgell, or some other heavie thing, both edgeblowes & thrustes, ant that he encounter & sustaine them with a sworde, & ward thrustes by avoyding his bodie, and by encreasing forwardes. And likewise under edge blowes, either strike before they light, or els encounter them on their first partes, with the encrease of a pace, that thereby he may be the more readie to deliver a thrust, and more easily sustaine the blowe. Farther, when he shall perceive, that he hath conveniently qualified and strengthned this instrument of his bodie, it shall remaine, that he onely have recourse in his minde to the fine advertisements, by the which a man obtaineth judgement. And that next, he order and governe his motions according to the learning & meaning of those rules. And afterwardes take advise of himselfe how to strike & defend, knowing the advantage in every perticular blow. And there is no doubt at all, but by this order he shall attaine to that perfection in this Arte which he desireth.