A Note to the Reader

It must be noted that the flavor of these pages will be changing. I will also be adding quite a bit of information that has recently come into light. Originally my period fencing pages were geared towards SCA combat. Since its early inception, I have found a number of other groups that are also practicing period swordplay. In order to make my works more applicable to all all groups I will be presenting my material in a more generic fashion. Much of the information here is gleaned from my book the Art of Defense. A link to some of the chapters from the book is given below. I must also state that the thrust of work is a later style rapier play that is heavily thrust oriented.  This does not mean that I will not present earlier style rapier manuals or information as they become available.

All of the works contained on this site are covered by copyright. I give open permission for anyone to link to this site but reserve the right for these materials to be used in any other fashion. If you wish to use passages in other scholarly works you may do so with proper citation. If you would like to copy whole sections you must contact me in advance.


The Arte of Defense

The Arte of Defense was studied and taught by masters in the late 15th and 16th Centuries. The most famous of the teachers typically came from Italy. Until the advent of the smallsword and the French schools of fence, the Italians and to a lesser degree the Spanish, enjoyed the role of the most sought after teachers of the Arte of Defence.  This is not to say that earlier fencing schools did not exist.  The Germans had fine schools and some of the oldest existant fencing manuals come from Germany.  I have very little on the German schools and would appreciate any information in this area.

The English at the end of the 16th Century followed the continental fencers in taking on the use of the rapier. In defense of English technique, George Silver published a treatise called the Paradoxes of Defense. This treatise was used to espouse the use of the English weapons and to downplay the use of the rapier. Silver hated the Italians and Spanish and made sure that his readers knew that these styles were more dangerous for the user than good English practices. He also wrote a treatise on his Paradoxes called Brief Instructions. Two Italian Elizabethan Masters of note  were Saviolo and Di Grassi.. Saviolo' s works cover not only his view on fencing mechanics but also honor.  Di Grassi in the author's opinion is one of the finer manuals translated to English in this time period. There is a move now to compile electronic copies of existing early fencing manuals.  Some translation is also being done.  As I obtain manuals (or links to manuals) I will add them into the Masters section listed below.

Dana Groff, another scholar of defense and researcher in period fencing has information available for the scholar of the art. His reference points to a number of period manuals.

This treatise is intended as a guide and help for those that wish to take part in rapier play as a combat sport as well as theatrics. A number of groups study and practice period swordplay. A list of some of these groups is provided below. These pages are a historically accurate work that anyone studying the Art of Defense should be able to use.

I have a copy of Caranza! I have two people working on the traslation and will place the translation as it becomes available on this site (see link above).

The Period Masters

Fencing schools abounded during the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Luckily we have historical texts and existing copies of period manuals that lend some information on the philosophy and practice of fence by the masters of these schools at this period of time. New manuscripts keep coming to light from the 16th and 17th Centuries that detail some of the practices & schools of the masters. One such is Sloane MS. 2530. This manuscript details the London Masters of Defense.

A number of people are now studying not only period fencing techniques but also the blades themselves. I have begun a study of period blades and as I obtain information on period pieces I will endeavor to place the information on a blades page. If you have any information you would like to contribute in this area, please contact me.

Period Terms

Many of the schools from the 16th Century looked to the Italians for the practice and philosophy (terms) used in fence. The English were especially interested by Italian practices as well as clothing styles.

The Arte of Defense

I have included as a service, parts of my book Entitled "The Arte of Defense." It is an instructional manual on rapier play that includes not only pratical information but also history and philosophy. The thrust (pun intended) of the book is to provide a practical view on rapier play of the late 16th and early 17th C. I stress the point more than the edge, giving drills for learning this style. I hope you enjoy reading through it. The second edition of my book is now available. Go to Tattershall Arms and look in the books section for pricing.

Sources of Equipment and Manuals

I am looking for sources of equipment/catalogs that may be on the net. If you are aware of any that I may have missed please email me with the url.

Groups who take part in Period Fencing

Other Fencing and Swordplay Information

Fencing Manuals Housed on this Site


If you are interested in period fencing and wish to send me a note, please mail me at william.wilson@nau.edu.

I teach at a number of seminars each year.  The last one of note that I taught at was the Lansing Swordfighting and Martial Arts Convention May 12-14 2000.  I have a number of pictures up from that event.

I am especially looking for electronic copies and translations of the Italian and Spanish Masters. I currently have copies of Agrippa, Capo Ferro, Marozzo, Giganti, Silver, Saviolo, Grassi (Italian & English), Lovino, Viggiani, Didier (French & English), Thibault (English), Pallas Armata and Swetnam (most in hard copy only).

William Wilson is known in the SCA as Baron Master Gwylym ab Owain, OP OL DWS., Former Atenveldt Kingdom Marshal of Fence, Former Captain of the Queen's Musketeers, Provost of the Tattershall School of Defence. Mr. Wilson runs a school of fence in Northern Arizona and teaches foil, epee and saber as well as rapier play.