The Sword and How to Use It - J Betts - 1908

(1901-1945)

The Sword and How to Use It - J Betts - 1908

Postby Glyn » 01 Dec 2013 17:34

The Sword and How to Use It (PDF)

I'm not really a sabre person so I've no idea if this is of value to anyone. I found a few period reviews which are somewhat mixed but it might be of curiosity interest if nothing else. Apologies for the low quality of the scan - a ten year old scanner and a hundred year old book are not a good combination...

Glyn.

'The Sword and How to Use It.' By Lieut Betts.

Lieutenant Betts is to be congratulated on having supplied a long felt want, namely, a treatise in the English language on sabre play.

Having studied under Magrini, who is perhaps the greatest exponent of this style of fencing, and the most capable instructor whom we have at the present day, the principles which the author lays down in his book are very similar to those taught by that master.

Much attention is drawn to the importance of leg work, as it is only by the correct balance of the body on the feet that rapidity of movement can be acquired, which is so essential to success in the assault.

The book contains numerous illustrations which are actual photographs of different positions when forming the parries, etc.

The author first shows by photographs the right and the wrong manner of grasping the sword; further on lessons are given in detail which may be exchanged between two fencers, one acting as master and the other as pupil. The book finishes with a copy of the rules and instructions for judges at present in force at the Royal Naval and Military Tournament, which should be useful to anyone going in for those competitions - (CFV)

THE CAVALRY JOURNAL
VOL III JANUARY TO OCTOBER 1908


The Sword and How to Use It. By Lieut J. Betts, Master-at-Arms, Army Gymnastic Staff, Aldershot. 73 pages, 10 plates. London: Gale & Polden, Ltd. 1908 2s net.

THIS book is written as, the author states, to supply a much needed want, namely, a modern practical treatise in English on the use of the sword (or saber).

The subject is treated very thoroughly from the foundation to the more advanced work, and is an excellent handbook both for instructors and pupils. The plates are many and very clear, and the explanations are easily followed. After the preliminary lessons, there are lessons given in sets, followed by still more advanced work. The volume is concluded with a method for conducting competitions, hints to judges, notes on dress, etc.

Although the system differs in some respects from that usually taught in this country, it is treated in such a broad and practical way that it will be found of immense value to any student of swordplay no matter what school he may be following. FWH

JOURNAL OF THE MILITARY SERVICE INSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
Vol XLIV JANUARY FEBRUARY 1909 No CLVII


The Sword and How to Use it. Illustrated. By Lieut J. Betts. Aldershot: Gale & Polden, Ltd. 73 pages, about 5X7 inches; paper; Price 2s.

A valuable manual in the use of the sword. The photographs of different grips poses etc are very clear A good guide to fighting on foot with the sword.

JOURNAL OF THE UNITED STATES INFANTRY ASSOCIATION
Vol VI July 1909 No 1


"The Sword and How to Use It." By Lieutenant J. Betts, Master at Arms, Army Gymnastic Staff, Aldershot. Gale & Polden, Ltd. No. 2 Amen Corner, Paternoster Row, London E. C. 1908, Price 2s net.

This book of seventy-three pages is a practical treatise on the use of the sword or saber by the instructor in swordsmanship at Aldershot. That the author is a master of the art is shown by the fact that he is the champion swordsman of the British army and navy for the years 1906-7-8.

To the very few in our army who still believe in and practice fencing as a grand bodily exercise that cultivates activity and promotes physical development, this work will be of interest and value.

It is well printed on good paper, in clear, large type, and the illustrations are first class.

EBF

Journal of the United States Cavalry Association
Vol XIX JULY 1908 No 69


The Sword and How to Use It. By Lieut. J. Betts, Master at Arms Aldershot. London: Gale & Polden, Ltd. 4 3/4 x 7. 73 pp 17 il. Price 50 cents.

The book, "The Sword and How to Use It," by Lieutenant J. Betts, Master at Arms, Army Gymnastic Staff, Aldershot, Champion Swordsman Army and Navy, 1906-1907 though profusely illustrated by photo-engravings and arranged in progressive lessons for graduated instruction, can hardly be accepted as good by the exponents of any of the recognized schools of the art of self defence.

There are two distinct schools in Europe which rightfully lay claim to the title "classical," and perhaps a third, the Austrian, which is in reality an offspring of the Italian though possessing sufficiently distinct features to be classed as one of three; namely, French, Italian, and Austrian. Undoubtedly the Italian school is the best of the three in saber fencing. Though all of them differ in their methods and precepts, still certain cardinal principles are found in all and many of these are violated in the style of sword play proposed and taught by Lieutenant Betts in the above mentioned book.

The chief points on which followers of the classical schools of fencing must disagree with Lieutenant Betts will be pointed out in brief.

1st The grip which he styles and pictures as incorrect is exactly that advocated by the French school, as it is necessary to their style of play. The other which he calls correct is very similar to that of the Italian school which uses a very different style of play.

2nd The position "on guard" with the arm fully extended is quite at variance with the teaching and practice of any classical school. In such a position one cannot parry and be in readiness to make the return or "riposte." Feints lose much of their purpose, namely, to make one's opponent uncover by parrying the feint, which must, to be effective, look or "feel" real. It is the quick extension of the flexed arm that puts life into the feint and forces the energetic parry in reply, thus leaving an opening.

3rd The lunge is both constrained and dangerous, giving no chance to parry and return from the lunge, and to be ever ready to do this is the essence and criterion of good swordsmanship.

4th The parries also, on account of the straight arm, do not "cover" the target (one's own body) when threatened or really attacked so effectively is possible with a flexed arm; and the return after the parry cannot be either as quick or as sure. The inconsistency of going on guard with the arm fully extended, a constrained attitude from which one cannot go to another without first relaxing or bending the arm, is shown by the fact that the swordsman who follows this teaching must circle as far back as the body to make a cut, thereby uncovering himself to an attack to an enterprising opponent.

5th He has combined the circular cuts of the French school with the straight arm play of the Italian, and it seems to us, to the worst advantage possible. With the straight arm all cuts should be made with the wrist, while he advocates immobility of the wrist. With the circular cuts the hand must always be in front of the body, otherwise at the moment of attack one's opponent has an opening just at the time when he should be entirely engaged in defending himself if the attack is to land successfully. Every attack must be parried before the contestant supporting the attack has the right to riposte, but once the arm is bent the contestant supporting the attack has the right to attack in his turn, without parry, for the attack against him at that moment ceases To the properly trained eye and hand no better chance for a nice point could be offered the attack on time.

To the followers of the classical schools of fencing this style of sword play appears to lack that fine appreciation of time and coordination of eye and hand which they inculcate. It seems to rely more upon luck or bull dog aggressiveness, to "bluff out" or break down the defence of an opponent instead of to deceive him by skill of brain or blade, and in so far we believe it is not good

His remarks on managing competitions are good, but there is nothing new to be found therein, nor in his method of scoring. As a stimulant to sword play such a book may perhaps have a place, but we doubt its usefulness. Fencing cannot be taught by books nor learned from books. The personal contact of pupil and master, the ever present spur of emulation, the sense of time, the feel of the blade, the life of point or edge, no book can ever describe for they are appreciated through the sense of touch, the contact of blades and of personalities All these can be learned only in the salle d armes in the presence of a master

JOURNAL OF THE UNITED STATES ARTILLERY
Vol 33 No 1 JANUARY FEBRUARY 1910
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Re: The Sword and How to Use It, J. Betts, 1908

Postby admin » 02 Dec 2013 00:01

Great find, thanks for sharing!
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Re: The Sword and How to Use It, J. Betts, 1908

Postby El_Burro » 02 Dec 2013 01:08

I enjoyed reading the section on competition and scoring, especially the bit on double hits. I also really liked the catalogue.
2. -Balance of the sword.
A well balanced sword should have its centre of gravity as near the hilt as possible. The nearer the centre of gravity is to the hilt the lighter is the feel of the sword in the hand and the greater is the handiness of the weapon.

How popular was this view? I know that Waite suggests the point should be light; did anyone campaign for the opposite?
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Re: The Sword and How to Use It, J. Betts, 1908

Postby Chris Holzman » 02 Dec 2013 02:24

El_Burro wrote:I enjoyed reading the section on competition and scoring, especially the bit on double hits. I also really liked the catalogue.
2. -Balance of the sword.
A well balanced sword should have its centre of gravity as near the hilt as possible. The nearer the centre of gravity is to the hilt the lighter is the feel of the sword in the hand and the greater is the handiness of the weapon.

How popular was this view? I know that Waite suggests the point should be light; did anyone campaign for the opposite?


This is absolutely typical of the Northern Italian school, based in Radaelli with the modifications made by Masiello. That said, at this point we're looking at a sabre that is probably 500-600g or so, where Radaelli wanted a fencing sabre of 750g in 1868, and in 1885 Masiello wanted 610g.

Despite what the US Artillery Journal reviewer said, this book is absolutely within the typical derivation of Northern Italian/Radaellian sabre - which was for all intents and purposes the dominant school in all but name at that point. Two years later, Radaellian maestri Pecoraro and Pessina who taught at the Scuola Magistrale in Roma would succeed Maestro Parise as directors of the school, and officially reinstitute the Radaellian school (with a few changes) and formalize what they considered an already existing situation.

The guard position is correct for the school, and the fully extended arm parries (although I agree with the other reviewer that they aren't good) are typical of Masiello. Also typical of Masiello are the direct cuts without much if any chambering. There, Masiello differs in opinion with himself in his horseback sabre book, where all the cuts are chambered back by the temple.

Also differing from typical Masiello, is that the circular cuts/molinelli are taught from an upright stance with the feet together, and then from guard, without any movement of the body. In his 1884 and 1902 sabre books, and his 1891 horseback sabre book, molinelli are taught from the lunge with the body weight shifting back and forth during the action. This upright posture is a totally acceptable way to teach the molinelli, as it isolates the body out, then you can add it back in from guard or lunge later - I've seen it in other sources.

Much of this book seems to be a nearly a direct quotation or paraphrase of Masiello's sabre book(s). It is also very, very similar to Francis Vere Wright's book, which is also pretty much an abridged translation of Masiello.

It is a good find, and a useful datapoint in the Radaellian lineage. I think it certainly shows some sport tuning of the material. For another example of that, Leon Bertrand's "Cut and Thrust" is worth a look, as it is even more sport tuned than Betts.
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Re: The Sword and How to Use It, J. Betts, 1908

Postby admin » 02 Dec 2013 12:24

El_Burro wrote:
2. -Balance of the sword.
A well balanced sword should have its centre of gravity as near the hilt as possible. The nearer the centre of gravity is to the hilt the lighter is the feel of the sword in the hand and the greater is the handiness of the weapon.

How popular was this view? I know that Waite suggests the point should be light; did anyone campaign for the opposite?


When Waite is talking about a sword that is light at the point, he is still referring to a sword that balances about 4-6 inches from the guard. Actually if you read the above quote with common sense context I think this is probably what they are saying here. A sword (for this system) which balances 4 inches from the guard is better than a sword which balances 7 inches from the guard. However, clearly a sword which balances on the guard, or behind the guard, won't be able to cut for toffee. This is not necessarily a problem with the regulation 1895 sword exercise by Masiello, as it is essentially a rapier system with heavy dependence on the point.
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Re: The Sword and How to Use It, J. Betts, 1908

Postby Chris Holzman » 02 Dec 2013 23:32

admin wrote:
El_Burro wrote:
2. -Balance of the sword.
A well balanced sword should have its centre of gravity as near the hilt as possible. The nearer the centre of gravity is to the hilt the lighter is the feel of the sword in the hand and the greater is the handiness of the weapon.

How popular was this view? I know that Waite suggests the point should be light; did anyone campaign for the opposite?


When Waite is talking about a sword that is light at the point, he is still referring to a sword that balances about 4-6 inches from the guard. Actually if you read the above quote with common sense context I think this is probably what they are saying here. A sword (for this system) which balances 4 inches from the guard is better than a sword which balances 7 inches from the guard. However, clearly a sword which balances on the guard, or behind the guard, won't be able to cut for toffee. This is not necessarily a problem with the regulation 1895 sword exercise by Masiello, as it is essentially a rapier system with heavy dependence on the point.


For Masiello's 1887 (I think I misspoke in a prior post or two and said it was 1885) book, he specifies the 610g sabre having a point of balance 4cm in front of the guard. Pecoraro and Pessina in 1912 with what appears to be a lighter blade yet (about 12mm wide) specify 'two fingers from the guard'

Personally, I like a sabre to balance a little farther out than either of those, because I think you get a much better sense of where the point is at in space, and consequently, a better sense of edge alignment as well. I agree that 4" to 6" is completely reasonable.

My Darkwood dueling sabre blade on 19th century furniture weighs 620g, balances about 3 inches from the guard, and feels slightly too light in the point for my taste. It's still 'good' but could be better. It is the middle of the three sabers in this photo: Image
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Moniteur D' Armes
"[T]he calm spirit is the only force that can defeat instinct, and render us the masters of all our strengths." -Capt. Settimo Del Frate, 1876.
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