About a year or so back, while I was reading through both the Leoni and Terminiello et altranslations of La Scherma, I noticed several chapters where the translations differed a lot. Not just synonymous word choice variations between the two translations, but sufficient differences that greatly altered martial interpretation.
I found this fascinating. I wondered: if two students read a different translation and then came together to practice it with one another, just how big of a difference would it be? What would one learn that the other didn’t? Would the plays even be recognizable as coming from the same chapter?
This was the basis of my research paper for East Kingdom Crown A&S. I wanted to explore what these translation differences were and how it would affect a modern fencing practitioner’s interpretation of the play.
I focused on one chapter in particular — Book II, Chapter VIII, entitled “On Wounding to the Outside Over the Sword, Passing with the Left Foot” — because it had numerous translation differences (four, in total) as well as impactful differences that really altered how someone would learn the chapter and the tactics involved.
I also wanted to see how the two translations compared to other 17th Century Italian fencing masters; however, this was more to connect it to the pre-1600 SCA-era than anything else (Alfieri’s La Scherma came out in 1640).
So this past weekend was Crown Arts & Science Champs and it was my first time entering. In fact, it was really my first time entering into an A&S competition outside the Martial A&S Challenge at St. Eligius back in the fall.
I had been toying with the idea of jumping into A&S for several years but had always decided against it for a few reasons including I was pushing for my OGR and then MoD, and then was General for a couple of years. I didn’t want to spread myself too thin.
I also was wary of how my projects would be received considering that my interests lay in post-SCA period. It was enough, on top of everything else, to keep me away from A&S. However, I feel like over the past several years the leaders of the EK A&S community have done a great job at fixing the perception issues the community had and I felt comfortable delving into the A&S waters.
That and I also decided to just research and promote what I enjoy and if I lose points for it then… *shrugs*
The Tl;dr version is it seemed like the Leoni translation was waaaay off course compared to the Terminiello translation. Or, if the Leoni version was right, Alfieri seemed to have some interesting ideas about how fencing works.
I posted the blog to social and it resulted in some interesting dialogue on Facebook, including getting some new perspectives on the translation as well as its martial interpretation.
While I interpreted the plays as starting off on the high-inside line (in the PiermarcoTerminiello translation the wounder starts off in quarta but in the Tom Leoni version the opponent starts off in quarta), that may not exactly be the case — at least in in the Leoni version.
NOTE: Since posting this blog yesterday, I’ve had some great convos with other historical fencing practitioners and it appears that I may be interpreting part of the play incorrectly (mainly the starting line which Alfieri doesn’t mention). I’ll be reevaluating my thoughts based on that, but I’m leaving this blog post up just the same, as trial & error is part of the process.
Yesterday was the St. Eligius event, an A&S-centric event in the East Kingdom. Along with the main A&S competition displays, there was a Martial Combat A&S Challenge. The goal of this was to choose a plate from a period fencing master, document it, and present the plate’s action(s) for a team of judges.
I decided to demonstrate and present Book II, Chapter VIII of Alfieri’s La Scherma. I demonstrated two translations of the chapter — one by Tom Leoni and the other by Piermarco Terminiello.
The translation between the Leoni and Terminiello versions vary enough in the second half of the chapter that it greatly alters the martial interpretation of the chapter. This means you could have two fencers learning very different plays depending on the translation they’re learning off of.
I had a great day of fencing on Saturday at Balfar’s Challenge. Not only did my rapier melee team (Remy’s Angels II: Electric Boogaloo) came in first place, I also finished strong in second place in the afternoon’s Pennsic Qualifer Tourney in which I rolled out with single rapier the entire time.
I had to fight through my entire fencing family tree which was amusing in its own right. This fight against my cadet, Gregori, on the anniversary of his caddeting, was possibly the most memorable one ’cause of how I won — with a low line void & strike under the opponent’s sword arm.
His reaction was also pretty fantastic. We were laughing a good five minutes after this.
This is the last Single Rapier chapter in Alfieri’s manual where he talks briefly about disarms, and then teases some other ideas. Alfieri starts off by talking about how disarming an opponent is no common feat.
Spoiler: The disarms aren’t nearly as ridiculous as this. Probably for the best.