Paraphrasing Capo Ferro: Art, chapter 3, The division of fencing that is posed in the knowledge of the sword
Nice and impressive name this chapter has! Luckily the text itself is much clearer than it implies. What the topic tries to say, I think, is “The stuff about the theory of fencing that concerns the sword itself, as opposed to its usage”, which, admittedly, is quite as many words. So, here we go:
29) The theory of fencing consists of two parts. First there is the understanding the sword, which then leads to understanding how to use it.
30) A sword is a pointy stick made of steel.
It’s good for defending yourself at the distance where both parties can attack, but not without the risk of being injured themselves. (1)
31) The sword is made of steel. No doubt steel is better than wood. Not that wood’s not ok for everyday smacking aside of people who want to injure you.
32) The sword has a pointy end. If it did not, it would not be useful for threatening to stab people if they don’t stay out of the distance where they can hit you.
33) The purpose of the sword is defense, which means that primarily the idea is to keep people so far away from you that they can’t hurt you.
In Latin (as was already heard said with scholastic certainty!), “to defend” is the same as “to avoid”.(2)
To defend, then, means that you try to stay away from stuff that harms, or take distance to them if you happen too close, and to avoid being hurt.
34) This means that actually offense is defense too.
You attack if the other guy insists on coming on distance to hurt you, in order to not get hurt yourself.
He can blame himself, if he starts it.
35) The length of the sword follows from the distance it should be used at.
36) It should be twice as long as the arm, which is the same as the longest you can reach on one step if you really try, which is the same as from your armpit to the sole of your foot.
37) The sword is divided into two parts.
The forte begins from the hilt and goes to about the middle of the sword.
The debole is the remainder, from the middle to the point.
The forte is for parrying, and the debole is for striking.
38) The blade has two edges.
When you hold the sword in terza(3), the true edge faces downwards, and the false edge faces towards you.
When you are on guard, in terza, the orientation of the true edge is recognized; when you move to attack, the false edge also becomes clearly into play.(4)
39) The division into true and false edges really makes sense only in the debole, since the forte is used only to parry anyway.
The forte might as well be blunt. In fact it is handy in some situations if it is.
(1) Yes, indeed, he did say it again.
(2) Maybe “caveo”, which is to avoid, to beware, to take precautions / defensive action? As it wasn’t already heard, I think, maybe it’s in the missing paragraph 23.
(3) If you don’t know what a terza is yet, just hold it any old way in front of you. Or imagine cutting bread with (maybe a tinier version of) the sword: the true edge is the one you cut with, the false edge is the one towards you.
(4) Frankly, I am unclear with what he means by this, but I do not think it is further instructions on how to recognize which is the true and which is the false edge, as I have heard it explained. I have difficulties putting this into words, but I think it has to do in how in terza, when preparing to defend, the true edge is what matters most, while in seconda/quarta, especially in extending, this distinction sort of “disappears” and the sword “becomes narrower”, the false edge “becomes manifest”, as he says. Sometimes, when attacking, I find it helps to think that instead of with the point, you attack “along the false edge”, to steady the sword.