THE GEOMETRY OF SWORDMANSHIP
Attack, Magic, Mandala, Dance, Protection and Geometry
Is the pen is mightier than the sword?
The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp - Terry Pratchett
One sword keeps another in the sheath - George Herbert
The sword is the axis of the world and its power is absolute - Charles de Gaulle
Interfacing with the Below
Disarm, disarm. The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession - Julia Ward Howe
Astride the Aether
Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance - Confucius
Beguile in order to Baffle
A good sword is the one left in its scabbard - Japanese proverb
A sword, a spade, and a thought should never be allowed to rust - James Stephens
There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit - Napoleon Bonaparte
Without a sign, his sword the brave man draws, and asks no omen, but his country’s cause - Homer
Never give a sword to a fool or power to an unjust man - Greek Proverb
Logic is like the sword – those who appeal to it, shall perish by it. Samuel Butler
Footsteps and Eyes
When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation - Alexander Hamilton
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword
Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a gossip - Richard Steele
Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government - Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Dancing on Deck
It needs but one foe to breed a war, and those who have not swords can still die upon them - Tolkien
Our swords shall play the orators for us - Christopher Marlowe
The Unseen Power
Beauty is power; a smile is its sword - John Ray
Drawing my Conclusion
“Girard Thibault’s Académie de l’Espée (1628) puts the art of wielding the sword on mathematical foundations. For Thibault, a Dutch fencing master from the early seventeenth century, geometrical rules determined each and every aspect of fencing. For example, the length of your rapier's blade should never exceed the distance between your feet and the navel, and your movements in a fight should always be along the lines of a circle whose diameter is equal to your height.
The rest of his manual, geared towards gentlemanly readers who took up fencing as a noble sport, is filled with similar geometrical arguments about the choreography of swordsmanship. Thibault’s work belongs to the same tradition that produced Leonardo’s renowned Vitruvian Man.
According to the laws of proportion, the ideal human body could be inscribed in a circle, and one could easily compute the length of the main body parts as simple fractions of the length of the body. The art of fencing reflected the harmonious structure of the human body, and also had astrological and cosmic undertones. Thibault called the basic circle of his fencing rules a mysterious circle and, significantly, the second illustration below features the twelve signs of the zodiac together with allegories of the Sun and the Moon on the sides, emphasizing how the human body and the stars are governed by the same mathematical rules.
Thibault was not an eccentric. By 1630, when the Académie de l’Espée appeared, the mathematical nature of fencing had long been established. In the Netherlands, where Thibault was active, the sport’s geometrical foundations were established by the late-sixteenth-century professor Ludolf van Ceulen, who famously calculated the value of π (the ratio of the circle’s perimeter to the diameter) to the twentieth decimal.” Daniel Margocsy
Ben Jonson alludes to the geometrical conception of fencing in his ‘The New Inn’:
TIPTO: But doth he teach the Spanish way of Don Lewis?
FLY: No, the Greeke Master he.
TIPTO: What cal you him?
TIPTO: Fart upon Euclide, he is stale, and antique, | Give me the modernes.
HOST: But this, of the other world | Euclide demonstrates! he! He is for all! | The only fencer of name, now in Elysium.
FLY: He does it all, by lines, and angles, Colonel. | By parallels, and sections, has his Diagrammes!
(The New Inn: II.5)
“Thibault then proceeds to cite the Vitruvian rule of constructing a temple according to the measure of the human body, even linking this to the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon and of Noah’s Ark. After a short oration on the dignity and utility of human proportion, which recalls the study of anatomy then going on at Leiden, he then extols the use of reason in self-defence, by which man, seemingly the most helpless of creatures, renders himself master of all.
Therefore, all the above said Artists, Architects, Perspectivists, and others have sought to prove the foundations of their rules by the proportions of the human body, and I have similarly taken the same course, but with better results, and have found with the help of this same compass the true and proportional measure of all the Movements, Times, and Distances necessary to follow my Practice, as will be declared to you in a moment in the explanation of my Circle, where the measures and proportions of man are applied to man himself and to the movements he makes with his own limbs, where the aforesaid proportion is found, and without which it is impossible to perform the least action in the world.” Ken Mondschein
“Agrippa’s endeavour to reduce fencing to ‘mathematical’ or ‘geometrical’ way of thinking went far beyond his use of Aristotelian ideas of time and his application of Euclidian geometry. Not only did he reduce the earlier multiplicity of guard positions to four numbered positions that can cover all contingencies — four being the Pythagorean tetracys — but he reduced all the possible positions of the body to a finite number labelled by the letters of the alphabet (trans. Mondschein 2014: 8).
Agrippa explained his system of fencing by reducing not just all possible actions, but the human body itself, to mathematical symbols, giving possible actions and responses in the language of Euclidian geometry. As he tells us, ‘this pursuit is ultimately governed by points, lines, times, measures, and so forth, and comes from thinking in a mathematical — which is to say, a geometrical — fashion’
Moreover, in the astronomical dialogue appended to the treatise, he makes the implicit argument that because of his mastery of number in space and time (that is, the classical quadrivium), he has the authority to speak on any subject whatsoever. According to Agrippa’s way of thinking, both astronomy and the movements of the human body are the union of number in space (that is, geometry) and number in time. Number, in other words, unites the macrocosm and the microcosm” Ken Mondschein