Silver - Fact or fraud?

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Silver - Fact or fraud?

Postby Cutlery Penguin » 10 Apr 2006 13:49

I have been spending a lot of time rethinking my opinions on Silver.

Whilst I have little doubt that the system as most people teach it works there are a number of things that I find hard to get my head round.

Firstly, He claims quite strenuously that this is an ancient system, then proceeds to use very similar terminology to that which his contemporaries whose systems he was decrying used.

Secondly he quite clearly states that the ancient teachings comprised of learning "quarters, then their wards, blows, thrusts, and breaking of thrusts, then their closes and grips, striking with the hilts, daggers, bucklers, wrestlings, striking with the foot or knee in the cods" Does he then teach us this? Debatable at best.

Thirdly, he quite clearly states that the time of the foot/feet is an imperfect time and therefore should no be used, but then goes on to say "ever remember that in the first motion of your adversary towards you, that you slide a little back so shall you be prepared in due time to perform any of the 3 actions aforesaid by disappointing him of his true place whereby you shall safely defend yourself & endanger him" which sounds very much like advocating moving your feet first to me.

There are a number of other contradictions that I'm sure you are all familiar with which I'm not going to go into now but it raises a few questions in my mind about what Silver's manuscripts actually teach us.

IMHO (humble? who am I trying to kid?) what we have is a manuscript written by someone who learned his trade as a soldier. He was not part of the guild of MoD, nor was he a student of the fashionable Italian Rapier Masters. He learned the exact system he describes to us, but in order to be credible he has couched his system in the vernacular of the systems of the day therefore camouflaging it almost beyond recognition.

It is my current thinking that the majority of Silver being practiced (including up until recently my own interpretation) is simply not correct. It is a renaissance system recreated from the writings of a man who did not practice it. We look at the principle grounds as he describes them and we force everything else to fit to them. Yes they make sense by themselves but do they sound ancient? Do they compare to the principle grounds laid down in I.33, Ringeck etc? Quite simply no. They do however compare very favourably to Hale et al. So if we drop them and look simply at his techniques couple with his advice we get a very different system.

Anyway, I'm going to shut up now as I haven't reached any conclusions with what I am thinking, I just wanted to throw it out there for discussion and to see if I am instantly burned at the stake as a heretic.
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Postby admin » 10 Apr 2006 13:58

Although the three 15thC English longsword (and staff) sources are far from easy to understand, in a physical sense, they also don't 'feel' very Silver-esque to me. But that is a totally subjective point, as these earlier sources are very very very open to interpretation, unfortunately.
The problem I have with Silver, as a non-Silver person, is this: He concentrates on the Guardant fight, saying that the true guardant is best used with a gauntlet or a basket hilt. Wearing a gauntlet without accompanying armour is not very medieval, and neither is a basket hilt. I can however see how his Guardant fight is similar to the medieval single sword fight from the first ward shown in so many medieval sources - having the sword by the scabbard rather than up by the head. This position is safer in a medieval context because it does not present the hand as a clear target like true guardant does, and can do pretty much everything true guardant can, but a little slower as it has further to travel. But then Silver says not to use the guardant fight against someone using the variable fight... (which is what rapiermen were using apparently, unless they were Swetnam).
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Re: Silver - Fact or fraud?

Postby Abomination » 10 Apr 2006 14:51

Cutlery Penguin wrote:I have been spending a lot of time rethinking my opinions on Silver.

Whilst I have little doubt that the system as most people teach it works there are a number of things that I find hard to get my head round.

Firstly, He claims quite strenuously that this is an ancient system, then proceeds to use very similar terminology to that which his contemporaries whose systems he was decrying used..


I don't think that this is an issue. It is perfectly reasonable to use contemporary terms to teach an old system. We do it all the time. Also he might have had an entirely different idea of ancient to us. He may have just been have been talking about what was used in his fathers/grandfathers day. Peple today talk about the 1950's in this kind of manner
Cutlery Penguin wrote:Secondly he quite clearly states that the ancient teachings comprised of learning "quarters, then their wards, blows, thrusts, and breaking of thrusts, then their closes and grips, striking with the hilts, daggers, bucklers, wrestlings, striking with the foot or knee in the cods" Does he then teach us this? Debatable at best.


He teaches some of it. but Silver is sometimes frustratingly short on technique. I suspect that this could be for two reasons. He hadn't finished "Instructions"
And he considered it was not so much what you do but how you did it that was important.
Cutlery Penguin wrote:Thirdly, he quite clearly states that the time of the foot/feet is an imperfect time and therefore should no be used, but then goes on to say "ever remember that in the first motion of your adversary towards you, that you slide a little back so shall you be prepared in due time to perform any of the 3 actions aforesaid by disappointing him of his true place whereby you shall safely defend yourself & endanger him" which sounds very much like advocating moving your feet first to me.

I'd say in this instance, that your hand wouldn't be tied to your feet. as your foot would move backwards as your hand went forwards. It's a different prospect from having to make a step in order to hit your opponant, you are only ever gonna need time of the hand to hit the attacker, the slip back just throws him off a bit, but doesn't take you out of that range.
Cutlery Penguin wrote:There are a number of other contradictions that I'm sure you are all familiar with which I'm not going to go into now but it raises a few questions in my mind about what Silver's manuscripts actually teach us.

IMHO (humble? who am I trying to kid?) what we have is a manuscript written by someone who learned his trade as a soldier. He was not part of the guild of MoD, nor was he a student of the fashionable Italian Rapier Masters. He learned the exact system he describes to us, but in order to be credible he has couched his system in the vernacular of the systems of the day therefore camouflaging it almost beyond recognition.

It is my current thinking that the majority of Silver being practiced (including up until recently my own interpretation) is simply not correct. It is a renaissance system recreated from the writings of a man who did not practice it. We look at the principle grounds as he describes them and we force everything else to fit to them. Yes they make sense by themselves but do they sound ancient? Do they compare to the principle grounds laid down in I.33, Ringeck etc? Quite simply no. They do however compare very favourably to Hale et al. So if we drop them and look simply at his techniques couple with his advice we get a very different system.

Anyway, I'm going to shut up now as I haven't reached any conclusions with what I am thinking, I just wanted to throw it out there for discussion and to see if I am instantly burned at the stake as a heretic.

I think there is some merit in what you say. Possibly Silver, like many of us, learned technique, found out what worked. Then tried to figure out why it worked before he got around to fitting that into a system. His writing might, as you say, suggest that. But for me the key thing with paradox's & Instructions is the system. If the system works, then the technique is less important.

It's one of the reasons why he was so down on Italian Rapier monkeys (& Pandas Caz) & their flashy tricks & flouncy shirts. If you've got no underlying system you're gonna get skewered
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Postby admin » 10 Apr 2006 15:08

There is a possible way to guage what concepts of 'ancient' were at that time - there are two archery treatises from the 16thC which make numerous reference to archery practice of 'days gone by'. Certainly there is a lot of inherited knowledge in these treatises, but the problem with using them as too much of a comparison is that bows and arrows had not really changed since the 14thC and before.. only the frequency of their use in warfare, whereas swords and hand-to-hand combat conditions (changes in armour etc) most certainly had changed a lot between the 14thC and 1599.

Incidentally, Matt Galas has found a lot of new material relating to French fencing traditions. It seems that the biggest parallel to English fencing traditions may have been the French (maybe not that surprising!) - there might be some common terminology as well. Terms like 'a quarter' may be related to French terms.
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Postby Carlo » 10 Apr 2006 20:01

Hi Martin,
deciding wether Silver was or not practicing his grounds is outside my grasp, Im afraid. I see no contradiction, though, in the practice of slipping a bit at your opponent coming in and saying that the tiome of the foot is a false one. First of all, because I'm quite noted for doing so :wink: , secondly, because he doesn't add that you leave your guard and go wide spaced.
What I think, expecially after reading Terry Brown and spaking with Mark Hillyard and Colin Richards , is that the key element is having the hand ready (where you need it) not necessarily moving it. When you attack, you need to be bloody dangerous before you become a target, this is a fact, but when you defend... think about it: parry first and slip later???
If you are narrow spaced already, then you don't need to move the sword, if you aren't then it is certainly the case that you get narrow spaced, but I see this as a rather implicit rule, that can be derived from the rest of the system. In any case, the parry is not arriving before the foot is moved, because you're reacting to your opponent's coming in and you're taking advantage of the number of his feet in so doing, actually you're striving to increment that advantage and mess his timing. As you strive to gain him the place upon guard, you certainly strive to have him loose the place of you upon guard.

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Postby philippe willaume » 12 Apr 2006 18:13

hello all
I would side with carlo here
I think people tend to take silver time too litterarly
It does not mean move your hand first then you boddy the you feet

It thinks it means make sure you can use you hand when moving you body,
Make sure you can use you hand and your body before you move your foot or feet

Since our hands is in front, slipping back does not prevent us to use our hand or our body should the need arise.
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