It relates to motion; time is what changes while something moves from one place to another. In fencing application, time was motion, in the sense that every distinct motion of a fencer defines a time, a window of opportunity in which the opponent can act 1. By defining true desirable and false undesirable times, Silver points out good and bad patterns of motion, which seems to be something very valuable.
This is original to Silver as far as I know. Plenty of other contemporary authors discuss time and its application in fencing, but Silver builds a hierarchy of true and false times according to the body parts involved. He is effectively pointing out what you should move and even gives an ordering of the body parts. Most people only consider the two following quotes:. The true fights be these: whatsoever is done with the hand before the foot or feet is true fight. The false fights are these: whatsoever is done with the foot or feet before the hand, is false […] Georges Silver, Paradox There are eight times, whereof four are true, and four are false.
The true times are these. The time of the hand. The time of the hand and body. The time of the hand, body, and foot. The time of the hand, body, and feet. The false times are these. The time of the foot. Then they follow an interpretation where true times are distinguished from false times purely by the order in which the motion starts. Note that there is nothing here pointing to the start of motion specifically as opposed to the end, for example, or even that the order is indeed temporal and not simply a sort of precedence of one body part before another. As I have written above, I shall leave it to other people to propose a consistent interpretation of Silver; instead, in the rest of this post, I just want to point out the properties and causes of true and false times that a good interpretation has to match.
These properties and causes are one of the most valuable tools Silver gives us in my opinion. A move performed in true time is faster than one performed in false time, and also just plain fast.
The swiftness of true times is described as early as Paradox And that swiftness is recalled in Paradox 7, with the mention that false times are too long, so that a fighter using true times can strike at the same time as his opponent using false times even if the latter acts first:. Georges Silver, Paradox 7. For the same reason, interpretations that are not working primarily due to swiftness are probably suspicious too.
It is entirely logical that times are primarily about speed. Other concepts such as cover or distance are associated to other terms used by Silver space and place , for example. Georges Silver is going further than differentiating between quick and not-so-quick motions.
He is also pointing out that different body parts tend to have different speed. There are several instances in the text where he points out that the time of the hand is swifter than that of the foot, for example here:. Now here is again to be noted, that when the cross is made, if he that has the long rapier stands fast, he is wounded presently in the uncrossing of the short sword, if he steps or leaps back to save himself, yet the time of the hand being swifter than the time of the foot , overtakes him, with blow or thrust in the arm, hand, head, face and body.
This observation is true enough; a foot movement is generally done to carry the body somewhere, and therefore the whole body mass has to be moved. A hand movement moves just the arm. Even though the muscles in the legs are very powerful the hand remains fastest. Considering typical movements of a step for the foot, and a swing for the arm either lifting it to strike or striking down , it is possible to work out the ratio: it seems to be about in favour of the hand i. Note that it is wrong for some cases. For example simply switching stance without actually moving from where you are can be done much quicker than a step, and of course a very small foot movement can be very fast.
Similarly, a very wide swing of the hand can be as slow as a step. In particular, if the interpretation has the hand slowed down to sync with a full foot movement, it is a false time.
This is pointed out in the Paradox 14 that I have already quoted the first part of:. The false fights are these: whatsoever is done with the foot or feet before the hand, is false, because the hand is swifter than the foot , the foot or feet being the slower mover than the hand, the hand in that manner of fight is tied to the time of the foot or feet , and being tied thereto, has lost his freedom, and is made thereby as slow in his motions as the foot or feet , and therefor that fight is false. If the hand moves quickly at the start, then stops, but the effect is only carried out when the foot completes its motion as in a full-length classical lunge , it is also a false time.
The action is performed in time of the foot although the hand moved as fast as it should. In Paradox 24 there is a lengthy but interesting discussion about the speed of the hand, the speed of the foot and the consequences on the ability to parry a blow:. But let the warder with his dagger say, that it is not true which I have said, for the eyes to behold the blow or thrust coming, so has he as good time to defend himself. The time of the hand deceives the eye, but you have to be close enough to use it. If you are too far, you will have to use the slow time of the foot, which cannot deceive the eye.
George Silver - Wikipedia
Given the emphasis on swiftness, I consider this to be applicable to all true times. An interpretation that defines true times that you can see coming, or that can be used from any distance, does not fit the text. You need to be close in order to act fast. While you can move in such a way that you minimize the forewarnings of your actions, a time of the foot is still to long to fall below that threshold of reaction time.
A time of the hand can be short enough once you have trained it. There are a lot of actions that can fall in a grey area, and when you start linking actions together seamlessly it becomes fairly hard to point out true and false times, whatever the interpretation you are following. The common interpretation that it is all about moving the weapon first does not fit the text: you can move the weapon first and still move in false times.
This does not mean that your movement is wrong and does not fit other sources; plenty of living arts use these false times as their basic attacks. You should just avoid using Silver as a justification for it. Rather than focusing on the hierarchy, the observations that caused Silver to forge it should be carefully considered.
The three main components are:. From these three premises you can analyze many techniques and pinpoint why they succeed or fail. Sorry, but we can't respond to individual comments. Recent searches Clear All. Update Location.
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Paradoxes of Defence (George Silver)
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