“The New Science of The Sick Burn” from 1674 – a partial translation of Pacheco

One of the fundamental building blocks of the Spanish La Verdadera Destreza is how much better it is than other systems.

The stance is better, the actions are simpler, easier, more direct, safer, more scientific…. at least that is what Diestros tell you.

And whatever is not Destreza is Vulgar. So there is no surprise that you can find many Spanish sources criticising others from the period.

But the king of them all is Luis Pacheco de Narvaez. If you have a favourite Rennaissance master, he has insulted him. Your favourite fencer is Spanish? No problem, there is a high chance he has insulted him anyway.

[fencing master], not being recognized inferior, nor wanting to give five shortly, wet the pen well and made a long-winded discourse entitled: on the provocations in all the postures and their opposition; it is of so little substance, that as much as he was able to enjoy saying it, it is necessarily confounded with the impossibility of reaching it.”

Pacheco on a famous Bolognese master.

And you don’t need to fight the flowery language of Pacheco and know Spanish, because Tim Rivera has translated 30 of the Vulgar techniques and their Verdadera counters described in Nueva Ciencia.

You can check it out here.

Who is Pacheco insulting?

Everyone. No, seriously. Here is full list:

Camillo Agrippa
Giovanni dall’Agocchie

Pedro de la Torre

Giacomo di Grassi

Nicoletto Giganti

Salvator Fabris

Achille Marozzo

Pietro Monte

Federico Ghisliero

Jaime Pons

Ridolfo Capoferro

Angelo Viggiani

Francisco Román

Marco Docciolini

Joachim Meyer

Giacomo di Grassi, whose fantastic imagination presumed that only his writings have to be the standard and eternal examples of the coming centuries, followed all this and was resolved to say with bold contempt that mathematics were of little utility to him for his book.”

There are Bolognese, Italians, Spanish, one German even. There are some masters that we know of mainly because of how Pacheco insults them – like Jaime Pons, who’s manual is lost. And there are some that it feel like are missing, like George Silver, who surely deserves a good counter-burn from rapierists.

So is Destreza better? Well, some of the techniques Pacheco criticises are recognizable. And sometimes he has valid reasons to criticise them and good counters against them. A great layout by Tim Rivera helps a lot with finding that amongst Pacheco’s words, which are often too many.

Then Nicoletto Giganti, who was the echo or imitation of the others, so unscrupulous in the copying of all those that he found printed in his language (and the foreign), making this case more mysterious, said that establishing uncovered was a great artifice.”

Of course, there are some things he describes that are gross exaggerations of a problem in a technique from, let’s say, Fabris. Then there are some he might not have understood – or perhaps seen only from a flawed student of di Grassi or Marozzo.

Either way, a very interesting document, heavy, but fun to read, and extremely useful. Let’s hope someday to see a full translation of the “New Science” of HEMA’s best hater – Luiz Pacheco de Narvaez.

Don’t forget to thank Tim Rivera if you see him, online or in person. And visit spanishsword.org for all available Destreza translations.

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