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Monday, August 1, 2016

Creation of a La Verdadera Destreza Training Circle

Hello again,

Below you will see photos of several stages of the process and the final version of my historical recreation of a La Vedadera Destreza (LVD) training circle.  This one in particular is from Luis Dias de Viedma's work "Metodo de Ensenanza de Maestros" (Method of Teaching of Masters), 1639.  The translation of the manual was done by Tim Rivera and is located here: Spanish Swordsmanship Society of St. Louis.  I posted Viedma's original circle from the manual at the bottom so you can compare it to my final circle.

I have been wanting to do this for a while and selected Viedma's circle for a few reasons.  The primary being that it seemed to be the easiest to start out with and contained most of the needed parts (major circle, lines of infinity, etc.). I intend to recreate Carranza's circle next or perhaps Ettenhard.  While Thibault has the best instructions for creating his circle, it is by far the most complex and I will hold off on that for now.

I am using this as a training tool to teach my "LVD footwork and use of the Spanish Circle" class at Pennsic 45 this year.  I will emphasize that the circle is an imaginary construct you create in your head as you fight.  It is in no way meant to be an actual battlefield or used like a fencing strip, BUT having an actual circle to train upon certainly has many benefits.  I also will go into how you can mark out places on the floor with pieces of tape, as my training partner Xavier showed me.  I have also used the circles on the basketball court where we hold our practices.  In the end the circle can be a very valuable tool for training and learning to judge distance and movement in LVD.

I wanted to stay as close to Viedma's measurements as possible,

"This whole circle must be twenty-four feet around, all of which is divided into steps of three feet, makes eight steps in all its circumference."
Method of Teaching of Masters, Luis de Viedma, pg 11r (1639)

Before making the circle, I also was curious what my personal measurements would be, as defined by Thibault's work.

"..one end of a large compass is placed at the navel and the other at the toes or against the soles of the feet, and the circumference is then drawn all around, it forms a circle, the center of which will be the person's navel, the diameter equal to the height at full extension."
Academy of the Sword, Gerard Thibault d'Anvers (1630)

Thibault says the radius of your circle should be measured from your navel to the sole of the feet.  As discussed in my previous post Blade Length in La Verdadera Destreza (Part 1 of 2) I am very tall at 6ft. 5in. and my navel to the floor (without shoes) is 46 and 1/2 in.  Since I use a 45 inch blade I decided to round down to 46 inches (3ft. 10in). Low and behold my personalized Thibault circle comes out to 24 ft. 8/10ths of an inch circumference.

My personal measurement is so extremely close to Viedma's defined 24 ft circumference or untranslated "veinte y cuatro pies de circuito".  Since I am far taller than most people in period, this lead me to ask even more questions regarding what the period size of the circle should be. Viedma does not use the measurement of the vara in his work, but actually uses the word "pies" or feet.   I have read that the actual formal modern measurement of the foot was not established until much later than this work and there was significant variation in its definition at the time.  For example, the Roman foot came out to approx. 11.65 inches of the modern foot, which would make his circle translate into a modern measurement of approx. 23ft. 4in. circumference.

Did Viedma measure his circle using a different period foot size?  Did he actually intend his circle to be larger than the average man, as defined by Thibault's measurements which were published less than a decade before him?  I do not have answers to these questions at this time, but they have given me something to think about as I move forward with my studies of this art.

My Viedma Circle
I decided to go with the 46 inch radius or modern measurement of 24ft 8/10th of an inch circumference as I felt that it was staying true to Viedma's work.  I did not create this alone and need to thank my girlfriend Elena Hylton for assisting me with this entire process.

We started out with a 9ft. by 12ft. canvas and drew out all of the lines with a pencil.  It was pretty dark in our driveway at the end of the first night and it might be hard to see the lines in the spotlight, but they are there.  I had also kind of lost my mind at this point, as you can see here with my Destreza Man pose.

The 24ft. circumference I refer to above is the outer circle and the inner circle is 6 inches smaller or a 40in. radius. The inner circle can also be used for a shorter person if needed.  Each of the lines was created using a 1 in. wide painting sponge.  Here is a partially painted circle.

 Here is the final product.  I attempted to recreate the handwriting and placement of the letters as well as all of the angles.  I left my car in the photo so you can have a concept of scale for the work.

Lastly, here is Viedma's actual circle from his manual, pg. 9r.

I did not have enough room at the top of the canvas to add both of the opponent's feet, but I did add a half foot up there so my training partner can have a reference point.

I am very proud of how this turned out and I found all of the work to be very much worth it.

As mentioned earlier, I was left with a number of questions regarding what the measurement of the period "foot" should be, but that is the fun about researching and recreating something like this.  It is a great tool as both a physical and intellectual exercise.

I look forward to experimenting with this circle, and possibly others, while training and finding more questions / answers along the way.

Thanks for reading.


  1. That's really fantastic! I'm going to try to make it to your class next week, but if I fail at that, any chance you could bring this to practice sometime?

    1. Thank you and of course I look forward to bringing it to see what to make of the angles and such. I will also have it in camp so you can take a peek at any time.