Popular Posts

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Spanish Circle Through the Years


July 26, 2018; Added a circle from Manuel Antonio de Brea (1805), Added an additional Thibault plate with more detail and on where to find more; Moved older updates to the bottom section. 


Hello again,
My hope was to make this post about a summary of a wonderful article on Spanish counters to Italian fencing that I have been reading and using recently. (update, I eventually made that post and it is located here.Instead I mentally made a left turn today and ended up spending multiple hours researching the Spanish circle and thought I would share that with you.

The circle in Destreza is not a simple thing to describe, yet it is also not as complex as some of the masters make it out to be. You can get dizzy looking at some of the interpretations that, while beautiful, are pretty intense (see Thibault's or Rada's circles below).   The Spanish circle is not supposed to be an actual circle on the ground in which you fight, but you will see them on the ground now and again to be used for training purposes.  It is instead intended to be a mental construct that the Diestro uses when fencing to help them navigate geometry, distance, and angles to command not only himself, but his adversary.

Maestro Ramon Martinez has a series of articles on this if you are interested in reading more about the Demystification of the Spanish School located here: Martinez Academy of Arms

The circles below are from 11 different masters and span over 223 years of La Verdadera Destreza manuals.  I say "over" because Carranza's manuscript was first published in 1569 to a small audience, so in truth we are looking at 236 years of work in the same style and fencing tradition.  Some, like Carranza, had a very small number of drawings in their treatises.  Others, like Thibault and Rada, had a large variety of figures and circles within their work to demonstrate the art and the movements.


The masters and the years the included circles are from are as follows:

                                            Don Jeronimo de Carranza                   (1569 / 1582)
                                            Don Luis Pacheco de Narvaez               (1600) - 2 circles
                                            Gerard Thibault d'Anvers                     (1630) - 2 circles
                                            Luis de Viedma                                       (1639)
                                            Don Francisco de Ettenhard                  (1675)
                                            Miquel Perez de Mendoza y Quijada    (1675) 
                                            Don Pedro Texedo Sicilia de Teruel      (1678)
                                            Alvaro Guerra de la Vega                      (1681)
                                            Don Nicolas Tamariz                              (1696)
                                            Don Francisco Lorenz de Rada             (1705) - 4 circles
                                            Manuel Antonio de Brea                        (1805)


Here are the circles (in chronological order) that I pulled from the period manuals and treatises:

  • Carranza’s circle from: De La Filosophia de las Armas y de Su Destreza y la Aggression y Defensa Cristiana  (1582)
  • (The treatise of the Philosophy of Arms and of the true Skill and of the aggression and defense of Christianity)
  • One of only 6 fencing related drawings in his treatise, but it is also the foundation for Destreza.

  • Don Louis Pacheco de Navarez’s circle from: Libro de las grandezas de la espada (1600)
  • (Book of the Greatness of the Sword)
  • The center circle (obviously not to scale with the footprints) with the square in it is what I am referencing here.

  • Don Louis Pacheco de Navarez’s circle from: Libro de las grandezas de la espada (1600)
  • (Book of the Greatness of the Sword)
  • Another version of Pacheco's circle that give more detail and also makes the addition of letters around the outside to help the reader navigate the circle

  • Gerard Thibault’s circle from: Adademie de l’Espee (1630)
  • (Academy of the Sword) 
  • As I mentioned it is beautiful, yet intense.  This is the smaller circle plate from his book.
  • He goes into details on how to construct the circle and how the size is determined by the measurements of the fencer

  • Gerard Thibault’s circle from: Adademie de l’Espee (1630)
  • (Academy of the Sword) 
  • Another more detailed plate.  You can find a great web source for this and other Thibault plates at a Memory of the Netherlands site by clicking HERE

  • Don Francisco Antonio de Ettenhard’s circle from: Compendio de los fundamentos de la verdadera destreza, y de la filosofia de las armas (1675)
  • (Compendium of the foundations of the true art and philosophy of arms)
  • Puck and Mary Curtis did a partial translation of this manual and that is located here: Destreza Translation and Research Project

  • Miquel Perez de Mendoza y Quijada circle from: Resumen de la verdadera destreza de las armas en treinta y ocho aserciones: Resumidas, y advertidas con demonstraciones Practicas, deducido de las obras principales que tiene escritas su Autor (1675)
  • This circle was verified and published on a blog run by the rare books curator from Princeton University. You can find the original blog post here: "Notabilia"   The university seems to have a wonderful collection of historical fencing manuals.  Some of them can be found on-line and a list of their historical and modern manuals are located here: Princeton University Library
  • I really enjoy the vast amount of information on this page, which includes basic geometry on the left and bottom, body / sword positions at the top, as well as circles with foot work in the center.

  • Don Pedro Texedo circle from: Escuela de principiantes y promptuario de questiones en la philosophia de la berdadera destreça de las Armas en que ban resumidas con demostraciones practicas... (1678)
  • I have found other pictures from Texedo with fencers using this circle with both rapier and dagger allowing for a better idea of perspective within the movements. Sadly no translations of his work yet, except within Charles Blair's paper on the Spanish response to the Italian Style.  I give a detailed summary of that paper if you click here.

  • Alvara Guerra de la Vega circle from: Comprension de la Destreza. (1681)
  • Sadly this is a poor copy of his circle, but it does give a general idea of another master's work.
  • He reportedly comes from the same part of Spain as Rada and Blair also goes into his work in his article on the Spanish response to Italian.  This master and Rada are reportedly the only masters to refer to a 3rd medio in their work (proportional measure or medio proporcional).

  • Don Nicolas Tamariz's circle from: Cartilla y Luz en La Verdadera Destreza. (1696)
  • This is 1 of only 2 diagrams in all 205 pages of this treatise, which is not that unusual for most of the Spanish manuals.

  • Don Franciso Lorez de Rada’s circles from: Experiencia del instrumento armigero espada: libro tercero. (1705)
  • There are several pages from Rada that I am posting that shows the variety of his circles
  • If you are interested in exploring the Rada style of fencing I really recommend Sebastien Romagnan's book here: Destreza, Historical Fencing

  • Rada continued, same resource as above
  • It shows how the circles of you and your adversary intersect

  • Don Franciso Lorez de Rada’s circles from: Nobleza de la espada, evyo splendor se expressa en tres libros segun ciencia, arte y experiencia, Vol. 3 (1705)
  • This is from a different Rada manuscript and is probably the best example I have found of the multiple circles within Destreza. You can clearly see the greater circle that is shared as well as the minor circles around each of the fencers.  

  • Don Franciso Lorez de Rada’s circles from: Nobleza de la espada (1705)
  • Here is another one from a different book of Rada's that I am including because it seriously just made me say WTF.
  • I actually think I see what he is getting at here, but then again there is a very good chance that I am staring at it too hard like those white noise hidden pictures from the 80's/ early 90's .... look a sailboat.

  • Manuel Antonio de Brea's circle from: Principios Universales Y Reglas Generales De La Verdadera Destreza Del Espadin: Segun La Doctrina Mixta De Francesa, Italiana Y Española (1805)
  • A late period circle that I wanted to link to show how some of these lasted in fencing manuals for hundred's of years.

My previous hope was realized when I used many of these circles to teach a class on Spanish footwork and circle strategy at Pennsic 45. My lesson plan for that class is located at: Lesson Plan for LVD: Spanish Fencing Circle Use and Footwork .

Thank you for reading


November 29, 2016; Added a circle from Miguel Perez de Mendoza y Quijada; Added titles to each of the sections: Recent Updates, Introduction, The Masters, The Circles, and Previous Updates; Moved older updates to the bottom section. 
November 23, 2016; Added a circle of Don Nicolas Tamariz
October 16, 2016;  Added circles from: Pacheco, Texedo, Viedma, Alvaro Guerra de la Vega, and Rada.  Also added a master list after the introduction and a number of links to my other posts.  Since this was first posted in January '16 I used a number of these in a class I taught this past summer at Pennsic 45. 
As I find additional circles and resources I will add them and make updates similar to the way I do on the LVD Resource List

1 comment:

  1. I was hoping you found the origin of the circle I was taught (https://martialtraveler.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/destreza-part-2-the-circle/), but no such luck. It looks a lot like Thibault's without the corners, but differs in all the details. I'm certain my teacher didn't make it up, but I don't know a lot about his teacher other than that he was a Spanish expat living in Panama, and also apparently a bastard. :-)