George Silver. Brief Instructions to my Paradoxes of Defence. London.

Admonitions to the Gentlemen and Brave Gallants of Great Britain against Quarrels and Brawls

Whereas I have declared in my paradoxes of defence of the false teaching of the noble science of defence used here by the Italian fencers willing men therein to take heed how they trusted there unto sufficient reasons and proofs why.

And whereas there was a book written by Vincentio an Italian teacher whose ill using practices and unskillful teaching were such that it has cost the lives of many of our brave gentlemen and gallants, the uncertainty of whose false teaching does yet remain to the daily murdering and overthrow of many, for he and the rest of them did not teach defence but offence, as it does plainly appear by those that follow the same imperfect fight according to their teaching or instructions by the orders from them proceeding, for be the actors that follow them never so perfect or skillful therein one or both of them are either sore hurt or slain in their encounters and fights, and if they allege that we use it not rightly according to the perfection thereof, and therefore cannot defend ourselves, to which I answer if themselves had any perfection therein, and that their teaching had been a truth, themselves would not have been beaten and slain in their fights, and using of their weapons, as they were.

And therefore I prove where a man by their teaching can not be safe in his defence following their own ground of fight then is their teaching offence and not defence, for in true fight against the best no hurt can be done. And if both have the full perfection of true fight, then the one will not be able to hurt the other at what perfect weapon so ever.

For it cannot be said that if a man go to the field and cannot be sure to defend himself in fight and to come safe home, if God be not against him whether he fight with a man of skill or no skill it may not be said that such a man is master of the noble science of defence, or that he has the perfection of the true fight, for if both have the perfection of their weapons, if by any device, one should be able to hurt the other, there were no perfection in the fight of weapons, and this firmly hold in your mind for a general rule, to be the hayth(?) and perfection of the true handling of all manner of weapons.

And also whereas that said Vincentio in that same book has written discourses of honor and honorable quarrels, making many reasons to prove means and ways to enter the field and combat, both for the lie and other disgraces, all which diabolical devices tends only to villainy and destruction as hurting, maiming and murdering or killing.

Animating the minds of young gentlemen and gallants to follow those rules to maintain their honors and credits, but the end thereof for the most part is either killing or hanging or both to the utter undoing and great grief of themselves and their friends, but then to late to call it again. They consider not the time and place that we live in, nor do not thoroughly look into the danger of the law 'til it be too late, and for that in divers other countries in these things they have a larger scope than we have in these our days.

Therefore it behooves us not upon every abuse offered whereby our blood shall be inflamed, or our choler kindled, presently with the sword or with the stab, or by force of arms to seek revenge, which is the proper nature of wild beasts in their rage so to do, being void of the use of reason, which thing should not be in men of discretion so much to Degenerate, but he that will not endure an injury, but will seek revenge, then he ought to do it by civil order and proof, by good and wholesome laws, which are ordained for such causes, which is a thing far more fit and requisite in a place of so civil a government as we live in, then is the other, and who so follow these my admonitions shall be accounted as valiant a man as he that fights and far wiser. For I see no reason why a man should adventure his life and estate upon every trifle, but should rather put up divers abuses offered unto him, because it is agreeable to the laws of God and our country.

Why should not words be answered with words again, but if a man by his enemy be charged with blows then may he lawfully seek the best means to defend himself and in such a case I hold it fit to use his skill and to show his force by his deeds, yet so, that his dealing be not with full rigor to the others confusion if possible it may be eschewed.

Also take heed how you appoint the field with your enemy publicly because our laws do not permit it, neither appoint to meet him in private sort lest you wounding him he accuse you of felony saying you have robbed him, etc. Or he may lay company close to murder you and then report he did it himself valiantly in the field.

Also take heed of your enemy's stratagems, lest he find means to make you look aside upon something, or cause you to show whether you have on a privy coat, and so when you look from him, he hurt or kill you.

Take not arms upon every light occasion, let not one friend upon a word or trifle violate another but let each man zealously embrace friendship, and turn not familiarity into strangeness, kindness into malice, nor love into hatred, nourish not these strange and unnatural alterations.

Do not wickedly resolve one to seek to the other's overthrow, do not confirm to end your malice by fight because for the most part it ends by death.

Consider when these things were most used in former ages they sought not so much by envy the ruin and destruction one of another, they never took trial by sword but in the defence of innocence to maintain blotless honor.

Do not upon every trifle make an action of revenge, or of defence.

Go not into the field with your friend at his entreaty to take his part but first know the manner of the quarrel how justly or unjustly it grew, and do not therein maintain wrong against right, but examine the cause of the controversy, and if there be reason for his rage to lead him to that mortal resolution.

Yet be the cause never so just, go not with him neither further nor suffer him to fight if possible it may be by any means to be otherwise ended and will him not to enter into so dangerous an action, but leave it until necessity requires it.

And this I hold to be the best course for it is foolishness and endless trouble to cast a stone at every dog that barks at you. This noble science is not to cause one man to abuse another injuriously but to use it in their necessities to defend them in just causes and to maintain their honor and credits.

Therefore fly all rashness, pride and doing of injury all foul faults and errors herein, presume not upon this, and thereby to think it lawful to offer injury to any, think not yourself invincible, but consider that often a very wretch has killed a tall man, but he that has humanity, the more skillful he is in this noble science, the more humble, modest and virtuous he should show himself both in speech and action, no liar, no vaunter nor quarreller, for these are the causes of wounds, dishonor and death.

If you talk with great men of honorable quality with such chiefly have regarde to frame your speeches and answers so reverently, that a foolish word, or forward answer give no occasion of offence for often they breed deadly hatred, cruel murders and extreme ruin etc..

Ever shun all occasions of quarrels, but marshal(martial) men chiefly generals and great commanders should be excellent skillful in the noble science of defence, thereby to be able to answer quarrels, combats and challenges in defence of their prince and country.


Released: November 13, 1998 / Last modified: December 12, 2008