Published in 1809 in Arizpe, Mexico, Tratado Elemental de la Destreza Del Sable or Elementary Treatise of the Art of Sabre by Don Simon de Frias represents the earliest known treatise on the use of Sabre in the Spanish Tradition of La Verdadera Destreza, and the first treatise on fencing to be published in Mexico.

The book, the original of which measured 7 7/8 inches by 5 3/4 inches included 13 engraved plates including 2 large fold-out plates showing footwork.

Frias’ language runs the gamut from poetic to highly efficient and systematic. It is, perhaps telling that he numbers his paragraphs so that he can reference them easily later in the book. His instructions take a progression from simple movements and partner exercises in a fixed stance to increasingly more complex exercises, eventually including footwork.

Little time is spent on philosophy, but Frias ends the book with a section aimed at teachers describing the order in which skills should be learned, along with some tips on how to teach them, and finally a brief description of what equipment should be available for teaching lessons.

Copies of the book are, at this time, only available in Spanish to the best of my knowledge. There are a handful of different copies available online. While they are generally alike in content, the two that I have found to be best in terms of quality can be found at the following links:

Google Books also has several different scans of the text, but they are of much lower quality than the two above.

A paperback printing of the text can also be found at Amazon.com, though it is worth noting that this is just a printing of one of the google books versions.

The pages under this heading, while they may contain translated text, are not so much intended as a translation in and of themselves, as they are my attempts to categorize, interpret, describe, and generally make sense of Frias’ work as I plod through my own process of translating his text and checking my work. It is my hope that the information presented here will be helpful in some way to others who are working with this or similar material.

Index

  1. Introduction and Prospectus

Part 1

  1. Divisions of the Sabre
  2. Positions of the Body and its Division into Planes
  3. Of the Lower Plane
  4. Distances and Places
  5. Steps

Part 2: Parries

  1. Of the Common Guard and Arm Movements with the Sabre
  2. Parries of the First Order

Part 3

  1. Waiting Guards and Simple Strikes with a Single Step and Firm Foot Parry
  2. Graduations, Transfers, Oppositions, and Other Parries

Part 4: Combats of Two Attacks and Parries Rejoined

  1. Parries of the Second Order
  2. Combats from Guard Three Forming the Second Attack from Below the Guard
  3. Forming Attacks by the Point
  4. Combats from Guard Four Forming the Second Attack from Below the Guard
  5. Attacks formed by the Point of the Sabre
  6. Combats of Guard Six
  7. Combats of Guard Five

Part 5: Combats of Three Attacks and Parries Rejoined, Steps, and Advances

  1. General Rules
  2. Combats of Three Attacks from Guard Three
  3. Combats of Three Attacks from Guard Four
  4. Combats from Guard Five
  5. Combats from Guard Six

Part 6: Offenses of the sword, Graduations, Transfers, Oppositions, and Other Removals

  1. Offenses by the Sword from the Five Guards
  2. Offensive Oppositions and Other Removals

Part 7: Beats in Time and Their Oppositions

  1. Conclusions from the Parry
  2. Conclusions from the Attack
  3. Conclusions from the Thrust With the Sabre
  4. Beats of the Hand
  5. Beats in Time

Part 8: Of the Conclusions, Oppositions, and the Method of Transfers

  1. Points Uncovered by the Attack and Replies
  2. Of the Replies
  3. General Instructions for Combat and the Customary Courtesies to be Performed Before and After
  4. Doctrine Against the Left Handed
  5. Doctrine Against Sword and Foil
  6. Notices for Teachers