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 are a combination of translation and my attempts to categorize, interpret, describe, and generally make sense of Frias’ work as I plod through my own process of translating and interpreting his text and checking my work. As such, you may find that my translations change or that new information shows up on pages you thought you’d already read.
I am not a professional translator and I’m learning Spanish as I go, so you may find that some parts of my translation are a little rough or otherwise in need of refinement. Please, if you feel so inclined, feel free to offer polite advice and constructive criticism as I am always looking to improve, both in terms of my own skill set and in terms of the quality of material I can provide.
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.
- Divisions of the Sabre
- Arrangement of the Body and its Division into Planes
- Of the Inferior Plane
- Distances and Places
- Defensive Guards and Simple Strikes with a Single Step and Firm Foot Removal
- Graduations, Transfers, Oppositions, and Other Parries
- Removals of the Second Order
- Battles from the Guard of Third Forming the Second Attack from Below the Guard
- Shots Formed by the Point
- Battles from the Guard of Fourth Forming the Second Attack from Below the Guard
- Shots formed by the Point of the Sabre
- Battles of the Guard of Sixth
- Battles of the Guard of Fifth
- General Rules
- Battles of Three Attacks on the Guard of Third
- Battles of Three Attacks on the Guard of Fourth
- Battles on the Guard of Fifth
- Battles on the Guard Sixth
- Offenses by the Sword from the Five Guards
- Of the Thrusts, Graduating, and Transferring
- Offenses Opposing and Carrying from One Removal to Another
- Conclusions on the Removals
- Conclusions on the Shots
- Conclusions on the Thrusts by the Sabre
- Hand Blows
- Timed Blows
- Points Uncovered by the Attacker
- Of the Replies
- General Instructions for the Battle
- Doctrine and Opposition of the Moulinet
- Doctrine Against the Left Handed
- Doctrine Against Sword and Foil
- Notes for Teachers