The text that follows is the product of a collaboration between two largely forgotten figures in the history of historical fencing. I use this unwieldy term advisedly – while Georges Dubois (1865-1934) and Albert Lacaze (1880-1960) were masters of the fencing of their day, they also played an interesting role in reconstructing the practices of the more distant past. The documentary record shows that Dubois and Lacaze were both keenly interested in the history of their art, and this text emerged from that shared obsession.
Ostensibly, the system outlined here recreates the rapier and dagger fencing of the Italian Renaissance. Rapierists will quickly recognise that this is not quite the case. Though both masters, and especially Dubois, demonstrated great erudition in historical fencing literature, and though many of the techniques of Fabris, Capo Ferro, and others are approximated here, this system is too unique to be considered a true revival. The short, light weapon with which it is practiced (a modern French foil will do) and its use of the two-tempo tactics of modern foil, all expressed in classical French terminology, distinguish it as a novel system in its own right. It occupies a fascinating place at the intersection of the history of fencing (as an innovative method in its own time) and the history of the history of fencing (as an early example of the kind of reconstructionism in which we ourselves are engaged).
I first encountered this intriguing system through a short newsreel from 1934, in which the great Italian champion Aldo Nadi can be seen fencing at the Salle Lacaze, dagger in hand. It is dynamic, fast, sexy fencing, and though it did not survive the rigorous transformations of the twentieth century, the time and effort that this leading light of the sport seems to have dedicated to it constitute a ringing endorsement of the system. The copy of Dubois’ book used to make this translation seems in fact to have been Nadi’s personal copy – it is inscribed as follows:
To the Master Aldo Nadi
In cordial homage to the incomparable disciple of celebrated Italian masters who have made the noble art of arms sparkle through the entire world.
Albert Lacaze –
In homage to the brilliance of that sparkle, and in the same spirit of admiration for my friends and fellow fencers, I offer this peculiar text to the anglophone reader.
Melbourne, August 2022
This text is featured in my forthcoming Selected Works of George Dubois.