A Plan of Thibault’s Académie de l’Espée

Girard Thibault’s Académie de l’Espée, finished in 1628, is a very interesting fencing book which contains some of the most thorough descriptions of fencing moves together with very detailed and consistent illustrations. High-res scans of the books are available here. However, that incredible detail is also a huge barrier for its study. It is difficult to hold it all together in your mind, and when you seek advice for a specific situation it can be hard to locate it again, even if you have seen it before!

One of the first useful work I’ve done when I got my facsimile has been to run through the book and take quick notes of what was where. It is this rough plan that I want to publish here, hoping it might be useful to others. It is of course extremely terse and perhaps inaccurate at times, except for the first few tables that I had read in a bit more detail, but it allows one to look up what is where and maybe find specific answers if need be. I might expand that rough plan in the future to include each sequence of circles…

Book one

This book exclusively deals with a right-handed opponent armed with a single sword.

A portion of Table I.

Table I
  • Discourse on the measure of Man (p.1-4)
  • Construction of the Circle (p.5-6)
  • Naming of points and lines (p.7)
  • Properties of the Circle: walking, instances, times, lengths, degrees of strength, gripping the sword
Table II
  • Link with Dürer’s canonical proportions
  • Dimensions of the hilt
  • Dimensions of the baldric
Table III
  • Drawing the sword
  • How to set yourself in the straight line posture (continued in next table)
Table IV
  • How to set yourself against the straight line or the obtuse angle
  • Discourse on the excellence of the straight line
  • How to adapt according to the length of blades or steps
Table V
Advantage of the straight line against feints (outside, inside, below)
Table VI
  • Subjection to 2nd instance on the inside (circles 1-2)
  • Thrust from 3rd instance (circle 3)
  • Response to a parry of average weight (circles 4-7)
  • Response to a parry of strong weight (circles 8-13)
Table VII
How to deal with thrusts delivered during the subjection (opponent makes a cavazione)
Table VIII
How to deal with thrusts delivered during the subjection (opponent makes an imbrocatta around the blade)
Table IX
  • Discourse on the weights and feeling
  • Dealing with reactions of various weights during the subjection
Table X
Dealing with reactions of violent or strong weights

Table X, circle 5: reaction to an overparry.

Table XI
Zachary steps back, how to follow
Table XII
How to open up angles and exploit them while hitting (sometimes using the left hand to grab)
Table XIII
How to deal with a variant of the straight line, hilt higher covering the face, tip lower
Table XIV
Dealing with cuts, starting with a subjection to the inside
Table XV
Subjection to the outside
Table XVI
On the same, study of taking opportunity and economy of strength
Table XVII
Dealing with cuts, starting with a subjection to the outside
Delivering cuts to the weapon arm
Table XIX
Obligation (opponent’s blade is on top), walking to the outside
Table XX
  • Subjection to the inside from the obligation to the outside
  • Discourse on postures and the rigidity of illustrations

Detail of table XXI.

Table XXI
  • First intention strikes
  • Discourse on strength and weaknesses of the opponent’s posture
Table XXII
Attacking the straight line, starting left foot forward
Same start, but the opponent holds his hilt higher
Table XXIV
Zachary takes a different posture: hilt low, point high, weight on the right foot
Table XXV
Another slightly different posture: point to the inside, hilt outside
Table XXVI
Feints and possible changes on the same approach
This time Zachary attacks Alexander on the straight line
Attacks on a low guard (sword pointing forward and to the ground)
Table XXIX
Continuation of the latter, dealing with attempts to grab with the left hand
Table XXX
Attacks on a bent arm third
Table XXXI
How to chase the opponent’s sword in extended third
Dealing with the extended third
Dealing with Fabris’ method

Some of the moves of table XXXIII.

Book two

This book details specific cases against different weapon combinations. I have used German names for the postures of the greatsword here, although Thibault does not use that vocabulary and the postures are variants that do not necessarily appear in German works as far as I know. These names should be viewed as shorthands rather than as perfect descriptions.

Table I
Uncaptioned circles. Three of them are the same as in book one, the rest are slightly different in construction.
Table II
Uncaptionned, allegories.
Table III
Against sword and dagger

  • Action derived from book one, table XXIX, circle 8
  • Action derived from book one, table XXIV, circle 1
Table IV
Against sword and dagger

  • Subjection
  • First-intention strikes
  • Adapting to various postures
Table V
Against sword and dagger

  • More on subjection
  • Other postures, striking between the weapons
Table VI
Against sword and dagger, this time Zachary has the left foot forward

Table VI: fighting against sword and dagger.

Table VII
Against sword and round shield
Table VIII
Against sword and round shield
Table IX
Against the greatsword, parrying a cut thrown from “low vom tag”
Table X
Against the greatsword

  • Void against the same cut
  • Subjection against “longpoint”
Table XI
Against the greatsword

  • Countering a cut from “zornhut”
  • Attacking against “ochs” and “hengetort”
Table XII
How to deal with left-handers
Table XIII
How to behave against a musketeer

Table IX: diverting a greatsword cut.

2 thoughts on “A Plan of Thibault’s Académie de l’Espée

  1. Thanks so much for this! That book is basically incomprehensible to a beginner without it XD

  2. Muchas gracias por este y sus otros trabajos sobre Thibault que,desde hace tiempo sigo atentamente.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.