Jean de Brye's The Art of Fencing (1721) is a coaching manual. While it does delve into the basics of posture, balance, and guard positions, it also goes beyond the physical techniques of fencing to reveal De Brye's coaching methodology. His approach to coaching is presented in four developmental stages, which provide a solid framework for coaches and fencing instructors to build upon. His emphasis on breaking down complex actions into manageable parts, and gradually building them up, is an enduringly effective method that has stood the test of time.
What sets The Art of Fencing apart from other fencing manuals of the era is its focus on coaching rather than mere technique. De Brye's coaching techniques were considered essential for any fencing master of the 18th century and are still relevant today. This book is a valuable resource for academic historians and fencing coaches seeking to understand the pedagogy of Enlightenment-era fencing.
The Art of Fencing is not a comprehensive manual of early French smallsword techniques, but rather a collection of techniques to illustrate how to train the new and developing fencer. However, the practical examples of De Brye's teaching framework, and its implementation in the training hall, make it an indispensable tool for any modern fencing instructor.
This is a book that deserves to be widely read and discussed in the fencing community. Whether you are a historical European martial arts instructor, a modern fencing coach, or simply a lover of the sport, The Art of Fencing is an invaluable addition to any bookshelf.