The subject is praiseworthy enough, but as for the Penman, I'll leave that to thy discrete censure: Good language I want, yet if I did not want it, thou wouldst want the understanding of the book.
The Art of Defence may be justly termed next to the liberal, the chief, the most necessary, as well in time of peace as in time of war, at home and abroad, the most part of other exercises of the body being but for pleasure only, or the health of the body, this for pleasure, for health of body and soul too; for if thou bee known to be expert herein, and to guide thy weapon by judgement, thou dost scarsely give any occasion of falling out, that thou may not be accounted a vain man, and because thou knowest what danger there is in, only standing upon thine own defence, when the unskillful having only courage, will quarrel upon any occasion, because the danger he may fall into is unknown to him: besides nobody will easily offend thee, so that skill maketh thee to be respected and feared, and to fear no man, if thou be engaged in any necessary quarrel.
And again, if it bee thy chance to light into a company, where perhaps in thy presence some may fall out, then the reputation thou art in for thy skill may be the cause of their agreement, if thou thy self dost stir in mediating between them, and thus thou mayst deliver their bodies and souls from danger, in hindering the shedding of blood. I cannot but marvel extremely considering the necessity, why this art should be so much neglected, without the want of good and skillful teachers be the cause. For with what confidence can we wear our weapons, with what safety if we cannot use them? There is a great difference between the wearing and the handling of Arms, to wear a Rapier or Sword is only fashionable, to use it, necessary.
If a man be assaulted and hath no skill to trust to, he will be daunted and loose his courage, and although he doth not loose his spirit, but with a resolute mind will strive to gain the conquest, his fortitude becomes temerity, and his own valour will be his rein, because it is not ruled by reason.
And if thou hast never so good skill, doe not offend any one, nor contemning undervalue thine adversaries skill, although he hath none at all, for contempt engendreth carelessness, and carelessness destruction, ever that thou shunnest thou escapest, therefore rather persuade thy self that thine adversary hath more skill than thou, and fight warily, as if thou wert to combat with thy better man, and thou shalt bee free from many perils, that else would befall thee. It is not my profession indeed to practise this science, or to get my living the same, but my ambition to unfold that to thee for Grand mercy, which hath cost me both thanks and silver: I was encouraged by many of my friends to commit this treatise to the Press, and easily induced to put it in action, seeing the want of such a subject: yet I had scarsely ventured to put my self into the world, had it not pleased my noble friends to divide themselves, and surround me with the fiery walls of their tender love. I present unto thy view a book small in quantity, but great if thou peruse it throughly, grounded upon reason and experience, methodically composed, and (which I will not blush to speak) in such terms that there cannot be made any blow or thrust at thee, but thou mayst find remedy for it here. There have indeed been some few and those of great skill and experience, that have written some discourses of this subject very obscurely, because being that it was their living and profession, they thought it not expedient to make that common by which they were maintained. I have fitted my self to the times, in speaking only of single Rapier and single Sword, being that the Dagger, Gauntlet, Buckler are not in use, and because that the Rapier and the Sword are the grounds of the less noble weapons. The Rapier of the Quarter Staff, of the long Pike, of the Halbard: the Sword, of the two handed Sword, and of the Falchion, so that a man who can play at single Rapier and BackSword well and judiciously, may with great ease learn to handle the rest of the weapons. There be some that will hold that a man having a long arm and consequently a long reach hath a great advantage of a short man, that hath neither so long a reach nor so long a Rapier as he, but if I should make bold to maintain the contrary against those, I should perchance be held to deliver a Paradox, which indeed is no Paradox but to the unskillful: In BackSword-play a long weapon may be advantageous, in Rapier-play it is not, if he that hath the shorter weapon doth but always thrust close to his adversaries weapon: But if two play together that are both unskillful, then he that hath the longer Rapier doubtless hath advantage, because they thrust far off from one anothers' Rapiers.
Entertain therefore, gentle Reader, these first fruits of mine endeavors, with as good and noble a mind as I wrote it with a desire to benefit thee, and to advance thy skill, which if thou dost thou shalt oblige me further, and give me great encouragement to enlarge it with Emblems, and the art of Caminering, a thing very useful, namely how to assault an enemy far off with a Rapier. Farewell, and peruse this with health and joy.