This translation is the result of three years of research, and a lifelong quest. Translating any text is not an easy task, even for a professional linguist, which I am not. Often statements and sentiments are encountered which have no direct equivalent in any other language. Other times, it is the syntax itself which proves difficult. How can we translate an author's words to an entirely different language, without losing the intent and feel of the original, and still communicate these ideas with eloquence?
It is meticulous and demanding work, but it can be done. Since the original and unreleased first edition, this translation has gone through numerous revisions in an attempt to improve and clarify. Every effort has been made to make this as accurate a representation of the original as possible. Undoubtably, there are errors. Given the great personal importance I place upon this manuscript, be assured that this translation will continue to be revised and updated as mistakes are discovered and corrected, or clarifications made.
Perhaps some will see this manual and think badly of it, assume its appearance malevolent, by its nature the navaja is the characteristic weapon of the barateros, tahъres and other men of unsavory conduct; those who would rather ignore than learn the precepts that would result in their own misfortune, and cosequently that of society. To these people we can reply that when in in this society there are certain incurable evils for which the precepts of religion are not enough, nor the most sublime moral treatises, neither are the laws of any use nor are more effective measures within reach; it is advisable to adopt a goal of making remarks less cruel, and instruct honest and peaceful men that could be visciously attacked by those who show off their skill in handling arms, and backed with this advantage resort to insult and offense over the most insignificant word or gesture, or simply for the pure pleasure of causing injury.
Laws against the duel have been legislated in Spain, in an effort to do away with this barbaric custom left over from the time of the knights, but in truth nothing has been acomplished; because daily we see a return to this combat in the name of honor by precisely the same men in charge of watching that the pragmatic orders and codiciles that forbid dueling are followed.
It is not enough that there are inteligent and decent people that speak against duels, calling them the resources of barbarians and immoral men; and in vain there have been formed in countries better educated then ours respectable societies for the purpose ending them, using all the resources dictated by the utmost love for humanity. The dueling continues; and we have seen with scandal not too long ago that the laws are being disdained by the same people who established them.
"Beware", Rousseau has said, speaking against the duel, "of confusing the sacred name of honor with this ferocious preoccupation which places all virtues in the point of a sword, and that is only propper for making courageous villains. What is the object of this preoccupation? In the most extravagently barbaric opinion that ever entered the human spirit, to witness, that the rights of society provide with courage;
that a man is not a rogue, barbarian, nor a liar, and on the contrary he is a politician, courtly, well educated and humane when when he knows how to fight; that a lie turns into a truth, in honesty treachery, and it becomes praiseworthy infidelity the moment it is maintained with a blade in hand; that an afront is always repaired by a swordstroke; and that you never do wrong to a man as long as you kill him.
Note here a little of a lot of what has been said against the fighting, , and nevertheless we are not without writers that publish treatises defending it without realizing that their message is in opposition to the laws. What does this show? The insufficiency of such laws and the triumph of the doctrines of the duelists.
Because we tolerate dueling, it is neccesary to teach the art of managing arms so that the effect will be less noticable; there has been a need to teach the weak to defend themselves from the tyrany of the strong; and since a very long time ago there have been men who carry the pompous title of Maestro mayor de los reinos, others that are called Segundos tenientes, and finaly the ones simply called Maestros de armas, who call the collection of their precepts El nobilнsimo arte de la esgrima.
Those masters of fencing or destreza, as it was called in antiquity, establish their palestras even in the most public places, and give in them their lessons, disregarding that the authorites, protectors of the life of the citizens, would do away with these lessons from which the outcome can be nothing but the making of killers; and here is seen a contradiction between one law that prohibits dueling, and another that authorizes or gives free reign to the public teachers of the florete. What other thing are these asaltos given even by persons of the feminine sex, but schools, whose masters teach to reach success by human blood? Of what is bragging the so-called seсorita Castellanos in her florete sessions? Of knowing how to kill. Why is the teaching of the firing of the pistol allowed? Because there are times when it is convenient to use it in self defense.
Then, if even though you know that dueling is a horrenedous wrong you have to tolerate it, and it is important that you teach the method of fighting; if no one is schocked by or rises against a treatise of fencing, nor against its precepts, and on the contrary these form part of the good education of the upper classes, and you are not a refined gentleman if you do not know how to wield a florete or saber; if all this happens, we cannnot find reason for anyone to look with revulsion upon the teaching of the navaja, and moreso when we are intending to give the precepts to honorable men
so they may know how to use it as a defensive arm. It is undoubtably certain that disreputable users of the navaja wouldn't be so frightful if we knew how to parry their blows; and proof of this is, that when two people duel with the florete, because both know how to use it, frequently the fight does not bring deadly consequences. The navaja is the arm generaly used in Spain by the working class, and we're greatly shocked by the aversion with which the upper class looks upon it. Learn then how to use it for certain occasions the same way you learn other arms and you will learn the utility of our Manual. If we are told it is the weapon with which the barateros impose their law in the gambling houses and take contributions from the players by force, we will also say that the navaja is for the honest and peaceful man who finds himself threatened by a theif, a ruffian, and who has no other defense than it and his heart. Finaly, the navaja is the propper weapon, as we have said before, of the muleteer, cartpusher, the artisan and the sailor, and an indispensible instrument you cannot be without. In view of the above, we are going to set forth here the neccesary rules for the best management of this arm in these so-called cases of honor.
Besides, if there are those who write special treatises of the fencing with and firing of all the weapons for the gentleman, for the nobility, for the white-gloved men, we write for the village, for the men of the village, for those less hardened and caloused to whom the gentleman refer to as the riff-raff, and without whom they would be worth very little; and we write for the men of the village for they too have their duels, more suddenly, more abrupt, with neither seconds or witnesses, or other foolishness found in the duels of the aristocrats and the so-called decent people.
Finaly, we write this Manual also incase those proffesional duelists, who even though perfumed and dressed in rich clothes, are very far from having better conduct and morality than the men of jacket and stick, and are many times more deserving of punishment than the heroes of the gambling houses, among whom it is not strange to find markings against their lives so full of fighting and stealing, want to avail themselves of our knowledge.
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