At first glance the circles in Thibault’s Academy of the Sword appear to be nothing more than Neo-Platonism claptrap, much like the geometric figures found in Agrippa’s book, but in reality they serve an incredible important role. Most fencing systems only give a passing nod to footwork, and instead concentrate on the weapon itself. Instructions on what to do with the feet are often limited to vague terms such as “a small increase of the foot”. Thibault instead gives very precise instructions. The student knows exactly how far forward and how far over he needs to go because it is literally laid out on the ground in front of him.
What’s especially important is that all measurements are relative to fencer himself. There is no standard size for the circle; a new one must be drawn for each fencer based on his proportions. The radius of the circle is same as the length of the sword from the punta (point) to quillons (cross bars). When the sword is well matched to the owner, this is also the distance from the navel to the ground.
While predominately used for footwork, there are a few occasions where Thibault will use the points on the circle to indicate where to aim the sword. This seems to be fairly rare with most blade point expressed in terms of the opponent’s body and blade.
In the future post I’ll show an example of the circle with its inscribed and circumscribed squares. While he gives detailed instructions on how to lay it out, it does require more knowledge of geometry than I currently remember.