This chapter examines the realities of Renaissance combat in France. Sword fighting during the Renaissance was predominantly offensive — it taught how to kill as rapidly and as efficiently as possible. The key to self-defence was to seize the initiative; relentless thrusting and cutting blows prevented the possibility of a counter-attack. The best form of defence is attack — strike first and ask questions later. Without armour combats were likely to be short, and speed and surprise were essential to survival. This is significant because accused under interrogation and supplicants for letters of pardon invariably painted killing as an involuntary act of self-defence. In order to understand the economy of violence, the terminology must be clear to distinguish between battles, encounters, and duels. Paying close attention to the terminology also permits us to study the pace of change in combat techniques and modes of killing.
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