Introduction and Objective
Two concurrent and apparently incompatible interpretations of George Silver’s book, “Paradoxes of Defence”, exist. These will be called the "Accepted" and "Challenging" interpretations. The core point contested is the concept of True and False Times; what are their causes, and how they can be achieved or avoided. The Accepted Interpretation understands that the sequence of how the body parts (hand and foot) enter action is determinant to the classification of the time. The Contesting Interpretation understands that the conclusion of the objective of the body parts is paramount to the classification of the action.
The objective here is to scientifically determine the sufficiency of both.
Universe of Evidences
According to Silver's own words, "I have set forth these my Paradoxes, different I confess from the main current of our outlandish teachers", and so his work may differ from other English and foreign masters. Since Silver's own doctrine is not certain, it is impossible to determine which current or master, English or foreign, is part of the said group of outlandish teachers or doctrines.
For these reasons the universe of evidence will be limited to Silver's works, falsifiable physics demonstrations and logic. Presuming any similitude in practice and objective with whatever master or style to draw a comparison might contaminate the analysis with concepts that may distort the interpretation and induce the finding of wrong conclusions about his priorities and metrics.
The methodology will be attempting to find falsifiable physical descriptions within the text and test the hypothesis for sufficiency in generating or averting the effects described.
While this task could be done with help of modern methods, only those methods available at Silver’s time will be used. From his assertions, it is certain that Silver had enough knowledge to handle small amounts of time comparatively (ex. comparing the timespan of the tasks of the hand and foot inside a fencing action) and could work conceptually with these comparative values.
"The true fights be these: whatsoever is done with the hand before the foot or feet is true fight. The false fights are these: whatsoever is done with the foot or feet before the hand, is false, because the hand is swifter than the foot, the foot or feet being the slower mover than the hand, the hand in that manner of fight is tied to the time of the foot or feet, and being tied thereto, has lost his freedom, and is made thereby as slow in his motions as the foot or feet, and therefore that fight is false." - "Paradoxes of Defence", 14
The greatest point of resistance against the Challenging Interpretation is that its consequences lead one to believe that True Times happen only when the fencer has what Silver calls “The Place” ("Know what the place is, when one may strike or thrust home without putting in of his foot." - "Brief Instructions", cap. 4, item 3).
The Challenging Interpretation defends this assertion by pointing out that the hand wouldn't have to wait for the foot to bring it in range to complete its action and, therefore, all actions of the hand would be true times, and the foot would follow behind the hand in relative safety, thereby reaching the place for the next action. At first glance, this interpretation seems correct since all actions in The Place would be performed in the 'time of the hand', the shortest and truest time without controversy. But this impression is wrong.
If the fencer starts his motion with the foot, even upon having The Place, the time of the hand will be slowed by waiting for the foot. This might seem absurd, having the place and yet moving the foot, but, for example, there are/were fencing traditions that recommend heaving back the hand and/or stomping with your attack to 'put impetus' to the impact. Even by a simple mistake or reflex this can happen.
For this reason, the Challenging Interpretation fails to avoid the effects of False Times when The Place is had, and the Accepted Interpretation ensures that the effects of the False Times are not observed.
Observing those actions which happen without distance, when The Place is not had and one must step to reach the target, such as with a single intent attack made from without distance, like a lunge, the Accepted Interpretation not only fails to avoid the consequence of the False Times, but in fact make them worse. The consequence described by Silver states that the False Times cause the hand to be made as slow as the foot. Since the hand will always have to 'wait' for the foot to complete its "task" (bring the hand into range), the hand will always have its speed (overall duration of time taken to hit its target) somewhat impaired; an impairment that is greater the earlier the hand starts if a single intent action is attempted. Only when the motion of the hand is completely done, its task achieved before the foot achieves its own, are the consequences of the false times avoided. As the Challenging Interpretation states, this can only happen when The Place is had from the onset, when the foot is not needed at all for the conclusion of the hand’s motion.
For these reasons, the Accepted Interpretation fails to avoid the effects of False Times when The Place is not had, and the Challenging Interpretation states its causes, predicts and avoids its effects accurately.
Proof of the Validity of the Challenging Interpretation
Since the Challenging Interpretation makes new claims, adds to the Accepted Interpretation, and the proof presented early on was not sufficient, this proof of validity must be made by other means.
Parsing the False Time excerpt:
"because the hand is swifter than the foot, the foot or feet being the slower mover than the hand, the hand in that manner of fight is tied to the time of the foot or feet, and being tied thereto, has lost his freedom, and is made thereby as slow in his motions as the foot or feet [...]"
It is found:
Causes (A): "the hand is swifter than the foot, the foot or feet being the slower mover than the hand"
Conditions (B): "in that manner of fight" (id est 'False fight')
Consequences (C): "the hand [...] is tied to the time of the foot or feet, and being tied thereto, has lost his freedom, and is made thereby as slow in his motions as the foot or feet"
And observing an excerpt found in "Paradoxes of Defence", 24:
"...the hand is the swiftest motion, the foot is the slowest, without distance the hand is tied to the motion of the feet, whereby the time of the hand is made as slow as the foot..."
It is found that:
Causes (D): "the hand is the swiftest motion, the foot is the slowest"
Conditions (E): "without distance"
Consequences (F): "the hand is tied to the motion of the feet, whereby the time of the hand is made as slow as the foot"
In comparing the findings it is possible to detect the similarities between both statements between the causes (A) and (D) and between the consequences (C) and (F). Whilst it was demonstrated previously in the Analysis section that False Times can happen within distance, these two statements lead to the conclusion that the unavoidable consequences of the False Fight are outcomes of all actions without distance. So, although not all actions within distance are True Fight, all actions without distance will have the consequences of a False Fight.
Example of coherence
As example of coherence between the Unified interpretation and the writings of George Silver, an excerpt from BI 4.20 can be used:
"20. If he lies variable after the manner of the Passata then if you lie aloft as is above said, you have the advantage, because he that lies variable cannot reach home, at head, hand or arm, without putting in his foot or feet, & therefore it cannot be denied, but that he that plays aloft, has still the time of the hand to the time of the foot, which fight being truly handled is invincible advantage."
In other words, it cannot be denied that he who plays aloft has the time of the hand to the time of the foot against one in variable, signifying that the action of putting in the foot is what constitutes a time of the foot, this being an action in false time, which may be defeated by an action in true time.
In order to achieve Silver's True Times and avoid his False Times, both recommendations must be followed: the hand must be started and concluded before the foot. If the hand has to wait for the conclusion of the foot, it is impaired. If the hand has to wait for the foot to start, it is impaired.
Post Scriptum demonstrating the meaning of 'without distance'
Due to divergences on the understanding of the meaning of the expression 'without distance', another demonstration is needed. This divergence resides in the possible use by Silver of the word 'distance', denotatively or connotatively, as his concept of Distance, by which you keep your safety.
Parsing the Consequences(F), it is found that:
Consequence (F1): the hand is tied to the motion of the feet
Consequence (F2): the time of the hand is made as slow as the foot
The Consequence (F1) contains the connotative expression "tied", making its meaning unfalsifiable, id est any meaning can be attributed by the reader and it cannot be scientifically negated. This makes (F1) unsuited for scientific analysis.
The Consequence (F2) does contain evidence of physics: the time the hand is made as slow as the time the foot.
The Consequence(F2) can only be observed if the foot is intrinsically needed to achieve the objective of the hand, either to start as demonstrated earlier by stomping or reflexively acting, or to conclude the action if the target of the hand is out of range. If the foot is not needed, the time of the hand can be as smaller as the Causes(D) allow, when compared to a time of the foot, id est, the hand can use all of its swiftness to cover the distance to its target without any delay imposed by the foot.
Since, by definition, all actions for which the place is not had need the movement of the foot to remediate the lack of reach of the hand, then the Consequence(F2) will be unavoidable for these actions, rendering the meaning of 'without distance' irrelevant for the conclusion that any action in which the place is not had at its beginning will have the consequences described by a False Time.