Sunday, 17 September 2017

Translation - Come il sistema Redaelli fu esautorato by Ernesto Besenzanica

In the link below you will find my translation of Ernesto Besenzanica's 1886 booklet Come il sistema Redaelli fu esautorato: Considerazioni intorno la Relazione della Commissione giudicante dei Trattati di Scherma presentati al Ministero della Guerra dietro concorso indetto il 21 settembre 1882, or in English: "How the Radaelli system was overthrown: Considerations regarding the Report of the Judicial Commission of the Fencing Treatises presented to the Ministry of War in the competition announced on the 21st September 1882".

(As always, yellow highlighting indicates that I am uncertain if the translation is accurate or if the wording is awkward, while red highlighting indicates that I am certain my translation is incorrect there.)

In this essay, Besezanica succinctly criticises the report of the commission that replaced Radaelli's Milan fencing school with Parise's in Rome, while also providing mathematical evidence of the superiority of Radaelli's system, both in sabre and spada. For the sabre, he shows that the wider range of motion incurred by using the elbow as the main pivot instead of the wrist does not cause blows to be slower as a result, due to the greater force that results from using the forearm.

Besenzanica also claims that Parise's system had already been "practically banished" in the Modena fencing academy, which would not have been much more than a year after it became the regulation system. Along with other such statements, this provides more proof of the backlash towards the introduction of Parise's system in the army, which is supported by Gelli's claims that the cavalry eventually went back to teaching Radaelli's method instead.

Curiously, Angelini never mentions Besenzanica or his arguments in his 1887 critique, which is a shame since Besenzanica raises many good points that are never addressed (as far as I'm aware) by Radaelli's critics.

As for Besenzanica himself, here is what Gelli had to say about him in his 1890 fencing bibliography:
"Ernesto Besenzanica was born in Milan in 1864 (4th of December) and studied fencing at the age of 16 with Maestro Giovanni Monti, Radaellian and director of the Scuola Magistrale of fencing in Milan.
At the National Tournament of Lodi (1883), and alone among the many amateurs summoned from all parts of Italy, he got the first prize and won the sabre competition. In Vercelli and Milan he always won prizes.
The laurels achieved on the piste made sure that Besenzanica never forgot the art, which he cultivates constantly in his own fencing hall.
In Livorno, Varese, Modena, Bologna, the engineer Besenzanica held the Radaelli method high.
In 1885 he wrote the cited booklet and published it in January of 1886."
Besenzanica went on to become a highly regarded railway engineer, designing and completing many projects not just in Italy, but also in countries such as Greece, Albania, and Romania. He died in 1940.

The original scans of this document can be viewed here via Harvard Library.

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