History is filled with weapon masters winning fame and fortune with their spectacular skills. The Fencing master was a man of his time; respected, wealthy, glamorous, and well-travelled. Here are some short bios of a few of the most well-known fencing masters.
George Silver was a teacher of defense in England during the sixteenth century. Silver highly disapproved of the Italian and Spanish fencers, and their weapon of choice, the Rapier. He considered the Rapier a dangerous and ineffective weapon, and unfit for use. Silver wrote two major essays, "Paradoxes of Defense" and "Brief Instructions on my Paradoxes of Defense", in which he attempted to undermine the use of the rapier and promote smallswords and staves. George Silver's last complaint was that people were being taught to settle everything with the point of a blade; duels had been rapidly increasing in popularity at the time, and Silver did not approve. Though Silver brought up some good points, his writing was very arrogant and in some cases offensive.
George Silver's essay "Paradoxes of Defense", may be found at http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/paradoxes.html thanks to Greg Lindahl.
Camillo Agrippa invented the four main fencing positions: prime, seconde, tierce, and quarte. He also defined the rapier as a weapon that can be for cutting as well as thrusting, going against the Italian style of rapier fencing. He wrote the book "Trattato di Scienza d'Arme" in 1568.
Manuals by Camillo Agrippa and many other fencing masters of the 16th and 17th centuries can be found at http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~wew/fencing/masters.html thanks to William E. Wilson.
Henry de St. Didier
Henry de St. Didier was one of the first french masters of fencing to acknowledge that Italian style fencing was better than any other. He taught students how to counter-attack well and how to disarm an opponent. Henry de St. Didier was also the first French fencing master to publish a treatise.
Salvator Fabris formed most of the sixteenth century's theories on how to fence. He published "Sienz e Practica d'Arme", after travelling to Germany, Spain, and France to study the art of Fencing. He taught people to use the thrust more than anything else, but did also teach the parry using the sword itself.
Giacomo di Grassi
Giacomo di Grassi, an early Italian master, was one of the three premiere Elizabethian fencing masters. Grassi invented many of the tactics we use in fencing today. Grassi prefered the short sword to the Rapier, and practically invented the modern parry. Most people at the time only attacked and counter-attacked, without much thought towards defense, so his ideas were a drastic change. Grassi's most famous book is entitled "His True Arte of Defence". Grassi and Silver together are the two Masters of the sixteenth century that had the most influence in bringing us modern day fencing.
Vigiani was an Italian fencing master who taught the use of the thrust over the cut. He published the book "Lo Schermo". He also invented the modern Lunge, which he called the punta sopramano. He also taught people to always come on guard with the right foot forward when using a single sword.