From Schermaonline.com a letter/article written in 1932 by Italo Santelli on how to build a winning Olympic squad with an introduction and comments by Maestro Giancarlo Toràn in [brackets]. http://www.schermaonline.com/scherma/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2615 Italo Santelli was a famous Italian Maestro di scherma who is more known for his results as a Maestro (coach) than his silver medal at the 1900 Paris Olympics. After Paris, Santelli moved to Hungary and did so well with his teaching that for decades the Hungarians were universally recognized as the best saber fencers in the world. There have been many discussions about the Hungarian Method to explain this success in saber: technical innovations, specific changes, to justify this dominance a posteriori. In this letter/article, written to "Armi" in 1932, Italo Santelli presents his side of the story stressing that in his teaching he always followed the Italian School of which he was a most genuine product. Santelli makes some interesting comments which are still current today and he even needles Nedo Nadi, an "amateur/dilettante" because he coached without ever having a diploma and title of "Maestro di scherma." Giancarlo Toràn Olympics sidebar: Hungarian saber fencing is 100% Italian! My dear Dr. Rastelli, [Giorgio Rastelli, a journalist, a well known fencer, and the author of an interesting fencing treatise] Thank you for the kind words you wrote about me as Maestro of the Hungarian fencers who triumphed at the Olympics [Los Angeles, 1932]. Our victory was even more significant in view of several wordy articles which here [Italy] had led people to believe at a certain point that the time had come for Hungary to lose its primacy in saber. Instead... But I won't impose on you what was written on some Hungarian newspapers about this, after the results. Unfortunately, in Los Angeles, Italy lost its supremacy in foil and epee. This is a big moral and material loss for the Italian Maestri who teach abroad, especially in those cities where they compete with French Maîtres who follow the French method. In Amsterdam (1928) Italian fencers under the leadership of the Hon. Giuseppe Mazzini, performed miracles. Fortunately, in Los Angeles the French. after winning the team events, did not follow Mazzini's brilliant strategy when he decided to withdraw from the individual competitions after the splendid victory of the [Italian] epee team. The French went on to compete also in the individual events giving the Italian fencers the chance to partially recover after their defeat in the team event. In the article in your newspaper about the composition of the teams, you wrote against the concept of having a Unique Commissar (UC/CT) for Italian fencing and in several other articles you explained why you are against this idea. The results of these Olympics prove that you were 100% right. [Team competitions were considered more prestigious and important than individual in those days. This is why, regardless of the two gold and four silver medals in Los Angeles, plus the medals at the previous Amsterdam Olympics, Nedo Nadi, the UC/CT of Italian fencing was subjected to severe criticism in the press of the time. Adolfo Cotronei, famous journalist who had fought in a duel with Aldo, Nedo's brother (described in Aldo's book "On Fencing"), who had been Nedo's friend, strongly criticized Nedo's leadership of the Italian squad. This provoked another duel fought with saber, this time between Cotronei and Nedo. Nedo was determined to put an end to Cotronei because he considered him a dangerous person. Cotronei could have died in this duel had the tip of Nedo's saber not been caught in Cotronei's belt buckle bending the blade. Cotronei became so scared that he never fought another duel and as Nadi said much later, "he died in his bed."] Here in Hungary we followed the same model which you recommend. We said, "Those who want to go to the Olympics must earn their spot with the weapon in their hand." We set up 4 tournaments, open to everybody, and the six best were selected for the nice trip [to Los Angeles]. With this practical, simple, and just formula we got extraordinary results without spending a dime, and we built a team which beat 9 to 2 the best opponents (the newspapers here wrote 14 to 2!!!), and even more importantly we left at home another 10 fencers almost as strong as the 6 who went to the Games. We put the team together just one and a half month before leaving for Los Angeles, after the four tournaments: two young ladies who are my students and six saber fencers; two from the military school (Nagy and Piller), all the others my students. By decree of the fencing federation [Hungary] and under the strict supervision of Col. Schencher, team captain, we had one and a half month of intense training in my salle, and to prevent that fencers already assured to go would slack off, we published the results of all their bouts to five touches. Could you tell me how much did cost the Italian squad fencing preparation for the Olympics? UC/CT my foot! What you need are Maestri! Only Maestri, those poor forgotten souls, can make and do produce champions. All the UC/CT of the world put together cannot parry a thrust unless the Maestro taught the Olympians how to parry. All the nice talk, all the federation presidents put together cannot gain a millimeter of advantage to help win the Olympics if the Maestro does not know how to give good lessons to the Olympians. The key to victory is in the Maestri's pockets. Here in Italy instead you put everything in the hands of Nedo Nadi who is without a doubt the greatest fencer in Italy, but he is not a Maestro. Furthermore, if you are a great [still] active competitive fencer you cannot be a good coach. The great fencer, if he were to give a lot of lessons, would immediately lose all his speed and elasticity which you must have to be a champion. The arm, tired from the many lessons, is not good any longer for the important bouts. This is why great fencers give seldom a lesson, and because of this they are not good Maestri since they don't have enough [coaching] practice. If having been a great fencer were enough to be a great Maestro, the Argentinians today  who had as coaches Sartori, Pini, Nedo Nadi, and now Sassone--who as fencers have dominated the world over the past 40 years--should be the strongest. Instead this is not the case!!! The officers and managers of the Italian federation should take better care of the Maestri because the Olympic results depend only on them. At the military and at the civilian school for physical education they should hire a Maestro specialized in saber to give honor again to this very Italian weapon, a weapon which has many ardent followers abroad. Polish, Germans, Hungarians, Egyptians, Austrian, Americans, etc., they all practice with great love this weapon which has so much action, so much athleticism, which even people who know little about fencing like because they can understand it better than the refined foil or the crabby epee. For me personally these [Los Angeles] Olympics were a cause of great joy because of the brilliant results by the Americans, led by my son. [His son, Giorgio Santelli, Olympic champion with the brothers Nadi in Antwerp 1920. He too had a duel with Cotronei and wounded him rather seriously with a cut to the cheek after arguments following the 1924 Olympics.] From all this I had the greatest proof that the way I applied the Italian system to the new needs for the Olympic games is the best. I can produce very good students with little work. I just have time to give lessons to my students three times a week because I have to divide them in two groups. Only Piller and Nagy and other officers at the military school--whom you know well because you came here to fence--can train every day. My students can meet their match because they have better technique, but if I could give lessons to a smaller number of students I feel I could produce even better champions than those who went to the Olympics and whom you know well. I know that in Italy, especially here in Milan, you talk about a Hungarian system or saber school. Even the Italian Maestro Barbasetti on the most important French sport magazine "L'Auto" said that from now on he would have taught saber with the Hungarian method. You have been in Budapest and you saw with your own eyes--and you are an excellent fencer and journalist--that HERE we follow the pure Italian system, with Italian sabers, Italian blades, Italian gloves and masks. All the actions are called with Italian names and even many of my students, beside Italian fencing, LEARNED also to speak Italian. We never invented here new bellgards or grips which are more or less bent. We import everything from Italy. Therefore, the victory of the Hungarians was NOT A VICTORY OF HUNGARIAN BUT OF ITALIAN FENCING. Tell this to everyone, in particular to some journalists who write about fencing without knowing much about it. I apologize for the long letter. When will I have the pleasure of seeing you again? Yours truly, Maestro ITALO SANTELLI .