Category: Research articles

Concerning the Reliability of the Waggle Test

Dynamic parameters define a rigid body’s reaction to external forces. While their importance for a sword’s behaviour is known since the 19th century, many data sets of original swords, replicas and training weapons include mass and the centre of mass, but lack a third parameter such as moment of inertia, radius of gyration, or corresponding centres of oscillation/percussion. A third parameter, however, is required to calculate a rigid object’s response.

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The Dutch Experiment – De Hollandsche Methode, Christiaan Siebenhaar, and fencing in the Netherlands in the 19th Century

In the mid-19th century, not that long after the Belgian war of independence, an experiment was taking place in fencing in the Netherlands. The main proponent of this experiment was Christiaan Siebenhaar (1824-1885), fencing master in the Dutch army.[1] In his own words, the purpose of his experiment was to “introduce the Dutch language in the Art of Fencing” so that “soon nobody is found in the Netherlands anymore who teaches this art in a foreign language”.[2] However, the real purpose of this experiment appears to have been more ambitious than that: to create a Dutch School of Fencing...

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Riddled in Ink – A Stylistic Comparison of Artwork in MS M.383 and the Novati Facsimile

Proposition This article proposes that Francesco Novati’s 1902 facsimile reproduction of Flos Duellatorum contains clear stylistic discrepancies that can both elucidate its connection to the original Pisani-Dossi manuscript, and identify connections between the Pisani-Dossi and other manuscripts of The Flower of Battle. These inconsistencies surface in the bottom two images of Novati Carta 13A, and in all four images of Novati Carta 13B.[1] This article seeks to illustrate that all six of these images not only differ stylistically from the rest of the artwork in the Novati facsimile, but indeed share strong stylistic similarities with the artwork of the...

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The Flower of Battle of Master Fiore Friulano de’i Liberi

Last week, in the same spirit of information freedom that inspired Wiktenauer’s creation, I released a free ebook version of The Recital of the Chivalric Art of Fencing of the Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer, one of the two books produced as part of the 2015 Wiktenauer Fundraising Drive. Today, I give you the second: The Flower of Battle of Master Fiore Friulano de’i Liberi. As before, the translations have been updated with changes made by my translators since the book went to print, various typos and formatting errors have been corrected, and the images have been compressed to reduce...

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The Recital of the Chivalric Art of Fencing of the Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer

Though long delayed, this book represents the most complete picture possible of the Liechtenauer tradition of foot combat as it was recorded in the mid 15th century. It’s the text I wanted for my students when I was leading a study group, and I’m happy to finally offer it in print. I hope it serves in some small way to advance the study of Johannes Liechtenauer’s art.

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King and Fool – The Vier Leger of Liechtenauer’s Tradition

King and Fool – The Vier Leger of Liechtenauer’s Tradition and their relationship with common medieval German archetypes. Exposition includes three things: The letter, the sense, and the inner meaning. (1) “Vier leger allain da von halt und fleuch dye gemain ochβ pflueg alber vom tag sey dir nicht unmär. (2)” “Four guards alone hold; and disdain the common. Ox, Plow, Fool, From the Roof should not be unknown to you. (3)” “Four lays hold to and flee these alike. Ox, plow, foolish, clear as day, let these not be unwelcome to you. (4)” I have pondered the translation of...

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The Last Duel, Part 2: Death by Sodomy

Part One of this article examined the famous judicial duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, which was held in Paris in 1386. As it turns out, the description of the event in Eric Jager’s book The Last Duel is rather different from the five surviving medieval accounts of the fight. Part Two will use the medieval sources to reconstruct what really happened in the combat, using HEMA knowledge to interpret the texts. Anatomy of a Duel The final showdown between Carrouges and Le Gris was preceded by lengthy ceremonies, which were themselves preceded by months of...

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What Really Happened at the Last Duel? Part1

According to the website Deadline Hollywood, Studio 8 has hired a screenwriter to turn Eric Jager’s book The Last Duel into a script for a Hollywood movie (Fleming, 2015). This tale, published as nonfiction, is an account of the judicial duel in 1386 between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris over the accusation that Le Gris raped Carrouges’ wife. For most critics and viewers, the film’s relevance to our own time will come from its story of a woman whose rape is hushed up until a man advocates for her. However, the Historical European Martial Arts community will...

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Florius de Arte Luctandi: Challenges and Discoveries in a Contemporary Latin Translation of Fiore dei Liberi

Florius de Arte Luctandi is formally designated Ms. Latin 11269 by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Based on the content and style of the illustrations, the style of the handwriting, and its probable relation to better-known texts, it was likely created between 1410 and 1430. Little of its history is known, although it was re-bound around 1635 and entered the Pontchartrain library in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. Its acquisition by the Bibliothèque nationale de France was recorded on March 10, 1756.1 Florius alongside Fiore Perhaps the most certain thing about Florius is that its...

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“The Use of Weapons”, René François (1621)

The entry on fencing in René François’ 1621 encyclopedia is a rich source of terminology and practices common in the fencing salles of this period in which France was developing its own native fencing style as well as trying to rid itself of foreign cultural influences. René François was the pseudonym of Etienne Binet, who held the position of Predicateur du roi [King’s Preacher] to Louis XIII. He published several other books, mainly works of hagiography and religious philosophy. His encyclopedia, Essay on Nature’s Marvels and the Most Noble Inventions,1 had considerable success as the raw material of conversation in a world where the currency of elite...

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Adolphe Corthey: A French 19th Century HEMA Pioneer

In the introduction to “The Sword and the Centuries” (1901), Alfred Hutton mentions a curious incident. His fencing group in the London Rifle Brigade were invited to Belgium to put on a display of historical fencing. What can we discover about this Belgian event? What follows is an overview some literary detective work that reveals Adolphe Corthey, a man in every way Hutton’s equal and the powerhouse behind late nineteenth century HEMA in France.

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Meyer Pilgrimage Part 2 – Basel

Almost exactly a year ago I was lucky enough to be taken on a small journey that has been a long time dream of mine; walking in the footsteps of 16th cent fencing master Joachim Meyer, visiting the city where he spent many years teaching as Fechtmeister; Straßburg. I shared some of the things we believe we know about his life then, in an article entitled ‘Meyer Pilgrimage Part 1 – Straßburg‘. This year I was very happy to be invited to take on leg 2 of that pilgrimage, to visit the city where Joachim Meyer was born; Basel, and...

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The Ringen of Joachim Meyer

This article shall group Joachim Meyer’s Ringen into collections of similar throws. Hopefully this will better aid the modern student in learning Meyer’s Ringen. All of the throws have been rewritten into a modern step-by-step method from Dr. Forgeng’s translation along with some interpretation of my own. In Joachim Meyer’s Ringen section we find an amalgamation of several different techniques. In the Ringen section Meyer gives us seventeen different techniques. These techniques appear to be more of a haphazard collection of throws, holds, and general advice. However, while they are scattered over the various plays, these throws can be...

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Hack & Slash in the Age of Reason: Italian Rapier Against Multiple Opponents

“Finding yourself assailed by enemies, and supposing there are many of them, the situation demands nothing less than attacks like those of a desperate man, that is to say you must enter liberally into the fray” Giuseppe Colombani (1711) The scarcity of advice for multiple opponent combat, within the rich literature of several hundred European fightbooks, has often been noted.1 Moreover period masters are often quick to admit that fighting more than one assailant can be particularly difficult and dangerous. The German master Michael Hundt in 1611,2 suggests carrying a bag of stones to throw at your opponents, or...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part IV – Wounds caused by the saber

  Continuing with his four part series on The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon, Dr. Bert Gevaert now presents the fourth part: Wounds caused by the saber Introduction Soldiers and officers in the army of Napoleon led a life full of risks and sometimes the list of injuries a soldier could receive in his career was absolutely impressive. Marshall Nicolas-Charles Oudinot (1767-1847) was injured about 25 times in his military career (Haythornthwaite, 2002a, p.47): 1793: ball in the head (Haguenau) 1794: leg broken by ball (Trèves) 1795: five saber cuts, one ball (Neckarau) 1796: four saber cuts,...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part III

  Continuing with his four part series on The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon, Dr. Bert Gevaert now presents the third part: Individual martial prowess on the battlefield Stories about individual swordsmen are the most fascinating ones and in this chapter I will briefly present some spectacular stories of individual sword or saber wielding bravery on the battlefield. The power of cavalry lied in a mass force of thousands of armed men, augmented by the speed and weight of their horses, which made them into a huge and heavy hammer to smash the enemy, as...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part II

Continuing with his series on The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon, Dr. Bert Gevaert now presents the second part: Antoine Fortuné de Brack: Avant-postes de cavalerie légère (1831) De Brack was a French officer who participated in several military campaigns of Napoleon and who obtained the Legion of Honor for his conduct in the battle of Wagram (5-6 July 1809). From 1807 till 1812 he was member of the 7th Hussars and from 1812 till 1815 he served in the 2nd Lancers of the Guard (the famous Red Lancers). After the defeat of Napoleon he went...

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A key to Meyer’s mechanics & footwork – part 1

Here is a rough diagram that tries to explain the core mechanics that go through all of Meyers fencing and which are the foundation for the footwork and weapon mechanics, regardless of weapon. These mechanics apply to pretty much all of Meyer’s teachings, with somewhat different emphasis for especially rappier and dagger. They unlock certain things in regards to moving & coordination as well as extension & reach. It also makes it easier to fight multiple opponents as you can change direction easily by just looking in the opposite direction, already prepared in stance. Somewhat unusual to some, this also includes moving the body...

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The use of the saber in the army of Napoleon: Part I

“The sword is the weapon in which you should have most confidence, because it rarely fails you by breaking in your hands. Its blows are the more certain, accordingly as you direct them coolly; and hold it properly.” – Antoine Fortuné de Brack ([1831], 1876, p. 51) Though Napoleon (1769-1821) started his own military career as an artillery officer and achieved several victories by clever use of cannons, edged weapons still played an important role on the Napoleonic battlefield. Swords and sabers could dominate battles and this was certainly the case in the hands of experienced cavalrymen. The general...

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Chivalry East of the Elbe, Part I

Introduction: So what happened to the Second Estate? Most of my own HEMA-related historical research in the last ten years has been focused on the Free Cities and City States which are the origin of so many of the known fencing manuals. But that doesn’t mean one ought to ignore the obvious links of the Second Estate of the warrior aristocracy to the legacy of historical fencing. Knights were a real thing and were definitely involved in the development and practice of fencing in the medieval period. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons, knights are not easy to precisely define or understand as a phenomenon. Nor is...

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The nature of the work ahead of us

Our personal goals in studying HEMA are varied, complex and individually quite different. For myself, I try to understand how and why it is designed the way it is as a martial art. That means it is not enough mimicking the movements described in the manuals, since just doing that, in my opinion, is an empty gesture without real meaning. And not understanding the why means we can’t really understand the how either, given that the sources are always incomplete and inferior to receiving direct instruction such as the authors and fencers of old themselves had. Issues that can...

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Meyerozzo: The influences of the Bolognese method in German Rappier

There are many reasons why I devote much of my time and my energies on what Joachim Meyer has exhibited in his treatises. But the main reason I decided to get closer to the Freifechter of Basel was the desire to learn his method of two-handed sword, and possibly the influence of the Bolognese school, which was my best reference point some years ago. But what was my desire really born from? The answer can be found in a very popular figure in historical fencing, at least here in Italy. Of course, I am referring to Jacopo Gelli. Over the years, with...

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Fechtordnung of the City of Solothurn

Below are three versions of the Fencing Ordinance of the Swiss town of Solothurn, first the original, then the English translation, then a German re-statement.  All translations are mine. At the time, Solothurn was a full member of the Swiss Confederacy and a very important supplier of mercenaries, especially to the French court. 239. Fechtordnung Ordnunge des fåchtens halb 23. Juli 1546 frytage vor Jacobj appostoli fechtschuel             Es ist vor Schultheß und Rat erschinen der ersam Hans Tågenscher der kürsiner unnd angezoygt, wie er willens ein fåchttschule zehalltten unnd mencklich umb sin gelltte in nachfolgender gestalltte zeleren: [1]           4sh...

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Meyer Pilgrimage Part 1 – Straßburg

We all share the same love for our personal and shared discoveries of a forgotten European martial arts tradition and studying it we all learn to know some important and commonly known names like Liechtenauer, Fiore, Ringeck, Talhoffer, Kal, Vadi, Marozzo, Fabris and Silver etc. Most of us study their texts and the numerous anonymous ones somewhat generically but as we continue on or journey many of us also end up choosing to go down a more narrow street, focusing on one master only. As many know, for me, that street is the Joachim Meyer street, and while certainly studying other sources,...

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Teaching progressions in Meyer’s longsword 1: the attacking skill tree

Over the last five years, I’ve given several workshops in both South Africa and Europe focused on sequencing the teaching of techniques from Joachim Meyer’s “Gründtliche Beschreibung… der Kunst des Fechtens”[i]. In my view, each section in Meyer’s 1570 text contains two or more of the following elements- a glossary of terms, a training programme (the “Stucke” or “devices”) and an advanced commentary. This progression is best shown in Meyer’s longsword and rapier sections, but the teaching programme is a core element of every section. In the teaching section (“second part”) of each weapon section, Meyer lays out a sequence of drills which I argue escalate in complexity, in which different techniques are introduced to the student in order. This series of articles will explore some of these ideas in more detail, and is written primarily for my own students, but will hopefully be of interest to many other practitioners. This particular article forms the basis for a class I gave at WWOC 2012. The attacking skill tree In a fight, attack and defence are the two sides of the fight. An attack must foil the attempted defence; the defence must foil the attempted attack. Some defensive techniques only work against certain attacks; some attacking stratagems are designed to defeat certain defensive techniques. However, many students have a limited repertoire of attacks, and often fail to sequence them particularly...

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Joachim Meyer’s dagger system

Note: This is a working document and will continuously be updated as we work with our interpretations of Joachim Meyer’s dagger teachings. Similarly to how I worked with his staff teachings I will attempt at systemizing the principles and techniques taught and described both in his writings and his illustrations. Analysis will also be done with comparative work on the teachings of Marozzo as there are an unusual percentage of strong similarities in the illustrations and it is yet not clear if this extends to the text as well. Some comparison to the works of Hans Talhoffer will also be made as there are distinct similarities to it also.   If you are interested in learning more about how we approach the fencing treatises, then these two articles will help you: Tools for research Basic questions for research, text analysis and academic writing.  How to approach the material Important questions to keep in mind while reading What is the personal history of the author? – Born in Basel, 1537. Becomes a burgher of Straßburg in 1560, as a cuttler, where he also becomes a Fechtmeister sometime in the 1560s, and arranges five fechtschulen. Possibly has military experience and likely served in the town militia at one point. Wrote three or four fencing treatises and received employment as master-at-arms at the Duke of Mecklinburg in Schwerin, but dies in 1571, on his way to...

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Arming Sword Geometry by Peter Johnsson

Designing a sword of mid 14th century style using a system of geometric drawing that is inspired by surviving plans of medieval gothic architecture. Please visit my site at peterjohnsson.com for more information about this principle of design and the hypothesis that it may have been used in defining the proportions of the medieval...

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Meyer’s masters

On this day, 443 years ago, Fechtmeister Joachim Meyer published his magnificent fencing treatise ‘Gründliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst des Fechtens’. Exactly one year later, on February 24th 1571, he died from sudden illness, while travelling to take up his position as Fechtmeister at the court of the Duke of Mecklenburg in Schwerin. Currently, I am writing on a couple of books about the Polearms of Joachim Meyer, and to commemorate both Meyer’s legacy and his far too early death, I am here sharing a rough draft for one of the chapters, as a small ‘teaser’. Please...

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The Dussack – a weapon of war

In my opinion the dussack doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves in the historical fencing community, despite the fact that it was a highly important weapon in the old fencing guilds. It is not really studied properly, probably due to many commonly believing that the wooden/leather waster is all that the dussack is, not realizing that it in reality was a complex-hilt steel sabre that became more common in the first quarter of the 1500s and was used well into the mid 1600s, after which it more and more transformed into the proper sabre. Interestingly though, in its wooden training...

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The Rose and the Pentagram

This article is written to accompany the recent article about the mysticist, and possibly even fencer and a Freyfechter, Heinrich Agrippa. If you haven’t read the article, it is suggested you do so, before reading this article. Die Rose (the Rose) is a longsword, dussack, rappier and quarterstaff technique described by fencing masters starting from about 1516AD. This striking sequence, as used by several masters including, Andre Paurnfeindt, Paul Hektor Mair [1] and Joachim Meyer [2], and several later derivative works [3], has confused some of us as we try to understand the relationship between the name and the application of the technique. To be able to understand Die Rose I believe we need to understand what connotations the renaissance man had to the word rose and with that understanding we can apply it to our interpretations of the technique. The following article might seem like a novel by Dan Brown, but explores some of the ideas the men and women of the Renaissance shared, sometimes in more or less secret societies. Symbolism regarding the human body and strength & weakness, geometrics, angles and actions all tie together in the various illustrations of many fencing treatises of the Renaissance and we need to examine this topic both broadly and deeply. Here, the relationship between the Rose, the Pentagon and the Pentagram are crucial to our interpretations. Having studied the topic for some time, I would suggest that...

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Meyer and Marozzo dagger comparison

  It has been debated regarding to what extent Meyer was inspired by the Italians, the Napolitans and the Bolognese fighting systems and although there appears to be ties to this, exactly what they are and how they came about is still unclear. However, comparing Marozzo’s and Meyer’s dagger images I think there is an unusual amount of similarities between the two, enough to lead me to believe that Meyer is the closest to Marozzo’s treatise, when comparing also to other treatises, both “German” and Italian”. Examining the illustrations in both treatises we find that Marozzo shows 17 dagger fighting...

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Is there really a Left Vom Tag?

Well there is a right Vom Tag, and a middle one… so there has to be a left Vom Tag as well, hasn’t there? We make all master cuts cut from both sides, so it is simple logic, right? Looking through the manuscripts and manuals of the 15th and 16th century, it is obvious that the guard Vom Tag can be done in numerous variations, as described in this article: How do you do the Vom Tag? However, one vital question has received fairly little attention; the question if there really is a proper left Vom Tag for right-handed...

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