As much as I love the Type XIV Arming sword by Viktor Berbekucz (VB), the sword has not been as popular in my class with my students. Many of my students feel that the shorter stockier blade is hard to manage. Instead, many of my students have looked at a different VB sword for their first sword.
Today we are going to discuss my thoughts on the Type XVI Arming Sword by Viktor Berbekucz and why it has become the most popular sword in my sword and buckler class. We will compare the characteristics of multiple Type XVI swords by VB and minor differences I have seen between them.
Just like with all the one-handed VB swords I have used, the Type XVI sword shows remarkable durability. If you are looking for a training sword that will last for years, the Type XVI sword by VB is a solid choice.
Just like with all the arming swords I have trained with, the crossguard will inevitably become loose and rattle. Originally I was able to hammer the crossguard back to being secure but I am unable to do so now on the older type XVI swords I have. Instead, I have been using epoxy to hold the crossguard in place.
Viktor Berbekucz swords continue to be one of the most affordable swords on the market (at least in the United States). With the price and the durability, these swords make a fantastic beginner sword purchase.
The Type XVI sword by VB features a straight crossguard and a fuller running up the blade. The sword is a simple and functional design that serves its purpose.
VB does offer the Type XVI sword with both a wheel pommel and a pear pommel. This allows for a bit of customization and personal preference that is not normally seen with VB swords.
However, be aware that some of the pear pommels have been observed having variability in hilt length.
Variability in Feel
Each Type XVI sword I have handled by VB has had its own feel to it. This is partially due to the handcraftsmanship and also due to the span of time when comparing Viktor Berbekucz’s swords. While the newer swords feel more standardized, they still all seem to have their own balancing and handling.
To further illustrate the variability, let’s take a look at the Type XVI sword by VB in my collection.
The Outlier (Purchased in 2019)
Overall Length 39.0 in
Blade Length 31.2 in
Grip Length 5.3 in
Weight 1124 grams
Blade Width at Crossguard 1.52 in
Blade Width at Tip 0.44 in
POB Passed Crossguard (Approx.) 3.5 in
Crossguard Length 6.3 in
Crossguard Thickness 0.38 in
This Type XVI purchased in early 2019 has always stood out as an outlier in Type XVI swords by VB. The sword is far lighter and more nimble than other Type XVI swords by VB but struggles the bind.
While this sword is an outlier because of its weight, it is also the more popular of the Type XVI swords I have to available in my class. The lighter blade is perfect for brand new students who are still getting used to the feel and handling of the sword.
However, even though it is popular, I see this sword as an outlier and is not the sword I would expect to receive if I purchased it in 2022.
Thick Crossguard (purchased in 2021)
Overall Length 38.5 in
Blade Length 31.2 in
Grip Length 5.0 in
Weight 1232 grams
Blade Width at Crossguard 1.60 in
Blade Width at Tip 0.48 in
POB Passed Crossguard (Approx.) 3.5 in
Crossguard Length 6.2 in
Crossguard Thickness 0.40 in
This sword was purchased in early 2021 and has a similar feel to the next sword on the list. Again, the standardization of the swords shows how Viktor Berbekucz is honing his craft.
One difference this sword has from the next on the list is its thicker crossguard. This has been great for its durability as the crossguard has not been hit so hard that it has bent. Overall, I see the crossguard thickness as a minor detail that does not impact the sword.
This sword feels more thrust-oriented than the next sword on this list. This may be due to the face that the point of balance being half an inch further down the blade. However, this sword is still a cut and thrust sword and is only slightly more comfortable in the thrust than the cut.
Thin Crossguard (purchased in 2021)
Overall Length 38.5 in
Blade Length 31.5 in
Grip Length 4.8 in
Weight 1222 grams
Blade Width at Crossguard 1.61 in
Blade Width at Tip 0.44 in
POB Passed Crossguard (Approx.) 3.0 in
Crossguard Length 6.3 in
Crossguard Thickness .38 in
Finally, we have the other sword purchased in 2021. All of the measurements are within tolerance of the other Type XVI sword discussed earlier. The only difference is the slightly longer and slimmer crossguard and the point of balance.
This thinner crossguard also has not been misshaped by impact during sparring so it would appear that the difference in the crossguard is negligible.
Who I Recommend It To
This sword has earned a spot as my go-to loaner sword in my medieval sword and buckler class. Everything about it screams “Classic Arming Sword” and is great for teaching swordsmanship. I have used this sword for teaching sword and buckler as well as messer with great success.
What this sword offers is a generic sword feel. It is great for both cutting and thrusting and is a great starting point for HEMA practitioners.
Some of my students have stuck with the Type XVI sword throughout their training. They cite the versatility of it and that it “just feels right” when using I.33 or Talhoffer techniques.
While some students may learn that they prefer swords that favor thrusts or cuts more, or shorter and longer blades, or a myriad of other variations, this sword is a great sword for just about anyone.
Why I Recommend the Type XVI over the Type XIV for New Students
As much as I have praised the Type XIV in an earlier review, the impact behind the cuts, the shortness of the blade, and the stiffness of the blade are major detractors for my students when learning I.33. Given the amount of thrusts I.33 uses as well as the wrist actions, the Type XIV sword is just not as forgiving for newer students when compared to the Type XVI sword.
The longer blade allows for students to comfortably thrust without feeling like they need to close to grappling range. The lighter blade also makes it easier to deliver wrist cuts which is advantageous when learning I.33. Finally, the Type XVI sword has better flex in the blade that makes it a kinder sword to spar against.
It is for all those reasons that I generally recommend the Type XVI sword to students looking to buy their first sword.
The Type XVI arming sword by Viktor Berbekucz is a fantastic sword for anyone looking to train with a medieval one-handed sword system. It is a durable trainer that has enough weight to it to bind effectively while also being light enough to deliver wrist cuts. The sword also has the option of a pear pommel or a wheel pommel which adds to its versatility.
Whether you are a new student to medieval sword systems, a longtime practitioner of HEMA looking for a simple arming sword, or an instructor buying swords to loan to students, the Type XVI arming sword by Viktor Berbekucz is a keeper that you will not regret.
When studying historical martial arts, there is always the question of how gear influences interpretation. Is my longsword too long for the system? Is my gear restricting my movements in a way that makes some techniques difficult? Today, we will explore what is the right size buckler for I.33; both from a historical context and a functional context.
In this analysis, NASA-STD-3000 regarding average sizes of human anatomy will be used to try and calculate the diameter of the bucklers shown in the images. This is done partially because it is a scientific standard for rough approximations and also to check the checkbox of “over-analysis” for a medieval manuscript.
To compare the calculations made to some historical examples, The Book of the Buckler by Herbert Schmidt was used. According to Herbert Schmidt, the buckler “has a maximum diameter / dimension of approx. 45cm [17.7in]. The calculations made using NASA-STD-3000 had to be realistic when compared to historical examples.
The Size of the Buckler in the Image
Small, medium, and large buckler are all shown in I.33. While some variations may be caused by the illustrations being drawn by hand, others seem more deliberate.
The images of Walpurgis show possibly the smallest buckler in I.33. When using the female 50th percentile estimates in NASA-STD-3000 to calculate the size of a female head, the buckler’s diameter appears to be around 29.9cm (11.8in).
The image of Sixth ward on the first pages of I.33 shows one of the largest bucklers in I.33. The buckler appears to be roughly the same size as the fencer’s torso from neck to waist. Again, using NASA-STD-3000, this would put the large buckler’s diameter roughly at 40.9cm (16.1in).
These estimates for the size of the bucklers illustrated in I.33 are rough at best. There is a number of variability introduced by the artist in the images, both with the buckler size as well as with the size of the fencers. To give a wide range of buckler size to account for potential errors, the bucklers used in the illustrations of I.33 appear to be anywhere from 25.4cm (10in) to 43.2cm (17in) in size.
Functional use of the Buckler in I.33
I.33 primarily uses the buckler to protect the hands while they are extended in front of the fencer. In most images, I.33 shows the buckler extended forward as opposed to close to the body. So the right size buckler must be able to be extended in front of the fencer for the majority of the engagement.
On the surface, the largest buckler someone can find would seem to be the best option. However, the buckler needs to be light enough for the fencer to extend the buckler forward. One way to reduce the weight of the buckler is to reduce the size of the buckler. Another way would be changing the material of the buckler to a lighter material.
Based on the art in I.33, there is a wide range of sizes of bucklers a fencer can use while still being historically accurate. As long as the buckler is round and no larger than 43.2cm (17 in), it will match the art of I.33.
The real determining factor for the size of the buckler comes down to the fencer using it. If the buckler is too large and heavy, the fencer will fatigue and become less effective in the fight. If the buckler is too small for the fencer, they may struggle to defend their hands while they are engaged in the bind.
When studying I.33, the best buckler will be the one you are most comfortable with. Training strength to handle larger bucklers is advantageous. However, smaller bucklers will almost always be quicker which can have its own advantageous in the engagement. The most important thing to remember is that the buckler’s job is to reduce the chance of you getting hit.
So remember, when studying I.33…
Today we will continue the series comparing the sword and buckler systems of I.33 and Andre Lignitzer. Today’s post will be discussing the second play from Lignitzer and comparing it to the twenty-second cross of I.33.
As a reminder, I.33 starts each of its 40 plays with a cross in the top left of the image. To compare Lignitzer’s system with I.33, a cross that is most similar to Lignitzer’s play will be selected. If the sixth play in I.33 is referenced, then it will be identified as cross 6.
Why Cross 22 Was Selected For Comparison
Cross 22 from I.33 was selected for this comparison because of the sequence of follow-on actions from the bind towards the end of the play.
In truth, Lignitzer’s second play showcases many of the fundamental differences between the two sword and buckler systems. While Cross 4 of I.33 arguably has a bind position similar to the second play of Lignitzer, the follow-on actions were too different to draw many comparisons.
Cross 22 is one of the plays in I.33 that shows the actions of longpoint verses longpoint. According to I.33, all actions with the sword end in longpoint so these crosses can be helpful when discussing sword and buckler systems that attack into the engagement as opposed to I.33 that generally places the sword into the engagement.
Comparing Lignitzer Play 2 to I.33 Cross 22
While not explicitly stated in the second play, it can be assumed that the underhaw strike delivered to initiate this sequence would be delivered with the sword and buckler together as advised in the first play. This is similar to the sieges I.33 delivers.
Another similarity is that both systems encourage attacking the opponent’s head from the bind.
There are a number of differences showcased in this Lignitzer play that run contrary to the teachings of I.33.
The first and most glaring difference is that Lignitzer advises the fencer to separate the sword and buckler while in the bind. I.33 chooses to only separate the sword and buckler when it is safe to do so. In Lignitzer’s case, the separation appears to be done in order to maximize the area defended by allowing the sword and the buckler to independently engage in the bind.
Another difference is the use of ochs in the bind where the hilt of the sword is brought closer to the ear while the tip of the blade remains forward towards the opponent. In general, I.33 avoids this position because of the gap it creates between the sword and the buckler.
Analysis of the Defense against the Cut Towards the Head from the Bind
Finally, and arguably most interestingly, the second play of Lignitzer concludes with the opponent defending with just buckler while cross 22 ends with an action to maintain the bind with the swords.
According to Lignitzer, “If he defends against this and lifts his shield up, take the left leg”. However, Lignitzer does not advise what to do if the opponent defends with the sword. Presumably, binding actions would occur and the first play of Lignitzer would be repeated.
The second play of Lignitzer may add context to the “why of I.33 techniques”. I.33 never advises to defend with just the buckler. Presumably this is because defending with just the buckler would be common knowledge and not the primary focus of the techniques shown in I.33.
However, the use of the upper schutzen to defend the head as opposed to just the buckler is an explicit technique in I.33. When looking at both of the systems, it is possible that the reason I.33 prefers to maintain the bind and use the sword to defend high is because if only the buckler were used, the opponent could attack the leg as shown by Lignitzer.
The differences between systems does not inherently mean one is superior to the other. Just because I.33 chooses to keep the sword and buckler together when binding against the opponent does not mean that Lignitzer is wrong when separating the sword and buckler hands while in the bind. Both systems have their merits and their own rationale that support their techniques.
From a HEMA perspective, learning from both systems can increase the total amount of techniques a fencer has at their disposal. I.33 does not include leg strikes; Lignitzer does. Lignitzer attacks into the engagement to force the bind; I.33 places the sword into sieges. Both systems bring their own style that when used properly, can increase the potency of one’s own sword and buckler style.
It is important to recognize the similarities and the differences between each system, especially systems like I.33 and Lignitzer which use similar weapon sets. By analyzing both, we can begin to see a potential pattern of what skilled sword and buckler fencers of the high medieval period felt were universal truths with this weapon combination.