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.
Funky Buckler and Vier Blossen Historical Fencing paired up to see how armor impacts the fight. This blog will explore the data from the workshop and what can be learned from this experiment.
This experiment and workshop was inspired by the Knight of Hope.
Fencers were expected to fight unarmored and were allowed to choose any weapon they wanted. Two fencers picked longsword while the other two picked sword and buckler. They would fight against Joe using a longsword while he was unarmored and when he was armored. The unarmored results would be used as the baseline when comparing the performance of armor.
Fencers would fight to 5 points. Points were determined by the following hits:
Fencers were advised to not stop attacking until their opponent acknowledged that they were hit. This was decided to reduce potential doubles or after-blows that may occur from one fencer thinking they had struck their opponent and stopping while the opponent continued to attack.
Unsurprisingly, armor dramatically improved Joe’s performance. While Joe was struck by his opponent while he was unarmored, he was able to make three of the four opponent’s fail to land and attack when he was in armor.
The Outlier – Burhan
Burhan, who was unable to hit Joe while Joe was unarmored, was able to deliver a thrust past Joe’s armor. Even with Burhan earning the title of MVP (Most Valuable Peasant) for the workshop, he felt that he only achieved the hit by pure dumb luck.
Armor verses Multiple Opponents
Joe successfully defeated a pair of sword and buckler fencers but lost to a pair of longsword fencers, taking one with him. When an armored Joe fought five opponents, he successfully hit three opponents before being hit himself.
While the fight ended when Joe was hit, this assumes that he would not have continued fighting after being struck by a sword. Joe was able to isolate each opponent and defeat them before moving on to the next opponent. It was not until he was surrounded and all the opponent’s closed on him that he was defeated.
Potential Improvements Against Armor
One noteworthy data point is that none of Joe’s opponents had experience fighting someone in armor. It is possible that someone who has fought armored combatants would have had more success even if they were unarmored.
Some of the opponents for Joe had experience with thrusting systems that may have aided in finding gaps in armor. As mentioned in the video, thrusting into the gaps were far more difficult than expected.
Armor is incredibly effective. Even against multiple opponents, the armored fighter had a chance to fight and survive. The ability to reduce the target zone while also being able to fight more aggressively cannot be underestimated.
What surprised me the most was how hopeless it felt fighting against someone with armor. Every time a thrust failed to get past the armor, it felt like there was less and less I could do. This forced me to fight more defensively and made me feel like all I could do was delay the inevitable.
The psychological impact of fighting an armored knight is something worth exploring in a future workshop.