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.
Today we will begin a series to compare two sword and buckler systems; I.33 and the plays of Andre Lignitzer. Through this series, we will explore the two systems’ overlapping principles as well as their disagreements.
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.
To start the series, we will begin by exploring Andre Lignitzer’s first play and comparing it to a section from cross 1 of I.33.
About Andre Lignitzer and His System
Andre Ligntizer was a fencing master assumed to have lived from the late 14th century to the middle of the 15th century. His work can be found in a number of manuscripts from the Liechtenauer tradition that are from the middle of the 15th century. Andre Lignitzer is credited with authoring techniques on half-swording with a longsword, grappling, dagger fighting, and sword and buckler fencing.
Lignitzer’s sword and buckler system is structured into six short but detailed plays. These plays include terminology used in Liechtenauer longsword systems, such as the Oberhaw, to communicate technique. Lignitzer’s work captures a practical and concise look at the use of sword and buckler which seems to be intuitive enough to adopt once a fencer has learned the longsword vernacular.
More information on Andre Lignitzer can be found here: https://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Andre_Lignitzer
Comparing Lignitzer Play 1 to I.33 Cross 1
Both systems bring the sword and buckler together when the sword is engaged and in front of the fencer. In the case of I.33, this is supported by the images that show the sword and buckler together. In the case of Lignitzer, this is supported by the advice shown in the first play that recommends to bring the sword and buckler together when delivering an Oberhaw.
Another similarity is that in both systems, a thrust is delivered from the bind while using the sword (and presumably the buckler) to cover the lines of attack from the opponent.
I.33 appears to be a bit more conservative in this approach; recommending to perform the thrust-strike when the opponent tries to attack the head. I.33 also goes a step further to state that only common fencers think they can attack the head when they are bound from half-shield.
Lignitzer, on the other hand, does not qualify when this thrust should be performed. It appears that according to Lignitzer, this thrust from the bind can be performed whenever an Oberhaw is delivered. It is also possible that this thrust from the bind can be performed whenever the fencer can safely bind against the opponent’s blade with an over-bind (snap-over).
While I.33 would prefer to position the sword into an antagonizing position, Lignitzer’s system would prefer to attack into a bind. Lignitzer’s action in the play is similar to the advice given in longsword in the Liechtenauer tradition.
In contrast, I.33 prefers to place the sword and buckler into a position to provoke the opponent into responding. However, if both fencers attack from the wards, then binding may occur. This would result in the same binding sequences I.33 instructs. Further evidence of this can be found in cross 25 of I.33 where the sword and buckler in a cut are illustrated similarly to half-shield.
The main difference between play 1 of Lignitzer and this section in cross 1 of I.33 is the way the engagement begins. However, once the bind occurs, either systems’ fencers could be in a position where a thrust may be delivered.
It is clear that both systems are concerned with clean engagements that emphasize attacking the opponent while not putting the attacker at risk. Both systems recommend occupying the opponent’s sword while delivering a thrust from the bind to achieve a safe exchange.
This emphasis on safe exchanges will be further explored when we dive in to the second play of Lignitzer where the two systems will seemingly disagree quite heavily on the “best technique” for the situation.
Today we will be reviewing one of the newest HEMA related books by Richard Marsden titled Bad HEMA the historical masters and how they disparaged the fencing of others. We will be exploring the general overview of the book as well as cost and who I would recommend the book to.
Marsden starts by exploring notable fencing masters and what they believed was bad practice in swordsmanship. Many popular fencing masters and their opinions are analyzed including (but not limited to) Johannes Liechtenauer, Fiore dei Liberi, Joachim Meyer, Giacomo di Grassi, George Silver, Salvator Fabris, and Miyamoto Musashi.
Next, Marsden categorizes the bad practices established in the first section of the book as “Universally Bad” and “Contentious Fencing”. In some cases, many of the fencing masters agree that some techniques are bad. In other cases, such as the discussion of cut verses thrust, the masters are split.
The last section of Bad HEMA explores what modern practitioners of swordsmanship can learn from the past regarding bad techniques. This section includes advice from other modern HEMA practitioners on their experiences in HEMA and what they have learned.
As of writing this blog, the book can be purchased on Amazon for $19.99 in paperback and $29.99 in hardback. The book is 122 pages excluding the bibliography and acknowledgements. This makes Bad HEMA one of the shorter books in the catalogue of books on HEMA and swordsmanship.
This book is an incredibly easy read and accessible for all levels of experience in HEMA. I read this book in one sitting and walked away feeling like I had learned quite a bit about former fencing masters and HEMA as a whole.
I purchased the book in paperback and I feel like I made the right choice. This is a compact sized book that fits well in a backpack or even just carried around. I believe that a hardback copy of this book would slightly take away from the ease of carry. However, I am also the type of person who enjoys the cost savings of paperbacks.
Who I Recommend It To
Even for its relatively short length, this book packs a lot of historical information in it. The information provided in this book appears relevant for all HEMA practitioners; whether they are experienced or not.
The most valuable part of this book is the comparison of many fencing masters on what they believe is bad practice. I appreciate the ability to have one reference to a topic from 15 different fencing masters all in one conveniently small book.
As an added bonus, the book includes sections on the personal experience of other HEMA practitioners. While not all of the advice is relevant to all HEMA fencers, all HEMA fencers will get something out of the concluding section of this book.
This is a great book for all practitioners of swordsmanship. At the price, this book is a must have.
Bad HEMA does something different than many other HEMA related books. Instead of deep diving into the interpretation of a system, the book explores a single topic across many different systems popular in HEMA. Furthermore, with the inclusion Miyamoto Musashi, the book expands outside of the typical HEMA sources to reinforce the claims of “universally bad” practices.
I hope this book can springboard into a whole new genre of swordsmanship-related topics to explore the universal truths of swordsmanship.