What we are made of

I have come to a realization that I would like to share with people. I have no real way to tell it other than to tell a story that I perhaps would rather not tell as it shows me as being stupid. So here goes. This is my second event taking horses. I have my horse and another ladies mare who I have picked up en-route along withe her lady. We are at site and have let out the horses in the paddock surrounding the barn. The lady who was with the mare had walked around back and saw that there was no way out of the paddock, a gate blocked the way. So when our horses, who had begun chasing each other around, disappeared behind the barn and didn’t come right back, we set out to see. we found out that the gate did not completely block the paddock and we followed quickly to see if the other sides gates were open. They were, and so we the next gate and the next thing I see is my horse following her mare heading out into the parking lot. Out the driveway past the first gate. It was a hundred yards to the gate and probably 200 down the driveway, which opened on a busy highway and there went my horse at a gallop.

Headlights at knight

So I ran. I ran fast. I ran faster than I ever realized I could. You see I love my horse. No in any bestial crazy way, but in a fatherly way and a best friend way. I always laughed when people said they loved their horse, but I understand why now. And so I ran. I passed a younger woman and guy who were also running. I think they were worried that they might spook them on, but I knew they were just running cause it was fun, and they were headed to the highway. In fact they beat me there by 100 yds at least. I saw headlights coming from both directions. I then did something that surprised me. I ran faster.

Now to give you some background on me. I am 46 for another month, I have very little or no cartilage in the joints of my big toes. Gout has worn it out. I didn’t realize what it was and remained active. I have a big tufa on my elbow as well. So lets say I am not an avid runner. I haven’t run in years. I was also operating with a foot that hadn’t recovered from a roll over that torqued the ankle and metatarsals.  I used to run, I was very good at it. but ankle injuries, knees, gout, plantar faciatis, have kept me from running. I was also running in heavy work boots.

I am not saying I ran 9 sec 100yd dashes. but I was moving as fast I as  ever remember running for any real stretch.

So I made it to the hwy. Lights were passing in both directions, and I spot the horses. They have gone left, and thank god, not crossed the road. I started running in their direction on the other side of the road waving my flashlight at any oncoming traffic.

Guess what, the adrenaline rush wore off and I realized how totally gasses I was. I have never really come back from the broken arm and then the finger getting messed up. My stamina was non existant.  I could feel my heart rate in my head and I was having trouble catching my breath.

I then had a vison, induced by a horse screech, of my horse being hit by a car and dying or being crippled. And again I ran. I just simply decided my horse would not be dead on the road because I was gassed. I wasn’t moving so fast now. I couldn’t see anything, even when there was traffic. Then I saw them behind me on the other side of the road. Thankfully they had never crossed, and they had headed back inland before realizing that they couldn’t get through that way. The horses were heading back again, and my friends got them to slow up, and we were able to get hold of them. I walked my horse back and my knee were shaky which I totally attribute to the running.

“Now, pray tell, what is the story about, other than your stupidity and your ability to almost kill yourself” you say.

And here is my realization. This is what makes athletes, ATHLETES. Through a personal drama (which I would prefer to never repeat) I was able to perform at a level that I had no Idea I could. It took fatherly worry and love to bring out that kinds crazy performance. Athletes are people who can dig inside themselves that deep, simply out of pure drive.

It is there. That ability to do it till it kills you. Everyone possesses it. If the stimulus is strong enough, you can tap your inner strength and bring out great physical reserves.  We have all heard stories of mothers lifting cars off children and sons lifting cars off dads. This is a survival trait. It is bread into us. Those early men who could harness a reserve to  save their life, lived to prosper. Those traits get the right to be passed on.

We have always had heros. Men who have passed to mythology from their great deeds. What does it take to become a hero? The ability to take on 10 men and win. The ability to beat one man and the ability to draw on the reserves to fight the next man and the one after that.

I think many of our modern athletes have the ability to just reach inside and demand a little bit more, when they are already doing all they think they can do. It is a confidence based on practice. It is something that even we who are amateur athletes, and full time warriors, can learn from.

Training is learning to tap that reserve. But first you need to know the reserve is there, and it isn’t bad to know just how deep that reserve is. That is what I found out.  Don’t think just do.

As an aside, I think courage is the ability to tap a phycological reserve (more likely the same one). It is the ability to just do what needs to be done. To move ahead even when the odds are very against it.

There were some teachers who exhibited that courage recently. The ability to think, act quickly, and reason calmly in an insane situation. It is inside us. We were made that way. Or more correctly, we made ourselves that way, because it benefitted the species.

Sport swordfighting

The sport should be the ideal of swordfighting and we shouldn’t count blows that might have incapacitated someone in real life combat, we should recognize great technique that would have devastated an opponent in real life.

Thrusts should land and show the potential for penetration, cuts should be controlled hits that demonstrate accuracy and targeting.

Harder more important targets should be scored higher and a skilled fighter should choose to attack these targets to demonstrate his skill.

Back from the Great War

We made it back from the Great Pennsic War at last. 2 weeks of camping can make a man long for the luxuries of home.  Darkwood Armory did well. I had a chance to meet with a number of friends throughout the week, and to talk about many of the things that interest me the most, namely,  martial arts, armor, and reenactment.

Overall the war was its typical self full of the best and the worst of the SCA. Actually that is not really fair, much of the worst cannot be blamed on the SCA anymore. Since the Pennsic War is open to anyone who pays their money, lots of people with no Idea what the SCA does are coming.

We have always had the Tuchux (folks who try to recreate Norman’s Gor series), and we have Markland (an east coast group that does medieval reenacment type stuff) and Acre (an SCA splinter group), But now we have pirates, Folks who don’t even have a clue what the SCA is or does. We even have an S&M group that sets up camp for a local Meet and Beat. I find it really a shame.

The SCA itself seems to be on a downturn as well. My friends from all over the US say that the SCA is only appealing to an older crowd, and participation is dwindling. Many longtime players are finding other things to do with their time. I am certainly finding things that interest me far outside the purviews of the SCA.

A friend of mine used a turn of phrase that I have stolen, he told me he was looking for a better medieval experience. He was looking towards some WMA groups and wasn’t getting any help.  He is a longtime player and a peer but isn’t enjoying the local group. He, like myself, wants to do more and keeps getting resistance. So here I come with an Idea. At home I can no longer start a sentence with the phase “I ‘ve been thinking” as it causes people to run, but …….

What if there was an event, a narrow focus event, covering only 100 years? What if, in order to participate, you had to wear period correct clothes and shoes? What if horses were a part of the event like they were a part of medieval life? What if, we did our fighting with steel or tourney clubs, on horseback and foot?

Would you come? if so how many people would you tell and expect to come with you? Those I asked typically said they would, and said that they knew people who would also come.  So now I am on a quest to see if it can really be done. I am starting to build a new website just for it and maybe, just maybe, we can replace a war with sticks and pirates with a Passage at Arms that will rekindle the spirit of the middle ages.

A walkingstick Hammer

Probably not a bad thing to have in any fight. A hammer like this:

I really consider this weapon to be the ultimate self defense tool. Armed with this hammer I would be willing to face any form of unarmed, knife or stick wielding opponent. I suspect that I would be confident to face most anything outside of a gun.  I am fast and have a plan. I can hurt you through armor, If I could carry it around that way, I’d have a  spike on top but As it stands, I can use it as a cane and can carry it about anywhere I go out side of maybe an airport. As my friend Tim suggested, a solid fiber reinforced plastic version of this would make a cane you could literally carry anywhere. What a fine, always available weapon.

A steel buttcap with a sharp pyramidal point can shatter teeth with a thrust when the hammer is used like a spear from the spear section of Fiore’s Armizare, or posta vera croce.  The hammer is swung in a fast snapping Fendedente either mandritta or reversi (from the right or the left). The reversi fendente is only possible because of the short length of the hammer. if it was a longer length weapon, I wouldn’t want to make a reversi (from the left) fendent. The back of the stick bind up if you go to the ground as fiore suggests will happen if you strike these fast fendendte’s.

Fiore offers no remedys for he poleax section other than the master of the posta/gaurdia.  Fiore suggests that the scholars are the scholars of the plays that arrise form the posta.  so the remedy/s is/are to move from posta to posta and see where these techniques can arrise form the positions that you and your opponents weapons fall at any one time. I believe Fiore is silent on this remedy for one of the following reasons:

  • The remedy that was taught was very secret and he wasn’t ready to divulge it
  • You should be able to derive one. I think he is giving a different remedy with each description of the posta 
  • There are so many variations that you need to pick from i.e. many of them (there are three in the longsword, one in armored longsword , one in wrestling and bunches in dagger
  • The remark that if you can beat your opponents ax to the ground by all means do it. may be in of itself a remedy as he offers a number of actions that can be performed from this position. Then do the others (plays that follow).

Post Breve and Posta di Vera Croce have the hands in the other position right hand in the back and left hand by the head they oppose each other and one can moved one to the other by performing a metza volta .  One position is ideal for thrusts, one has a strong que to perform parrying actions and to use the remedy of the sword in armor.

The next pair are the conventional grip, strong hand in front by the weight. Hard mandritta fendentes, quick thrusts and attack from underneath from Fiores guardia Porta di Ferro mezzana, He says we know this game by now and the winner is the one who is smarter and quicker and more deceitful.  He offers some advise on how to use a sword against an axe in the knock ’em out of the park position of attack. Move off-line and attack the face with the thrust. Good advise.

The next two paired masters are the coda longa and the left posta di finestra. NOTE: this is not the left posta di Donna!! even though it looks like it should be– it is not because he doesn’t want you to throw a left (sinestra) fendente! This technique will get you hung up. Try it!  You will find that you get yourself in a bind with the end of the axe. So instead Fiore teaches you to pass backward and move to either posta porta di ferro mezzana  or posta di donna then delivering a blow from there. This is done while moving away from your opponent to keep you safe, and it can offer an enticing point for your opponent to attack. This can be met with a big hit if you time you movement and their attempt to strike you, in your favor. It makes a good counter to coda longs which can deliver hard fendente, and face it, it is like chopping wood and can hit hard enough to push any other attack to the ground which is the first scholar of these masters.

Armet, closed Bascinet, or something else?

I am very interested in getting a response to this question. The helmets  are German, from around 1430, and consistant with drawing of helmets from other books, but to my knowledge there are none of these in any museum I know of.

I can see an armet, there is one with a similar hight neck and a rounded pierced visor. The roundel could even protect a hinge to allow the faceplate to be removed like a bascinet.  The other thing they might be is a closed helmet with bevor or wrapper pivoting on the same hinge as the visor. This is what my wife sees.

Could it be

A great Bascinet? This one is from about 1440.  it has a good foot combat visor on it. It even has a catch.



An early Armet.

There is only one of these. It is German from about the same time period as the paintings. I think it is the most likely possibility

for these helmets, but where are the rondels?



Something we have no extant versions of.

Here are your rondels. What is it, it is an artists rendering of something dawn or carved. There are more. Has something in common with the pics.


Very good question wouldn’t you say?

Will’s Commonplace book


I hate this guy. Every time I get an idea about something to write, Will has done it better, it better researched, and more complete than I can hope to achieve. One particular example of stuff of his that is cool, the deeds of arms, I particlarly like the 15th century ones.

Check his stuff out. It will take you a year to get caught up, and by that time I might have written something worth writing.

Translation of Lignitzer’s Wrestling

Gregor Medvesek, has released an English translation of Andres Lignitzer’s wresting treatise.  Gregor is an instructor of the Schola Pugnatoria along with Igor Sancin, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Dijon in 2011. Gregor says that there is really no information on Lignitzer’s life or death but that he is mentions in many treatises and was mentioned a a master by Paulus Kal

The text on wrestling according to Lignitzer is preserved only in three fighting manuals: in the before mentioned Codex Danzig (Cod.44.A.8; Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana, Rim), in Glasgow Fechtbuch (MS_E. 1939.65.341, Glasgow museums, Glasgow) and in so called Goliath (MS Germ. Quart 2020; Biblioteka Jagiellońska, Krakov). Since the text from Danzig is the most thorough, this translation is based on it. However, I took into consideration the other two versions as well and explained the most significant differences in the footnotes.

The entire article can be found here: http://scholapugnatoria.si/?page_id=967

One of the techniques I found interesting was the following:

The third technique

When you clinch up at the arms as before, make sure that your left hand is on the inside of his right arm and that your right hand is on the outside of his left arm. Strike his left hand from underneath with your right hand so that you have it on your right shoulder. Spring with your right leg in front of his left leg and wrap your right arm from the outside around his left arm. Help your right arm with your left hand and turn yourself away from him to your left side.

This is a method of moving to Fiore’s remedy, and following it up with the first technique. it turns into a shoulder crank and with the proper action a dislocation.

Now for the fun part.

The counter

When someone does this to you and pushes your left arm on his neck, slip your left arm over his head and in front of his chest. Grab his left arm with your left hand and reach behind his right knee from the outside with your right hand. Lift his knee joint up and push him down to your left side with your left arm. This is how you throw him on his back.

I have typically explained a counter to the remedy as a single arm throw,  (See the 6th wrestling) rather than the knee lift and dump, but this works as well (perhaps better as the natural turning of the opponents  body is not counter to the action as the single arm  throw is)

But as Fiore would have it, he provides a counter to the counter by way of his third play.  As the opponent slips his left arm over your head and reaches for your left arm, you shoot your right arms across his neck and use your left arm to lift his knee.  The pics even show the opponents left hand grabbing your left arm.

The problem we have as historical martial artists is that Fiore didn’t say why your opponent might seek to remove his arm from your neck, other than he didn’t want it broken.  I try to give a reason for the person to do so, especially a reason that ends in that person winning. In wrestling opponents are seeking advantages, and you must provide one if you want the technique to have any real meaning.


Stick and club Fiore style

It would be hard to determine if the stick or the rock was man’s first weapon, but it is apparent that the stick is still used as a weapon today. Similarly it was used in medieval Italy. Fiore shows a few plates where he explains the use of a stick for self defense. Fiore describes two different stick weapons he uses, a bastioncello and the club. The bastioncello is a little stick. The club, is a… well,  a club. The Getty manuscript has a play where the master has a club in each hand, following the use of the staff and dagger. Finally there is the spear and the axe. These are staff weapons but they can show us how Fiore would employ weapons of similar size and striking ability.

Fiore gives us four plays in which he shows the uses of the short stick, which are two particularly advantageous grapples at the stick, and two ways to use a stick, hat , rope or other instrument of that length to defend using different masters of the dagger. Other than this, there is no other reference to the bastioncello.


So how do you use a bastioncello i.e. a small stick?

  1. According to Fiore, you use it to make advantageous grapples, in essence, you use it like an extension of your hand.
  2. But, you can use it like a dagger to defend. Conversely it can be carried and used to hit with the point both overhand and underhand like the dagger. Certainly not to the same advantage as a dagger, but getting a thrust in the face with a short stick doesn’t top my list of things to do today. A thrust to the solar plexus is far down the list as well. And from these thrusts arise advantageous grapples, such as the two that have been laid out for you.
  3. Does it haves sufficient weight to strike with? Well it can be used like a sword in one hand. Strikes to the temple, the elbow, or hand have a way of making an assailant a bit more pliable for those, you guessed it, advantageous grapples.

Fiore illustrates another play in which the master is beset by someone with a staff and he is holding two clubs, one in each hand. The left club is held low and across the body in a Coda Longa position, and the other is held in Posta di Donna. The master tells us to throw the right club at the opponents face while using the left club to sweep the attack by. He shows a picture of the master stabbing the assailant in the chest with the dagger (which I assume he has drawn from his side) while passing or blocking the staff with the left hand.


Interesting note: while delving into other aspects of my research I discovered that near the area of Italy that Fiore was from, came a group of naked warriors of (Germanic or Celtic in nature depending on the time period), that used a club and shield and were used to counter armored soldiers. They relied on the weight of their clubs and the protection given by the shield and mobility of being unencumbered to counter armored troops who were well protected against sharp weapons. These men were know to throw their clubs and then draw a secondary short sword (that was worn on the right) after delivering the club throw.

Could this technique be a throwback (pun intended) to that time?

The stick has not lost its effectiveness over time for dissuading an assailant, and the clubs that Fiore is packing look like they would do some serious damage, especially with the knots.  The ragged staff has long been a heraldic charge and thus was well known. Perhaps the club was still a favored weapon of the region, but it was certainly in use by those who needed to defend themselves and couldn’t afford or obtain more effective weapons.


Cutting and Thrusting

In cutting your hands should go in a straight line to the position they hold when your sword impacts the target properly. This will deliver the fastest blow with the most protection along the way.

In thrusting your sword tip should go in a straight line to the target. This will necessitate the hands moving in arcs to allow the tip to move straight.

Cutting Thrusts or Thusting Cuts?

First, imagine a sword turning about a point at the cross. The radius of the circle the tip of the sword makes is the distance from the cross to the tip.

Now imagine grasping the sword at that spot but swing the sword with the arm. The whole shoulder gets involved and the radius of the arc that the tip describes is the distance from the shoulder (i.e. point of rotation) to the tip. This can change depending on how you hold the sword. It can also change to an arc that cannot be described by a radius if the relationship between the sword and the shoulder is changing throughout the motion. (the true reality of the case)

Add in some good foot movement and the closest fitting radius may become very large.

Now lets looks at the concept of a blade striking the target.  If the blade strikes at the point of percussion (typically a few inches back from the point), then a certain portion of the edge comes in contact with the flesh. The more contact at once, the harder it is to cut. This is why curved blades seemed to be preferred for cutting.

If the radius of the arc of the blades travel is short, then the point of percussion is entering the flesh and moving in a short arc. If the radius is long, the point of percussion may enter the target and pass through as the arc is so large as to be more of a line than an arc.

The larger this radius may also mean that the blade is oriented so that the point enters the flesh before the point of percussion, cutting it’s way into the body. Though it is a cut, the effect is much like a thrust. Just as I discussed the concept of thrusting with the edge, here is an example of Thrusting with a cut.

Thus large radius cuts result in a  thrusting action in the cut that should penetrate deeper depending on the point of contact with the body. The concept is that the most damaging cuts will travel in close to a straight line, i.e. a large radius arcs (actually a very complex series of arcs).