A Resource for Historic Arms and Armour Collectors
Angus Trim AT1563 Lady Restita
A hands-on review by Bill Grandy
While there are many schools of longsword fencing, the primary German art form can be traced back to Johannes Liechtenauer, a 14th century master who devised a martial system of combat commonly referred to as Kunst des Fechtens, or "The Art of Fighting". Liechtenauer's teachings were kept secret, and to both preserve as well as safeguard his teachings he wrote down a set of verses that were essentially a secret code that only his students could understand.
Long after his death, many of his pupils went on to become masters themselves, and wrote down treatises detailing the art, including Master Sigmund Ringeck, who wrote down an explanation of Liechtenauer's mysterious verses. It is through these treatises that we know today of this sophisticated and efficient fighting method, which includes unarmed combat, longsword, pole axe, and more.
Of the longsword there are two major forms: Unarmored fighting (blossfechten) and armored fighting (harnisfechten). Because armor covers most of the body, it required the use of the thrust over the cut to attack the vulnerable areas such as the joints. Blossfechten, on the other hand, required the use of both cut and thrust, and fighting unarmored was commonly seen in the context of trial by combat.
The sword reviewed here is based on an Ewart Oakeshott Type XIIa, a sword type that is more often associated with periods before the 15th century, but still continued to be used afterwards. Oakeshott himself called the XII family difficult to identify, laying down the criteria that it should have noticable taper, an acute point, and a fuler that does not extend beyond two-thirds of the blade. While that seems simple enough, there are so many swords that blend these characteristics with that of other types, and which make them difficult to categorize. Nonetheless, the XIIa type generally features a grip large enough for both hands. XIIa blades are moderately wide, enough so as to provide strong cutting ability, but as noted earlier they also taper so as to keep the tip well under control for the thrust.
Angus "Gus" Trim has produced this sword to capture the feel of a 15th century sword intended for use on the field of a judicial duel in unarmored combat, though this sword could still hold its own on the field of battle as well.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Angus Trim Swords of The Pacific Northwest, available through All Saints Blades.
As a sword intended for the German style of fence, this sword really falls right into place. Many of the cuts in the Liechtenauer tradition involve quickly rotating the blade to strike with the short (back) edge, such as the case with the schielhau (squinting strike) where the short edge is used to cut downwards. The large and nimble blade combined with the long grip allows this type of maneuvering to be quick and small, but still very powerful. At the same time, the blade is broad enough to make devastating full power cuts as well. Tip control is not at all an issue with this blade, and while it is not as tapered as many swords that are designed to deal specifically with armor, it could still deal with thrusting into the openings of an armored opponent without any trouble. In short, this is a very well balanced sword for fighting in the German tradition.
While it is almost redundant to say this about an Angus Trim sword, this piece is an excellent cutter. Careful attention to proper blade mechanics and edge geometry has made a sword that tracks well and slices through targets easily. As stated earlier, large sweeping power-cuts are easy, but what is very notable is the small precision cuts that can be made with the leverage of a long grip.
Fit and Finish
Angus Trim has always been upfront that his swords are more about performance than aesthetics. That said, he's come a very long way in the aesthetics department, as this is a very handsome sword. The polish of the blade is a satin finish, with some minor evidence of grind marks that are not really distracting. The pommel and guard do have a "machined" look to them, but still capture the historical feel well. Most impressive is the aesthetics department is the beautifully done grip: a rich oxblood-colored leather wrapped over cord with two bands separating the upper and lower portions. I have shown this sword to martial artists that are less focused on aesthetics, sword collectors whom regard aesthetics highly, and also people who don't know anything about swords. Everyone agreed that this was a very attractive piece.
As typical of Angus Trim swords, the hilt is held together with a screwed-in pommel nut. The fittings were rock solid, and should that ever change, a quick tightening of the pommel nut should fix that.
While this sword by Angus "Gus" Trim is intended to be an interpretation of a 15th century German piece, it certainly could fit into an earlier time period. Regardless of era, it is a quick and powerful sword combining elements that make it excel within the Kunst des Fechtens of the German tradition. It is also a great looking piece, and while no one would confuse it for an antique, it still holds a very attractive look that captures the period feel.
About the Author
Bill Grandy is an instructor of Historical European Swordsmanship and sport fencing at the Virginia Academy of Fencing. He has held a strong passion (obsession?) for swords and swordsmanship for as long as he can remember. He admits that this passion comes from a youth spent playing Dungeons and Dragons, but he'll only admit that if there are no girls around.
Photographer: Bill Grandy