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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 5:09 pm    Post subject: I.33: Purely Civilian or Otherwise?         Reply with quote

Recently, I posted a thread asking about armour at the close of the 13th century: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=10651. Now that we've established what the cutting edge of armour from that time was like, I have a follow-up question regarding MS I.33. I know that quite a few people believe that the style of swordsmanship depicted in the Tower Fechtbuch is a civilian form. I believe the primary evidence for this is the fact that the figures in the manuscripts are a monk and a scholar, and the fact that at the time when I.33 was written, the sword and buckler was a common civilian weapon combination.

What I'm wondering though is whether I.33 is a purely civilian style, in the opinion of others, or if it could be applicable to a military context as well? I'm not looking for people to tell me that sword and buckler wasn't a military combination at the time (an assertion that I believe should be approached very cautiously), but rather whether the techniques found in I.33 could be applied to a military context. A bit more specifically, I'm also wondering if there is any strikes or techniques found in I.33 that would probably be unsuitable for facing mail with demi-greaves, a coat-of-plates, armoured surcoats, and the like.

You don't have to be someone who studies historic European martial arts and I.33 specifically to reply to this thread, although opinions and responses from individuals involved in both of these things would be appreciated.
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 5:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect that it's military applicability would be limited.

Against opponents wearing lower-end armour like gambesons and kettle-hats many techniques would still be effective. Such as thrusts to the body, cuts to the arm and cuts and thrusts to the head. But the armour would decrease the efficacy of the attacks.

Against opponents wearing the high-end armour pretty much the only hit that would work would be a cut to the arm which might break the bones. That and grappling (of course).

So folks with a mostly civilian role, like yeomen, would find it useful against there equals on and off the battlefield, while men-at-arms and knights would find it of more limited usefulness.

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 6:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven,

In your view then, what would distinguish the military use of the single handed sword from the techniques found in I.33?
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Steven,

In your view then, what would distinguish the military use of the single handed sword from the techniques found in I.33?


Against even partial plate armour it would be necessary to use half-sword techniques. Which I believe I've seen illustrated in conjunction with sword & shield. Otherwise piercing the armour to deliver even incapacitating wounds would be unlikely.

I suspect most of the harnischfechten techniques for longsword would work alright with an arming sword and buckler.

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 8:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem is that we really don't know enough about the context of most medieval fencing treatises. It's easy to assume that it is a civilian system, but there's no hard evidence. We don't know why clergy were drawn. Was this a past time sport enjoyed by the clergy? Was this a military art that was being practiced by retired soldiers (since it was very common for retired warriors to go into religious service later in life)? Was this an art utilized by clergy to protect their monastaries? Was this an art that was practiced both by the military and civilians alike? Was this an art that was predominantly military, but had a civilian aspect to it?

We just don't know, though I know I wish we did. Similar questions can be asked of most pre-Renaissance manuscripts, from Fiore to Talhoffer.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And it's often difficult to distinguish between "civilian" and "military" contexts in medieval terms. For example, some modern historians consider torunaments as a mostly military activity while others consider it as a primarily civilian one.
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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I love Stephen's line of reasoning and concise response. Just to stir up possible alternative views I'll offer some speculative theory I do not feel strongly about. I can't rationalize much buckler use between knights, but think the sword form and elements of the technique may have been incorporated into battlefield tactics where appropriate to do so.

I suspect some knights and men at arms would been given some variety of the popular training of the day to fight unarmoured (which they probably were at least some of the time, possibly in an ambush skirmish) and how to dispatch lightly armoured civilian opponents on the battlefield. I think it fair to speculate some knightly class combatants would have studied the techniques, and might employee elements if appropriate for a specific opponent and situation.

Artistic and written accounts (Manesse Codex, early 14th century, Phillip de Remey's mid 13th century work La Menekein-description of a tournament) either state the words "cut and thrust" in description of knightly combat, or appear to illustrate swords of classic I:33 form in illustrations of knightly combat.

I wonder if there are instances of swords, known to have been the sword of knights at this time, which conform to the I:33 classic form?

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
The problem is that we really don't know enough about the context of most medieval fencing treatises. It's easy to assume that it is a civilian system, but there's no hard evidence. We don't know why clergy were drawn. Was this a past time sport enjoyed by the clergy? Was this a military art that was being practiced by retired soldiers (since it was very common for retired warriors to go into religious service later in life)? Was this an art utilized by clergy to protect their monastaries? Was this an art that was practiced both by the military and civilians alike? Was this an art that was predominantly military, but had a civilian aspect to it?

We just don't know, though I know I wish we did. Similar questions can be asked of most pre-Renaissance manuscripts, from Fiore to Talhoffer.


Bill,

In this case I'm wondering more about I.33 from an interpretative, practical point of view. I realize that we don't really know all that much about the context surrounding the manuscript and the techniques found therein, which is why I'm more interested in whether or not people think they could be used in a military context, in part based upon how effective the techniques would be against the armour of the day.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jul, 2007 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think its likely that there are elements of I.33 that are similar to armoured fighting, but many would be unusable. Its pretty safe to bet that if an opponent is armoured, the smart warrior doesn't aim for the armour. Therefore, once gauntlets become common, using the buckler to protect the striking hand becomes much less important. Also strikes towards the hand would most likely do little, so other areas would need to be targeted.
I suppose something similar to I.33 might be useful in earlier periods, when no armour, or just a helmet and hauberk were worn, but there is no evidence of exactly what. And even with a hauberk and nasal, many of your standard unarmoured strikes would be pointless. In fact in that case you'd want to focus almost exclusively on striking at the lower legs and arm/hands, with thrusts to the face. You would also have to take into account the larger shields common in this period, which would have some effect on technique, but not so great as one might think.
By the late 14th, once nearly completely enclosing harness had appeared on the scene, I'd imagine the usefulness of something like I.33 would be greatly diminished against an opponent so armoured. But to me that is to be expected, since the usefulness of the sword in general for combating armoured opponents was decreased. These techniques would still be highly useful against the lightly armoured foes that were still in the majority however...
This is all theoretical, and as Bill said, we just don't know for sure. I freely admit this is all an assumption on my part. But I base my assumptions on the idea that 1. Armour works. If it didn't, they wouldn't have worn it. 2. There are only so many ways the human body can move, and employ a sword. Take the similarity between several JSA and HEMA techniques...

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 12:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Against even partial plate armour it would be necessary to use half-sword techniques. Which I believe I've seen illustrated in conjunction with sword & shield. Otherwise piercing the armour to deliver even incapacitating wounds would be unlikely.

I suspect most of the harnischfechten techniques for longsword would work alright with an arming sword and buckler.


I have found little evidence for halfswording in battle, period. The *vast* majority of the iconographic evidence, with only 5 or 6 exceptions that I've been able to find over many years of searching, shows swords being swung in armored battle, not used to halfsword. Therefore it *must* have been possible to incapacitate an opponent in armor (but not, I'll grant pierce armor) since presumably fights were won during the period, not just a constant set of exhausted draws.

I've found no--zero--evidence for halfswording prior to the very late 14th century--almost 100 years after I.33. The iconography is clear during that period that swords were swung edge-on when fighting in armor.

What few sources I've found that show halfswording with a shield usually show the shield to be hanging on the guige as if the wearer had just dismounted, not actively using the shield.

All the evidence suggests that armored combat at the end of the 13th century was quite different from armored combat in the period covered by the Fechtbücher that discuss armored combat. I think a lot of us WMA folks tend to forget that, and it's important to keep in mind in this kind of conversation.

That being said, I see nothing to suggest that buckler play was ever used by fully-armored men at arms (we've had this debate lots of times and so far the argument holds up), so arguably all S&B was unarmored or partially armored (and partially armored is *worlds* different from fully armored).

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just speculation: If armed with a sword and buckler and was facing a fully armoured foe one would be in deep trouble no matter how skilful one was unless the foe was very very incompetent !

Running away if possible comes to mind or a different weapon used with the buckler, that should still be of use in defence and in pushing/hitting. I would if I could, use buckler and a stout Rondel dagger or maybe a mace that would have a better chance doing something through the armour or find a chink in the armour.

Halfswording might mean just dropping the buckler ? Also the sword type would have to work with halfswording: My Albion Sovereign's blade is much to wide and sharp but another like the type XV Poitier would work well.

A shorter type XV when halfsworded shouldn't be at a disadvantage compared to a type XVa since the longer length of blade of the XVa would be irrelevant I think. Question

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, for the purpose of providing better focus to the thread, I'm discussing armour from the end of the 13th, beginning of the 14th centuries. I agree that someone with a sword and buckler would be in serious peril facing someone in plate, but that's not really the direction I was going with my question.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Just speculation: If armed with a sword and buckler and was facing a fully armoured foe one would be in deep trouble no matter how skilful one was unless the foe was very very incompetent !

Running away if possible comes to mind or a different weapon used with the buckler, that should still be of use in defence and in pushing/hitting. I would if I could, use buckler and a stout Rondel dagger or maybe a mace that would have a better chance doing something through the armour or find a chink in the armour.

Halfswording might mean just dropping the buckler ? Also the sword type would have to work with halfswording: My Albion Sovereign's blade is much to wide and sharp but another like the type XV Poitier would work well.

A shorter type XV when halfsworded shouldn't be at a disadvantage compared to a type XVa since the longer length of blade of the XVa would be irrelevant I think. Question


That's not the point: There's no evidence halfswording had even been "invented" (developed? discovered?) by the end of the 13th century, and that's the period of I.33.

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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sure, I:33 would be less effective against a knight in full cap-a-pie harness, even the transitional harness of the 14th century. However, armor was prohibitively expensive; not everyone had the luxury of a full cap-a-pie harness. Ransomed gentry often forfeited their armor as part of their ransom, leading them to replace it with whatever they could afford. Most of the knights and men-at-arms would have enough armor to cover whatever requirements their liege demanded, even if the armor was their grandfather's. Compare this to the peasantry who wore a kettlehat and that's often all the armor they had, and I:33 looks very effective against many of the opponents you might meet on the battlefield. A wise lord would give his men the knowledge on how to defend themselves in battle, because if his peasants all died because they didn't know the pointy end of the sword from a hole in the ground, who would farm his land during peacetime?

On the other hand, the more gentlemanly arts of Fiore and Talhoffer, reserved for the gentry, would have been an advantage over the what the commoners knew, namely I:33 or similar. An "I taught him everything he knows, but not everything I know," kind of situation, designed to favor the gentleman in combat with a peasant, because that wise lord would not want that knowledge to be used against him in a rebellion.

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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are images of armored men using sword and buckler through out the middle ages including the 13th century. I don't think these things are cut and dry armored and unarmored like so many people want to believe; after all Fiore says you can do any of his longsword work in the unarmored parts armored too. It is all part of the over all arsenal of the well trained fighter.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Barker wrote:
There are images of armored men using sword and buckler through out the middle ages including the 13th century. I don't think these things are cut and dry armored and unarmored like so many people want to believe; after all Fiore says you can do any of his longsword work in the unarmored parts armored too. It is all part of the over all arsenal of the well trained fighter.


While I agree about the blurring between armored and unarmored when you're talking about unarmored vs. *partially* armored, I do not agree when it comes to full cap-a-pied armor. That creates a difference not of degree but of kind.

As for what you say about Fiore, are you sure? I think he says *some* of his unarmored material can be applied in armored combat, but I find it hard to believe he says all of it can because as little actual cutting (as opposed to grappling) as Fiore shows, he still does show *some*, and it's pretty universal by the 15th century that you don't cut at someone in armor in serious fighting.

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

I have found little evidence for halfswording in battle, period. The *vast* majority of the iconographic evidence, with only 5 or 6 exceptions that I've been able to find over many years of searching, shows swords being swung in armored battle, not used to halfsword. Therefore it *must* have been possible to incapacitate an opponent in armor (but not, I'll grant pierce armor) since presumably fights were won during the period, not just a constant set of exhausted draws.


You make a good point, that I still forget sometimes, hitting a person in the head can still be useful even through the helmet. Piercing armour isn't necessary and moreso with cerebro-spinal trauma. You might wind or stun someone through a hauberk or armoured surcoat, or freeze-up their sword arm with a stout blow.

The difficulty is that the less lethal the hit the less reliable it is. A guy hit in the forearm while wearing mail may fall down and yield but he may not (for instance I've continued sparred after breaking two bones Big Grin ).

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
You make a good point, that I still forget sometimes, hitting a person in the head can still be useful even through the helmet. Piercing armour isn't necessary and moreso with cerebro-spinal trauma. You might wind or stun someone through a hauberk or armoured surcoat, or freeze-up their sword arm with a stout blow.

The difficulty is that the less lethal the hit the less reliable it is. A guy hit in the forearm while wearing mail may fall down and yield but he may not (for instance I've continued sparred after breaking two bones Big Grin ).


Honestly? I think the big thing in a fight is to hurt him enough to give you a moment in which to do something *really* evil to win the fight. Even in lethal Kampffechten with halfswords or pollaxes I suspect few of the deadly techniques we practice worked that well; that's why von Danzig said that most Harnischfechten comes down to daggers and grappling.

And head trauma blows must have still been in use even in the age of plate because Ringeck gives us counters to them even though he says they are used by someone who "knows nothing of the art". And they must have been at least somewhat effective or he wouldn't have bothered, either. We know they were effective, too, by reading the primary accounts; for example, in a deed of arms with some Scottish knights Jacques de Lalaing struck one on thehead with his pollaxe, stunning him and driving him to the ground. He later recovered enough to get back up, but imagine if that had been a lethal fight--he'd have been easy meat.

It's important to remember that the linings in most medieval helmets were what Robert Man calls "medieval pot holders" because of their comparative thinness and paucity of protection. In the Age of Mail (which is when I.33 is from, to return to the meat of this thread) the head was a great target for jut that reason even though it was in a helmet. It's also why Betrand de Born wrote about "hacking heads and arms" in his great poem: those were the best targets!

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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 6:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would agree that the sword and buckler system had only limited effectiveness against a fully armoured enemy; but if even the face was the only unarmoured area, then sword and buckler could be potenially lethal. Furthermore, even if the sword and buckler themselves couldn't directly threaten a foe, they might allow you to get into grappling range, and grappling techniques can be effective against an armoured foeman.

Of course, in a medieval war, there were large numbers of partially armoured or poorly armoured enemies, so sword and buckler would still be applicable against those threats.
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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jul, 2007 7:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Against full armour the buckler might end up being more useful than the sword if used to punch hard to stun or unbalance with the sword giving a precision thrust if the opportunity arises.

But the heavily armoured foe is going to be able to just attack with his weapon and can afford to absorb some hits that are going to be of dubious effectiveness anyway.

Imagine a WWII light Stuart tank trying to survive attacking a Tiger I tank ! It's little 37 mm gun at best might be able to damage the rear armour or tracks but the odds of surviving would be slim to none. The light tank would have to manoeuvre desperately to get a decent shot, the Tiger tank can hit the Stuart anywhere with it's 88 mm .

Forgive the out of period simile but the fully armoured always starts with a big advantage.

OOPS: O.K. the period Craig want to focus on is the pre-plate era of maille, so the fighting techniques would be different to a degree: On one side you have no armour except for the buckler and maybe a small steel cap and on the other a full hauberk, sword and kite or heater shield. I still see a big advantage to the more heavily armoured fighter.

The main difference would depend on how effective a onehanded sword is against maille and gambison and the amount of coverage. We seem to all agree that the sword is of limited use against plate in a cut, I not sure how limited a sword is against maille.
No cutting maybe but blunt trauma would have a better chance to create a stunned opponent that could be dispatched easily.

Maybe focusing on which 1:33 techniques are most viable ? ( Trying to bring the subject back to the original question ).

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