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Helen Miller




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 12:04 pm    Post subject: Medieval knights question...         Reply with quote

Hmmm.....I don't know if this question is suitable or not BUT the curiousity is killing me.

Iíve seen lots of topics on armor and sword fighting, etc. But Iím having difficulty picturing how medieval knights practiced. Does any one know if knights had fencing halls like our modern fencing academies OR did they just practice mock battles on the castle grounds? Any internet sites would be greatly appreciated!
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Martin Wallgren




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dont qoute me on this but the Templars in their day must have had something organised for that purouse.

And Iīve heard something about a Frensh Knight who had a training course, with obsicles to climb and crawl over and under. My friend Joachim has a picture of a men training beside a field from the 1500 century I think. Every respecteble ceep or castle had a yard or open place closeby for training. In later periods actual fencingschools are depicted.

But Iīm no expert... just by 2 cent.

Swordsman, Archer and Dad
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Aaron Schnatterly




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 12:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Medieval knights question...         Reply with quote

Helen Miller wrote:
Hmmm.....I don't know if this question is suitable or not BUT the curiousity is killing me.


Helen, this is an excellent question! Welcome to myArmoury! Hope we can help.

Helen Miller wrote:
Iíve seen lots of topics on armor and sword fighting, etc. But Iím having difficulty picturing how medieval knights practiced. Does any one know if knights had fencing halls like our modern fencing academies OR did they just practice mock battles on the castle grounds? Any internet sites would be greatly appreciated!


One obvious method was actual combat. Nasty business, and all that... Big Grin Of course, this was not the end-all and be-all.

Training methods would vary widely based on so many variables... time period, peace/war, social status (even amongst knights), etc. What I'll offer is a set of generalizations - hopefully will give you a bit of an idea. Others probably can be more detailed or specific.

A lot of training was done with "wasters" (wooden swords) to reduce risk and save expensive weapons. Techniques could be taught and practiced readily either solo, against an opponent, or against a pell (striking target). Rebated weapons were also common. An example of this would be a rapier with the tip folded and flattened, or covered by a wooden, metal, or bone knob held in place by a leather sling or wrap. Training could be formal as you mentioned, or set up rather spontaneously. Either way, it was undoubtedly rigorous and regular.

I have personally found that I need a combination of training methods to be well-rounded and (semi-)proficient. Solo-work in forms is very important - similar in nature to watching someone do Tai Chi in the park. This could be done in lines, as well, but it is still solo. I also like cutting and pell work. I need this to develop strength, commitment (to the strike and follow-through), and accuracy. I don't want to beat up my sparring partner, either - especially with a live blade. Third, is light unarmoured sparring. This is obviously against a partner, but at reduced speed, in order to build confidence and skill in reacting to an opponent. Lastly, is armoured free-sparring. This is aggressive, full-speed, full-strength (nearly), and intense. This is where it all comes together.

If I can find the camera, I'll post a picture of a live rapier tip and 2 different forms of rebated tips (modern versions) later.

-Aaron Schnatterly
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 1:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Medieval knights question...         Reply with quote

Helen Miller wrote:
Hmmm.....I don't know if this question is suitable or not BUT the curiousity is killing me.

Iíve seen lots of topics on armor and sword fighting, etc. But Iím having difficulty picturing how medieval knights practiced. Does any one know if knights had fencing halls like our modern fencing academies OR did they just practice mock battles on the castle grounds? Any internet sites would be greatly appreciated!


Besides the kind of practice we usually think about (beating up a wooden pell, or practicing with a waster alone or with partners) there was the actual war (as mentioned above) and the tournaments. Tournaments were a very important practice. Indeed the battles were so competitive that often participants were killed. In tournaments there was more than the one-on-one jousting. There were often "mock" combats between groups of knights where they could learn how to fight in a group. these group fights could also be more complicated involving both cavalry and foot soldiers (very similar to actual war combats).

Alexi
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Aaron Schnatterly




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 2:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Medieval knights question...         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Besides the kind of practice we usually think about (beating up a wooden pell, or practicing with a waster alone or with partners) there was the actual war (as mentioned above) and the tournaments. Tournaments were a very important practice. Indeed the battles were so competitive that often participants were killed. In tournaments there was more than the one-on-one jousting. There were often "mock" combats between groups of knights where they could learn how to fight in a group. these group fights could also be more complicated involving both cavalry and foot soldiers (very similar to actual war combats).


Thanks for adding this important aspect, Alexi! Got sidetracked and ran out of time...

I've read of a tournament that is similar to today's "King of the Hill" - a portion of the field to be held against an assault. Definitely not the more familiar joust!

Tournaments became extremely important through the ages... amazing tournament-specific armours made.

Osprey has a book that gives a high-level overview of the tournament, aptly named "Knights at Tournament" which might be a worthwhile read.

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Aaron Schnatterly




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 2:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a picture of three rapier tips. The top is an example of a button-tip - the tip cut off and a flat piece welded on, or the tip bent over were used in period. The middle is a bare, live rapier tip. The bottom is a modern rapier - heavier than an Olympic fencing weapon, with a diamond cross-section. The blade tip is rounded, and covered with a rubber tip. Something similar could have been done with a live blade with metal, wood, bone, or even hardened rosin, and held on with a leather or cloth sock laced down the blade.


 Attachment: 25.37 KB
rapier.JPG


-Aaron Schnatterly
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Alina Boyden





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 7:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An important thing to remember about tournaments is that in the high middle ages they were mostly about the war and less about the one on one joust. Despite famous 13th century stars like Ulrich von Lichtenstein, most of the tournaments in this time were full scale battles with very few rules to protect the combatants.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Wed 06 Apr, 2005 10:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I remember seeing somewhere a 15th century picture depicting young squires who constantly trained with games to make them fit for knighthood. They learned acrobatics, wrestling, throwing large stones, as well as specific weapons such as the staff and sword.
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Helen Miller




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

I remember seeing somewhere a 15th century picture depicting young squires who constantly trained with games to make them fit for knighthood. They learned acrobatics, wrestling, throwing large stones, as well as specific weapons such as the staff and sword.


Yes indeed, I remember also reading that squires practiced on wooden horses, went into battle with their knight, and they also learned how to carve meat to show off their skills.

Quote:

Helen, this is an excellent question! Welcome to myArmoury! Hope we can help.


*bows* Thank you Aaron! And thank you all for all the valuable information....CHEERS!
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would suspect that it was through being a squire that most little knights grew up to be big knights. They were probably taught by the knight that they were squiring for. Also one suspects that if the young knight to be grew up in a large or wealthy household that he probaby had lessons by a master at arms.
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have little to add, really, just one thought:

It has been touched upon above as well: the importance of being initiated by a veteran, either a seasoned knight or someone in his retinue that has seen action of different kinds. Being hardened by harsh discipline and toughening training would be important. Being inspired to fear God and your superiors would be as crucial as being taught fearlessness in the eye of the enemy.

VArious forms of physical training with arms through tournaments and sparring would have been complemented with getting used to the reality of killing through the hunt.
I would guess it was all as much a matter of spiritual molding as it was a physical hardening of the young knight to be. It is like a modern sportsman who need to build a mental picture of himself or herself winning: it is very much an attitude. Add to this an intense and very physical lifestlye that celebrates personal prowress and skill at arms and competitive games.

Learning the foul but efficient tricks of personal combat and the possible etiquette of chivalry would have been complimentary sides of the same coin. There is no way more efficient to learn this that through the tutelage of someone who has been on the battlefield and seen with his own eyes where the line is drawn between fine manners and ruthless killing.

..rambling thoughts...
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Alina Boyden





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
I have little to add, really, just one thought:

It has been touched upon above as well: the importance of being initiated by a veteran, either a seasoned knight or someone in his retinue that has seen action of different kinds. Being hardened by harsh discipline and toughening training would be important. Being inspired to fear God and your superiors would be as crucial as being taught fearlessness in the eye of the enemy.

VArious forms of physical training with arms through tournaments and sparring would have been complemented with getting used to the reality of killing through the hunt.
I would guess it was all as much a matter of spiritual molding as it was a physical hardening of the young knight to be. It is like a modern sportsman who need to build a mental picture of himself or herself winning: it is very much an attitude. Add to this an intense and very physical lifestlye that celebrates personal prowress and skill at arms and competitive games.

Learning the foul but efficient tricks of personal combat and the possible etiquette of chivalry would have been complimentary sides of the same coin. There is no way more efficient to learn this that through the tutelage of someone who has been on the battlefield and seen with his own eyes where the line is drawn between fine manners and ruthless killing.

..rambling thoughts...


That's a really good point Peter. I can't believe I forgot to mention hunting. It was one of the staples of Medieval life and knightly training. In fact, the Teutonic knights and other military orders got a special dispensation to hunt. Hunting was illegal for monks and members of the clergy, but the military-monks considered hunting to be so important to their training that the exception was made for them.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Kings Mirror, a mid 13th century norwegian text, among other things concerns itself with the role and duties of the Hirdmann. "Hird" means followers, or retinue; a "hirdmann" is one of these retainers; Personal bodyguards and right hand men of the king. In terms of arms and equipment, they are suposed to own full maile, helmet, shield, sword, spear, and bow/crossbow; Most of them have horses, but seldom fight mounted, even though the manuscript and the fashion of the times encouraged them to.

The manuscript states that when you are done with your duties, and your friends go of to drink and be merry, you should instead put on your heavy armour, pick up a heavy sword and shield or buckler, and find someone to train with, (foreigner or courtyman.) with which you shall practice fighting with good blows and suitable defences.
If you want to be good at this, you shoud do this twice a day.

I dont have the book with me, but I'll bring it around later.
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Helen Miller




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 10:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

E.P.-Very impressive I must say. I seriously hope that you could share more about this book.
I think it's something to aspire to even in modern terms.
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R. Laine




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Apr, 2005 11:14 am    Post subject: Re: Medieval knights question...         Reply with quote

Dear Helen,

I don't really have that much to add to this topic, the Middle Ages being a bit outside of my main period of interest and all, but I don't think this has been mentioned yet:

Fencing academies did exist, and some nobles also had personal masters to teach them. Some of the historical fencing treatises are also directed towards knights and nobles. Whether knights commonly attended public fencing schools or were taught by personal or non-public trainers isn't entirely certain, though - quite likely this varied from region to region and time period to time period.

*How* fencing practise was actually conducted is something of a mystery as well. For example, while there are mentions of wooden weapons in some historical texts, no actual fencing treatise ever discusses them as far as I'm aware, instead showing people with steel blunts. Many texts also recommend cross-training in unarmed martial arts and various sports, and they seem to have been a quite important part of a knight's training.

All the best
Rabbe
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Apr, 2005 5:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It must be added that the Kingsmirror is quite disilutioned when it comes to the standard of the kingsmen. Note the "When your fellows heads of to drink and be merry" part Big Grin

They also say that you shall be proficient with the lance, sword, spear, javelin, bows, crossbows, and all kinds of "fighting stones"...
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Apr, 2005 10:18 am    Post subject: Medieval Knights Question         Reply with quote

Dear Helen

Although my area of interest really starts from the rennaissance, I appreciate the difficulties of identifying early fencing and martial training due to the lack of records. Many original texts tend to concentrate on the actual battle rather than the preparation, presumably because it made more interesting reading at the time and probably because the preparatory training was so taken for granted it wasn't considered for inclusion.

Some books which I have found interesting on early fencing training (albeit they date from the early 15th century so a little late for your period) are the Codex Wallerstein (15th century) , Lichtenauer's Verses (late 14th century), works of Fillipo Vadi (15th century), The Book of Deeds of Arms & Chivalry by de Piza (15th century - recent new translation out I believe). A good later book is a popular book called The Sword and The Centuries by Sir Alfred Hutton (19th century) which is a collection of original accounts of trials at arms, trials by combat and tournaments, and then later duels. The medieval section talks in passing about some of the skills knights were expected to possess and refers to a couple of 'warm-ups' which indicate that knights of the period trained sufficiently to be able to move quite easily in plate armour.

Otherwise there's not much more I can offer other than the fact that by inference of what occurred in the 16th century and early 17th centuries, there must have been a very distinct medieval school of thought on arms training. In the late Elizabethan period when printed books became more readily available to the public, the fencing manuals of the Italian rapier masters were amongst the very best sellers of the day (second only to the bible in one case I think). This shows a great interest in the study of fencing which was unlikely just to have been a fashion of the era. Interest in styles of fencing indicates schools of thought. Schools of thought would suggest teachers, pupils and training regimens from which those schools of fencing had evolved. Probably over a long period of time. There was also a great debate between traditional English masters of the buckler and broadsword and the 'new fangled' continental rapier school as to which was best. This again would indicate a long established history of fencing training and tuition in the cutting sword school which probably extended a long way back into the medieval period, whether it was in the 'salle' or private teaching or in the courtyard.

PS Agree with Rabbe above that although the Romans used them I've not seen a wooden sword depicted in medieval images as yet, though the use of them would make sense.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 08 Apr, 2005 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The oldest fencing manual is the Royal Armouries I.33, wich date back to the late 13th/early 14th century, and descripes Sword and Buckler fencing.
the fencers shown are a student and a priest, the priest beeing the master of the style. It is theoriced that it orginates from a chatedral school somewhere in germany, and describes the doctrines of that school's "Sword and Buclker comunity".
We do however not know much about how they trained; Wooden sword, blunts, first blood, submission, or some other way.

I have now managed to dig out my copy of the Kings Mirror.
It states, conserning training:

Now it happens that your team fellows [A team of retainers, consisting of four Hirdmenn(bodyguards), and a Skutilsvein(Knight)] wants to go from the king's hostel for drink and fun, and you are also given leave to amuse yourself.
Then you shall love that game which I now shall teach you.
If you are at a place where you can ride a horse [This is norway, after all...] and you own a horse, mount it wearing heavy arms, and practice how to sitt on your horse as is fairest and most steady.

[About half a page of details on how to ride, cover yourself with your shield, and use a lance)

But if you are in a town, or somewhere else where you can not ride, then you shall love the fun that it is to go to your hostel, and put on you heavy armour. Then you shall seek out a fellow that wants to play with you, someone you know is learned to fight under shield or buckler, be he countryman or foreigner.
Always take heavy weapons to this game, Maile or a heavy gambeson, and have in your hand a heavy shield or buckler, and a heavy sword.
In this game you should attempt to learn suitable strikes, and sensible, usefull and good counterstrikes. Learn to cover yourself well with the shield, and likewice to beware of these things in your opponent.
If you think it important to be learned in this sport, practice it twice a day, if you can. But no day should pass where you do not practice it once, unless it be a hollyday. For this sport is suitable to know for a kingsman, and likewise usefull if there should be need to use it.

[The following pages state that you should also practice with javelins, bows, slings, and rocks Big Grin
It also encourages learning to fight with the off hand.
It goes on to give advice for fighing on foot, on horseback, and on ships, as well as how to attack and defend keeps.]


What we can conclude from this text:
Kingsmen would rather party than practice
When they felt like practicing, they probably fought unarmoured, with light swords and bucklers (Much like us... Wink )
They came up with fancy, but useless tricks (also much like us...)
Someone was anoyed to the point of sarcasm about this fact...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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