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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
Joined: 17 Sep 2020

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Dec, 2020 7:52 pm    Post subject: Learning from Different Masters         Reply with quote

This isn't directly on the topic of arms and armor, but I hope that you'll allow me a bit of leeway here.

I have been curious about how often soldiers learned from different "masters". I suppose you would need to be a person with money to travel about, learning from several. Fiore mentions learning from several Italian as well as German masters. Was this common practice? Does anybody have sources for this?

To bring it back around to arms, would soldiers seek out certain masters based on the weapon/armament they were looking to learn?

Thanks!
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Dec, 2020 6:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I read in another thread that you used to practice kenjutsu, but I think medieval European martial culture was/is vastly different from Japanese martial culture.

Without being able to point to exact sources, I think there were no rules that one should have only one teacher, or stick to only one school.

But I think we need to consider who was exactly practicing swordsmanship in medieval Europe.
The oldest fencing manual (I.33) shows a priest teaching a male student for most of the manuscript and a female student at the end. Neither seem to have been "soldiers", knights or otherwise people with a martial profession. Instead, although a lot is conjecture, they seem hobbyists. In fact, it is recorded that sword-and-buckler fencing was a popular pasttime for normal people in 14th C. England. Likely the same situation existed other parts of Europe. In 15th-16th C.

E.g. in Germany you had the Marxbrüder guild, which had, for a time, even a monopoly in German lands to certify "masters". But the word master should be understood in the guild tradition (a person who had progressed through certain stages of training and who could pass a practical exam) and not in the Japanse tradition.

In this context, you also need to consider the personal safety situation of late medieval commoners. Inside the town / city, they can be considered protected by the city guard, but they were likely still expected to serve in the army in times of war. Outside the city walls, they were more or less on their own. So having knowledge of fencing would be very useful.

Also the late middle ages saw the rise of mercenary armies. These mercenaries also obviously needed training and it seems that they had to take care of their training needs. The fencing guilds likely played a role in that as well.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Tue 08 Dec, 2020 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I doubt many people travelled around to seek fencing lessons. The majority of people who had the time money and inclination to get lessons would do so locally. So yes if you lived in an area which had more than one fencing school, you might spend some time studying in one, then move on to the next.

That said I'm sure, just like martial arts school today, this practice was probably discouraged by the masters of these schools, and there was a lot badmouthing behind each others backs, but that wouldn't stop some people from changing schools.

Éirinn go Brách
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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
Joined: 17 Sep 2020

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PostPosted: Tue 08 Dec, 2020 11:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
I read in another thread that you used to practice kenjutsu, but I think medieval European martial culture was/is vastly different from Japanese martial culture.

Without being able to point to exact sources, I think there were no rules that one should have only one teacher, or stick to only one school.

But I think we need to consider who was exactly practicing swordsmanship in medieval Europe.
The oldest fencing manual (I.33) shows a priest teaching a male student for most of the manuscript and a female student at the end. Neither seem to have been "soldiers", knights or otherwise people with a martial profession. Instead, although a lot is conjecture, they seem hobbyists. In fact, it is recorded that sword-and-buckler fencing was a popular pasttime for normal people in 14th C. England. Likely the same situation existed other parts of Europe. In 15th-16th C.

E.g. in Germany you had the Marxbrüder guild, which had, for a time, even a monopoly in German lands to certify "masters". But the word master should be understood in the guild tradition (a person who had progressed through certain stages of training and who could pass a practical exam) and not in the Japanse tradition.


Yes, I did used to practice kenjutsu but I was a teenager and not really that steeped in the cultural that comes with very traditional Japanese martial arts. I'm not really seeking to compare it to the Japanese martial tradition, just to question if knights and other professional soldiers (or even as you point out, hobbyists) might be exposed to different systems via learning from different masters in Europe.

As far as I.33, that may point out a master having multiple students, but not vice versa. I believe the female is supposed to represent St. Walpurga, correct? Which is why it is sometimes called the Walpurgis Fechtbuch?

Interesting point about the Marxbruder guild, I wasn't aware of that.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2020 1:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't have sources at had to back this up, but my understanding is that if you were wealthy enough you would employ a fencing master to come and teach lessons at your residence, while those of lesser means would attend a school. I see no reason why someone couldn't employ multiple fencing masters, or attend multiple schools, though probably not all at the same time.
Éirinn go Brách
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Michael Beeching





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PostPosted: Wed 09 Dec, 2020 10:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just chiming in on this - my opinion on things is continually that people have not changed much over time; instead, it is their understanding of things which have changed. If you have the ability and means to go out and pursue an interest, you generally do! In the case of Fiore and Liechtenauer, they had the means and ability, by some form or other, to learn a great deal about combat, and they then applied that knowledge to their own systems (which often focus on judicial combat).

One admonition the masters tend to make towards students is the seeking out of "play masters," who tend to offer flashy techniques and that sort of thing, but offer no serious substance to their teaching, etc. This tends to be a common theme in Liechtenaur glosses. So, just like today (or recent times, at least), there were a lot of martial arts gurus around who would peddle their knowledge - or what they called knowledge - around, call it awesome, and expect to extract a fee from someone to impart their knowledge. And, more often than not, the best techniques end up being the simpler and more direct ones, and not the "flashy" affairs the "leychmeisters" promote.

Last, I do think it is worth noting that people today, just like people of the past, tend to prefer local resources rather than ones they have to travel extensively for. Codex Wallerstein, while it is a compilation fechtbuch, is arguably in the first part a local tradition for the longsword rather than some homogeneous copy of "the best system" from the time. It has elements that seem familiar to Liechtenauer practitioners, and it also has many other elements which may not seem familiar at all. So, someone from the area where that book was written perhaps would be more likely to learn something akin to its contents rather than some other longsword teaching, etc.
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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2020 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for your contribution the discussion, Stephen and Michael.

I have certainly read about some "fake masters" etc, so that does lend to the idea of martial artists of the time at least interacting with multiple masters. And I agree that they would likely seek out masters close to them geographically, not likely to travel somewhere just to learn from a master.

Yet, Fiore mentions learning from both Italian as well as German masters (I believe Vadi does as well?), and there were disciples of Lichtenauer in Poland so I have to assume that either: A) The medieval world at that time was more cosmopolitan than I believed, or B) People did travel to seek out training from noted masters. Perhaps both?
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2020 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jeff. Well as for Fiore, he was from a knightly family, so minor nobility. His father could have hired fencing masters to teach him during his childhood. Then as he grew older and travelled, possibly on family business, he might have taken an occasional lesson or picked up some tips from various masters. That's how I imagine things probably went down anyway.

As for students of the Lichtenauer school in places like Poland. It could also be that a German fencing master seeking work moved to Poland and set up a school.

Éirinn go Brách
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Lihan Hauk





Joined: 28 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2020 3:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

People back then were no different than we are today, why wouldn't they travel far if they really wanted something. In Asia this was quite normal, at least if you believe all the founders stories of the many martial arts.
And If you read the classics from antiquity then you hear very similar stories. You can also find many stories in Celtic or Nordic sagas.
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Andrew Gill





Joined: 19 Feb 2015

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PostPosted: Tue 15 Dec, 2020 4:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi everyone.

To put things in perspective, people had been travelling back and forth across Europe for pilgrimages (and all the way to the middle east for the Crusades) for several hundred years by the time Fiore and the German longsword masters were doing their thing. If you read the list of people going on pilgrimage in Cantebury Tales (which is fairly close to the time when Fiore would have been in his prime, though in England of course), you see that it was not only the wealthiest who were able to travel - the middle classes seem to have been quite able to do it as well. And that's not considering those who had to travel for professional reasons - soldiers, merchants, and emissaries or messengers, to name a few. So if fencing was an interest to you, you'd probably try to find out something about what was happening locally if you were staying in a foreign city for any length of time. By the 1500s, on, there was also a thriving recreational/sport fencing scene in much of Germany, with visiting competitors from other fencing schools in other cities being fairly common, if memory serves.

It may have taken a couple of days to make a trip that would today be possible in a couple of hours, but that didn't seem to deter them - it was just what happened if you wanted to travel. Even today, in poorer, more rural parts of the world (even some parts of my country), you still see some people taking multi-day trips on foot out of necessity.

Andrew
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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
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PostPosted: Tue 15 Dec, 2020 9:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a very good point, Andrew. I think sometimes I myself over-estimate the distances and therefore the amount of time it would take to travel between places like France, Italy, Germany, Poland, etc. I like the perspective of the middle class traveling more than we might think as well. I am, admittedly, not particularly versed in the Canterbury Tales. Perhaps it's time!
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Wed 16 Dec, 2020 11:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jeff

Interestingly, Fiore was pretty well placed up in the north of what is now Italy. He was quite close to the southern German states (part of the holy roman empire back then, of course), as well as eastern France and Switzerland. It was a regularly contested region, with lots of armies stomping back and forth. For those of us who live elsewhere, it can be surprising how close together most of Europe is. Apparently it is only a bit over 800km (500 miles) from Paris to Berlin, for example, and roughly twice the distance from Paris to Warsaw (today it can be driven in 16 hours as the google flies). Before lockdown, I often had to fly 1200km to another major city within the borders of my own country for work purposes. People used to make the trip at walking-pace in ox-wagons more than a century ago - of course, it took several weeks back then.

Andrew

PS. If you can, find an annotated version of Cantebury Tales. The English used back then was quite different, especially the spelling, colloquial expressions and "slang" then in use. So it's not easy to read for the layman (like me), but definitely gives an interesting cross-section of the culture of of the time, containing everything from knights reciting chivalric romances to drunken millers and students swapping long bawdy jokes, for instance.
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2020 2:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Gill wrote:
Thanks Jeff

PS. If you can, find an annotated version of Cantebury Tales. The English used back then was quite different, especially the spelling, colloquial expressions and "slang" then in use. So it's not easy to read for the layman (like me), but definitely gives an interesting cross-section of the culture of of the time, containing everything from knights reciting chivalric romances to drunken millers and students swapping long bawdy jokes, for instance.


In this context, it is interesting to consider Chaucer himself. A man-at-arms, then a poet and diplomat. He spent time in Europe on diplomatic business. One of the interesting "what-ifs" of 14th century Italy is that Chaucer, Froissart and Petrarch were at Lionel of Antwerp's wedding in Milan in 1368. Did they meet and compare notes? Froissart himself was quite a traveller, staying as a guest at many courts and noble houses across Europe. They show a pattern of how a quite middle ranking man might move across the continent, learning, studying and debating.

Anthony Clipsom
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Jeff Cierniak




Location: NE United States
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2020 6:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, that distance between cultural centers in Europe is definitely something to think about. I drive about 750 miles once or twice a year to see my parents. That's about 10 days at walking speed, without rest, so I suppose we would say two weeks.

Udine (province of city where Fiore was born)-> Munich 264 miles, 3.8 days of walking, maybe 5-6 with rest?
Udine -> Vienna about the same
Udine -> Prague 375 miles, 5.4 days of walking, so perhaps a week?

And a very interesting "what if", Anthony! This discussion is giving me a bit more than I bargained for.
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Fri 18 Dec, 2020 3:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jeff.

It may take a bit longer than you suggest. I've just found out that a day's march is considered 20 miles - 32km for us metric types. That averages to about 2.5 miles/hour over 8 hours (you definitely need a good night's sleep after 8 hours of walking!). So you're looking at about a month to travel 750 miles (which tallys with the accounts of heard of the ox-wagon trains - often some of the people would walk alongside the wagons).
But nonetheless, completely doable if you have the time...
Interestingly, for forced marches (ie. with little or no rest), more than 40 miles is considered exceptional, even in the modern era (wwii, to be exact).

It would be nice if someone who had some experience with endurance cross-country horce-racing could chime in here - a person of slightly more than modest means would probably have some sort of nag or even a mule to ride on, which would speed things up a bit (perhaps less than I think though; race horses might reach 20 miles/hour or so but definitely can't maintain it for hours, let alone days - I suspect 4-6 mi/h is more realistic - so you might perhaps halve your travel time?).
I always cringe when I read about people riding horses to death in Dumas' novels...

Anthony, that is a very interesting speculation indeed! I didn't stop to think that they were all contemporaries...

I'm enjoying this discussion. I love trying to "get into the skin" of the people of a past time and figure out how their lives were different and also similar to ours...

Andrew
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Jeff Cierniak




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Dec, 2020 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good point! That was just using google's estimate, which is walking 24 hrs/ a day, but I didn't factor in enough for rest/other downtime it would seem. Still, about two weeks to the first two destinations in my post.

I would certainly assume that low nobility would have something to ride. If they're traveling in a group, though, it would likely be at or near walking speed. But, assuming traveling with a couple of companions all on horse:

https://animals.mom.com/what-is-the-average-distance-a-horse-can-travel-in-a-day-3117039.html (perhaps not the absolute best source, but the information seems plausible)

"Walk: 4 mph Trot 8 to 12 mph Canter 12 to 15 mph Gallop 25 to 30 mph

A typical horse may be comfortable walking for eight hours, meaning he could cover 32 miles in that time. Many weekend-warrior riders can't stand eight hours in the saddle, though. A more fit horse may cover more distance if he is able to trot or canter for part of the time."

At the very least 32 miles/day, so 8-9 days walking speed on a horse to the first two destinations. If you mix in a bit of trotting/canter a week or a bit less perhaps? 50% walk 50% trot is about 4.75 days riding 8 hrs/day but that I would assume that might be too much for 5 days straight. 25% trot 75% walk is 6 days. Somebody more knowledgeable on the subject would definitely be helpful.
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Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Dec, 2020 8:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another interesting, if slightly later, comparator for sustained long distance travel overland is the Spanish Road.

To quote wikipedia on this

Quote:
Travellers on the road covered an average of 19 km (12 mi) a day, although in 1577 Spanish veterans left the Netherlands and marched 24 km (15 mi) a day because of the heat and in 1578, they made the trip at the rate of 37 km (23 mi) a day during the cold month of February.


Though we might imagine our seeker after combat techniques making a slower progress, enjoying hospitality en route.

Anthony Clipsom
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Dec, 2020 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another thing: it may be considered that going on pilgrimage to far-away places, e.g. to Rome, Santiago de Compostella or even Jerusalem was not uncommon, also for people of middle class or below.

Walking to Santiago de Compostella is still on my to-do list, but I am not really looking forward to walking from the Netherlands to the Spanish border...
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