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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Norman fighting styles? Reply to topic
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Tanner Sheltry




Location: Oklahoma
Joined: 08 Apr 2013

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed 29 May, 2013 9:47 am    Post subject: Norman fighting styles?         Reply with quote

I joined this forum about a month ago and I have been searching around. After a lot of Internet searches I still don't know if norman one-on-one combat was more similar to viking or more like I.33 stuff? Does anyone have any historical references showing what it was like?
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 29 May, 2013 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is basically nothing for the Norman era, nor anything in the 12th or 13th centuries (excluding MS I.33, if we accept the date of 1295 AD) that instructs on sword and shield combat, nor mounted sword and shield, nor lance and shield.

The only sources available are images from the period. However, the number of images showing knights fighting is fairly limited. And the number of images that actually depict two (or more) knights physically striking one another is even fewer- less than three dozen by my estimate. So the evidence is frustratingly thin. That having been said, in the earlier images (especially from the Norman era, rather than Plantagenet era), kite shields are shown facing forwards, turned inwards, and turned outwards. This quite closely matches what we see in later 13th and 14th century manuscripts which depict heater shields being used. The good news is that there are many images showing the usage of sword and heater shield from these later eras, so with a bit of extrapolation, it is possible to reconstruct a plausible fighting form.

That's the best we've got at this time, I'm afraid.
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Tanner Sheltry




Location: Oklahoma
Joined: 08 Apr 2013

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed 29 May, 2013 10:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, that's what I was worried about.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 30 May, 2013 2:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The single best resource online for images of knights and fighting is Manuscript Miniatures: http://www.manuscriptminiatures.com/search/

For the Norman era, there are relatively few images, although there are considerably more if you include the early Plantagenet period, up to the death of Richard the Lionheart. From 1200 onwards, you will find far greater numbers of images of combat. Especially in mid to late 13th century and well into the 14th century, there are numerous good images of combat with sword and heater shield.
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Shane Dopson





Joined: 02 Jun 2007

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Thu 30 May, 2013 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, it is very hard to pull useful information from MS I.33. Bucklers are just too small to get a feel for what it is like to fight around a large kite shield.
I've been doing WMA for some years and have to say that the best way to see what you can do, is to make a kite shield (or reasonable facsimile) and start swinging a sword around it. You quickly find out 3 things:

1. The shield is a weapon to use offensively, not something you hide behind.
2. Hold it away from you, or it blocks a great deal of your vision.
3. It's damn heavy! Kill your opponent ASAP before you get tired Wink



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Tanner Sheltry




Location: Oklahoma
Joined: 08 Apr 2013

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Thu 30 May, 2013 8:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I plan to make a shield press and purchase a purpleheart armory norman waster and do some sparring with one of my partners. Make my own style by trial and error I guess:\
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 12:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tanner Sheltry wrote:
I plan to make a shield press and purchase a purpleheart armory norman waster and do some sparring with one of my partners. Make my own style by trial and error I guess:\


The only tricky thing about this is that you are more likely to end up with "error" if you simply try to start, brand new, and try to create your own style. I would really recommend using the images from 1050 to 1350 AD or so as a guide for your fighting. Just closely observing the images and noticing things about them will put you off on a much better track than simply trying to go it on your own.

Another few recommendations:

1) Get some sort of sharp sword to practice doing cuts solo with, and to use to practice cutting against objects. If you cannot afford a high end sword like an Albion Norman, Senlac, or Reeve (all of which are superb swords and very much worth the effort to acquire), then at least get a Hanwei Tinker Norman Sharp and use it to practice: [url]http://www.cashanwei.com/product/tinker-norman-sword-sharp/sh2426#!prettyPhoto[gallery]/0/[/url]. It is impossible to learn to cut properly using even the best waster. You have to have a sharp steel sword to develop good edge alignment. If you cannot even strike properly, wouldn't trying to learn sword and shield fighting be the same as trying to learn ice hockey without being able to skate? Striking properly is critical to everything else you do, so get a good sharp you can practice with.

2) Learn Liechtenauer's long sword or I.33. Either one will help you become much better in knowing what to do, and how to do it, for Norman sword and shield. I personally recommend using David Lindholm's Knightly Art of the Longsword for private study. It's a very good guide, and while I do not agree with every one of his interpretations, he gets a lot of stuff right. Personally, I would beware the temptation to join another group; if you earnestly follow Lindholm's translation and interpretation of Ringeck, paired with lots of thinking and contemplation of his translation of Doebringer, [url]http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/dobringer.html[/url], always with the aim of trying to improve each and every large and subtle action you do, you will eventually find yourself becoming more confident and skillful on your own/with your friends than had you joined a group.

3) As mentioned before, spend lots of time looking at the images of sword and shield combat. Really, while there may not be step-by-step instructions as you might like, there's really no point trying to reinvent the wheel. Since the images of knights fighting are supposed to represent real, life and death fighting (ernst fechten), the techniques and actions they show are a far better guide than just trying to make it up. There are thousands of ways to "make-up" a poor or sloppy version of sword and shield; there are very few ways to do it well and do it right. Since you want to do it well and do it right, make use of the images, and study them carefully.
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Christoph Allgaier




Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Joined: 23 Sep 2007

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 12:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Tanner! Thatīs quiet a Task to recreate/reconstruct such an old fencing-style! I wish you all the best, and lots of fun (which you will surely have!)

I post this Video, because I think it Shows nicely what Shane Dopson meant when he advised to use the shield offensively.
And Roland gives some nice Points about using the shield in angles.

I hope I could help, even if ist more viking than norman style.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkhpqAGdZPc

BTW...I know there are depictions of foot soldiers fighting with kite shields ( Bayeux tapestry...) but I think regarding the shape of the kite shield, it was mainly designed for mounted warriors. Because when you sit on horseback the kiteshield covers the rider from shoulder to ankle.
The riders used to attack a shieldwall by riding alongside, shield side facing the enemy ranks, and stabbing with their Lances towards the enemies. And for that strategy the kite was the perfect cavalery shield.
And the weight of the shield was not only carried on the arm, it was carried with a leather strap around the shoulder.

But surely the kite shield was also used for fighting on foot....just wanted to add some info on that.... ;-)
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Tanner Sheltry




Location: Oklahoma
Joined: 08 Apr 2013

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 12:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I planned on getting the hanwei tinker norman sword anyways( can't afford a albion). Any pictures of the strap system on the kite shield? I have experience with two handed swords but not with one handers. Do you guys know any places that make wasters with Brazil nut pommels?
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 31 May, 2013 10:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sure, I can do straps for a kite shield. As you can see, they're all from Manuscript Miniatures. (PS: You really should check it out for yourself.) Wink

http://www.manuscriptminiatures.com/bible-reims-bm-ms23/4956/

http://www.manuscriptminiatures.com/bible-bib-mazarine-ms02/4544/

http://www.manuscriptminiatures.com/tractatus...s291/5041/

http://www.manuscriptminiatures.com/bible-of-...ms14/4308/
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Tobias Capwell





Joined: 17 Jan 2007

Posts: 61

PostPosted: Sat 01 Jun, 2013 2:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
but I think regarding the shape of the kite shield, it was mainly designed for mounted warriors. Because when you sit on horseback the kiteshield covers the rider from shoulder to ankle.


I would be very interested to know if anyone has seen evidence of kite shields being used in the manner described above on horseback before c. 1100. It seems to me that the lengthwise positioning of a long shield in front of a rider's body relates to the introduction of couched spear combat. This is not what the riders in the Bayeaux Tapestry for example are doing. Here the shields don't cover the legs much at all, since they are not held vertically from shoulder to ankle, but rather are sloped back at a diagonal angle.

Not wanting to turn this thread onto a different subject, it seems however when kite-shields are used on foot pre-1100ish, and no doubt later, they are held vertically, and do provide good protection for the body and legs, especially when used en masse in a shield wall.

So I'm not convinced that kite-shields are cavalry-specific, or even cavalry-biased. If you don't have much or any plate armour, a big shield tends to be seen as a good idea. The kite-shape is a good balance between coverage, weight, and convenience of carriage. The ones I've made and used on horseback and on foot have never seemed terribly heavy, and one feels pretty safe behind them.
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Tanner Sheltry




Location: Oklahoma
Joined: 08 Apr 2013

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sat 01 Jun, 2013 8:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh I don't mind I would like to know also.
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Christoph Allgaier




Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Joined: 23 Sep 2007

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jun, 2013 1:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To me it is the principle of "Form follows Function".
At the Battle of Hastings Reenactment they where doing exactly what I described. Riding along the enemy lines, Shield side facing the enemy and stabbing with the lances from overhead.
And it where the Normans as far as I know who introduced cavalery attacks in large scale to the battelfields of western Europe.
The Anglosaxons and Vikings of the day still relied on the old shield wall, even if they arrived at battlefield on horseback.
Normans where the first to breed and train destriers which where only used in battle and not for riding from A to B.
With These changes in warfare, the change of the shield shape from round to kite makes sense to me. And looking at pictures from the Hastings Reenactment I think One could See how well fitted the kite shield for cavalery is.

http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/United%20Ki...a94[1].jpg

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-LRl3KRRT49o/UHrLvMq...mgres.jpeg

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/09/25/art...34x411.jpg

But this should be it on that issue in this thread.....a little Off Topic ;-)
But I'd be happy to continue this discussion in an New thread of its own....
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Christoph Allgaier




Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Joined: 23 Sep 2007

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jun, 2013 2:57 am    Post subject: @ Tanner         Reply with quote

....you asked about the source for good swords.
I can recommend the czech Blacksmith Pavel Moc (www.swords.cz)
Good looking and High quality swords for a good price. You can have Each sword with a blunt or sharpened blade..
Even the blunt swords are quite accurate in weight and balance.
I have three swords from Pavel Moc and I am happy with all of them!

Here is the Hastings.....I guess it is a sword of that type what you are looking for.

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/download.php?id=44733

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/download.php?id=44734
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Tobias Capwell





Joined: 17 Jan 2007

Posts: 61

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jun, 2013 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christoph Allgaier wrote:
To me it is the principle of "Form follows Function".
At the Battle of Hastings Reenactment they where doing exactly what I described. Riding along the enemy lines, Shield side facing the enemy and stabbing with the lances from overhead.


Sure, that may be true, but modern reenactment habits are not primary evidence for the historical use of shields. That is not how the Normans are illustrated in the Bayeaux Tapestry.

But as you say, off topic...
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Jun, 2013 8:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is my impression that kite shields where multipurpose shields. They are just as dominant in depictions of infantry, and their form is probably better suited for use on foot. In fact, it remains in use as a infantry shield long after the shorter heaters have become the standard for cavalry.

When it comes to the use of these shields, the fighting style is different from sword and buckler or longsword, simply because of the nature of the shield and the way you hold it. Of the existing manuals, I.33 would be a good place to start to learn some basic sword handeling and defensive principles with the shield.
There is one(1) source on the use of kite shields in a combat manual, namely in Marozzo's treatise from 1536;

This posture can be found in some illustrations, and works quite well. From this positon, your attacks are mainly thrusts over the top of the opponents shield (described by marozzo) and fast blows to the side of his head. All else is covered by his shield. The forward tilt of the shield gains you some range. Defence is maintained by moving behind your shield, and covering the targets/angles from which he can strike.

"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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Tanner Sheltry




Location: Oklahoma
Joined: 08 Apr 2013

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sun 02 Jun, 2013 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow elling that was very helpful!

Thanks christoph, I'll check him out.

the more skill a man has with his weapon the more gentle and courteous should he behave, for in truth this is rightly the honour of a brave Gentleman, and so much more is he to be esteemed: he must not be a bragger, or lier, and without truth in his word, because there is nothing more to be required of a man than to know himself" - Vincentio Saviolo
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Robin Smith




Location: Louisiana
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Jun, 2013 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem I have with using Marozzo to draw conclusions about earlier fighting, is that the techniques illustrated do not seem well suited to the weapons of the earlier era. I think the substantial difference in weapon design would IMO indicate a difference in the way they are being used...
A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 03 Jun, 2013 3:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin; Marozzo simply uses his genreral purpose 1530s sword with the shield. A sword that is indeed quite unsimilar in appearance to medieval swords.
But the techniques he mentions works perfectly well with shorter blade reenactment swords. Which are LESS similar to the blade he uses that the long bladed type XIs and XIIs that are popular in the heyday of the kite.
These weapons are frequently 90cm+ (36 inches), and thus noticably longer than the one handed swords used in the dark ages or late middle ages.

These extremely long onehanders have been described as cavalry swords, but personaly I would like to try them out in combination with the kite shield. (reference to my kite shield project discussed in another thread.)

"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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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 03 Jun, 2013 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robin Smith wrote:
The problem I have with using Marozzo to draw conclusions about earlier fighting, is that the techniques illustrated do not seem well suited to the weapons of the earlier era. I think the substantial difference in weapon design would IMO indicate a difference in the way they are being used...


Robin,

There is a 12th century illustration of knights fighting that depicts the exact same position shown in the Marozzo figure. So, in this case, there is no harm done in using the illustration, because it was valid for the period. Of course, there are many other instances of knights depicted with kite shields not being held at the angle found in Marozzo, and sword and shield play must take that into account. Nevertheless, it is not an anachronism to hold the shield as found in this Marozzo image.

PS: The image is not available on Manuscript Miniatures and is very difficult to find online. It is a picture of the death of Saul, and it comes from a German manuscript if I am not mistaken.
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