Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A Note on Sword Fighting

As the Talhoffer does teach, In the sword you shall have

trust and belief, so that blood runs not over the eyes...

Hans Talhoffer, 1459 Fechtbuch                   

Fail: "recreationists" attempt to demonstrate longsword fighting.

     In my news travels today, I came across this picture from England, of two "recreationists" demonstrating their  efforts at longsword fighting.  Besides the fact that these two gentlemen aren't actually wielding lonswords (these weapons have been shortened, as a safety measure), there are a few notable errors.

     Now while I love "active history" - people bringing the past to life as close as can be to the reality - I can tell that from this picture, these two have failed trying to bring medieval combat to life.  Here are three things wrong with this image.

1)  Look at the eyes.

     The knight in yellow/blue is looking at the incoming weapon, not his opponent.  This shows you his absolute intention to strike for the sword.  A quick look at Manuscript Ms 3227 and the narrator (teaching Johan Liechtenauer directly) teaches that one should strike to the opponent's body, not to his weapon.
     To be fair, this is a safety thing.  But if these two practiced, used wider spacing, they could better represent true fighting.

2)  Body positioning

     If you look at the picture, you'll notice that both fighters are leaning back, away from the contact of weapons.  Again likely used here for safety, both of these men are striking weakly (and woefully so!), a clear failure in what one might consider a judicial duel.
     There is a saying presented in Mark Rector's Medieval Combat, I can't remember the source, but in a discussion of fighting it states that if one is afraid, they should not fight, because "a despondent heart will always be defeated, no matter the skill" (I may be paraphrasing incorrectly, apologies)

3)  Nice head protection... NOT!

     This is the one that annoys me the most.  Look at the neck of the knight in black and white checks, and you'll see a rough bundle of "chain" (might only be imitation chain mail).  That is his hauberk's coif, the hood of chain usually worn over the scalp for protection (sometimes under a helmet).
These two combatants are more worried about their hair than the realism - and are asking for a blow to the unprotected head.

     So, here teaches a person who pays attention to details.  These guys are so safety conscious that they bash their swords together (which would deliberately damage them), lean back from one another to avoid their weapon's swinging through to the face ... but don't know how to use a hauberk's coif to save their lives.

Come on, guys, strap on a pair and show it right.  I'm not saying pull of a skuller and split one another's heads open from crown to jaw (what Robert the Bruce did to some English knight to earn the moniker, "the Warrior King") - but read your fight manuals, play out the "intention," and give us a proper show.

     At present, the Black Knight fight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail looks more serious than this (and despite its slow swinging presents binding, winding, pummeling, knave wrestling, and using an unconventional kick to the groin)!

     Anyway that's my realism beef for the day.  Back to my proofing!

     T. M. Shannon

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