historical fencing

historical fencing

Tlusty on Bearing Swords in the Later Middle Ages

the cover of B. Ann Tlusty's book "The Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany" with a painting of two men in doublets and hose fighting with swords while a man behind a desk hangs his head in his hands

A classic problem in social history goes like this: in the thirteenth century CE, the heaviest weapon that was commonly worn in European towns was a dagger or long knife with a blade up to 30 cm long. By the sixteenth century CE, towns were full of men wearing swords, particularly in the British Isles, the Low Countries, Germany, and Bohemia (in Italy and Spain wearing swords may have been restricted to gentlemen). How and when did this change happen? This has caught the attention of academics because it is linked to the civilizing process, state formation, and the monopoly on violence and those were fashionable at universities in the twentieth century. Back when I was in contact with them, the people who study German fencing from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries tell people that one book shows that medieval Germans wore swords everywhere just like people in the sixteenth century: B. Ann Tlusty, The Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany: Civic Duty and the Right of Arms (Palgrave Macmillan: 2011). What does it actually say about medieval law?

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Fencing Problems: Coordinating a Step and a Cut

a badly chipped illumination of a chaotic battle between knights on horseback
Detail from Universität Kassel, UBK 2° Ms. theol. 4 Weltchronik (painted circa 1385) fol. 46r https://manuscriptminiatures.com/5711/20896#image

These posts are an experiment: can I have fun talking about martial arts problems as problems to a general audience? Talking with other fencers about fencing theory tends to frustrate everyone unless they already agree. If you like this post or have trouble following, please let me know!

One of the fundamental problems in fencing goes like this. You and your partner are both standing in guard, Because the hand is quicker than the eye, and because in armed combat one strike or thrust can kill, you are far enough away that neither can strike the other without stepping. That extra distance (measure) gives you time (tempo) in which to notice their attack and defend yourself. You want to attack first with a cut. How do you do so without walking on to their point?

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