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Title: Medieval Swordsmanship

Author: John Clements

Publisher: Paladin Press

ISBN: 1-58160-004-6

Held by many to be the chief resource for the study of swordsmanship in the Middle Ages, this fully-illustrated, 323-page bug squasher is the first of its kind. In it, Clements draws upon his 18 years of experience in one of the most neglected martial arts to dispell the long-standing myths of idiotic steel-encased warriors haphazardly chopping at each other in place of a view that gives a background to the real swordsmen, explaining their beliefs and methods.

Finding a middle ground between the scholars who have, until recently (historically), perpetuated the false image of the clumsy medieval soldier and the glorified stick fighting that takes place with groups such as the SCA, Clements presents a manual for students of the most under-appreciated martial art.

He begins with the historical source material of contemporary fighting manuals by such masters as Johannes Liechtenauer and Fiore dei Liberi and notes the differences between the German and Italian disciplines. These manuals start as most martial arts do, with the basic unarmed techniques, except that almost all of these manuals assume that the combatants can procure daggers, and naturally start there*. Depending on the period, the manuals continue on with the long-sword or progress into the great-sword and the early-Renaissance two-handed sword.

Two chapters are devoted to the construction and classification of medieval swords by their four main families:

Long-Swords-The most widely recognized type of sword, they are usually 40 to 48 inches long and are traditionally held in one hand while the other takes up the shield. Weight: 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.

Great-Swords-Slightly larger swords that demand a two-handed grip and are known to the masses by the pseudo-claymore that Mel Gibson carried in Braveheart. These stretch from 44-53 inches. Weight: 3 to 4 pounds.

Bastard-Swords-So called for their falling between the Great-Swords and the Renaissance Two-Handed swords, these were the first blades to show the changing needs of the sword in the Renaissance. They were somewhat longer (40-48 inches) and tapered to a sharper point to provide the piercing attack that was demanded as more plate armor was being seen on the field. Weight: 3-3.5 pounds.

Two-Handed Swords- Brought in to use as the armor it opposed became thicker and more numerous, the Two-Handed swords were primarily used to attack pike formations and sever the tips to soften up an enemy for a cavalry assault. Surely the largest sword used in combat, they averaged around 6 feet, 14-18 inches of which would be handle. They were commonly modified with a small pair of flanges sticking out of the blade around 6 inches from the guard. Weight:3.5 to 5+ pounds

Clements describes the fate of the Medieval sword as it became a virtually ineffective weapon when many armies were fully outfitted with basic plate armor covering the torso, arms and the fronts of the legs. These armors found their bane in blunt weapons like maces, or the eventual firearm.

The rest of the book is the meat and potatoes where he has fully illustrated guides to sword and shield fighting (with what is one of the very few analyzations of the medieval shield and its use) and pure sword on sword techniques.

*Interestingly, the descendant of the dagger fighting that was taught in the Middle Ages is your local high school's wrestling team. Originally, you pinned someone to stab them.

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