Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

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Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ariella Elema » 07 Mar 2012 00:49

I have a little time on my hands lately, so I've been reading Ali ibn Abderrahmen ibn Hudhayl al Andalusi's The Finery of Horsemen and the Insignia of the Valiant, a late fourteenth-century treatise on horsemanship with some discussion of weapons handling.

Ibn Hudhayl lived and wrote in the kingdom of Grenada, which makes him a HEMA practitioner and his treatise an early (and under-appreciated) source of information on Iberian horsemanship and jousting. Unfortunately, I can't read the original Arabic, but I've been enjoying the French translation by Louis Mercier published in 1924. I thought I'd translate a few passages and throw them online, since there doesn't seem to be much information in English about it on the internet. Don't mistake this for the critical edition; every Arabist who quotes Mercier seems to fix a word or two of his translation, so my version is probably garbling the text even more. Still, it's too cool to let it languish in obscurity.

The structure of the treatise is that each chapter covers a different aspect of horsemanship. The chapters open with quotes from Islamic scripture and anecdotes about famous horsemen, going on to explain the vocabulary associated with the aspect of horsemanship, and ending with some practical advice on the subject. Unlike other European HEMA manuals, it really does look like a beginner's introductory book. The sections on learning to ride begin with learning to mount a horse and riding around at a walk without stirrups. Only in the last chapters does the author introduce some elementary exercises with weapons.

Here's the practical section of his chapter on swords.

One of the fundamental principles of handling a sword is that one should not draw it except at the very moment of striking a blow. If one draws ahead of time, it inspires cowardice; there is, at any rate, no weapon it will fail to challenge once one makes use of it. The examples are frequent of unpracticed people who handle the sword without precaution and wound the ear of their horse or its foreleg; often, indeed, the rider injures his own ear or his foot, which he cuts more or less deeply.

To make use of the sword, engage only the ends of the feet in the stirrups, in a manner so that as much as possible they are not pushed forward, in order to permit good support and deliver a good vertical or horizontal edge-cut. If the target is facing you, you should pay the most attention to yourself and the horse, and place the sword hand as much to the outside as possible. It is in this manner that one avoids accidents.

Place yourself in such a way as to have your enemy on the right in every circumstance, especially if he is a lancer.

To practice and train in the handling of the sword, obtain a reed or a soft stick, plant one end in the ground, and affix it there well. Then take to the field, arranging yourself so you have the stick on the right hand when you are facing it. Spur your horse at full speed and, upon approaching the stick, draw in a prompt, measured and light movement. Strike an oblique edge blow on the portion of the reed or stick which is level with the head of a rider, or again, strike the blow horizontally with a supple and rapid movement.

Repeat this manoeuvre often, striking each level of the stick or reed that one is able to, until there remains no more than the length of a cubit and a palm as a result of the operation. One must stress this exercise until, with God’s help, it becomes familiar and effortless. (pp. 238-9)
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby leonardo daneluz » 07 Mar 2012 02:07

That´s extremely interesting. I wonder if there is an available transcription of the arabic original somewhere.

May be we should remember he surely was talking about a straight sword. Something like this
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby admin » 07 Mar 2012 11:52

Fascinating source Ariella, thanks for sharing!

Leonardo - I'm not so sure about that, the Mamluk furusiyya show curved swords:
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby leonardo daneluz » 07 Mar 2012 13:07

But the mamluks never reached Spain whose moorish kingdoms weren´t mamluks but Almoravids, then Almohads and, by the time of this text, Nazri. They had links with north Africa.
AFAIK there is not a single curved sword in spain from those times. All were straight, of the type we know as "jineta"
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espada_jineta

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Sorry for so many pictures but I thought they were cool.
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby admin » 07 Mar 2012 16:02

Interesting! 8)
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby bigdummy » 07 Mar 2012 16:19

fascinating!

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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby bigdummy » 07 Mar 2012 16:24

I love the one of the chess game, I think i've seen that before, it's a 'Frank' and a Moor playing chess, right?

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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby leonardo daneluz » 07 Mar 2012 17:24

It´s from the "book of games" by Alfonso X.

The spanish knights referred themselves as "christians" or "goths", not franks.
But there wasn`t a clear difference between them and the moors because most feudal lords made alliances by marrying the opposite side. So , and excepting the north african peoples at whicc the moors asked for help, most muslim lords were very similar in attire, weapons and culture to their christians counterparts.
That`s something which produced one of the most annoying ideas about the Cid: that he was a mere mercenary in a time when every knight served different lords in his lifetime, without taking into much consideration if they were muslims or christians.
The theme of the moor and the christian playing chess is a favourite of medieval Spain. There is also a wonderful romance poem about it (there are many, this is the only one I know from memory in awful inmediate translation):

Playing was the moorish king
At chess one day
with that good Fajardo
to whom he loved so much

Fajardo bets Lorca
the moorish king bets Almería
He attacked with the Tower
And the Bishop was about to take

Great voices gives the moor
"The city of Lorca is mine!"
then talked Fajardo
You´ll hear very well what he said
"Shut up, good king
don´t take that seriously
Even if you win it
It won´t be given to you
I have knights in there
and they will defend it.

Then talked the moorish king
you´ll hear what he said:
"Let´s not play anymore
and don´t fight
you are such a good knight
that all the world would be afraid of you.
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby leonardo daneluz » 07 Mar 2012 17:33

I have found the complete imagen, which has some beatiful details. They are at the moor´s tent, and they left the lances at a side.
The moorish lord also has the knight cornered and about to lose.


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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby bigdummy » 07 Mar 2012 18:46

yeah it looks like it was a long game though... :)

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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 07 Mar 2012 19:48

Nice victory for the Moorish lord!
It is time to resign for the knight. Interestingly enough he does not have any weapon. Is he a captured warrior? What do you reckon, what piece is on c5? A knight?
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ulrich von L...n » 07 Mar 2012 19:53

Or rather on f4.
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ariella Elema » 07 Mar 2012 21:27

leonardo daneluz wrote:I wonder if there is an available transcription of the arabic original somewhere.


Yes. Mercier also published an Arabic edition of the treatise. You can read it on archive.org here: http://www.archive.org/stream/laparuredescaval00ibnh#page/n115/mode/2up.

There's also a Spanish translation by M.J. Viguera, published under the title Gala de Caballeros, Blasón de Paladines (1977).

Poking around on the internet, I've discovered that this treatise was in fact an abridged version of an earlier and more detailed treatise ibn Hudhayl had written some years previously. That one was also edited and translated by Mercier under the title L'ornament des âmes et la devise des habitants d'el Andalus : traité de guerre sante islamique. My school library has a copy in off-site storage. I've ordered it up and I'll take a look to see if it has anything to add to the weapons sections.
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby bigdummy » 07 Mar 2012 22:23

Ariella, I assume you've read Usamah Ibn munqidh of course? Lots of good combat stuff in there. I would love to get hold of Al-Bakri's description of Abraham ben Jacob's travels in Northern Europe but I've never been able to find a translation of the original.


EDIT: referring to the Book of Roads and Kingdoms
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ro ... r%C4%AB%29

I love ancient travel books like that.

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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby leonardo daneluz » 08 Mar 2012 01:41

Thank you very much, Ariella. I´ll show it to the spanish HEMA people. It should be useful to find a moorish source about jineta swords and the play of "Cañas".
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ariella Elema » 08 Mar 2012 20:53

bigdummy wrote:Ariella, I assume you've read Usamah Ibn munqidh of course? Lots of good combat stuff in there. I would love to get hold of Al-Bakri's description of Abraham ben Jacob's travels in Northern Europe but I've never been able to find a translation of the original.
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I've read excerpts of Usamah ibn Muniqidh, but I've never read through the whole book. There's a great description of a Frankish judicial duel in there.

It looks like we have the Book of Roads and Kingdoms at U of T, but the only translations are in Spanish and French. The Spanish translation looks like it covers only Spain, while the French one is just excerpts.
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ariella Elema » 08 Mar 2012 21:01

Here's what ibn Hudhayl has to say about the lance. It may be of interest to people who joust.

To mount with the lance, hold it in the right hand and the reins in the left hand, which also grasps the pommel of the saddle. Place the butt of the lance on the ground and turn away from it somewhat. Engage the left foot in the left stirrup; raise oneself onto the horse while pushing on the lance. Rise in the stirrup and make the lance turn over the horse’s croup to the right in such a way that it is rapidly elevated. Place the lance in the left hand with the reins and , arrange clothing and weapons with the right hand and then replace the lance in the right hand.

If one finds oneself in a solitary place, without any man nearby whom the lance could accidentally touch, or a tree where it risks getting hooked, one can, if one prefers, take the lance by its middle in the left hand, together with the reins and a fistful of mane or the pommel of the saddle if there is no mane. With the right hand take the saddle-bow or the pommel, according to whether the left hand is itself holding the pommel or the mane, and mount.

Never attempt to pick up a lance on the ground while remaining on the horse. Indeed it often happens that the horse places his foot on it and breaks it, or that he strikes it with his hoof and knocks it away. Rather, one should place a foot on the ground, take up the lance, and remount, as has been described.

To dismount with the lance, take it in the left hand and place the butt on the ground, near the front left side of the horse. Take the pommel of the saddle in the right hand and dismount. Upon reaching the ground, take the lance in the right hand with a rapid gesture, to avoid the possibility that the horse turns around and breaks it or that it falls and the head touches the ground, or it strikes a third person; for one should anticipate all such things.

To practice the handling of the lance and train oneself in it, prepare the apparatus called the dari’a, which consists of a piece of wood or analogous object placed vertically in the earth to a height corresponding with that of a horseman. Carefully affix the lower part of this apparatus (in the earth), placing on the upper part a ring or a cord forming a ring. Take to the field and spur one’s horse to full gallop. Upon approaching the dari’a, couch the lance under the armpit and let enough of it stick out behind to lighten the front part and make it easily supportable. Run the ring through with the head of the lance and immediately turn it rapidly to disengage the head. Often, one is obliged to turn the lance completely behind oneself to draw it back from the ring, or to completely run the ring through and to recover it behind oneself on the fly, so to speak. The ring is also often prepared so that it turns in all directions, according to the movement one imparts on it.

One should persevere as much as possible in the practice of these exercises until one finds them easy and, with God’s help, one never misses the target.

As for the manner of couching the lance at the moment when one encounters an enemy, of giving a blow with the point, of disengaging one’s weapon afterwards, and so forth, such things involve elaborations, explanations and even practical demonstrations, in which one should take account of various circumstances, diverse manners and multiple methods which may present themselves (elaborations which we have not permitted ourselves here).

It is fitting that the rider should have a lance that is as light as possible. He will have more vigour, security and solidity with a light lance, proportioned to his talents and his strength.

The lances of the ancients were six cubits, but it is permissible to employ shorter ones. The shaft should not be too thin or too thick: not so thick that the hand cannot enclose it, nor so thin that the fingers encounter the palm after encircling it. It should have middling dimensions, in proportion to the hand; this is the size with which you will master it. [pp. 244-6]


Edit: After consulting an Arabic-speaker, I think I've figured out what was confusing me about the first paragraph. The idea seems to be that you roll the lance over the horse's rump just behind your right leg as it clears the horse's back. Where Mercier says you should stand in the stirrups, it should read that you rise in the left stirrup as you are mounting. Otherwise you would end up with your right arm twisted behind you, trying to hang onto the lance. Here's what the French translation says.

Pour se mettre en selle avec la lance, tenir celle-ci dans la main droite et ses rênes dans la gauche, qui saisit, en outre, le pommeau de la selle : poser à la terre le talon de la lance et s’en écarter quelque peu; engager la pointe du pied gauche dans l’étrier gauche : se hisser à cheval en s’appuyant sur la lance; s’élever sur les étriers et faire tourner la lance par-dessus la croupe, vers la droite, de telle sorte qu’elle soit haute rapidement. Placer la lance dans la main gauche, avec les rênes, disposer ses vêtements et ses armes de la main droite, puis remettre la lance dans la main droite.
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby bigdummy » 08 Mar 2012 21:16

Ariella Elema wrote:
bigdummy wrote:Ariella, I assume you've read Usamah Ibn munqidh of course? Lots of good combat stuff in there. I would love to get hold of Al-Bakri's description of Abraham ben Jacob's travels in Northern Europe but I've never been able to find a translation of the original.
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I've read excerpts of Usamah ibn Muniqidh, but I've never read through the whole book. There's a great description of a Frankish judicial duel in there.


There are 8 or 9 really good detailed descriptions of combat in that book, I've posted several extended excerpts.

Too bad about the Book of Roads and Kingdoms...

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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ariella Elema » 09 Mar 2012 22:16

Here's the part about shields.

In combat, when one is armed with a shield, one should cover oneself against sword, point or stones with the middle part of this implement. One can turn it to the right and the left, outward from that which is near it. Avoid holding it tightly against your body if you fear that it will receive some blow. It should serve to protect the rider and his horse at the same time, according to the diverse positions which one gives it. It is preferable to present the protuberant part of the shield to stones and to give it an oblique position, to make that which has struck it slide off.

Protect yourself against the lance with the entire shield, or the largest possible surface of it. As soon as you sense that the head of the lance has touched the shield, displace it from front to back and turn it away from your body. In this moment, beware of adding the resistance of your bodyweight to the shield, for fear of being unhorsed. When displacing the shield from front to back, also avoid making the opponent’s lance slide off in such a way that it snags your clothing. That is one of the contingencies against which one should guard most.

The handling of the leather shield is exactly the same as that of the wooden one. Nevertheless, the former gives the lance more grip, on account of its penetrability and uniform thickness. Thus one does best to snatch the opposing lance in some way and to instill in the shield the movement from front to back in order to preserve it. This way one also avoids that it should become too heavy for the hand and its handling impossible.

Mounting with a shield presents two scenarios, according to whether the shield is long or short. In the first case, loosen the grip (of the shield, which remains hanging from the arm by its second handle) and seize the reins with the left hand, then mount as has been described and beware of knocking the chin against the shield’s edge, if it of such dimensions that this could happen. In the second case, take the shield under the armpit and mount the horse. [pp. 270-1]
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Re: Ibn Hudhayl, the other Iberian HEMA treatise

Postby Ariella Elema » 09 Mar 2012 22:19

And here's ibn Hudhayl's final advice for young warriors.

The rules of handling weapons are not applied uniformly by everyone. Indeed, on the contrary, there are levels among men in this regard and considerable differences.

A wise man should thus assist personally in the exercises of qualified people, make an assault of arms with them, and train himself in the handling of arms with the man whom he judges is most skillful in this art, whom he will have chosen for this purpose.

He should persevere until he has acquired familiarity with different ways of striking with the point and the edge and stabbing with cold steel in battle; of swooping amongst the combatants or disengaging in lance and sabre fights; of observing the trajectory of arrows; of knowing the propitious moments for advance and retreat; the manner of gaining terrain in single combat and placing oneself between the sun and the enemy at the time of the clash and entry into the action; of undressing and making changes in combat; of studying all manner of details of these developments, even if he already knows them, until they are present in his very spirit at the moment when he changes mounts at the prospect of battle.

It is thus, say I, that he will learn to lie in wait for the enemy’s vanguard, either in motion or standing still; to use a ruse to render his adversary’s lance unusable by striking from below and raising it or turning it against him; to pull off the bridle headpiece of [his adversary’s] horse; to cut the reins; the manner, in a word, of occupying the other rider with the control of his horse and overcoming him immediately, all things which the mastery of the equestrian art reveals and makes manifest. However, he who is not practiced in all these things must not deceive himself and flatter himself that he follows these paths. For it is precisely through the knowledge of all the forgoing matters and the attentive study one makes, that horsemen excel among each other, as well as through tenacity, fortitude of the heart and great prudence at the moment when contention arises among rivals and people go to the lists. And in all cases, it is from God that you should plead for support! [pp. 277-8]
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