Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Fiore dei Liberi and his treatises Fior di Battaglia/Flos Duellatorum c.1410.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Sean M » 07 Aug 2012 01:03

admin wrote:
Dithyrambus wrote:http://guywindsor.net/blog/?p=129


Guy's theory? I have been saying this on SFI and all over the forums since about 2002.....

I don't read that possessive as saying that the theory is original to him, but that its the theory he currently holds. Nevertheless, it would have been courteous to reference other people who had previously suggested the same thing. I've been hearing it suggested that Fiore's art likes shortish longswords, and Liechtenauer's art longish longswords, since I entered the community in 2008, but I wasn't aware of how it got started.

A community of scholars who relied on conversation and letters for scholarly communication had the same problem documenting their claims, giving credit to earlier writers, and avoiding reinventing the wheel in the 17th century. The solution was to invent the scholarly journal and the publication ethic. We might do well to do the same and publish more of our work in a properly referenced and edited ... <Burly men in white coats appear and drag speaker off kicking and babbling about Pauly-Wissowa and nihil obstat).
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby admin » 07 Aug 2012 10:51

I don't disagree necessarily, but these matters are easily found with the magic of Google.
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Brian Stokes » 08 Jan 2013 08:13

Much of this discussion is based upon the premise that we are dealing with a single length sword. My translation is very specific in that Fior is talking about two different swords types - a single hander and a two hander.

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Motley » 08 Jan 2013 15:56

Would you care to share why you think this and in what context?

I agree I would just like to see someone else reasoning :-)
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Brian Stokes » 08 Jan 2013 23:17

Hi Dan,

IMHO seemingly the only people who translate "... a spada d’una e de doy mane" as implying "sword in one hand and sword in two hands" are western martial artists intent on maintaining the single sword length theory. Since when did any romance language place the adjective before the subject? Tom Leoni's translation in more than one spot lists both one-handed and two-handed swords. Further, if you plug these two pharases into Google translator it results in one-handed sword and two-handed sword. The translation from which I am working also says one-handed and two-handed sword*.

Fior starts the longsword section by saying that, "here begin the guards of the two-handed sword." Umm, so what were the previous guards? Guards of the one-handed sword. Consider also 28R(2) wherein, parapharased, Fior says that the play can be done with a one or two handed sword. He is specifically differentiating the two blades.

The argument I often hear is in the one-handed sword section we find Posta di Dona with two hands on the handle. What, you can't hold an arming sword with two hands? If you take an arming sword and recreate Posta di Dona from the one-handed section precisely as drawn the blade will fall across the back as shown, with the tip of the blade angled off to the left. Conversely, the tip of a two-hander will, since the grip is farther up the hilt, fall at a steeper angle down the back and look very much like what is seen in the two-handed section.

Another argument I encounter in support of the the single-sized sword theory is that the historcial blade lengths of period swords measured between 34" and 38". In an of itself that would seem an appropriate response, that is if the average northern Italian of the time was not between 5'4" and 5'7" in height. Amazing - a 34" to 38" blade length is surprisingly the right length for that height of individual. In historical context the blade lengths are correct. However, those of us who stand some 7" taller would necessarily use longer blades. A 38" blade is NOT a two-hander to me.

There is also a specific historical reference - Vadi - who stated, as Guy pointed out, that a two hander should measure from the floor to under the arm.

So there are just a few reasons for you ....

Ciao for now,

Brian

*I have personally hired two senior professors at different major English universities, both PhDs, and who read Faranese as if it were the Sunday times, to translate the Getty for me. I chose them because of their academic credentials wherein they received their degrees from extensive time spent in the libraries of Milan and whose subject of interest was specifically 14th and 15th century Italy. Both have also written books on the subject. Finally, and this was important to me, neither of them have any martial arts experience. As an aside one of the "fun" translations to date came back using the term wind as in "winding the blade."
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Mark Lancaster » 09 Jan 2013 15:04

Hi Brian,

So just to clarify and paraphrase at the same time ... you're saying that Fiore uses a one-handed sword or a two-handed sword but not a "hand & half" sword?

Thanks,

Mark
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Brian Stokes » 09 Jan 2013 15:58

Hi Marc,

I see two different sword lengths being used. Whether one is a hand and a half i don't know. There are many drawings in the manuscripts which show one or both of the combatants wearing a sword at their side. One simply cannot wear a longsword or a bastard sword as depicted. (The point drags on the ground.) I see it as an arming/side sword. To test this theory i had created sidesword waisters that look very, very similar to that seen in the drawings. If I use them when practicing the one handed sword plays the zogho flow beautifully.

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Mark Lancaster » 09 Jan 2013 16:13

Hi Brian,

You've got me intrigued (or it could be lack of memory) :P

Where does Fiore show the sword worn at the side?

Thanks,

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Brian Stokes » 09 Jan 2013 17:04

Here are the blades that I use. My long sword is approximately 54".

image.jpg
Long and Arming swords
image.jpg (116.87 KiB) Viewed 4237 times


Mark, see 39v2 and 41v4 as examples. They are not the only ones.

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby TyHar7 » 09 Jan 2013 22:00

Brian Stokes wrote:Much of this discussion is based upon the premise that we are dealing with a single length sword. My translation is very specific in that Fior is talking about two different swords types - a single hander and a two hander.

Brian Stokes


Brian,

Why can't both premises be correct?

I mean all 3 types of swords existed, single hand, hand-half, two hand during this period. My personnel preference would be to have the hand half sword so I can switch between single hand and two hand techniques effectively. Looking at the Getty I would speculate that this might of been Fiore's preference as well. Doesn't mean I would say you shouldn't stick to one or another as you appear to do.

However I would agree with the opinion that a lot of the two hand technique require a two hand sword at the shorter end of the spectrum to effectively replicate them. That said, the spectrum changes dependent on the height and reach of the user and his opponent.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Motley » 09 Jan 2013 23:50

Mark Lancaster wrote:Hi Brian,

You've got me intrigued (or it could be lack of memory) :P

Where does Fiore show the sword worn at the side?

Thanks,

Mark


Hi Mark,

I am super rushed at the moment, but the poleaxe caustic powder one does and some of the spear plays also have a sword and dagger. They are pretty faintly drawn in though so you need to look at the high res. I think I might be more but don't have time to check.

The florius also shows a one handed sword in the one hand section.

Regards,
Dan.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Motley » 10 Jan 2013 00:01

Brian Stokes wrote:Hi Dan,

IMHO seemingly the only people who translate "... a spada d’una e de doy mane" as implying "sword in one hand and sword in two hands" are western martial artists intent on maintaining the single sword length theory. Since when did any romance language place the adjective before the subject? Tom Leoni's translation in more than one spot lists both one-handed and two-handed swords. Further, if you plug these two pharases into Google translator it results in one-handed sword and two-handed sword. The translation from which I am working also says one-handed and two-handed sword*.

Fior starts the longsword section by saying that, "here begin the guards of the two-handed sword." Umm, so what were the previous guards? Guards of the one-handed sword. Consider also 28R(2) wherein, parapharased, Fior says that the play can be done with a one or two handed sword. He is specifically differentiating the two blades.

The argument I often hear is in the one-handed sword section we find Posta di Dona with two hands on the handle. What, you can't hold an arming sword with two hands? If you take an arming sword and recreate Posta di Dona from the one-handed section precisely as drawn the blade will fall across the back as shown, with the tip of the blade angled off to the left. Conversely, the tip of a two-hander will, since the grip is farther up the hilt, fall at a steeper angle down the back and look very much like what is seen in the two-handed section.

Another argument I encounter in support of the the single-sized sword theory is that the historcial blade lengths of period swords measured between 34" and 38". In an of itself that would seem an appropriate response, that is if the average northern Italian of the time was not between 5'4" and 5'7" in height. Amazing - a 34" to 38" blade length is surprisingly the right length for that height of individual. In historical context the blade lengths are correct. However, those of us who stand some 7" taller would necessarily use longer blades. A 38" blade is NOT a two-hander to me.

There is also a specific historical reference - Vadi - who stated, as Guy pointed out, that a two hander should measure from the floor to under the arm.

So there are just a few reasons for you ....

Ciao for now,

Brian

*I have personally hired two senior professors at different major English universities, both PhDs, and who read Faranese as if it were the Sunday times, to translate the Getty for me. I chose them because of their academic credentials wherein they received their degrees from extensive time spent in the libraries of Milan and whose subject of interest was specifically 14th and 15th century Italy. Both have also written books on the subject. Finally, and this was important to me, neither of them have any martial arts experience. As an aside one of the "fun" translations to date came back using the term wind as in "winding the blade."


Thanks, mostly what I think although you have gone into more detail, what with commissioning translators and all :-)

At my main arguments were the end of the sword in one hand into section where he says " and even with the same sword in once hand you can practice my art as you'll find in this book" (Leoni's, 2012) and the first play in the stretto section.

I find most plays work just the same.

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Mark Lancaster » 10 Jan 2013 16:04

Motley wrote:
Mark Lancaster wrote:Hi Brian,

You've got me intrigued (or it could be lack of memory) :P

Where does Fiore show the sword worn at the side?

Thanks,

Mark


Hi Mark,

I am super rushed at the moment, but the poleaxe caustic powder one does and some of the spear plays also have a sword and dagger. They are pretty faintly drawn in though so you need to look at the high res. I think I might be more but don't have time to check.

The florius also shows a one handed sword in the one hand section.

Regards,
Dan.


Thanks Dan,

I'll have to get on a machine and look them up. Doesn't quite explain why the 1h Sword plays are all shown with a long hitled weapon "hand & half" style though - so Fiore is happy to show a scabbarded Arming Sword with "other weapon plays" but his 1h plays are using a H&H (at least one of which wouldn't really work with an Arming Sword).

Interesting.

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Brian Stokes » 10 Jan 2013 17:11

Hey Dan,

Motley wrote:At my main arguments were the end of the sword in one hand into section where he says " and even with the same sword in once hand you can practice my art as you'll find in this book" (Leoni's, 2012) and the first play in the stretto section.


Per my translation the section you are quoting from 22v3, "E per cum spada a una mano ....," means one-handed sword and not sword in one hand. The first play of stretto says, "... a spada duna e de doy mane," or one and two handed sword. In this sentence, to which you sent me, Fior has specifically differentiated the two blades.

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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Sean M » 10 Jan 2013 21:15

Brian Stokes wrote:Another argument I encounter in support of the the single-sized sword theory is that the historcial blade lengths of period swords measured between 34" and 38". In an of itself that would seem an appropriate response, that is if the average northern Italian of the time was not between 5'4" and 5'7" in height. Amazing - a 34" to 38" blade length is surprisingly the right length for that height of individual. In historical context the blade lengths are correct. However, those of us who stand some 7" taller would necessarily use longer blades. A 38" blade is NOT a two-hander to me.

Hi Brian,

What is your evidence that well-born Italians about the year 1400 were that short? From 500 BCE to 500 CE, the average height of adult men buried in Italy was 168 cm (66” US). I have the impression that average heights were similar until the public-health-disasters of the 17th through 19th centuries. Men fit for military service would have been slightly taller on average, of course ... But I would welcome data.

For comparison, a US study from about ten years ago concluded that the average American adult male was 176 cm (5'9”) tall (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Advanced Data from Vital And Health Statistics, No. 347 [27 October 2004] Table 8, currently available here). Edit: I guess my problem is less with your estimate, than with the idea that most people today need larger weapons than were used historically, but I would like a source for that figure!

I personally don't think that Fiore cares much about blade lengths, or that the sword in one hand techniques are optimized for a different weapon than the sword in two hands techniques.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby leonardo daneluz » 11 Jan 2013 18:39

Brian:

I think you are drawing strong conclusions using as a start things which are wrong, things Fiore clearly didn´t say or simply didn´t show much importance.
As it has been said already, North Italian people is still today much taller than the average south italian inmigrant commonly seen in the american continent. I would think that it was something much more evident in the past. Particularly between the high classes who used the swords we can associate with Fiore. Which left us without a clear evidence of such longer vs shorter blades since, as far as I know, there is a lot of variation of swords with the same general style.
Fiore makes reference to the convenience of using one posta or another according to sword lenght (Ex: porta di ferro), which is a clear hint the Fiore was pretty flexible to that point.
Sword lenghts are a matter referred in later manuals, like Vadi, and they follow the, common also in spanish and portuguese manuals, that the two handed should reach the armpit with the pommel. But this measure leaves out most swords we can associate with Fiore´s times and places.
Also there are clear differences between Fiore and the later masters like Vadi which lead to think about a longer sword in the last ones (like the footwork, but this is my opinion and off topic).
But your main argument, the expression "spada a doy mani", simply is not enough. Fiore says indistinctly "spada a una mano" "spada a doy mani" "spada d´una mano" and "Spada de doy mani". The two latter could certainlñy mean a different sword. But not necessarily a longer blade. You are just guessing that a sword for two hands has a longer blade. It could be stouter, heavier, longer hilted, etc. But I don´t realy care because the use of "a doy mani" and "de doy mani" is erratic in Fiore. And "spada a doy mani" means "sword at two hands". The confusion exists only because in romance languages both expressions "a una mano" and "d´una mano" are not so different. In english you have (and I suspect you think) "sword at two hands" and "two-handed swords" which are different and clear things. Ok, we don´t have that. We say "a" and "de" indistinctly in many ocassions. Just like Fiore. And it can mean that the thing is different as well as just the way is affected. So, you simply cannot draw a general fixed rule about that.
Fiore is very precise with those things he considered important and sword lenght, or even sword type, is not one of them. Techniques are described as useful with "good sword" or "not important if it is not very long" or " useful also for pollaxe, heavy stick, light stick" etc. The guy was very straightforward and not shy to repeat himself in every aspect he considered important so I´ll consider that what he said is simply what he said and no hidden key secret is there waiting to be discovered.
There is, however, a place in Fiore where it seems Fiore is actually describing a technique not possible with "spada de doy mani", the attack to the knee. But these kind of things I would take as more probe that Fiore´s system is one generally indifferent to sword length (between a historical range) and thus needed of clarifications where sword lenght is relevant.
Adn what it is also important: Romance languages, not having aglutinative resource, develops different words for different things. Fiore never says "spadone" for example. These kind of words (spadone in italian, montante in spanish) appear later in the XV cent. Vadi´s times.
My conclusion is that there is nothing there to see. It is simply what it seems: For Fiore there is not a fixed length of blade and, due to the remaining swords of the period, this lenght is shorter than in latter manuals.

Edit: There is a nice example of this: "Tiro del giavellotto a due mani" which simply implies both hands are used and not an special type of javelin. And there are many examples of the use of "a due mani" which actually implies a different object too.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Piermarco » 11 Jan 2013 20:47

Sean M wrote:
Brian Stokes wrote:Another argument I encounter in support of the the single-sized sword theory is that the historcial blade lengths of period swords measured between 34" and 38". In an of itself that would seem an appropriate response, that is if the average northern Italian of the time was not between 5'4" and 5'7" in height.

Hi Brian,

What is your evidence that well-born Italians about the year 1400 were that short? From 500 BCE to 500 CE, the average height of adult men buried in Italy was 168 cm (66” US). I have the impression that average heights were similar until the public-health-disasters of the 17th through 19th centuries. Men fit for military service would have been slightly taller on average, of course ... But I would welcome data.

For comparison, a US study from about ten years ago concluded that the average American adult male was 176 cm (5'9”) tall .


Well we can say that in modern Italy the highest average height is in Fiore's old stomping ground:

Image
Red = average > 177cm, Yellow = 175-177cm, Blue 173-175cm, Green < 173cm

While Leon Battista Alberti's art treatise De Pictura gives an average male height of "almost" 3 florentine braccia, which equates to just under 5'9" or 175cm. i.e. "almost" exactly the same as today. Alberti had a Florentine father and a Bolognese mother, and was born in Genoa, so that covers a big swathe of northern/central Italy.

Docciolini also gives average height as 3 braccia again, in Florence in 1601.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Chiron » 11 Jan 2013 22:15

It seems to make sense that fiori used a more hand an half weapon, quite frankly I think that's closer to what allot of the germans were using until 1470. Fiori is teaching cavalieri, knights are primarily equestrian in nature and in many of the manuals they're using longswords for mounted combat. Fiori shows swords very similar to his longswords in the mounted section. Longswords seem to be more of a backup or self defense weapon, why not use one that you can use on horseback or on foot as needed?
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby CPenney » 12 Jan 2013 02:09

Hi, just to add my voice behind most of what Leonardo and others have said- namely, evidence in the manuscript that swords come in different sizes/lengths, though not necessarily in one of two or three specific 'types'. This includes the textual evidence (such as the references to sword length in various 'point' guards) and pictorial evidence (such as the figures clearly holding swords of similar grip lengths in the one and two-handed sections).

What Leonardo said also corroborates something else I've heard from various sources, including other Italian speakers - namely a warning against trying to take words found in the manuscript and operating as if they can be taken as specific technical terminology. For sure, it would make interpreting Fiore simpler if this were the case, but all indications are that it isn't.
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Re: Sword length (Article by Guy Windsor)

Postby Brian Stokes » 15 Jan 2013 13:35

Hey All,

I have now been advised to be careful about taking the specific language used in the manuscript too seriously. I might suggest that perhaps those who are advising me not read into the verbage as used by Fior should themselves take the language as written and the many references to one and two handed swords. What brought me to this conclusion came from mulitped sittings with the manuscript. I can tell you without doubt, at least in my mind, that there are two different blade types displayed, sometimes in plays right next to each other. For example, 21v3 is holding a one-hander while 21v4 is holding a two hander. Similarly, the play at 22v3 is the single handed version of 31v2. In the latter the pommel of the blade is longer as is the blade itself.

I do not at all agree with the proposition that there was no focus on blade types in the manuscript, Two of the curators at the Getty, both PhDs in medieval art, told me that without question the work was created in studio, save for the section on horseback, as the light source is always the same throughout the manuscript. It was carefully posed and then drawn. I have no doubt that the artists were very familiar with the weapons being drawn.

As we all know the Getty contains multiple weapons - hand to hand, baton, dagger, pollaxe, lance, sticks, on and against horseback, and as I assert the arming sword and the long sword. I know I am opening up another can of worms, but why would he spend time with each of the other weapons and then combine all sword work as one type? The leverage afforded by a longsword due to the length of the handle makes it an entirely different beastie than the one hander. I firmly believe that both were seperately covered by Fior.
If they were the same he would not have included the one handed plays in the stretto section of the longsword but would have had a section on using the sword with one hand and with two. Instead he has one handed sword, then two handed sword at length and then two handed sword up close.

This is a great discussion by the way and I appreciate all of the banter being generated on this topic.

Ciao,

Brian
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