I.33's common fencer: a precursor to Kal & Co?

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I.33's common fencer: a precursor to Kal & Co?

Postby Roland Warzecha » 06 May 2008 15:03

Hi all.

In the early 14th century the sword seems to have been much more widely spread than in earlier periods as pictorial evidence suggests. Its use was no longer restricted to noble men. With the rising number of soldiers and commoners bearing swords in the quickly growing cities, practicing swordfighting must have become more common.

What do you think about the so-called common fencer as mentioned in I.33 actually being the swordsman who does not belong to nobility? I.33 surely can be regarded as coming from a noble background. So if the author was a noble man looking back on a long knightly tradition of fighting with sword and shield he would probably regard swordsmen who do not belong to his aristocratic milieu as common and inferior.
The common swordsmen's method may on the other hand be the origin of sword and buckler use as presented in the 15th century fechtbücher which is very different to I.33's system. Interestingly, all of these manuals were written by commoners.

So what does I.33 tell us about the common fencer?
He uses all the wards that are introduced at the beginning of the manual plus 'vidilpoge'/fiddlebow. He is not familiar with 'krucke'/crutch and he probably doesn't do 'nucken' but he uses longpoint against prima custodia (under arm) which the author considers disadvantageous and inferior.
He does use half shield but omits the shield strike!

When comparing the various sources and pictures of men with sword & buckler the only evidence for shield strikes - a key technique of I.33 that is 'omitted' by common swordsmen- I found in the early 14th century Codex Manesse and in I.33 itself. The Codex Manesse (Heidelberger Liederhandschrift) definitely reflects noble life style.
Later depictions of shield strikes in Paulus Hector Mair and in Jörg Wilhalm are from authors who were already reconstructing ancient techniques in the 16th century. So they are of little help for adressing this issue.
So while I.33 general wards can be seen in other sources, too, (contemporary and later) the shield strike cannot. The later manuals of the 15th century seem to favour to use sword and buckler separately with the exception of Lignitzer who writes that when delivering a right oberhau you should put the pommel next to the shieldhand's thumb. However, he doesn't explicitly describe shield strikes à la I.33, either.
The Holkham picture bible of about 1328 shows lightly armoured foot soldiers in combat with swords, axes and bucklers. Their technique rather reminds us of Paulus Kal (parrying high with the buckler and thrusting low with the sword) than of the almost contemporary I.33.

If my theory was correct, than the common buckler fencer's method is just a different school than the priest's art. It may well be the origin of buckler fighting as presented in later German fechtbücher. This could also mean that I.33's style might have still been in use in the 15th century but is just not documented anymore. It apparently never became part of the later systems by e.g. Kal and Talhoffer.

What do you think?

All the best,
Roland
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Postby Claus Sørensen » 06 May 2008 19:46

Hello Roland!

Interesting thoughts! :)

all of these manuals were written by commoners


But remember that Kal/Talhoffer taught nobles. This is well documented in their manuals.

My point being: A noble would not accept an inferior system of the "common fencer". And the way you describe it (the common fencer in I.33) it sounds inferior not just different? Or am I wrong here?

Perhaps I.33 refer to the "untrained" fencer? Or a fencer that does not know the secret lore? Or a "leychmeister?

It is certainly not the first time someone refer in a negative way towards other fencers e.g. people who fight like buffalos and the Leychmeisters from Hs. 3227a. :)

Hans Talhoffers "vom Stain" manual show (even if it is just two illustrations) a fightingstyle where the bucklers are not seperated from the sword. But I like the idea of two fighting styles.

Well, just a few ramblings of a madman who does not know much about sword and buckler. :wink:

See you soon and Best wishes

Claus
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Postby Fab » 06 May 2008 20:25

I believe there were several fighting styles, and I believe that when Lutegerus/I.33 adresses the 'generales dimicatores', he doesn't mean a specific lineage, but rather common stances, guards, attitudes and principles frequent in other traditions - his need to differentiate between them and a 'clerical' trend is also intersting.

So, yes, later S&B traditions/schools/lineages can have found their origins in these 'generales dimicatores', quite possibly.

But we can't say any more than this.



I also think the martial cultures/ lineages/worlds in these areas and elsewhere, at a given time, were far more diverse and vaied than what we can gather from manuals or other written sources only - though the latter is the only reasonable, reliable source we have if we want to stay 'true' to what was once done.


Artwork/examples/illustrations abound of guards/postures/techniques that are paralleled in the sources we study - but also of things that are not represented in our precious sources. And I think it's great, as it shows how diverse and wide and inventive and, finally, rich, these Historical Martial cultures were. But I'm drifting OT.
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Postby admin » 07 May 2008 11:03

I think this is a very interesting theory Roland, and it has me part convinced.

As a non-German HEMA person I am looking at it from a different perspective: In English and French sources you definitely see two types of sword and buckler 'stance'. In several 13th and early-14thC sources you can see people fencing in positions which look very similar to I.33 (sometimes they look like they ARE from I.33), but in 15thC English and French sources you see the sword and buckler held apart more - in fact almost always. In the middle of the 14thC you can see both 'styles' in the English and French art. You could say that these different ways of showing stances are just changes of artistic style, but the consistency of the trends seems more than coincidence.

The problem for me is deciding whether it is simply a case of social class, or one of prefered style changing over time. It gets even more complicated when you consider that generally speaking more and more written and artistic sources started to be produced in the late-14th and 15thC's and the people making the sources and having access to the sources started to include more and more of society. So manuscripts themselves became more 'common' over this period.

The next issue is with Italian sword and buckler, which seems to have certain details which remained consistent from at least the beginning of the 15thC to the mid-16thC. The Italian sword and buckler seems to generally be more similar to what you are calling the common style, having the sword and buckler acting separately much more than I.33. The Italian fencing masters teaching this system in Bologna that we know about seem to have been middle class gentlemen. However, there are earlier 'noble' sources which show exactly the same kinds of stance.
Could it also be that stance was different when a style was suited more to one type of fighting? I.33 seems to be totally focussed on one-on-one duelling. Talhoffer, for example, deals with multiple opponent and mis-matched weapon situations. The Italian sources are also looking at a range of weapons and situations.

English legal sources make it clear that swords and bucklers were THE armament of gangs, criminals and travellers in the late-13thC-late-14thC. So much so, that carrying them in English cities was made illegal (and the law repeated again and again for over a hundred years). From about 1420 onwards, bucklers get mentioned less and the law banning the carrying of sword and bucklers in cities was not re-issued. I don't know why or what that means, but I thought I'd throw it into the mix, because it's possible that there are other complex social factors involved here as well.
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Postby admin » 07 May 2008 11:16

Claus Sørensen wrote:Hans Talhoffers "vom Stain" manual show (even if it is just two illustrations) a fightingstyle where the bucklers are not seperated from the sword. But I like the idea of two fighting styles.


Hi Claus - of course you also see the swords and bucklers together in the Italian sources sometimes. But it is not so much a case of the guard positions, or whether the sword and buckler ever come together (as they always will in any system sometimes), but rather what happens with the sword and buckler during the fight generally - it seems clear to me that I.33 keeps the sword and buckler together much more than Manciolino or Marozzo. They may share similar guard positions, but the way the sword and buckler move in relation to each other is quite different. And I think this is what is represented in the art when one artist shows the sword and buckler together most of the time and another artist shows the sword and buckler apart most of the time.
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Postby Roland Warzecha » 07 May 2008 12:56

Hi guys.
Claus wrote:But remember that Kal/Talhoffer taught nobles. This is well documented in their manuals.

True but that was 150 years later. By 1300 the attidtude towards commoners' martial arts might have been different.

Some more thoughts before I have to go back to work:

I guess we all agree that it is an apparent feature of I.33 that the sword hand is consistently guarded with the buckler in mid-distance (that is weapon reach plus 1 step). In the wards (safe for seventh ward/langort/longpoint = later German 'Alber') and in close distance this is not the case. The latter is true for all systems, right? So we need to inspect positions in relation to distance when comparing systems. At least the Vom-Stain-Talhoffer and Lignitzer (and Ringeck, violator of copyright!) seem to safeguard the hand with the buckler in mid-distance. Problem is that while I.33 consistently depicts this essential moment and measure other illustrated fechtbücher don't.

We may want to take into account that by 1300 fighting without a shield was the absolute exception. Actually, I cannot think of a single depiction of an early fourteenth century fight that would compare to later messer or single sword. With the rise of the longsword and the decay ot the shield it may have become more eminent to mould buckler fighting into the systems that were already established and working for the majority of weapons for single combat. It is better to learn one system for many weapons that one special system per weapon set. Even if the versatile system has weaknesses in details compared to a pure specialist system. As an instructor for fighters I would probably go for the versatile one. In the end I would be left with versatile fighters who know their game.
I would like to consider I.33 a specialist system designed exclusively for unarmoured sword and buckler, maybe even for single combat alone. So I am with you on that one, Matt.

Still, no shield strike sighted anywhere, have you? While the wards depicted in I.33 are said to have been in use by ANY swordsman, the shield strike was not. No trace of it in the later German sources. Well, you could argue that one of the two vom-Stain-plates that deal with sword and buckler shows a counter to a right overbind to prevent a shield strike. But that's it. Why did it fall out of favour later?
Perhaps because you cannot pin down both hands if they are separated all the time? But then again you could still shield strike the weapon hand after the bind and take off the shield hand or cut to the body!
No, the shield strike after a bind remains a cool and safe technique. Where did it go?
To Italy?

All the best,
Roland
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Postby Claus Sørensen » 07 May 2008 13:44

Hi again!

Just a thought! :)

While debating such things people often talk about evolution both within fightingsystems and perhaps also as you mention here within the social-classes. What ablut the personal preferences of the fencing-masters?

It could be that I.33 just places more emphasis on other apects of buckler-fighting than the other manuals (Pleace remember that I don't know much about that stuff :) So have mercy on me :wink: )?

I mention this because of the german longsword fencing and blossfechten. And here there are indeed many similarities between the manuals, and they are normally referred to as the liechtenaur-lineage.

BUT:

If you go to the armoured parts of the manuals you begin to see quite another scenario. There are still some similarities (e.g similar guards, but that is also the case with some of the guards from I.33 and the other buckler manuals isn't it?)) but also many things that are different e.g. how to fight with mortschlag-techniques. In the Gladitoria - manuals you almost never make a step with the right foot while striking such a strike whereas Hans Talhoffer always make a step with the right foot while showing this strike.

And such things does change things like range, speed, power and technique-possibilities. It also changes quite alot about bodymechanics and how you move while fighting.

And there are still similarities between the longsword manuals that somehow indicate a common background( Liechtenauer perhaps? It is afterall not in all the manuals his name is mentioned? And he did collect this stuff from different masters according to Hs.3227a).

It sound a bit like the differences you mention, but then again I could be wrong since buckler-fighting is not part of my research

I do not believe in the social-connection because as I mentioned earlier Hans Talhoffer and Paulus Kal taught these things to people much higher on the social-ladder than themselves (e.g. The vom Stain brothers and Eberhard von Württemberg). These guys could afford the best and if there was a difference between the efficiency of the system they would have gone for the better one.

And if I understand you right Roland?, you are saying that I.33 is the better system?

Best wishes

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Postby Roland Warzecha » 08 May 2008 12:19

Claus Sørensen wrote:And if I understand you right Roland?, you are saying that I.33 is the better system?

At least I like to think that spending so much time on this system!

Claus Sørensen wrote:While debating such things people often talk about evolution both within fightingsystems and perhaps also as you mention here within the social-classes. What ablut the personal preferences of the fencing-masters?

Yes, I thought about this, too. And it would only reflect the situation we have with martail arts today. So, yes, you could have a point here.

Claus Sørensen wrote:I do not believe in the social-connection because as I mentioned earlier Hans Talhoffer and Paulus Kal taught these things to people much higher on the social-ladder than themselves (e.g. The vom Stain brothers and Eberhard von Württemberg). These guys could afford the best and if there was a difference between the efficiency of the system they would have gone for the better one.

So are you suggesting that the reputation of established commoners was the same in 1450 as it was in 1300? I doubt it. Cities and townsmen were only beginning to acquire wealth and influence in Germany around 1300 while at 1450 they were at their peak. This would have had influenced nobility's attitude towards commoners, wouldn't it?

See you soon,
Roland
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Postby Claus Sørensen » 08 May 2008 14:03

Hello Roland!
So are you suggesting that the reputation of established commoners was the same in 1450 as it was in 1300? I doubt it. Cities and townsmen were only beginning to acquire wealth and influence in Germany around 1300 while at 1450 they were at their peak. This would have had influenced nobility's attitude towards commoners, wouldn't it?


You are right there, but this is not what I was trying to say. I am saying that if two buckler systems existed and one of them was/is better than the other, then people like the vom Stain brothers and especially Eberhard von Wurttemberg would have choosen the better one! They could certainly afford it.

But as to the social aspects you are talking about! It is indeed a very interesting discussion! With the rise of the merchant-class/Commoners/Cities and what we call the fall of the nobility many interesting things happened!

And one of them is how "commoners" suddenly saw the light in all things "noble" and things that until now had been denied them! I am not altogether that certain that they would not have embrased the "Noble" way of buckler-fighting if such existed. Because of the "prestige" involved with this! It is not something that I can prove concerning the sword and buckler but you see similar symptoms quite often in that period(15th-16th century)

Interesting none the less

Best wishes

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Postby Stevie T » 08 May 2008 14:45

Claus Sørensen wrote: I am saying that if two buckler systems existed and one of them was/is better than the other, then people like the vom Stain brothers and especially Eberhard von Wurttemberg would have choosen the better one! They could certainly afford it.



So human beings always make the right choice based on logical investigation? :D
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Postby Claus Sørensen » 08 May 2008 15:46

:roll: :wink:
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Postby admin » 08 May 2008 16:36

Claus Sørensen wrote:I am saying that if two buckler systems existed and one of them was/is better than the other, then people like the vom Stain brothers and especially Eberhard von Wurttemberg would have choosen the better one! They could certainly afford it.


I think this is too simplistic of a statement though.
Think about who carried swords and bucklers in the mid-15thC, and in what circumstances. It was not usually noblemen. Bucklers were not, as far as I have seen, generally carried in city streets in the 15thC, and noblemen did not usually use bucklers in war. By the mid-15thC the buckler was mostly a commoner's sidearm, be they civilian or soldier. Even further than this, in sources I have looked at bucklers are mentioned far less in the 15thC than they were in the 13th and 14thC's.
Back in 1300 things were a bit different - bucklers seem to have been carried more frequently by every social class. So, if 150 years later mostly commoners were generally carrying bucklers, then it follows that the fencing style to accompany the buckler could be a common system.
Also, why would a noble in 1450 devote lots of time learning to use a sword and buckler, when they usually carried the sword alone in civilian life and did not generally carry bucklers in war? They would surely have prefered a quick and easy system, and devote more of their time to learning gentlemanly weapons like the longsword and pollaxe.
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Postby Roland Warzecha » 08 May 2008 18:26

Thanks, Matt. That was pretty much my reasoning.
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Postby admin » 08 May 2008 19:24

It may be useful to look at who the Bolognese masters were teaching, as sword and buckler was their most common and universally taught weapon combination. Manciolino and Marozzo seem to have run schools, which to be would suggest they weren't necessarily teaching nobles at all, but rather middle class men with enough spare money to spend on fencing lessons (ie. gentlemen).
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Postby Matclarke » 08 May 2008 21:21

admin wrote:It may be useful to look at who the Bolognese masters were teaching, as sword and buckler was their most common and universally taught weapon combination. Manciolino and Marozzo seem to have run schools, which to be would suggest they weren't necessarily teaching nobles at all, but rather middle class men with enough spare money to spend on fencing lessons (ie. gentlemen).


Can you provide a link to any Bolognese material in English? I cant be bothered searching :P
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Postby admin » 08 May 2008 21:49

There's an awesome website from some guys called Schola something in Britain:

http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/othermasters/
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Postby Matclarke » 08 May 2008 21:59

admin wrote:There's an awesome website from some guys called Schola something in Britain:

http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/othermasters/


Sweet
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Postby Claus Sørensen » 08 May 2008 22:49

Hello!

I also don't think that it is a simple question! Why are the fighting styles different?

A change of culture? A change of armour? A change of weapon-technology, A change from "serious fencing" to sport-fencing? Personal preference of the master?

There all things that can influence this issue.

I.33 is the only german manual that explicitly deals with sword and buckler. The others are more or less compendiums of knowledge and therefore perhaps not as thorough and complete as I.33. Nothing special there??

But:

My question is still: What makes the 15th century buckler-fighting a "lesser" and not as good system? I can deal with the fact that there are differences, but there is a difference between not being as thoroughly described as I.33 and being a lesser system. :)

As to the medieval german sources. It is mentioned in quite a few of the fencing manuals (no surprise there), but it is also mentioned in many of the german "Kriegsbücher" from the 15th century. There are plenty of sources that show the buckler in active use in15th century germany.

I do not have the answer but I find it very hard to look at it as a lesser system since the buckler was still in active use, taught to both commoners, nobles and used in war in the 15th century (kriegsbücher).

And it is not that the techniques taught are not deadly. They are dangerous in their own way and not sportfencing. Fencing masters like Talhoffer, Kal and the others could perhaps have made the system simpler but there is no reason as to why they should make it less effective?

Best wishes

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Postby admin » 08 May 2008 23:56

I don't personally think I.33 is 'better'.
I think martial arts which are different are generally different for a reason. You may find I.33 works better for you in one type of situation whilst Manciolino works better for you in a different situation. A different person might find I.33 doesn't work for them at all, and Mancilino works in one type of combat but Gatka works better in another situation.
There are many different sword and shield systems - it is my belief that if one were 'better' then all systems would have evolved to be like that one. But they haven't. Different systems work better for different people in different contexts.
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Postby Claus Sørensen » 09 May 2008 07:27

Hello!

There are many different sword and shield systems - it is my belief that if one were 'better' then all systems would have evolved to be like that one. But they haven't. Different systems work better for different people in different contexts.


Matt, then we agree. :)

I only reacted to the "idea" that buckler-fighting had somehow evolved "downwards" in the 15th century and that there used to exist this "elite-system" and did not like the idea of a "lesser" system.

Best wishes!

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