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Medieval Swordsmanship:
Illustrated Methods and Techniques

“The Medieval long-sword is not wielded in the standard “hack and slash” style so familiar from movies and TV.  It has a different center of balance and is used in a tighter, closer manner that employs its hilt, utilises thrusts, and emphases its length offensively and defensively.  When swung with both hands long-swords are capable of delivering tremendous and devastating wounds.   Used in this manner they have a well-rounded and symmetrical offence and defence. Parries are made with the flat of the blade and it’s cross-guard can be used to block, bind, or trap an opposing weapon.  Its pommel can be grabbed to give power to thrusts or it can be used to strike with when close in.  Those lighter more rigid blades with narrower tips can also make use of numerous thrusts and manoeuvres allowing the armored second hand to be employed in helping guide the weapon or in grabbing the adversary.  Such anti-armor blades are also further distinct in their handling from broader slashing blades.  The brutal style of the Medieval long-sword is one of power and practical efficiency, but one with an artistry all its own.  In contrasts to the slicing slash of a curved, single-edged, Japanese katana, Medieval long-swords were made for hacking, shearing cuts delivered primarily from the elbow and shoulder.  It is a mistake to think a straight, double-edged sword with a cross-guard and pommel is handled liked a samurai’s katana. Instead it strikes more with the first 8-10 inches of blade and has two edges to work with (it can “reverse cut” upwards or back).   Also, a medieval sword’s simple cross-guard (or “cruciform hilt”) is intended not so much to protect the hand from incoming blows, but to allow the blade to bind and lock up another weapon then quickly slip off (it does also offer some protection from hitting into an opposing blade).  It also protects the hand from slamming into an opponent’s shield which is moved to greet and to smack attacks not left just hanging (contrary to myth, a medieval shield was far too strong to simply cut through with a few blows).”  From the book ...

Military Book Index   Tizona & Colada Del Cid Swords   View our medieval swords here

Medieval Swordsmanship: From the author of Renaissance Swordsmanship comes this exhaustive examination of one of the most fascinating and overlooked areas of Western martial arts: the Medieval sword.

Medieval Swordsmanship is the most thorough look ever at Medieval swords from the point of view of their historical function.  It was derived from rare historical sources detailing the techniques of the sword and shield, long-sword and great-sword, as well as from years of extensive training and research in the use of European weaponry.  Richly detailed with more than 200 illustrated pages of weapons, techniques and fighting principles, this book serves as both a general references for medieval scholars and hands-on instruction guide for beginning and advanced students of martial arts and military history.  In this book, John Clements, one of the West's preeminent historical swordsmen, reconstructs the lost fighting arts of knights, warriors and men-at-arms so Western martial artists can reclaim their forgotten heritage, which is a far cry from the Medieval sword-banging depicted in films and at historical fairs.
The author, John Clements , December 9, 1998
The formidable effectiveness of Medieval swords in detail.
Based upon years of hands-on study and practice by HACA Director and sword scholar John Clements, this sweeping work finally approaches Medieval swordsmanship as a legitimate martial art form and not as fantasy play or theatrical performance.  This is a detailed examination and practical guide to one of the most fascinating areas of our Western martial heritage: the Medieval sword!

Derived from rare historical manuscripts and material covering the highly effective techniques of sword and shield as well as Medieval long-swords and great-swords.  A one of a kind detailed compilation featuring over two hundred illustrated pages of weapons, techniques, and fighting principles.

Both a general reference work and an instruction guide for beginning and advanced students of martial arts and military history.  A thorough study of the martial art of Medieval swordsmanship and the historical fighting skills of knights, warriors, and men-at-arms which attempts to reconstruct and rebuild their lost fighting arts.  Also the only exhaustive and comprehensive study of the formidable but overlooked Medieval shield.

Based upon years on extensive training in the use of historical European weaponry it offers extensive instruction on practice and modern sparring.  This seminal work sets a new standard in the approach to this fascinating subject.

The quote above is from the book

About the Author
John Clements has had a lifelong pursuit of (some say obsession with) nearly all forms of swordsmanship.  He started studying historical weaponry in 1980 and has practiced cut-and-thrust swordsmanship for almost 18 years.  He has practiced under five different weapon-sparring systems and trained in numerous sword arts.  He started fencing at the age of 14, followed by an interest in martial arts, and in 1982 founded the Medieval Battling Club.  He has spent time in Europe examining weapon collections, and his writings on swordsmanship and weapon-sparring have appeared in more than six magazines.

John is a member of the British Arms & Armor Association and taught two semesters on swordsmanship and Medieval battling at Western Nevada Community College in 1992. In 1994 he took first place in the Advanced Weapon-Sparring Competition of the U.S. National's Kung Fu Tournament in Orlando, Florida.  He lectures on historical weaponry and is an ardent promoter of contact-weapon sparring and study with historical replica swords.  He trains regularly in long-sword, sword & shield, sword & buckler, sword & dagger, Medieval spear, and rapier & dagger methods.   He now teaches classes and seminars on Renaissance and Medieval swordsmanship in Houston, Texas, with the Historical Armed Combat Association (HACA).

John's first book was Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapiers and Cut-and-Thrust Swords (Paladin Press, 1979).         View our medieval swords here

Medieval Swordsmanship presents to martial-arts students and instructors, historians, and anyone interested in European culture an overview of European armed combat techniques from appx. 1100 to 1500.  It is a work of impressive scholarship and helps to fill the gap in knowledge which exists concerning Western fighting styles.  Mr. Clements demonstrates how to use the medieval longsword and also presents the use of the sword and shield combination, spear usage, and the use of the shield as a weapon.  As with his first book, Renaissance Swordsmanship, the author’s excellent illustrations clearly demonstrate how to use these weapons.  The illustrations are actually better than the photos which are used in most martial-arts books.  In addition, the author also provides a historical background and setting for the weapons which are demonstrated.   He also addresses the various types of medieval combat systems which are currently practiced by different groups around the world as well as describing the basics of evaluating a sword.  All of these “extras” help to make this book a most worthwhile purchase.  The author clearly takes this subject seriously and sets high standards for himself and for other practitioners of armed combat arts.  This seriousness, and the demand for exacting historical accuracy which the author demands for those who wish to practice medieval combat, will probably cause controversy.  Mr. Clements is clearly willing to back up his historical claims, however, and also presents powerful arguments for his theories in the text of the book.  This helps to make the book a valuable resource in and of itself.  The reader will not only find a blueprint for studying medieval weaponry, but also solid historical research which shows how these weapons were used.  The book is a welcome addition to the libraries of martial-arts practitioners worldwide.  It is also one which is long overdue.  Many myths and pseudo-histories exist as to the history of European martial-arts.  Mr. Clements helps to dispel those myths and invites others to do so as well.

Fencing: Techniques of Foil, Epee and Sabre
by Brian Pitman
Hardcover    (1989)

Military Book Index   Tizona & Colada Del Cid Swords   View our medieval swords here


Renaissance Swordsmanship: This scholarly, entertaining guide is the most thorough work on Medieval swordsmanship ever undertaken.  It was written for advanced and beginning sword enthusiasts, students of military history and martial artists.  To write this book the author combined exhaustive research with hands-on practice in fencing, contact-weapon sparring and training with historically accurate replicas.  He then illustrated the text with more than 100 original drawings depicting authentic Renaissance sword-fighting techniques and how you can use them today.
The author, John Clements, HACA Director Houston , June 5, 1998
Our Formidable Western Martial Heritage
When it comes to our Western martial heritage there is a high degree of common myth, misconception, and error.  This is the case particularly in reference to Renaissance martial arts and its forms of historical swordsmanship.  During the Renaissance there arose in Europe a distinction between those swords intended for war and those for personal self-defense.  It is a myth that Renaissance fighting arts used entirely a brutal, artless approach.  Examination of the historical texts and artwork of the period clearly dismisses this prejudice.  Swordsmanship at the time was a systematic and highly dynamic art, far from being uniform.  Understanding the weapons Renaissance fighters were using is key to studying the progression of their concepts and techniques of their fighting skills.  Yet, today we are bombarded with inaccurate and silly notions derived from theatrical performances and the near irrelevance of the modern forms of sport fencing.  Modern sport fencing is so far removed from its martial origins in the renaissance as to not qualify as a true martial art. The emphasis of my work is therefore necessarily not on rule-bound games or fantasy role-playing or on pretend performance, but on sound hands-on experience with accurate replica weaponry by studying the manuals of the historical masters.  This book makes a substantial leap forward in the effort to reconstruct and replicate the formidable fighting arts of our Western martial heritage.  It is a must for anyone serious about pursuing skill in historical swordsmanship today.  
View our medieval swords here

Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay
by Craig Turner, Tony Soper
Hardcover  (1990)

A cross-over book - Intended for both English/Renaissance/Shakespeare scholars as well as for theatre/stage combat people

Worth reading at least twice if you choreograph fights...   Detailed and scholarly work about which the theorists can argue.  Worth reading at least twice if you choreograph fights regularly for someone who is interested in "realistic" portrayal. From The Ring of Steel:

An excellent book describing three masters: Giacomo DiGrassi, Vincentio Saviolo; and George Silver. Showing both their methods and techniques as well as the differences between them. From Sovereign Rose, Companie of Lawe:

Featuring period drawings and prints of swordplay, this book examines and compares, the only three existing Elizabethan fencing manuals written in English before 1600: Giacomo Di Grassi's His True Arte of Defense (1594), Vincentio Saviolo's His Practice in Two Bookes (1595), and George Silver's Paradoxes of Defence and Bref Instructions Upon my Paradoxes of Defence (1599).   More than a technical manual on swordplay, this book explores the influence of a new form of violence introduced into Elizabethan culture by the invention of the rapier.  The authors examine the rapier’s influence on the various social classes, the clash between the traditional English fencing masters and those embracing the new style, the growing concern with unregulated duelling, and the frequent references to rapier play in the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.  As producer Joseph Papp notes in his Foreword, this is a book that "makes a difference in performance"

"I feel honored to be asked to comment on this splendid and absorbing book.   [It] is an invaluable reference book for fight directors and all those involved in staging exhibitions of historical swordplay.  I recommend it wholeheartedly' -- Patrick Crean, Fight Master of the Stratford, Ontario, Shakespeare Festival

I would highly recommend this book to anyone recreating Elizabethan, or early 17th century fencing.  It is a detailed look at the three main fencing manuals published in England and attempts to recreate some idea of the overall style of swordplay during this period.  The authors' goal is to encourage stage combat styles that are much more historically based than many portrayals to-date.

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