Why the 14th/15th Century?

A thread has emerged on Sword Forum as to why students of Longsword prefer the earlier 14th and 15th century sources, rather than the 16th century sources such as Meyer. So I thought I’d use part of my post to quickly explain why I choose to study the earlier fencing sources and not those of the late renaissance and latter periods.

As an Ernstfechten Liechtenauer fanboy I rarely turn to the latter sources. I guess there are 3 main reasons for this.

Firstly, for me to study something like HES, I must be interested in the context that surrounds the style and I take only a passing interest in post-1500 history. Asides from the ridiculous costumes depicted in Meyer’s book, I am not sure why this is. Perhaps things begin to get too ‘modern’ for me. Having said that, I don’t want to be a 15th Century knight, nor copy their entire social code, I am just interested in the period.

Secondly, learning an art, of which one of its purposes was a ‘men-at-arms life or death fight’, appeals to me more than the hardcore sport of Meyer. I first started HEMA when in the army, and initially approached it with a 21st century soldier’s mindset. My approach has ‘matured’ somewhat now, but I still prefer an art that can be used in life or death situations. I see it as more of a challenge, i.e. to train and condition oneself for such a serious situation. I enjoy freeplay when the whole body is a target and a wide range of techniques are allowed, as opposed to the limited targets of Meyer’s time. Again, more of a challenge and whole body experience for me. Not that I always see it as ‘life and death’ and I see many less-lethal techniques within manuals such as Ringeck’s and Von Danzig’s.

Finally I see the earlier sources being a whole entire system of fighting, from unarmoured wrestling to armoured fighting on horseback. A K.I.S.S system, with basic underlying principles, that are shown through the techniques described, and can be applied in earnest or in play.

Having said all that, the study of Meyer and his longsword ‘school-fencing’ is a perfectly valid form of historical European swordsmanship. It all comes down to being honest and logical in your approach.

Talhoffer’s Oddjob technique
(From Talhoffer’s 1459 text.)
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~ by Magnus on 8 January, 2008.

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