Victorian Day

“There are those who affect to ridicule the study of obsolete weapons, alleging that it is of no practical use; everything, however, is useful to the Art of Fence which tends to create an interest in it, and certain it is that such contests as Rapier and Dagger, Two hand Sword, or Broadsword and Handbuckler, are a very great embellishment to the somewhat monotonous proceedings of the ordinary assault of arms.”
-Alfred Hutton, 1892

Happy Victoria Day everyone.  It seems fitting that on this day celebrating the reign of Queen Victoria I share a celebration of a Victorian gentleman of great import to the Western Martial Arts world.  One Alfred Hutton. Continue reading

French Bread Villians

DSCF2338We all know bread has a long and storied history.  Did you know that there is a connection to the fencing world as well?  It’s true.  Cardinal Richelieu, the villain of the famous novel The Three Musketeers was actually responsible for implementing many bread laws in France.  He dictated the laws regarding the ingredients that could be used, which led to the classic french bread we know today.  I don’t know that he had anything to do with the shape, but it doesn’t seem unlikely.  So there you have it.  Cardinal Richelieu, antagonist to the King’s Musketeers and father of the baguette.  Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

That’s Armour

Armour is a great thing.  It keeps people from dying.  The history of combat is in many ways the history of armour.  Looking back it’s a historical arms race between the weapons used and the armour used.  Let’s look back shall we, at the symbiotic relationship between swords and armour and carry it through to the present day. Continue reading

Slinging in the Rain

The weather has been wet and cold (in Vancouver, shocking I know) and not terribly good for the care and feeding of swords.  Since I’m not allowed to swing them around in the house (I have no idea how that light got broken, I swear) that means I haven’t been able to keep up practice as much as I would like. Fortunately, there are other arts I can work with regardless of weather. As an added bonus it’s a great way to make sure the dogs get a good run. Continue reading

Battle Monks

DSCF1618The I.33 manual is a pretty cool look in to history.  A medieval document seemingly written by monks and for monks that totally shatters any idea of these folk were as gentle as we might now like to think.  The modern view of medieval monks is that of a life of quiet contemplation, scholarly works and prayer.  And yet we have I.33, which shows images of these same monks fighting with sword and buckler.  So is I.33 an aberration, or does it show us a side of monk life that we wouldn’t otherwise see? Continue reading

Paradoxes of George Silver I: The Sword

The Renaissance was a fascinating time for swordplay.  This is in part because of the fact that so many fencing manuals survive from this era, but also because in the late 16th century we see the first truly civilian swords.  Prior to this time duels were fought only with consent of local rulers and therefore the grievances were primarily of a legal nature.  Due to this fact, the weapons used were generally the same that would be used in battle, complete with full armour. Since these Trials by Combat were set up well in advance, it was alright that plenty of gear was required before fighting could commence.  Once people began to use the duel as a method of settling personal disagreements it became impractical to carry so much equipment and the swords changed to reflect this.  Thus the rapier became the preferred weapon of the civilian classes. Continue reading

A Guide to Historical Fencing

I tell people I am a fencer.  This to them summons the image of those guys in the white suits poking at each other with what looks like car antennae.  So in order to combat this I thought I would provide a brief history of the sword as well as explaining exactly what it is I do. Continue reading

Lo, There Do I See The Line of My People.

One of my all time favourite sword movies is The 13th Warrior.  Not my all time favourite, of course, but it’s up there.  As something of an armchair historian, I almost feel as though I should criticize this movie based on its lack of attention to historical detail, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.  True, weapons and armour in The 13th Warrior spans almost five centuries on either side of when this story supposedly takes place, featuring both a roman gladiator style helmet and a breastplate from around the 16th century.  Imagine a modern drama in which it goes completely unexplained why the main character’s brother wears a doublet and has a ray gun and you’ll get a sense of why this is silly. Thankfully, though, there are no horns on the viking helmets, which would have destroyed this movie for me. Continue reading