Arming Sword/Sword & Shield

The foundation of our Sword & Shield work is the single-handed sword, known as an "arming sword." Fiore's manuscripts deal briefly with the arming sword, showing fundamental techniques and relating them back to the practice of the two-handed longsword. He notes that he is showing the techniques without reference to the shield, which was falling out of use at that time due to improved body armour, but he shows extensive use of the off-hand in combination with the sword. Later fencing manuscripts note that these off-hand techniques are the foundation of shield work.

We supplement Fiore's techniques from several medieval and early Renaissance sources from Italy, Germany, and England. We work extensively with the world's oldest known martial arts treatise: an illustrated sword & buckler (small hand shield) manuscript from Germany, 1300 AD, known today as Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33. The manuscript shows martial training sequences between a priest, who is the teacher and students - and one of the students is a young woman, indicating that women had at least some role in martial culture, contrary to popular belief. The manuscript does not depict “fighting” per se: the priest teaches the student use of the weapons in a structured lesson format, and the text makes frequent reference to the specifics of instruction. I.33 covers fundamental principles common to all martial arts, eastern and western. These principles have been expressed in a variety of ways over the centuries, but I.33 is our first look at them in Western European culture.