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Medieval Art of Sword & Shield: The Combat System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 Paperback – January 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Chivalry Bookshelf (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891448439
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891448430
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.2 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Paul Wagner & Stephen Hand, well respected teachers of Western swordsmanship and founders of the Stoccata School of Defence, have come together to decode Royal Armouries MS I.33.

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Customer Reviews

Students of the I.33 system will find this paper a valuable addition to the book.
Stephen Hand
It's both insightful and offers the beginner a good grounding in basic techniques before diving into the wards, attacks and counters.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in early Medieval sword fighting.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
People interested in European Medieval martial arts have to realize that these systems were kept secret at the time. Medieval manuscripts on fencing were written for a very select audience and are brief, deliberately obscure, and cryptic. It requires a great deal of effort and dedicated study to try to reconstruct personal combat techniques from period sources with any hope of success. Paul Wagner & Stephen Hand have done an excellent job in that regard with their book. Royal Armouries MS I.33 is the oldest illustrated fencing manual in existence and is devoted exclusively to a single weapon system: the arming sword and buckler. Wagner & Hand have studied all the available period sources on this weapon system and combined that with a lot of hands-on trial and error to come up with a complete and plausible interpretation of the system.
The strength of the book from a scholar's view point is the clarity with which they explain what is not being said in the original manuscript. For example, MS I.33 contains no references to footwork. I appreciate authors who do not blurr the line between their own inventions and those techniques clearly grounded in the source. (Readers interested in the source will want Dr. Jeffrey Forgeng's translation and facsimile of the original manuscript titled: The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship.)
The strength of the book from a practitioner's view point is the clarity of the text and photographs. It is a simple matter to work your way through the material following their explanations and illustrations. Given the limited source material, it is only natural that there will be disagreements on interpretation. Mine comes from Wagner & Hand's reliance on 16th-century Italian rapier and dagger sources for their footwork. Admittedly, MS I.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Hand on December 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Medieval Sword and Shield has been well received, but it is not the final word on medieval swordsmanship or on the I.33 system. Research into historical martial arts is like any other historical research. It is an ongoing process, which calls for open minded honesty, and a willingness to update your findings, even if that means admitting that you got some things wrong.

Since writing Medieval Sword and Shield, I have continued my research on this system. This has led to a number of changes in my interpretation and to some new insights into how the artwork, which lacks any perspective or sense of depth, should best be translated into physical movement. My latest thoughts on the system have been presented in a paper in the anthology Spada II, also published by Chivalry Bookshelf. Students of the I.33 system will find this paper a valuable addition to the book.

In closing, I must disagree with the comment by another reviewer that the use of Di Grassi's 16th century Italian footwork terminology was inappropriate. Di Grassi's footwork is not particularly distinctive. The basic forwards, backwards, angled and circular steps of Di Grassi are used in many other arts and in fact it would be difficult to imagine any sort of fencing system without most of these types of movement. The body mechanics of Di Grassi and the I.33 system are not identical, but that does not change a step forward into something other than a step forward. Di Grassi was unique in the detailed terminology he included to describe footwork, and that is why his terminology has become widely used in the historical fencing community.

Stephen Hand
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew D. Leitch on March 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Wagner & Hand's interpretation is spot-on in a number of very unexpected ways and although its becoming a bit dated now, its still clearly the best companion book for understanding the I.33 manuscript.

The flaws in the book centre around the interpretation of the footwork. Even they admit that they didn't get the footwork right and published an addendum in SPADA II to correct this. The problem with interpreting the footwork lies in the lack of direction given by the manuscript and the tendency of whoever reads the manuscript to connect it to their own martial arts backgrounds.

I thought that they missed the mark with the footwork because in nearly all their pictures Hand and Wagner have upright stances which lock them into stepping instead of springing - like one does in Olympic Fencing. The typically low stance of Olympic Fencing gives one a lot of spring, and I found that adopting a nearly linear, forward learning stance - as is found in the I.33 illustrations also gives the same thing (a lot of spring). Which is curious because this stance can also be found in the sword & buckler illustrations in the much later fechtbuch by Jorg Wilhalm (whose work they point to on pages 25 & 100 of their book). The fact that two fechtbuch so seperated in time and yet have the same stance should have attracted more of their attention, I feel. If anything, Talhoffer's stance for sword and buckler is more in keeping with what they eventually adopted.

The book also seemed to lack a chapter on "counter-timing" - surely one of the most important principles underlying the art - in particular the "stepping through" and the "shield knock" maneuvers.

But here I am demonstrating my own prejudices.
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