One handed attacks, binds, and context with the German longsword

Relatively recently, I was listening to one HEMA instructor complain about people who were complaining there was not enough binding during longsword sparring, retorting that these people should make him bind. This stuck with me because many of the KDF longsword treatises seem to expect that more actions will be done in binds than is often the case in modern sparring. I don’t think we can just say “there’s no binding, so sparring is worthless/un-martial/etc.”, and I don’t think that medieval longsworders would have happily entered binds and then remained there for a very long time, and of course there are many techniques in KDF that do not involve any winding or significant binding. However I do think there is a disconnect between what is often seen in sparring and how various treatises imply fighting will happen. If I want to make use of various winding plays I’ve trained, I cannot force someone to bind with me if they don’t want to, or to remain long enough in a bind for me to have time to feel their pressure and response with an appropriate wind. Simply put, if people leave binds the second they can, the opportunity to carry out plays involving winding will simply not happen.

I cannot even force someone to parry. Dustin Reagan issued a Double Hit Challenge a while ago, arguing that someone who was committed to causing a double hit in an exchange would nearly always be able to do this. This makes a great deal of sense. If someone makes a committed attack towards my head, and I decide to respond with for example a one handed strike to their legs, they should find it difficult to deal with this. I am principally concerned with early Liechtenauer tradition treatises, and none of them address what you should do if you make an attack and the opponent makes such a suicidal response. Instead, they assume that a committed, well executed attack will force the opponent to defend. Read more

Primary and Secondary Sources in the Study of History

Facsimile of the Codex Gigas; image from Wikipedia.

This is a subject that came up a little while ago in a conversation online, when a friend asked for any evidence of a historical practice where warriors might choose not to wear a scabbard into battle.

One person replied with a quote from “How a man schall be armyd at his ese when he schal fighte on foote”, a short treatise included in 15th century manuscript, which is a source of valuable information on the subject.

Another person responded by suggesting the Osprey Publishing series of books, and when told that the Osprey books are not primary sources, expressed confusion about primary and secondary sources and could not understand the difference in value of evidence between them.

This is a significant obstacle to being able to understand and study history in a meaningful and honest fashion. Without knowing the difference between types of sources, one cannot determine the value or competency of the sources, and that compromises the integrity of an investigation.

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Editing a Facsimile

Last time I discussed the setup I was using for creating the Roworth 1798 facsimile. This week I will go into detail of the page processing which is done after the pages are photographed. Part of the reason for me writing this post is so that those who contributed to the campaign can understand the process being undertaken to produce facsimiles of a high quality and also so that I have a guide to return to in future the next time I am working on a facsimile project.

For those considering their own facsimile project please understand that it is a massive undertaking to create a photo facsimile (I am also working on a reproduction of a text from the same time period and am finding it quicker, on a page by page basis, to reproduce the type by hand than using the photographic facsimile method). I should also state that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I have been working with photoshop since highschool and am fairly adept with it, this is the method I worked out that worked best for me in the confines of this project.

I did try programmes such as Scan Taylor which would be great if this wasn’t preparing a book for print but just making something for personal research, I have also attempted every method of batch processing I can come up with but unfortunately this project just doesn’t lend itself to automated processes at all.

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Viking warrior women? Or, misrepresenting research

Recently, I’ve seen the following article appear several times on Facebook.

Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors were Female

The article rather enthusiastically proclaims that recent research has proven that half of all Viking warriors were women, however in the process, it drastically misrepresents the research it’s talking about. Despite the title, McLeod’s article Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD[1] doesn’t address the idea of whether or not women fought at all, and in fact it concludes that maybe a third to a half of Norse settlers were female. A settler is not necessarily a warrior, and just because an individual migrated together with warriors, that does not mean that they are a warrior themselves. It does not mean that they were not warriors however.

The idea that the graves studied contained warriors is entirely a supposition on the part of the author of the article on Tor. They may or may not have been warriors, and McLeod’s research does not say one way or the other. The only thing it says related to the issue of whether women fought or not is to state the assumption that warriors were male, and that females would not stay with the army while it was campaigning. Read more