Nineteenth Century French Military Sabre: Sport, Duel and War Fencing - by Julien Garry (APD6/2)

pp. 3-35

Abstract – Numerous treaties and methods regarding fencing are known today, either written by experts, veterans of sword-masters, or by the ministry or war and its branches: the schools of Joinville and Saumur. Some are destined to horse riders, others to officers. Each of these methods has its own particularities and, due to the abundance of treaties, discerning the qualities, the flaws, and the overall interest of a specific method can seem complicated. An attempt is made below to answer: why were the methods of French saber in the nineteenth century conceived and Why were they made this way, and what connection do they share with the French military world. These texts are compared and analyzed to uncover their function regarding the Army. From this analysis, three types of fencing will emerge, sometimes opposite, sometimes complementary; war fencing: conceived to be applicable on the battlefield – duel fencing (that was less official but still popular in nineteen century France) – and finally, recreational fencing, most often taking the form of a sport.

Keywords – sabre fencing; French military fencing; nineteenth century

Technical elements in Hungarian sabre fencing manuals - Matyas Miskolczi (APD6/2)

pp. 207-211

Abstract – This research aims to collect technical elements identified in Hungarian sabre manuals. At the current stage of research they were assembled in a table, creating a map of elements. The research itself is in an initial phase, this research note is here to share first results.

Keywords – sabre, Hungarian, map of technical elements, research note

Supplementary material online

The sabre in 19th century Greece - by Georges Zacharopoulos (APD6/2)

pp. 175-188

Abstract – Abstract – This article gives a brief overview on Greek sabre sources with a special focus on Philipp Müller’s and Nikolaos Pyrgos’ treatises. The article does not aim to give a complete list of treatises neither to analyze the any of the mentioned books in details – rather it aims to give an insight in those two books which might have had the most important impact on the development of the Greek sabre fencing in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The Sabre in Spain through Fencing Treatises - by Manuel Valle Ortiz (APD6/2)

pp. 175-188

Abstract – The sabre was introduced to Spain and other Hispanic countries from abroad, leading to the establishment of a Spanish sabre school based on the principles of Destreza. Several types of fencing books can be found. There were books on sabre instruction for the army and navy with simple techniques but also more developed works designed both for officers’ fencing and duelling and or for civilian duelling, and later for sportive entertainment. There are a considerable number of extant treatises, mainly available in continental Spain but also in the Americas. Many of the authors were army or navy officers who were also teaching in military institutions. The evolution of sabre fencing is followed until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Keywords – Sabre, Destreza, Spanish school, bibliography

Shashka in late XIX – XX c.: Outline of Russian Combat Techniques - by Ruslan Urazbakhtin (APD6/2)

pp. 125-173

Abstract: In the late XIX c., when most Western European armies in the discussion about cut and thrust strikes finally gave priority to a thrust, Russian Imperial Army adopted Eastern weapon – shashka, with Caucasian and Asian origins. Despite its late adoption and not Russian origins, shashka quickly became a national weapon. It transformed a lot under the influence of Western European saber. It dislodged all other long-bladed weapons in Russian army and even in the national memory so that nowadays average Russian calls all curved blades “shashka”. This weapon became a symbol of Russian Cossacks and all late Russian cavalry, almost the last long-bladed weapon used at war. This article is aimed to study techniques of fencing on shashkas of Russian Cossacks and soldiers in XIX – XX c., well-preserved in fencing and cutting manuals, as well as army statutes of this period. The author makes an attempt to verify the popular idea that shashka was not used for fencing at all, that it was designed only for cutting and smashing, without any parades, thrusts, feints, tactics. At the beginning of the article a weaponological review of shashka is done. Its distinctive features, origins, types, characteristics are considered.

Keywords: shashka, saber, Russia, Caucasus, Cossacks.

Sweat and Blood: Swordsmanship and sabre in Fribourg - by Mathijs Roelofsen and Dimitri Zufferey (APD6/2)

pp. 103-123

Abstract – Following a long mercenary tradition, Switzerland had to build in the 19th century its own military tradition. In Cantons that have provided many officers and soldiers in the European Foreign Service, the French military influence remained strong. This article aims to analyze the development of sabre fencing in the canton of Fribourg (and its French influence) through the manuals of a former mercenary (Joseph Bonivini), a fencing master in the federal troops (Joseph Tinguely), and an officer who became later a gymnastics teacher (Léon Galley). These fencing manuals all address the recourse to fencing as physical training and gymnastic exercise, and not just as a combat system in a warlike context.

Keywords – Sabre, Fribourg, Valais, Switzerland, fencing, contre-pointe, bayonet

The evolution of German Cut Fencing in the 19th century viewed through the works of Friedrich August Wilhelm Ludwig Roux - by Alex Kiermayer (APD6/2)

pp. 77-101

Abstract – This article takes a look at the characteristics of German civilian fencing with cutting swords in the 19th century, especially the style taught by the Roux family of fencing masters. One of the most prominent members of this family was Friedrich August Wilhelm Ludwig Roux. By comparing his early work Anweisung zum Hiebfechten mit graden und krummen Klingen and his later work Deutsches Paukbuch one is able to discern some of the changes in German Hiebfechten or fencing with cutting weapons during the 19th century, in particular on the students’ duelling ground.

Pour l’honneur? Duelling in the army of Napoleon - by Bert Gevaert (APD6/2)

pp. 39-76

Abstract – Duelling and Napoleonic history go together like a horse and carriage. Though strictly forbidden and disliked by Napoleon, duelling was a very frequent phenomenon in the Grande Armée. It is even possible to speak about a ‘duellomanie’, which caused many (deadly) victims. Nevertheless, for various reasons soldiers crossed blades and duels went according to certain unwritten rules. After an official invitation to go to a certain place at a certain time, a duel, fought with specific weapons, took place under the watchful eye of seconds. Sometimes these duellists wanted to kill their opponent, but in many duels the only intention was to cause a (light) wound. Although duels were honourable and a symbol of masculinity and bravery, they also caused many soldiers to die, not for their country, but in a fight without purpose.

Keywords – saber; blade; smallsword; spadroon; Napoleonic warfare; Napoleon; duelling; Material culture; Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA); History

Visualizing the Fight Book Tradition: Collected Martial Knowledge in the Thun-Hohenstein Album, by Chassica Kirchhoff - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 3-45


The Thun-Hohenstein album, long-known as the Thun’sche Skizzenbuch, is a bound collection of 112 drawings that visualize armoured figures at rest and in combat, as well as empty armours arrayed in pieces. The collection gathers drawings that span the period from the 1470s to around 1590. While most of the images were executed in Augsburg during the 1540s, the album’s three oldest drawings date to the late-fifteenth century. Two of these works, which form a codicological interlude between the first and second quires, find parallels in the illustrations of contemporaneous martial treatises. This article traces the pictorial lineages of these atextual images through comparative analyses of fight books produced in the German-speaking lands, and considers how the representational strategies deployed in martial treatises inflected the ways that book painters and their audiences visualized the armoured body. This exploration situates a manuscript from which one of the drawings derives, Peter Falkner’s Art of Knightly Defense, now in Vienna, within the Augsburg book painters’ workshops that would later give rise to the Thun album. Finally, this study considers how the transmission and representation of martial knowledge in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Augsburg contributed to the later depictions of armoured bodies that populate the album.


Thun-Hohenstein album; fight books; Fechtbuch; codicology; manuscript studies; book painting; comparative analysis; image and memory; collecting

The art of fighting under glass: Review of museum exhibitions displaying fight books, 1968-2017, by Daniel Jaquet - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 47-62


A growing body of research on fight books and historical European martial arts has appeared in academic circles over the last fifteen years. It has also broken through the doors of patrimonial institutions. From curiosities in exhibitions about knighthood, to dedicated temporary exhibitions about historical European martial arts, the fight books have received more and more attention from museum professionals. This article attempts to present an exhaustive list of fight books displayed in museum exhibitions over the last fifty years. It then proposes a critical view about how and why they were displayed from the perspective of the curators, based on a review of the exhibition catalogues.


Museum; fight book; exhibition; fencing

Combat Training for Horse and Rider in the Early Middle Ages, by Jürg Gassmann - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 63-98


The cavalry horse, tactics and training in Western Europe – the Euro-pean provinces of the Roman Empire of the West and the Frankish Empire – du-ring the Early Middle Ages (c. 500-1000) are still subject to many myths in both popular media and academic literature. Source material is admittedly thin, yet it is specific enough to allow us to correct many of these misconceptions and outright errors.

The article initially summarises the current state of knowledge on the war horse of the period, by reference to the archaeological record. It then reviews the cavalry’s battlefield tactics, derives the skill level required to execute the manoeuvres described in the sources, and analyses where and how this training could have been provided.

The information gleaned provides an insight into the skills and expertise neces-sary to achieve the requisite sophisticated level of horsemanship. We shall argue that these imply a considerable investment in organisational infrastructure, per-sonnel and institutional memory, which has so far not received much academic attention, and has wider implications for our view of the era.


Cavalry; horses; horsemanship; tactics; military; training; Franks

On the Art of Fighting: A Humanist Translation of Fiore dei Liberi’s Flower of Battle Owned by Leonello D’Este, by Ken Mondschein - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 99-135


The author presents a study of Bibliothèque National de France MS Latin 11269, a manuscript that he argues was associated with the court of Leonello d’Este and which represents an attempt to “fix” or “canonize” a vernacular work on a practical subject in erudite Latin poetry. The author reviews the life of Fiore dei Liberi and Leonello d’Este and discusses the author’s intentions in writing, how the manuscript shows clear signs of Estense associations, and examines the manuscript both in light of its codicological context and in light of humanist activity at the Estense court. He also presents the evidence for the book having been in the Estense library. Finally, he examines the place of the manuscript in the context of the later Italian tradition of fencing books. A complete concordance is presented in the appendix.


Leonello d’Este; humanism; Fiore dei Liberi; Latin literature; Renaissance humanism; translation

Additional Transmissions of Hundsfeld and Lignitzer Dagger Teachings, by Bartlomiej Walczak and Bartosz Starko - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 137-149


Additional witnesses containing fragments of Martin Hundsfeld and Andre Lignitzer’s dagger teachings were located. These teachings were part of other anonymous dagger texts. Five of Lignitzer’s plays and three Hundsfeld’s can be found in the works of Gregor Erhart (MS E.1939.65.354), Lienhart Sollinger (Cgm 3712) and Paulus Hector Mair (C.94, Codex 10825). A synoptic comparison of these witnesses with other representatives points to the existence of at least two other manuscripts – one that was base for Erhart and Sollinger, and the other being the base for Paulus Hector Mair’s works. Additionally, the analysis seems to suggest that the Proto-Erhart was based on the original proto-manuscript, not transmitted through other known sources. Interestingly, Erhart seems to be a faithful copy of its progenitor, even though it contains a very disorganized text, where dagger techniques are mixed with other weapons. The article contains transcriptions as well as updated stemmae codicum for these traditions.


Andre Lignitzer; Martin Hundsfeld; Dagger; Gregor Erhart; Paulus Hector Mair; Lienhart Sollinger

Do you even Zornhaw? A set-theoretic Approach to HEMA reconstruction, by Maciej Talaga and Szymon Talaga - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 151-182


The present paper is focused on proposing a positive solution in regard to HEMA reconstruction methodology. Firstly, it starts by identifying main factors behind difficulties in communicating, validating, and evaluating competing interpretations (or motion reconstructions) among different scholars and practitioners. Then, principles of the set theory as applied to the humanities are presented and explained through examples related to the HEMA studies. This is followed by a description of a proposed methodological framework, called the Set-theoretic Method, which has been devised so as to be applicable on its own to the whole process of interpretation (motion and tactical reconstruction) or as a supplement to the previously published ADVISE method, where it acts as a bias-reducing procedure, especially during comparative stage (i.e. the ‘External Input’ stage in ADVISE). Finally, the method is illustrated with a case study – a comparative analysis of the Zornhaw glosses in the ‘Codex Döbringer’, ‘Codex Danzig’, and ‘Codex Ringeck’ followed by exploration of ‘Flos Duellatorum’ by Fiore de’i Liberi in search for an analogy for Zornhaw.
Keywords: research methodology; fight books; set theory; reconstruction; interpretation.

A new historical combat school ? the Convention of the Sword Players, by Pierre-Henry Bas - APD6/1(2018)

pp. 183-199


For many years, various associations in France have been working on a new way to practice their historical martial hobbies with swords. Free sparring and competition have been and always will be good tools, but from a technical and tactical standpoint they are maybe quite distant from the original sources and historical documents. Some techniques and other material from martial arts manuals and treatises are often neglected or considered to be too academic. In fact, if the idea of martial opposition is present, we cannot say that today’s practices are a rebuilding of any historical practices, whether playful or serious. Based on this observation, my doctoral work, in collaboration with the REGHT association1, has led us to propose a new school of practices based on a new reading of martial arts manuals. The project is aimed at anybody who uses a bladed weapon as part of their studies of historical fencing, principally in the form of sparring and friendly competitions. Its name: the Convention of the Sword Players.
Keywords – fencing, rules, convention

Fighting with the Longsword: Modern-day HEMA Practices (Jack and Jürg Gassmann and Dominique LeCoultre) - APD5/2(2017)

pp. 115-133


This article is based on the talk presented on 27th November 2016 in the course of the Journées d’études sur le costume et les simulateurs d’armes dans les pratiques d’arts martiaux anciens. The talk itself involved practical demonstrations and interaction with other presentations given at the event; this article does not purport to be a transcript of the presentation, but elaborates on the key themes of the presentation: The objectives of HEMA as a modern practice, and their relationship to what we know about the historical practice of the European martial arts in the Middle Ages, including physical fitness, fencing techniques and tactical awareness, based on the Fechtbücher extant. A key element of the discussion involved a comparison between the objectives of and drivers behind historical and modern tournament rule-sets.


Historical European Martial Arts; Fechtbuch; Middle Ages; Longsword; Sport; Competition

Constriction – Construction, a short history of specialised wearing apparel for athletic activities (S. Anthore-Baptiste and N. Baptiste) - APD5/2(2017)

pp. 73-95


During the twentieth century, clothing permits a real freedom of bodily movement. However, when examining past athletic activity, we must take into account the period approach to the body: liberty of movement is at the same time controlled by morality, gestures and clothing. The French term “tenue” initially referred to behaviour, but since the end of the eighteenth century concerns the manner of dressing, and later by extension, the “dignity of conduct”. In the past times concerned with “sporting” activities such as the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), physical appearance is affected by rules of etiquette imposed by morality and civility. From the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, each period offers a different overview of the dress standards in relation to the different approaches to corporal identity, and the constriction first necessary for military activities becomes indivisible from the moral and physical construction. As a practitioner of the 21st century, the question raises about our relationship, not only with our bodies but also with past cultures. As demonstrated by some concrete examples, if it is desired to fully approach the ancient practices, it is therefore necessary to also adopt the garment, in the same way as the accessories.


constraint; construction; clothing; morality; body; dance; fencing; arming clothes