Hands On

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

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

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

Interpretation of Fiore dei Liberi’s Spear Plays (Jakub Dobi) - APD5/1(2017)

Hands on section: pp. 131-151


How did Fiore Furlano use a spear? What is the context, purpose, and effect of entering a duel armed with a spear? My article- originally a successful thesis work for an Ars Ensis Free Scholler title- describes in detail what I found out by studying primary sources (Fiore’s works), related sources (contemporary and similar works), and hands-on experience in controlled play practice, as well as against uncooperative opponents.
In this work I cover the basics- how to hold the spear, how to assume Fiore’s stances, how to attack, and how to defend yourself. I also argue that the spear is not, in fact, a preferable weapon to fence with in Fiore’s system, at least not if one uses it in itself. It is however, a reach advantage that has to be matched, and thus the terribly (mutually) unsafe situation of spear versus spear occurs. As a conclusion, considering context and illustrations of spear fencing, I argue that the spear is only to be considered paired with other weapons, like dagger, or sword. In fact, following Fiore’s logic, we can assume he used the spear to close the distance to use a weapon he feels more in control with.

Keywords – Fiore, Furlano, Liberi, Italian, duel, spear, Ars Ensis

The plays with the axe in armour of the Anonimo Bolognese (1510-1515) (Daniel Jaquet) - APD5/1(2017)

Hands on section, pp. 109-130


This contribution examines an anonymous text (Di Accia armato di tutt’arme ) addressing the handling of the axe for armoured combat, compiled in a two-volume anonymous manuscript collection of the beginning of the 16th c. This collection is of particular interest since it predates the “classical” authors of the Bolognese school of the 16th c. and marks a turning point from an earlier late Medieval tradition. Moreover the inclusion of a text dedicated to armour fighting is equally interesting since this kind of combat tends to fade away from the technical register of the next Bolognese authors.
The manuscrip is shortly described and the text is presented in a diplomatic edition, with a translation and a reproduction of the manuscript in appendices. The content is described and analysed from a technical and a historical point of view, allowing comparison with other similar treatises, identification of the arms and armour, and discussion of the context of application.
Keywords – Anonimo Bolognese, axe, chivalric game, armoured fencing,
Historical European Martial Arts

The Kölner Fechtbuch: Context and Comparison (Keith Farrell) - APD3(2015)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 203-235, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404. September 2015


The Kölner Fechtbuch is a fascinating, unique treatise from the 16th
century. Although it is tempting to compare it with the Liechtenauer tradition
and to use knowledge, ideas and concepts from that tradition to interpret this
book, this article shows that such an approach would be flawed. To demonstrate
a proper examination and analysis of the longsword fighting system within the
Kölner Fechtbuch , this article compares and contrasts it with 15th and 16th
century sources with a connection to the Liechtenauer tradition, along with 16th
century sources from other traditions. Furthermore, this article examines the
Fechtschulen , their rules and their context, in an attempt to demonstrate that the
Kölner Fechtbuch is an example of this style of fighting.

Thoughts on the Role of Cavalry in Medieval Warfare (Jack Gassmann) - APD2(2014)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 149-177, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, December 2015


This article explores the role of cavalry in medieval warfare starting
with it’s origins in the Carolingian age, examining how cavalry was used as a
strategic asset within the context of the period on at an operational level, as well
as the tactics they were likely to have employed. Due to my interest in both
medieval warhorses and mounted combat research into the context and use of
medieval cavalry was a natural by-product. Using primary resources such as
first-hand accounts and period artwork as well as secondary literature, the article
summarizes the findings of my research. Most historians, despite the recognition
that field-battles were not the heart and soul of medieval warfare, still judge
medieval cavalry by their performance within them. My findings show a much
greater concentration on small unit actions, both in armament and organization,
with cavalry centred on chevauchées on raiding and subduing castles in swift
commando type take and hold missions. The diversity of mounted forces are
also examined in the context of the lance and the integration of mounted
crossbowmen and bowmen for combined arms tactics.

Medieval Hunting as Training for War Insights for the Modern Swordsman (Richard Swinney) - APD2(2014)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 179-193, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, December 2015


Since antiquity, hunting (the pursuit of large game with dogs, swords,
spears and bows) has been advocated as the best means of training men for war.
The cognitive, psychological and physical demands of hunting in this fashion
develop a fundamentally different skill set from that of standard modern Western
Martial Arts training. Still legal in the United States, hunting wild boar
employing medieval weapons and methods provides insights into
swordsmanship readily available nowhere else.

The true edge: a comparison between self-defense fighting from German “fight-books” (Fechtbücher) and the reality of judicial sources (1400-1550) (Pierre-Henry Bas) - APD1(2013)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 179-195, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404


The article discusses the “self-defense” techniques presented in fightbooks
and treaties. The objective is to determine if these techniques take the
reality of fight in account, to evaluate the difference between theory and practice
in remaining safe during an aggression. In order to do so, this work uses crossed
analysis, with remission letters (judicial sources) studied in the light of the
knowledge contained in the fight-books. This study is based on the sorting out
of weapons, wounds, and times of death found in remission letters (the data of
real fight). In parallel, the theorization of fight in treaties will be taken in

Bayonet Fencing : An overview of historiography and techniques for French footmen during World War I (Julien Garry) - APD1(2013)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 152-178, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404


This article addresses the evolution of French bayonet fencing,
teachings and methods over the course of World War I, under both
historiographical and technical approaches. After a brief summary of the existent
methods at the start of the War, we will explore the evolutions underwent by this
Martial Art, brought by the changing nature and warfare and the various inputs
of experienced fighter.

A brief examination of warfare by medieval urban militias in Central and Northern Europe (Jean Henri Chandler) - APD1(2013)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 106-151, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404


During the medieval and Early Modern period, the Free cities of
Central and Northern Europe fielded militias which collectively played an
important role in European warfare. The specific military role of the burgher is
not well known outside of the realm of academic specialists in the English
speaking world. In order to highlight this to my fellow layperson, I have chosen
a selection of significant historical events with a special focus on Lombardy,
Flanders, Silesia, Bohemia and Poland, in which urban militias played an
important role. The intention is to allow us to review the effectiveness, tactics
and strategic impact of urban militias and their possible relationship to the
martial arts of pre-industrial Europe.

Mertein Hündsfelder: Fechtlehre mit dem Kurzen Schwert , circa 1491 AD Fight-Teaching with the Shortened Sword from Codex Speyer (137r-141r) (Szabolcs Waldmann) - APD1(2013)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 87–105, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404


This transcription / translation of mine was first released online in 2005 (Waldmann,
2005 and Waldmann, 2006), and in print in 2008 (Clements, 2008). Since that time we
have been using these teachings extensively in our school, in the armoured classes.
Together with Marcell Tóth, who is also a trainer in the same class, we have been using
this translation as basis for our work; moreover, he wrote his Free Scholler paper from
the very same material (Tóth, 2012). Thus, this new release of the article incorporates
those seven years of practice and research.