Hands On

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be good tools, but from a technical and tactical standpoint they are maybe quite distant from the original sources and historical documents.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.