Monday, 12 October 2015

Kit review: Danelli Armouries Basic Longsword

"The new 2016 entry level longsword. The crossguard is new, 2mm thicker to be more durable and a new improved design. Also the grip has a new waisted design. The blade is hollow ground and flexes enough to fence safely and the tip is large and round (about 15x6mm) and now the edges are thick (2.5mm c.) to withstand the sparring duties." Website here

This is the "basic" sword produced by Danelli Armouries. I've been keen to try these guys after reading a few positive reviews from friends. Prior to this I had no experience of Danelli Armouries.

I can say firstly that Giulia has been an absolute pleasure to deal with, a rapid and thorough responder to emails! I've over 40 emails in my trail which is exceptional and a testament to their patience, with me, and their communication skills.

Their postage and packaging was excellent, the shipping time was extraordinary (4 days to New Zealand). There was a little problem with one of the swords I ordered that Guila worked out immediately and without incident. So, very impressed with their customer service skills. 

Secondly, while the delivery date slipped slightly (I'm always very happy to be accommodating) it did not shift significantly beyond the agreed time frame. So, another big plus. 


It's a very professionally turned out sword, with wonderful presence. It both is and feels extremely light and "correct" to my mind as a simulator of a sharp weapon. The best testament to this was at the weekend where none other than Guy Windsor picked up the sword to demonstrate with and exclaimed "what an amazing sword" or the like and then proceeded to monopolize my sword for a while. What better endorsement?

It has fantastic flex. I feel no compunctions whatsoever in the thrust with this guy. It also appears to be nicely hard and doesn't appear to easily pick up burrs. A few hard sparring seasons have not required any attention from a file so it seems to be a remarkable mix of flex and hardness. 

The point is nicely packed out and feels safe. The guard is a good width and feel solidly reassuring in the bind. 

The whole weapon is quite plain but that suits my aesthetic. While the components are very simple and slight they seem good quality and well built.  


It's perhaps a touch longer than I'm used to for a longsword. I'm 6ft and it reaches to my solar plexus, so edging into the Great Sword end of the spectrum by my experience but I'm adjusting. 

The very flexible nature of the blade means that it is a little more wobbly than I'm used to however the extra safety in the thrust easily compensates for this. 

The "basic" nature of this weapon is only evident really in the simple leather grip, a simple piece of leather wrapped and glued, I imagine, that I will want to upgrade shortly.

Finally it's possible to disassemble the weapon, as it has a threaded tang. I'm not really sure if this is a downside or not yet, I've never owned a longsword that wasn't peened. I imagine it will get quite tiresome tightening it all the time, something that it does require despite a lock nut. On the plus however, and it's quite a large plus, it does leave the possibility that I could replace components of the hilt if I wish, i.e. getting a guard with side rings or different pommels etc. Which would be very cool.


A deal, a steal, sale of the century. It's hard to believe they're selling this for 200 Euros. Get in quick before they put the prices up!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Some thoughts on offensive v's defensive tactics

"Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack"  ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Just to clarify my understanding of terms, as I see it, being offensive or defensive is about who takes that first step from out of range to into range, whomever takes that step is being offensive and whomever waits to receive that step is being defensive. I then agree with Meyer that broadly people fall into four types based on who steps into range and then the type of action they do in range. So this means either acting Before or After in the first action and then acting Before or After on the second action. 

This breaks down into four behavior types:

1. Acts Before, then acts Before
2. Acts Before, then acts After
3. Acts After, then acts Before
4. Acts After, then acts After

Sounds weird but I think it is shorthand for:

1. This person steps into measure behind an action that blocks their opponent & takes center, they then act immediately to strike an opening.
2. This person steps into measure behind an action that blocks the opponent & takes center, then they wait for their opponent to try to come out from under this and seize the now very open opening
3. This person waits for the opponent to step into measure, they however take the center line and strike to an opening 
4.  This person waits for the opponent to step into measure, they work to keep the center and strike when their opponent tries to seize it again 

Meyer I think breaks it down with a weighting against acting in the After, or defensive, into:

1. Acts Before, then acts Before (relying on speed) - Wrathful
2. Acts Before, then acts Before well (relying on guarded actions) - Cunning
3. Acts Before, then acts After (keeps the center until a perfect opening appears) - Judicious
4a Acts After, then acts Before (Counter attacking) - Sharp
4b Acts After, then acts After - Foolish

Interesting to compare to Silver, who breaks it down weighting against acting in the Before:

"3 actions by which you may endanger him & go free yourself:
1. The first is to strike or thrust at him, the instant when he has gained you the place by his coming in.
2. The second is to ward, & after to strike him or thrust from it, remembering your governors
3. The third is to slip a little back & to strike or thrust after him."

1. Acts After, then acts Before (relying on speed)
2. Acts After, then acts Before (from half-sword)
3. Acts After, then acts Before (traveling after)

Friday, 2 October 2015

The difference between Blossfechten and Harnischfechten,

"In the chaos of broken ranks and outflanked Vikings, I simply used Agnes like a spear, taking out anybody within three yards or more of me. Had it all been real, I would have had to endow a chantry and go on pilgrimage before the nightmares stopped bothering me" - Harold M Page, Dawn Duellist Society

Some interesting thoughts on the advantages of Armour: 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Machiavelli on teaching

"It is not possible for me to make a better gift than to offer you the opportunity of understanding in the shortest time all that I have learnt in so many years, and with so many troubles and dangers; which work I have not embellished with swelling or magnificent words, not stuffed with rounded periods, not with any extrinsic allurements or adornments whatever, with which so many are accustomed to embellish their works; for I have wished either that no honour should be given it, or else that the truth of the matter and the weightiness of the theme shall make it acceptable." - The Prince, Machiavelli

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Half-sword, I don't think it means what you think it means...

"Here begins the epitome on the knightly art of combat that was composed and created by Johannes Liechtenauer, who was a great master in the art, God have mercy on him; first with the longsword, then with the lance and sword on horseback, and then with the half-sword in armoured combat." 

It's been something that's bothered me for a while but I wonder why people think this is called "half sword."

It seems pretty obvious from the treatises that what many people call "half sword" is actually called "Shortened Sword" in the treatises and that the two are names for different things and are not interchangeable. The quote at the top is an example of the issue, the translation is "half-sword" but the German isn't Halbschwert it is "kürtzen swert" or "shortened sword." This is a similar passage translated correctly describing what "short sword" is:

"Here begins the shortened sword fighting [with longswords] as Master Mertein Hündsfelder has taught. Note: Take the sword with your right hand by your leg and with your left hand in the middle of the blade and go fast to the man, so he must cut or thrust, you just step in and remain on the right side and stay close [to him]."

As far as I've been able to ascertain "half sword" is the name for when two swords meet in the middle, i.e. you have a halved sword or you've met at the half point (see picture). This isn't a technique so much as a measure position, "when in half-sword" etc or another way of describing narrow measure.

Half sword
From what I've seen this is what all sword fighting manuals that use the term mean, see Dall'aggochie's "straits of the half sword." Looking through wiktenauer I struggle to find any references to the "half sword" in any treatise in the German tradition. Fiore also seems to use Shortened as well so I'm curious where it has come from?  The Italian Bolognese tradition?

I note that Meyer uses "halber schneid" or "half cut" but I doubt that would be translated half sword and he's clearly meaning to cut to the middle part of the sword.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Some thoughts on the three ways of cutting in Longsword

I was chatting with one of my club the other night and she said she couldn't find any information about this on the internet so I thought I'd put something up here in case it wasn't an observation that was well known.

A distinct part of the "German" branch of longsword fighting, to my mind, is the use of the three ways of cutting with a longsword. These are true edge cuts and the two types of false edge cuts.

If you haven't already made this observation, then on each cut line you can do the cut three ways. Looking at the High Line then firstly, obviously, there's with the true edge. Secondly you can push the pommel under your arm turning the blade anti-clockwise for the Crooked (or "hooking" as I think of it) false edge cut, and finally you can Squint (or "twisting" as I think of it) the blade clockwise to bring around the false edge for the Twisting cut. On your right side the hooking type cut ends with your palm facing out, while the twisting type with your palm facing in. This is a feature that Meyer sometimes highlights. I suspect this is also what Meyer is discussing when he discusses cutting with the "true, false and flat" as the twisting cut often parries with the flat while striking with the false edge. I also suspect these are also the "three strikes" referred to in the earlier treatises as the hooking action is what you make when you thrust, i.e. with the plunge cut for example or from Ox/Plough guards.

The true edge cuts and the twisting cuts are particularly good because they are strong cuts and they "bring their guard with them" i.e. you bring the hilt across the centre line. The hooking cuts do not but they are useful when in the bind because they keep your guard in place.

Of these cuts some of them are particularly good in certain circumstances, thus they are individually named:

1. A Thwart cut is a twist cut on the low or middle lines
2. The Squinter is a twist cut on the high line
3. A Clashing cut is a twist cut on the wrath line
4. A Plunge is a hook on the high line with high hands
5. A Crooked cut is a hook done on the high line but across the body

I find understanding the three ways of cutting saves you individually learning lots of different moves: all strikes are just one of these three types. If you drill doing the three cuts on each line you will have most of the techniques from the treatises within one drill. Also once you understand this difference between false edge cuts then things become clearer, for example the difference between a Plunge Cut and a Squinter is now self evident.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Some thoughts on why being small and weak isn't a good thing

Just a few thoughts about the above video.

It's a nice idea that skill "vastly outmatches" size and strength. Unfortunately this idea that there is a spectrum with "physiology" on one end and "skill" at the other end isn't really true and it can be detrimental to your training to operate under this assumption. Generally speaking they go hand in hand.

In all sports there's a "software" element and a "hardware" element, this means a element that is skill based and learnt (like Software on a computer) and there is an element that is physiological (like the hardware on a computer). Having better software can make a computer with bad hardware operate better but I doubt it would vastly overcompensate against a computer with better hardware. Likewise in fencing if I had the choice I'd definitely trade off for physical advantages. Why? Because those with physical advantages can achieve disproportionately greater outcomes with less effort. For example being "big" and "strong." Being bigger allows you to overreach with everything while the stronger person will have a greater capacity for speed. They reach far and hit fast. You'd need vastly more software to overcome that hardware disadvantage.

Following from this point is that the person with the physiological advantage will have the incentive and capacity to train more and harder thus getting more skillful, which is what happens with high level athletes in most other sports. 

Part of this is what your understanding of "skill" is. Traditionally the idea seems to be that skill is a passive intellectual understanding of set piece techniques, that "if I just keep tweaking this move one day it will be perfect." However I think skill is more around "Principles" or in other words ever improving heuristics or shortcuts to better your reactions. A large part of getting your heuristics to work properly is being physically able to operate them at suitable speed.

So what's this about then? To my mind this is the same chat you get from every McSalle and every "get fit quick" gadget, it promises you a shortcut to all that hard work the other guys are having to do. It's a key stone in the argument that underlies anti-athleticism in HEMA, that HEMA is "skill based" rather than "fitness based", that it's the "martial art" for those who don't do fitness, being Artful will defeat all. Unfortunately this is a load of bollocks. Certainly at the level of most HEMA where my experience is that a person with a relatively small fitness advantage will have an enormous advantage in a tournament over most other candidates.

Finally it's probably worth noting that big and strong aren't generally the most dominant physical characteristics in fencing, things like depth perception and vision quality are probably more important, i.e. the physical ability to gather information more quickly and accurately is probably more key than raw power.