Because I know something you don't know.
December 26, 2012 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Wiktenauer is a catalog of fighting manuals and other primary sources related to historical European martial arts.
posted by zamboni (11 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
One of the foundational manuscripts for the martial art that I practice (MS. Ludwig XV 13, better known as the Fior di Battaglia or the Flower of Battle) is available through here, but the links are to the Google Art Project version which is missing one of the pages of plays. The Getty Museum hosts the high resolution photographs itself as well, and all the pages are there. View it here (click "page through the book).
posted by adamdschneider at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2012

This is one of those things where you decide that you really want to try your hand at jousting but you don't know anything about jousting so you look up the instructions on the Internet.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:21 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I see no no ecky thump entry!
posted by zog at 11:17 PM on December 26, 2012

There are many many ways to achieve the basic goal of "stab the other person before you get stabbed."
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:23 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every day is bowb your buddy day.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:00 AM on December 27, 2012

There are many many ways to achieve the basic goal of "stab the other person before you get stabbed."

This is true, although there are many commonalities, because everyone has the same joints and muscles and as my teacher likes to say there are only so many ways to swing a lever arm.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:15 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

as my teacher likes to say there are only so many ways to swing a lever arm.

Or, to simply sever an arm....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:55 AM on December 27, 2012

Or, to simply savor an arm....
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:27 PM on December 27, 2012

Over the last year, I've seen a fair number of longsword videos on youtube, and been mightily impressed by what I've witnessed. When I compare it to what survives of Japanese swordsmanship or European fencing, it comes off very well. There are so many interesting stances and techniques that blow away a lot of preconceptions about knights taking turns bashing each others' helmets. Whereas Japanese and European fencing styles are inclined to quick clash-and-retract action, I'm fascinated by the practice of locking swords and trying to maneuver one's blade around the other. It looks very practical, but very different from anything else I've seen. Also, the practices of halfswording (i.e. grabbing one's own blade and wielding it like a staff), hooking and trapping with the guard and integrated grappling are all eye-opening. If anything, mobility and footwork are a lot more important than they are in fencing (which is merely concerned with one-dimensional distance), and perhaps even moreso than kenjutsu.

It's interesting also how so much of the techniques and weapon construction were responses to armor technology (although completely obvious in retrospect). I no longer automatically agree that katanas were all-around superior to European swords (although the actual blade construction was undeniably more advanced). Full plate armor was extremely formidable, and far lighter than we are usually led to believe; a full suit of plate was actually lighter than the combat webbing that modern soldiers currently don, while being nearly impossible to penetrate with normal strikes. Of course, it does limit mobility to some degree, and a full closed helmet greatly restricted vision and field of view. A knight could actually break into a run while enclosed in plate mail. That's why we see techniques like halfswording, and why European longswords had to have straight blades instead of curved ones.

What becomes readily apparent is that what survives of ancient martial arts in the form of modern fencing is almost pure sport that bears little relation to the techniques and battlefield conditions of yore (I allow for exceptions in Filipino techniques, though). Pretty much every pre-modern culture has a rich tradition of martial arts, although much of this has died out for understandable reasons (Eastern martial arts are more prominent because they were actually practiced in battle more recently). Jiu jitsu began as a set of techniques for samurai who lost their swords -- which is really about making the most of a dismal situation. This is not too different from German Kampfringen, although those skills were supposed to be combined with sword techniques. The essential point, however, is that unarmed combat was then, as now, a very auxiliary activity. Modern schools of unarmed combat with ancient antecedents were usually intended to be used in unusual situations where practitioners didn't have access to the state-of-the-art weapons of the time.

Anyway, it's fascinating stuff to me, so I could go on and on (and I'm merely a very curious layman). I wish there was somewhere near me where I could join a class in the Italian or German longsword, but alas they are few and far between. Thanks for the post!
posted by Edgewise at 1:02 AM on December 28, 2012

Edgewise, I don't know where in the world you are, but if you're in North America you should try to come to WMAW in September (the 2013 page isn't up yet). I don't know much about the German, Lichtenauer school (which of course "Wiktenauer" is a pun on), but aside from the raw manuscript I linked above (absolutely more than worth reading [free translations are available on the web, but Tom Leoni's is worth the money]), Charette's Armizare is an excellent resource on Fiore.

It's interesting to think that although Fiore's is a battlefield art, much of its techniques may be too fine-grained to use in the chaos of an actual battlefield, and one of its other main applications would have been the duel, where I am told a historical source states that between two men in armor it will always come to the dagger eventually.

The dagger is of course one of the five "weapons" that Fiore teaches (wrestling, dagger, sword in one hand, sword in two hands, spear and poleaxe). It is remarkable just how much of a system it is, with techniques for later-taught weapons sharing mechanics with the earlier learned ones (for example, the ligadura mezzana, seen here in the lower left, has applications to the sword in two hands, for disarms).

Feel free to MeMail me any time about this stuff. I am always trying to learn more and am very fortunate to have access to some of the most knowledgeable people in this quite young endeavor, and I am also always willing to talk about it!
posted by adamdschneider at 6:21 AM on December 28, 2012

Mr. Concolora and I have been taking classes in Lichtenauer since the beginning of September and we've never had so much fun. The school we attend, the Virginia Academy of Fencing, is reasonably well regarded in historical fencing circles (two of our coaches, Bill Grandy and Tom Leoni will be teaching at WMAW in September) and, as longtime geeks, were totally amazed to discover an entire historical fencing subculture under our very noses here in Northern Virginia. Wiktenauer is great for us because it'll let us do some reading and home study between classes and fencing sessions.
posted by Concolora at 8:54 AM on December 28, 2012

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