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The typological debates around Le Jeu de la Hache (BnF MS Français 1996) and their stakes for HEMA practice

Abstract

Le Jeu de la Hache displays a fighting-system with the pollaxe in armour, but the weapon is never described with precision, which leads to debates regarding its typology – cutting edge or hammer/raven’s beak? Through a semi-quantitative survey, we tried to offer an overview of current HEMA practice around this specific source, with special emphasis on the typological question. Despite the rather narrow scope of the inquiry, some trends emerge. Besides the various choices regarding terminology and sources, we can underline the variety of materials used for the simulators: rubber components («hammer» typology) are leading, but wood and metal are also used, for both typologies. Advantages and disadvantages of each rely on the articulation of safety and realism dimensions, and the dangerousness inherent to this kind of weapon is largely highlighted. Even if most respondents declare not to be familiar with the typological debates amongst historians, it was usually mentioned to them during their practice. Only a minority has taken part in experiments in order to bring some elements of answer, but seldom in a systematic way. Therefore, a praxeological experimental approach could bring up new data, but is not devoid of difficulties, for instance the necessity of wearing armour.

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An analysis and comparison of two German thrust-fencing manuscripts

Abstract

In this contribution, we will discuss two German fencing manuscripts - Mscr.Dresd.C.13 (SLUB Dresden) and Add MS 17533 (BL London). Both manuscripts present texts on thrust-fencing based on the teachings of Salvator Fabris. The dedication of manuscript C13 was signed by the famous fencing author Johann Georg Pascha. The author of one of the texts contained in the 17533 manuscript is named H.A.V..

A textual analysis has been performed on these two books, and then the contents of the works have been compared. This comparison shows that C13 presents a largely identical text to the main treatises contained in 17533, the most significant difference being certain additions in C13, which Pascha also discusses in his dedication. Based on our analysis, both C13 and 17533 appear to present copies of an original text. We further hypothesize that H.A.V., the author of this original text, was Heinrich von und zum Velde, the fencing master of Johann Joachim Hynitzsch.

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East meets West: Mounted Encounters in Early and High Mediaeval Europe

Abstract

By the Late Middle Ages, mounted troops - cavalry in the form of knights - are established as the dominant battlefield arm in North-Western Europe. This paper considers the development of cavalry after the Germanic Barbarian Successor Kingdoms such as the Visigoths in Spain or the Carolingian Franks emerged from Roman Late Antiquity and their encounters with Islam, as with the Moors in Iberia or the Saracens (Arabs and Turks) during the Crusades, since an important part of literature ascribes advances in European horse breeding and horsemanship to Arab influence. Special attention is paid to information about horse types or breeds, conformation, tactics - fighting with lance and bow - and training. Genetic studies and the archaeological record are incorporated to test the literary tradition.

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Le Jeu de la Hache: A Critical edition and dating discussion

Abstract

Twenty-six years after the first edition and translation by Sydney Anglo in 1991 of the anonymous manuscript Le Jeu de la hache , many elements can still be significantly improved. This paper offers a completely new critical edition of the text, and a major revision of the translation. This article includes a detailed glossary as well as notes to discuss the many ambiguous passages in the original text. Finally, the studies of the language, the vocabulary, the dialect, the writing style and the physical document make it possible to refine the dating of the manuscript to the third quarter of the fifteenth century, between 1460 and 1485, and its origin, probably Flanders or Wallonia in the entourage of the dukes of Burgundy.

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Economising Early Prints on Fight Books by Multiple Using Movable Half Page Woodcuts.
Insights into the layout work on the illustrations of Andre Paurnfeindt’s Fight Book of 1516 published by Hieronymus Vietor
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The Future of Historical European Martial Arts Studies. A discussion

Abstract

The two panels of the conference were concluded by a round-table aiming at discussing the future of HEMA studies, by crossing the views of the speakers on three levels: personal involvement, major contribution needed for the field, strategies to make it happen. This article will focus on (1) reviewing the most important matters discussed and to balance them with the latest published desiderata for further research, (2) situating them in the latest developments in, on the one hand, martial arts studies, and on the other, Practice as Research (PaR) in other fields of research, and finally (3) comparing them with the developments of a similar fields of study over the last 60 years, notably dance studies.

Open access
Limits of Understanding in the Study of Lost Martial Arts
Epistemological Reflections on the Mediality of Historical Records of Technique and the Status of Modern (Re-)Constructions

Abstract

The paper is organised around the notion of embodied technique. The recent attempts to formulate scientific methodologies for the reconstruction of medieval fighting techniques based on a study of premodern fight books raise questions about the epistemological status of these (re)constructed techniques developed by modern practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA).

Approaching the subject from a perspective of cultural history and martial arts studies, the following questions are discussed: What is technique and how is it related to practice? How is technique acquired and transmitted? How can technique be recorded? And finally, how can historical records of technique be understood, interpreted and converted into practice?

Following Ben Spatz, technique is defined as the knowledge content of specific practices and the semiotic references between practice, technique, and symbols referring to embodied technique are discussed. By looking at the intersubjective communication of subjective fighting skills and relying on the work of Michael Polanyi, the possibility to record the “tacit knowing” of these skills as explicit knowledge is questioned. Given the low knowledge content of the fight books in regard to the execution of the referenced techniques, modern HEMA techniques therefore are to be addressed as purely modern constructions based on modern fighting practices instead of as reconstructions of medieval technique. The discourses in HEMA are also compared to a similar debate in musicology, where the status and the “authenticity” of attempts to recreate the sound of medieval music based on interpretations of early musical notation systems was vividly discussed until the early 2000s.

Fighting techniques are furthermore addressed as elements of complex fighting systems that only exist within a given historical culture of fighting and are transformed when transferred to another societal context.

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A Look Behind the Scenes: Danish Renaissance Martial Arts during the Reign of Christian IV

Abstract

From the 4th – 7th of July 2016, the annual International Medieval Congress was held in Leeds, England. Among the many different sessions two specifically addressed historical European martial arts. The first session discussed and commented upon modern practices and interpretations of historical European martial arts, each paper being based on good practice and the proper criteria for academic research. The second session, in which this paper was presented, went more “behind the scenes”, discussing the importance of thorough analysis of the historical context which remains essential to forming a foundation for solid hypotheses and interpretations.

This article discusses and sheds light upon Danish historical martial art during the reign of the Danish King Christian IV (r.1588 to 1648). At this point in time Europe consisted of many small principalities in addition to a few larger states and kingdoms. Thoughts and ideas could spread as quickly as ripples in water but also be bound by political and religious alliances or enmities, plague, famine and not to mention the role also played by topographical and cultural differences. Thus, at times, vast cultural differences could be seen from region to region.

To this should be added a wide range of social factors, such as the role of relationships and mentalities, and the obeying of unspoken norms and codes which can also affect modern researchers’ interpretations of what is shown or described. Therefore, the aim of this article is to provide a series of “behind the scenes” examples which all have the potential to affect hypotheses, interpretations, and overall understandings of the context of historical European martial arts.

Open access
Prologues, Poetry, Prose and Portrayals: The Purposes of Fifteenth Century Fight Books According to the Diplomatic Evidence

Abstract

Although by far the most popular use of fifteenth century Fight Books in recent years has been their application to the study of Historical European Martial Arts and interpretations of medieval combat, this manner of learning from them was rarely what their creators had in mind. The following paper, relying primarily on the materials produced by Fiore dei Liberi, Filippo Vadi, Hans Talhoffer, and the anonymous author of Le Jeu de la Hache, will address modern practice and its connection to the source material via a study of the diplomatics of fifteenth century Fight Books, that is to say common tropes that are definitive of the genre. This has been done through analysing the roles of three of these; the purposes of introductions, of the use of language relating to the employment of either a prose or poetic structure, and the importance of the relationships between texts and illustrations. Through this application of diplomatics to Fight Books, the paper shall demonstrate how modern claims regarding authenticity are often overstated and in need of moderation.

Open access