This week I had planned a crafting article of interest to HEMAists but unfortunately earlier in the week a series of videos went viral with the same craft 🙁 So instead I am posting this article about the benefits of battlefield training.
As this is my final post of 2014 I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and I look forward to posting again in 2015!
The Celtic speaking peoples of the British Isles had a very definite hierarchy. Their entire society broke down entirely into clearly defined class brackets. Each of these class brackets had responsibilities both within themselves and to each other. Obviously one had to know where they fitted into society to perform these roles. Since across the Celtic Speaking groups honour price was very important to both individuals and kin groups and since this in part depended on which part of the social strata the individual occupied, knowing which class bracket in which to class oneself was imperative. Anyone without kin or class was an outlaw or, at best, an exile. For the nobility, and particularly the king class, a thorough understanding of their duties was important as a failure to fulfil them would impact directly on huge numbers of the population and they would swiftly lose the goodwill and support of their people.
King, being in many ways perceived as being synonymous with ‘leader’ or ‘chief,’ granted the bearer of this title with extremely high status. The status of individuals was important within the Celtic culture as it determined honour price, right, responsibilities and how others reacted. The title of king could be won either in conquest or could be hereditary. In theory the eldest son should inherit the title but if he was in some way unsuitable any son (or close male relative) could succeed the throne. However, the British Isles were at this time broken down into many small kingdoms. This combined with the complex nature of Celtic hierarchy allowed there to be a great number of kings, Ireland had at one point just under 150. This meant that throughout the general class bracket of king there was some status division. This occurred noticeably in the succession practices of Ireland, if both the father and the grandfather of the successor had ruled before him, he became a king, if however, he was succeeding only his father then he became a petty king (essentially the highest rank of noble with only minor powers of rule). Essentially, ‘land, lordship and local acknowledgement were among the key determinants of a ruler’s status.’ Kings who ranked with less status were required to submit to the high kings, just as the nobles within their tuath were required to submit to them.
My opinion on this hasn’t changed, but I thought it would be worth revisiting this idea with references to original treatises, as obviously evidence from a primary source should hold greater value than a modern opinion.
To start simply, halfswording, i.e. holding onto the blade of your own sword, can be seen being used in an unarmoured context in several treatises. There are several examples of unarmoured halfswording, for example as seen in this folio from Falkner’s treatise. Hopefully, most HEMAists will recognise this.
A common controversy in historical fencing is the choice of head protection. Most practitioners use traditional fencing masks, but many people are critical of these and prefer to use steel re-enactment or SCA helmets or purpose-built HEMA helmets. Both points of view have strengths and limitations.