Recently the archer Lars Andersen released a new video showcasing his archery style, and since then, the video has gone on to be widely shared and discussed. Others have already responded to the video, Mike Loades for example made an excellent response, but I thought it would be worth writing a response of my own as there are some points that I would like to make.
Lars Andersen: a new level of archery
To be clear, what he can do is very impressive, and his speed is amazing to watch. I also appreciate the fact that he’s trying to bring about more awareness of historic archery methods. However, many of the historical claims he makes in his video are un-sourced, over-reaching, misleading or frankly inaccurate. He may have a point, and loosing arrows quickly or while on the move may have been very important skills in some historical contexts, and it may well be that not enough attention has been paid to these skills in the modern day. It may well be that modern archery has overly influenced our understanding of historical archery; however, in an attempt to move away from this, we should not succumb to poor scholarship, or to being swayed by trick shots that look impressive but have no practical purpose.
Lars’ skill with a bow is obvious, and so I don’t feel I really need to talk about it further, and I’ll look at the claims he makes in his video from a more critical standpoint. Read more
One of the questions that frequently arises is “did longswords get longer in the 16th century”. This question is often asked on forums, and similarly the assumption that this is the case is also often stated. It is often easy to think of some particularly large 16th century swords, however it is worth to remembering that lots of swords from the 16th century were also relatively short, and even if some swords were longer in the 16th century, this does not mean that all swords were longer. On the other hand, it was also possible that the assertion that longswords were on average in the 16th century than earlier longswords was accurate. As I was not really sure about this myself, something that I thought would be worth doing would be carrying out basic statistical analysis on sword lengths from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, and seeing to what degree sword lengths changed.
Alen Lovric has a rather helpful list of antique longswords with known lengths and weights on HEMA Reviews. Alen’s criteria were that:
“a) they have at least the weight, length and total length listed
b) they are not so corroded as to change their handling properties
c) they do not seem to have been tampered with in the 19th/20th century
d) they are pre-17th century
e) they are shorter than 145cm (taking into account manuscripts that say a sword should be up to a man’s armpits – 145 would be an appropriate longsword for a big man)
f) they are not federschwerter”
The criteria that the swords should be shorter than 145 cm could skew results, and if swords larger than this were included in the sample, then the average length of 16th century swords might have increased. However, if we want to distinguish between longswords and true two handed swords, in order to focus on longswords that are perhaps more typical and more commonly seen in the Fechtbücher, then a line must be drawn somewhere about what swords will and won’t be included within the sample.
This gives us a sample of 70 longswords, 15 of which were dated to the 14th century or earlier, 18 of which to the 15th century, 33 to the 16th century, and 4 could not be dated. I ignored the 4 that could not be dated, leaving us with a sample of 66 longswords.
Sometimes people find it very difficult to get into the habit of wearing safety gear, and come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses not to wear it when training or when sparring. However, it is important to wear the appropriate safety gear for the activity, and if the activity is more intense and more dangerous, then a greater level of safety gear is necessary.
This article intends to address various common issues that practitioners face when trying to get used to new protective gear, and to suggest some “best practices”.
This week I thought I would kick off the year with a risk, I decided to purchase a sword from a brand not normally used in the HEMA world and see how it handled then give a review of it. As I am not a longsworder any more I decided to choose one of the arming swords. If you have followed my Scottish sword project you will know I have an affinity towards hexagonal or octagonal pommels and so I selected the 13th Century Crusader sword from Depeeka to be my test subject. With an RRP of 120EUR (£95 or $140), without shipping costs, the sword is very much in the entry-level steel category as such I won’t be judging it on Albion standards but rather in the category with swords such as Hanwei’s practical series.
Read on to see my thoughts on the Depeeka’s 13th Century Crusader Sword from Battlemerchant.
In my last post, Some more thoughts on double hits, I suggested that some behaviours (such as causing a double hit rather than parrying an incoming attack) are more likely to be a problem in modern sportive sparring than would have been the case historically in an unarmoured fight with sharp swords, and that some rules, such as the right of way from classical or Olympic fencing can be used to encourage behaviours that we want to see.
There are a lot of ways that rule sets can be used to encourage behaviours or skills that you want to see the competitors make use of. For example, if a rapier tournament is dominated by people using sabre techniques, then you could either only award points for thrusts, or awards more points for thrusts than cuts. This would not mean that cuts with a rapier are invalid, merely that you want to motivate people to thrust more. Alternatively rule sets which do not award points to the hands or arms, or rule sets which award more points for a hit to the head or torso than for a hit to the hands, can encourage people to attack deeper targets rather than hand sniping, if you are trying to reduce the amount of people who deliberately hand-snipe during a tournament.
These are very simple examples, but it must be held in mind that rule sets will encourage certain behaviours.
One of the biggest problems I think that several HEMA rule sets have faced is the idea of simulating a real fight. There are however many reasons why this cannot really be done. In tournaments fighters who have never seen a real sword fight use safety equipment and weapon trainers that would not have been used in a real fight, and this of course will create a set of psychological circumstances that would not have existed in a real fight. Wounds caused by sharp weapons can also be unpredictable, and a rule set that accurately simulated a real fight would somehow need to take account of the fact that a given technique could potentially end a fight immediately, or allow the opponent to survive and continue fighting and possibly even win the engagement. Then there’s the problem of what type of real fight are we simulating? What do we even mean by a real fight? Do we mean an engagement on a battlefield, a judicial duel, an informal duel, a brawl in the streets? All these situations will have a different context and social rules that could affect how a fight plays out. Read more