Bringing Encased in Steel to its Conclusion

We opened Encased in Steel on the 17th of February 2011, meaning that the blog has been running and posting on a weekly basis for slightly more than six years. However, we are now going to draw the blog to its conclusion, and will no longer be posting on a regular weekly basis. There may still be some new updates from time to time, but it will not be a regular thing.

We will continue to host the blog, and the better quality articles will remain accessible and free of charge, although we may take down some of the older, less relevant and lower quality articles.

I fully intend to keep writing my own thoughts and articles on my own personal blog, over on my new www.keithfarrell.net website. Again, it may not see regular updates, at least not in the near future, but I will be continuing to write and to make my thoughts on martial arts available to the community.

It has been a pleasure writing for the community over the last six years, and thank you to everyone who has engaged in discussions resulting from our articles. It has helped us come to terms with our own understanding of HEMA and history, and we hope the blog has helped others in their own journey too.

On armoured combat and Battle of the Nations

One of the activities which HEMA practitioners are likely to be exposed to is that of Historic Medieval Battles, or HMB for short, a sport in which people fight each other while wearing full plate armour. The most famous HMB event is Battle of the Nations, or BOTN, and some examples of BOTN matches can be seen here:

Battle of the Nations, 2013, 1 vs 1

Battle of the Nations, 2014, 5 vs 5

Battle of the Nations, 2013, 21 vs 21

As can be seen, this sport involves using the edges of swords and axes to strike armour-clad opponents, the goal being to strike them hard enough that they are knocked down. This type of approach is frequently criticised by HEMA practitioners, who often claim that armoured combat would only have involved the use of the half-sword to thrust at vulnerable targets not covered by armour, and that striking against a man in armour is not historically accurate. As can be seen in the videos above, plate armour is very effective at protecting the wearer from percussive strikes, so focusing on thrusting into areas not protected would seem to make a lot more sense than striking them.

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On speed archery

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[1], 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

Review of Depeeka 13th Century Crusader Sword (Blunt)

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.

13c Crusader Sword w/ scabbard, octagonal pommel, practical

 

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Development of Ghillie Brogue Pattern

This week I will be looking at the development of a pattern for a Scottish Highland style shoe. Before that though I want to apologise for the late posting. WordPress sites have come under a large attack this year and our host implemented a safety measure to protect us which unfortunately activated itself before I could post yesterday and has only just deactivated. We remain commited to our regular Friday posting schedule and will continue to maintain it barring circumstances such as these.

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How to Clean a Steel Training Sword

A slightly rusted blade, that needs some cleaning!

Note: this article does NOT describe a method for taking care of sharp swords; only for blunt training swords.

If you have a blunt steel training sword, then you should take care of it. This is good for your sword, good for your training partners, and it feels good for yourself when you have a shiny clean sword in your hands. Read more

“Interpretive” Systems of HEMA (part 3)

Broadsword and targe in use in a melee (or group combat) scenario, along with combat archery.

This article is continued from part 2 posted yesterday. Today the article provides a set of guidelines and suggestions for how one might approach the issue of recreating an interpretive discipline, to gain as many of the advantages as possible, while minimising the risk of falling foul of the negative aspects as described yesterday.

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“Interpretive” Systems of HEMA (part 2)

An example of German longsword; not an interpretive discipline, and certainly not representative of "Scottish longsword"!

This article is continued from part 1 posted yesterday. Today the article focuses upon the negative side of studying an interpretive discipline – not to put people off the idea, nor to put down the whole idea, but to make practitioners aware of the potential pitfalls and disadvantages of undertaking unstructured and poorly thought out interpretive work.

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“Interpretive” Systems of HEMA (part 1)

An interpretation of some broadsword and targe tactics, where the targe allows the user to perform actions that would otherwise be inadvisable without a shield...

The purpose of this article is to discuss “interpretive” systems of HEMA, and to look at what advantages and disadvantages are associated with such study. For the purposes of this article, the working definition will be as follows:

“interpretive” systems of HEMA

– styles and disciplines of any of the many historical European martial arts where we know that a particular weapon or fighting system was used in history, but where there are no (or very few) sources to describe HOW to do the martial art. Due to the lack of sources for a particular system, HEMAists or enthusiasts who try to reconstruct the system need to be much more interpretive and open to ideas, experimentation or alternative sources of information.

Some examples of interpretive systems would be styles such as Highland broadsword and targe (very few sources), warhammer or mace (virtually no sources), pankration (no comprehensive written source to say HOW it was done), and Viking sword and round shield.

Some examples of styles that involve interpretation work but do not meet the definition above for an interpretive style include Liechtenauer’s longsword (difficult to interpret, but lots of material and sources available), sword and buckler (again, difficult to interpret, but there are sources to describe how to do it), Italian or Spanish rapier styles (maybe confusing and difficult to understand, but lots of sources), and 18th/19th century sabre styles (lots of sources, not very difficult to interpret). If a discipline is supported with a lot of source material to explain how to fight in that fashion, then it tends to be accepted as “normal” or “mostly normal” within the HEMA community, and so this article will not discuss these systems further.

The purpose of this article is not to say that interpretive systems cannot be reconstructed, nor is the purpose to say that such systems should not be reconstructed. This article is not an attempt to pass judgement on what counts as “good” HEMA or “correct” HEMA, since these concepts are very personal and subjective. If this article can help people to think about what disciplines they study, and the advantages and disadvantages inherent in such study, then this article will have achieved its purpose.

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