The Combat System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 by Paul Wagner & Stephen Hand
Medieval Sword and Shield by Wagner & Hand is an interpretation of the fighting system shown in the MS I.33.
Medieval Sword and Shield provides useful context for the I.33 by showing historical techniques recreated by actual people.
Though Medieval Sword and Shield can stand alone, it is designed as a companion volume to The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: A Facsimile & Translation of Europe’s Oldest Personal Combat Treatise, Royal Armouries MS. I.33 by Jeffrey L. Forgeng.
Footwork in Medieval Sword And Shield
Wagner and Hand begin their book with the basics of equipment, stance, and footwork. The section on footwork is particularly noteworthy.
Wagner and Hand fully describe of all the footwork steps that they demonstrate throughout. They accompany their detailed descriptions with pictures. These pictures are of a quality to allow someone to practice and replicate the footwork.
Wagner and Hand’s analysis of footwork is their largest contribution to the study and interpretation of the MS I.33. The historical manual makes no mention of footwork.
Wagner and Hand also include definitions of all of the terms they use for steps, strikes, and body positions that they use throughout the book.
Unfortunately, Wagner and Hand do not replicate the thoroughness with which they examined footwork in the section on equipment and safety.
Wagner and Hand’s give only a brief description of the swords and bucklers they use. There is almost no mention of wood or synthetic training swords and bucklers. Safety equipment is not described beyond a picture of Wagner and Hand in their personal equipment and the advice that “either a basket hilt must be used, or very stout gauntlets worn” to protect the hands.
Though safety equipment can vary widely, safety is the foundation of martial arts that use weapons and should not be treated lightly. If a new student were using this as the soul resource to begin their training, they would be under prepared to undertake their training safely.
Medieval Sword And Shield – Examining the Guards
Medieval Sword and Shield examines each of the wards or guards seen in the MS. I.33. Wagner and Hand organized the guards in their text in the same order that they are in I.33. This organization allows students to easily use Medieval Sword and Shield as a support to the historical text.
Each guard and exchange is accompanied by several photographs allowing the reader to follow the description of the physical action. Unfortunately, quality of the printing limits the usefulness of the pictures. The printing resolution is low and the background clutter makes it harder to distinguish necessary details. There are several times it is difficult to tell the hand orientation or blade position when looking at the pictures.
Wagner and Hand finish their text with short sections describing how to proceed with training. They present a rough outline of when to transfer from drill to sparring and what context that sparring should have in continued training. They also present advice on how to find and evaluate possible instructors.
The section on sparring offers little guidance on exactly how to proceed. It makes no mention of any outside safety concerns, such as establishing a clear and defined sparring area, procedures for indicating when sparing should stop, or whether to have someone serve as a safety marshal.
In addition, Wagner and Hand include a possible lesson plan to use in studying the fencing of the MS. I.33. This lesson plan is too brief to be of much use to a new student. It may be of interest to an instructor looking for structure to use for expanding or refining their existing curriculum.
The final appendix of Medieval Sword and Shield discusses how to find and select a qualified instructor. Though many of the points are valid, if somewhat vague, they may be asking for assessments that a newcomer to martial arts or historical swordsmanship may not have the context to evaluate.
Medieval Sword and Shield is a solid text best suited for use by instructors or experienced students to continue developing their skills. The biggest limitations of the text are the low quality of the printing of the photographs and the glaring omission of comprehensive descriptions of safety procedures and training equipment.