Guy's Blog

Guy frequently keeps this blog updated with thoughts, challenges, interviews and more!

Three things I had to share

I don't normally use my blog to spread other people's work or ideas; that's not what it's for. But every now and then I come across some things that are too cool, interesting, or important, to keep to myself.

Treatises available free online:

note, the speech bubbles are not in the original ms…

My friend Jaakko Tahkokallio is head of the special collection at the Helsinki National Library, and they have recently digitised their small but important collection of fencing treatises. You can find them here:

Yes, the site is in Finnish (doh! it's a Finnish site!) but you should have no trouble clicking on images.


Sharpness and sharpening:

Image from the Science of Sharp blog.

Secondly, I have been fascinated by sharpness and sharpening my whole life. Shiny sharp steel… oh my. If you don't know much about sharpening, the best book by far (though aimed at woodworkers) is Ron Hock's fabulous ‘The Perfect Edge‘. One of the things I love about the book is that he includes magnified images of the edges produced by various sharpening processes. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then you should also check out this blog: The Science of Sharp (from which I borrowed the image above).

Seriously geeky sharpening fun, which dispels many sharpening myths.


Benevolent Sexism:

This article, Benevolent Sexism & Chivalry: Tales From A Modern Medieval Warrior Woman, by Marie Vibbert tells the fascinating but awful story of how she got into armoured fighting in the SCA, and why she eventually quit.

It's not my place to tell the SCA what to do, but I think that every HMA instructor ought to read this, because it details the pitfalls of treating all fighters the same. It seems like a good and fair approach, but the results are anything but. Kaja Sadowski discusses the same problem from a different perspective in her fantabulous book Fear is the Mind Killer, which you must buy and read if you haven't already.


I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

2 Responses

  1. When I started SCA heavy fighting, my experience was quite different. The guys all wanted to help and they did. We worked out how to make armour fit, and they were happy to help me train in the unstructured way they themselves did. No one really knew what they were doing in our corner of the world, so size and strength was a good predictor of success. I wasn’t going to win much being 5’2″ and not that strong but I had fun and certainly felt included.

    A motorcycle crash messed up my right shoulder and put paid to rattan combat for a while… A few years and a thousand km or so later I got into fencing. I found a fencing master to train with, and discovered manuals and generally had a very different experience.

    What I really noticed with fencing was that men were happy to train with me and teach me but they didn’t realise that different bodies moved differently. I am short and wide and have short arms, a low centre of gravity and large breasts. So I move and manage very differently to a taller wider shouldered longer armed man with a flat chest. (parry of fourth? Let me show you the difference!). My fencing master understood (after all that’s what the qualification means!) but the SCA guys I was working with didn’t at first. After all they knew what worked for them but not for someone who wasn’t them. The manuals were about men, and so worked for the guys but not so much for me.

    Some guys picked up on how body shape made a difference quickly, some had to be bludgeoned a bit. But as time went by and we all got better at this swordfighting thing we understood a lot more about the mechanics and the differences body shape makes.

    I still have trouble with some things from manuals because they all assume similar reach and height. But it is possible to adapt. Just like I have to adapt what I do when teaching someone taller than I am.

    One of my fencing partners is a man not that much taller than I am. Another is well over 6 foot. We had to learn the differences in movement and technique else no one would have any fun. I’ve met both women and men who have trouble with hitting people. And ones who don’t. The key is to look at each human being and work out what works for them and how to get them to the point of having fun doing this.

    SCA heavy does tend to have a bit of a macho problem, hardly surprising. People tell me longsword tourneys do too. And I’ve met HEMA clubs with that problem. But it isn’t compulsory in the SCA or anywhere else. Just hard to change….

    1. Thanks for your detailed response and for sharing your experience. I quite agree that a professional coach ought to be able to adapt what their teaching to the specific body type of the student.

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