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May the Fourth be with you

If I had to identify a single moment where I became irreversibly a Star Wars fan, it was when Luke Skywalker use the plank he was supposed to walk off on Jabba's barge as a springboard for a somersault, while R2D2 shoots his lightsaber into the air for him to catch. The closest thing we have in the historical record to a lightsaber is a longsword, and while I had all sorts of perfectly rational reasons for making longsword my primary focus, really, it's because it's a lightsaber that hasn't been turned on yet.

So there you have it. It's probably true to say that without Star Wars there'd be no Swordschool.

I've written reviews in the past about various Star Wars films: most notably The Force Awakens and have given  some thought to the new franchise. It's a very long way though from Jedi magic to serious scholarship on historical fencing manuscripts. What tends to happen is that the gleeful zeal which these texts light up in us sword nuts gets ground down by the nitty-gritty serious work of approaching centuries-old documents and teasing their meanings out of them in an academically supportable way.

What I have tried to do with my new book is keep hold of that child-like enthusiasm, because frankly, it's what we're all in this for. I think there is really no need for the defensive use of detached academese. So long as every assertion of fact is supported by evidence, and every unsupported opinion is flagged up as such, there's no advantage to be gained from writing a book about the specifics of medieval knightly combat in a tone that only a trained academic is comfortable reading.

The first review of the book (by the excellent Vojkan Selakovic, on Goodreads) suggests that the book is working as intended. He wrote:

The book From Medieval Manuscript to Modern Practice: The Longsword Techniques of Fiore Dei Liberi is, from my humble and inevitably limited experience, one of the most relevant books on historical swordsmanship that any practicioner, whether (aspiring) instructor or student can own. Particularly those focusing on Fiore. This was an ”all killer no filler” from Guy, obviously an experienced swordsman but an excellent tutor as well.

The book starts with a welcoming summary of various translations, and insight into the life and historical context of Fiore. Those with a particular fancy for the historical part of historical swordsmanship will be quite pleased and given enough guidelines for further research.

The core of the book itself is the Fiore's early 15th c manuscript Fiore di Battaglia, everyone who picked up this book is probably well acquainted with. However, rather than just a translation (which is by no means a minor task, on the contrary) of the sword plays – this is a proper, in depth analysis. A systematic, meticulous dissecting of Fiore's work.

No matter how slow you advance in this art, and how meticulous you are, unless you have vast experience behind you, interpreting medieval source and trying to ‘bring it to life' in practice will cause problems. There will be gaps in your understanding of this as you stretch your capabilities . The book is there to help you fill out these holes and complete your project. Sometimes, it's a sentence, sometimes a paragraph and sometimes a whole page, but there will be many ”aha” moments, even for those who aren't new to this. Fiore isn't as linear as we are used to in a ‘step by step guideline' era, so hearing from someone who is intimately familiar with all this and who dealt with the same problems we are having, is invaluable. His interpretation of Posta di Bicorno is the illustrative example. Through Guy's work, this book in particular, I've learned to ”read” Fiore in a different way, both the words and the pictures.

In this I applaud to Guy. He didn't invent the wheel with this book, he didn't make a breakthrough discovery, he simply (and I guess it wasn't simple at all) combined all the available knowledge on Fiore in a very digestible, practically useful and applicable form.

I was a bit disappointed when I realised I've reached the end of the book in what seems to have been just a couple of hours. And I really love it when a book makes me feel like that.

We needed this book.

If you don't have it yet, From Medieval Manuscript to Modern Practice: The Longsword Techniques of Fiore dei Liberi can be ordered from your local bookseller (use the isbn: hardback: 978-952-7157-54-1 paperback: 978-952-7157-55-8), if you prefer ebooks you can get it direct from me here, or if your best option is the world’s longest river, you can get it there too. Amazon US, Amazon UK.

As with my Solo course, if you need a copy of the book but can't afford it at the moment, email me and I'll send you a pdf free. No questions asked. These are not easy times for anyone.

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

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