Guy's Blog

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

Category: Books and Writing

Good writing advice often includes ‘get rid of all unnecessary words'. The awesome Zinsser says as much in his must-read On Writing Well, and he's right. But one can go too far.

Why is it that editors these days, especially the ones that live in your own head, want to pare everything down to the barest possible minimum? Imagine this:

“A rippling shade of spotted fur prowled across the Throne Room floor, towards where the Maharajah was ensconced in royal splendour. A fat, slack-jawed man, with the petulance that comes from having every whim obeyed since birth, and the ruthlessness needed to get and keep a throne in these troubled times. The leopard padded silently to her accustomed place. No bare stone floor for this pampered favourite, no. A dozen artisans had slaved a year to make the carpet that she would lie on. A delicate pattern, pleasing to man and the Gods, woven in silken reds and blues. Arriving, the leopard, muscles undulating under the glossy pelt, turned around once, twice, and then settled her haunches down. Head high, she surveyed the room, the courtiers and servants, silks and cottons, all falling beneath her gaze. The light streaming in from the high filigreed windows caught at a jewel on her collar, any one of which could grace a crown.”

If we follow that advice to the letter, we would end up with this:

The cat sat on the mat.

Really. Pare everything away, and you end up with what, exactly? A shopping list? An email to someone you don’t like enough to describe stuff to?

Call me prolix if you will, overblown even, but really, people don’t go visit the Louvre for its pared-back modern architecture. They go for the bling.

I'm back from an excellent trip to the USA, to speak at the Hero Round Table conference in Michigan. I'll write up that event properly when they have uploaded my talk to Youtube; the whole thing was live-streamed, so you may have seen it already.

I don't dare watch it.

This weekend I'm dashing off again, to Ireland, to attend the ISHC event near Shannon. The event page is Facebook only, so apologies for my FB-free readers.

I'm cracking on with editing volume 2 of my new Rapier Workbook series. The videos are now all edited, done and dusted, and I'm about to send the text off to the editor.

I ran a poll, as you may recall, to find out what my readers actually want: the choice was: pay extra for good printing and more expensive shipping, pay less for cheaper printing and distribution, or buy the print files. Here's how that worked out:

I'll be very interested to see whether 55% of sales are actually for the print files. There's usually quite a lot of discrepancy between what people *say* they want and what they'll actually buy. (And that's fine, normal, I do it too.)

Volume 1 is available to buy in best-print-damn-the-shipping from here

And if you prefer to print it yourself, you can buy the print files from here.

See you in Ireland?

Right-handed layout. The QR code works, btw.

I received the print proof of the new rapier workbook, and it looks great. The paper quality is much better than at Lulu (the other printing option), and the printing itself is excellent. I have put in the order for a limited print run, which will be distributed by Fallen Rook Press. That's for the Right-Handed version only; there was a slight issue with the Left-Handed cover file, so that will come about a week later, all being well. You can still pre-order the left-handed version, of course.

For my long-distance readers, what makes most sense to you:

  1. Paying the horrid shipping costs to get the ‘proper' version of the book
  2. Sacrificing some print quality for cheaper distribution (eg through Lulu)
  3. Buying the print files to print at home or locally (so you would be able to order whatever kind of paper, binding etc. that you want).

I've put together a Google form so you can tell me… I'm planning to do 3 anyway, but I need to know whether 2 is worth the extra costs to me (Lulu's margins are terrible, and the lower-quality printing might be disappointing to some readers).

Please share the form with anyone you think might want the workbook!

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to teach swordsmanship through books and videos. It’s not a simple problem, not least because every student is different, and has different needs and preferences. How the material should be ordered and presented, what photos may be needed, how much explanation is sufficient (oddly, more is not usually better — just enough for them to be able to start playing with it is usually much more effective). 

When it comes to organising the material, there are basically two options: the organisation that best suits modern practitioners learning an unfamiliar physical skill, and the organisation that best suits modern historians learning an unfamiliar theoretical construct. For the former, starting with basic motion the student can do, then giving them good practical reasons for modifying them in the direction of the desired style gets the best results. For the latter, an annotated edition of the source text is my preferred approach (such as The Art of Sword Fighting in Earnest). 

When it comes to learning movements, video is of course vastly better than static photographs. Nothing beats in-person instruction, of course. But at least on video your mirror neurones can go crazy copying the feeling of the motion. 

I’m an avid note-taker, to the point that I make my own notebooks because I just can’t get them the way I like any other way. Moleskine? Crap paper. Leuchstemr? They’re ok, maybe, but the layouts are never quite right. A good notebook must lay flat, be made of archival paper that takes fountain-pen ink nicely, be robust enough to throw in a pocket or bag, and so on. At my seminars, I see lots of students taking notes- on their phones, on scraps of paper, even in beautiful leather bound journals with purple ink. 

So I have been thinking about ways of combining the virtues of a notebook, a text book, and video courses, and have come up with a workbook format that has it all.

  • Clear references to the source? Check.
  • Links and QR codes to video clips? Check.
  • Option to download all clips to go train in places with no wifi? Check.
  • Plenty of room to take notes? Check.
  • Left-handers are covered too: every video is shown both ways, and there will be a version of the workbooks that have the space for notes on the left-hand page.

I’m working on the assumption that this format will not work for everyone: some will just prefer proper books, and some just want 100% video. But I think there is a large number of people between those two extremes for whom this will be a game-changer in terms of learning swordsmanship without a formal teacher in the room.

If this seems like a great idea to you, I have a question. How would you like the notes area to be presented? Currently I have left the space completely blank, as that’s what I would prefer. But should it have a box round it? Would you like it lined (for handwriting guides)? If lined, heavy, or light? Spacing?

Tell me your preferences and I can take them into account…

Let me know in the comments below, or by email to

I’m currently working on three different series: Rapier, Armizare, and Fiore’s Longsword. 

The Rapier Series

Book 1: This covers the fundamentals, from holding the sword, footwork, guards, and basic actions. This is now done, in final layout, and I’m looking for a better print on demand solution.

Book 2: Complete the Basics. This is about half-written, and will cover all the basic actions, including passes, voids, feints, and so on.

Book 3: Skill Development. This is about turning your rapier knowledge into fencing skill, and will include a lot of material on coaching practice.

Book 4: Rapier and Dagger. Once you have a solid grounding in single rapier, you really should get your other hand into play…

The Armizare series will approximately follow the first four levels of the Swordschool Basic Syllabus, which includes wrestling and dagger plays as part of teaching the Longsword material. You can see the syllabus here: 

The Fiore’s Longsword series: this will be an annotated interpretation of the Longsword sections of Il Fior di Battaglia, going through the source play by play, with video clips of how I do each action, and detailed discussion of why.

I’m also thinking about doing workbooks on conditioning, and on teaching.

Many years ago, in the tv show Friends, episode “The One with the Princess Leia Fantasy” Rachel persuades Ross to tell him his fantasy (which you can guess from the episode title) by saying “if you tell me, I might do it”.

Of course, it doesn’t quite work out that way for poor Ross, but if there are any elements of the format you’d like me to tweak, change, or add to, now would be a good time to let me know. And if there are any topics you’d like to see workbooks on, feel free to ask… if you ask me, I might write it…

The first workbook is currently uploaded to Lulu, from whence came the printed copy you see in the photos. The layout is not final- the book is being proofread at the moment, and it will be professionally laid out to improve the look, so don’t worry about that at this stage. My concern is the print quality. The paper stock is quite thin (60#, or about 90gsm), and while it seems to take fountain pen ink without too much bleed  through, you can see images from the other side through the paper. See here:

Finding better quality printing is not hard, but I do not want to spend any part of my working day packing and shipping books, so I needed a print-on-demand printer with distribution, that can do a better printing job than Lulu. Lulu do offer better paper, but only with a full colour interior, which is literally ten times more expensive (even if the internal print file is black and white- you still pay for colour). Ingram Spark don’t do spiral bound, and these workbooks must lie flat, so they’re out. Kindle Print don’t have better stock quality than Lulu, so they’re out. Blurb have the same colour-option problem as Lulu.

This has lead me to partner up with Fallen Rook Publishing, run by Keith Farrell. He uses print on demand with distribution too, but he also uses short print runs and distributes books himself. So when this goes live in a couple of weeks, there will be an option to buy the print files from my Gumroad account if you want to faff about printing them at home (or can print it out for free at work), or you can buy the printed books from Fallen Rook. While you’re there, they have a ton of other interesting books you might also want to pick up…

Good news for Vadi fans! The black and white paperback edition of The Art of Sword Fighting in Earnest is now at the printers- I expect to see a proof copy next week- and the ebook edition is now live!

I’ve put together an ebook bundle for you here. This includes the full-colour PDF, as well as the e-reader friendly black and white version (without the facsimile), in EPUB, PDF, and Kindle formats. It is the only place where you can get the colour PDF.

Previous buyers of Veni Vadi Vici (in any format from any platform) can get the bundle for free: just email me and ask for it, and I'll send you a link.

This volume includes a detailed introduction, setting Vadi and his combat style in their historical context, a complete full-colour facsimile of the manuscript, and a detailed commentary from the perspective of the practising martial artist.

You can also get the ebook on your book-shop-website of choice. Except for the pdf which is only available through the bundle, all ebook formats are in black and white, and do not include a facsimile of the manuscript, though they do include a link to a resources page that has the scans.

For Kindle or Hardback, you can try the world's longest river: Amazon US, UK, AU, CA. You can also find it by searching for this product code on any other Amazon site: B07F889KFY

It is also available on Kobo here, and will be on iBooks here.

Not a medieval Italian longsword fan? Fair enough. You might find the pre-release deal for my upcoming Rapier course more interesting…

Remember to share this with your friends!

I am delighted to announce that the National Fencing Museum's copy of Alessandro Senese's rapier treatise from 1660 is now available to download from here. The download includes a zip file of edited jpgs, and a pdf for handy reference. If you need the full-res raw files at 25mb/page, email me and I'll send you a link.

The book is in beautiful condition, and is perfectly legible throughout (assuming you read Italian and Latin). Most of the technical content is in Italian, though there is a long section at the end in Latin with some very interesting illustrations:

I think the text means “figure that shows the theory of wounding the left side of the enemy”, but my Latin is shockingly bad, so don't take my word for it.

This is a wonderful little book- and it's yours to do what you want with. These images come from the photo shoot I did at the museum with Malcolm Fare and James Hester, and are released into the public domain. Note though that the more money they generate through your voluntary donations, the faster we will get the rest of the images we shot edited and out into your waiting hands.

It's here.

Last year my friends at Freelance Academy Press boldly crowdfunded a publishing project: reproducing in facsimile and translation all four of the extant Fiore manuscripts. I supported the campaign, of course, and my copy of the first volume arrived some time ago. Flowers of Battle, Volume 1.

I left it unopened for a couple of months because a) I was scared that it might not live up to expectations and b) I wanted to make sure I had a good chunk of uninterrupted time to go through it.

Oh my. What a book. Greg Mele and Tom Leoni have produced a lasting monument to Fiore, and a fabulous resource for all scholars of our arts.

If you are a Fiore scholar, you simply have to have it. If you study other medieval martial arts, you really should have it. 

Buy it here. Go now, and don’t come back until you’ve bought it. It's only $125, and worth twice that, at least. Eat cheap food and don't drink alcohol for a month and there's your cash.

Welcome back.

The book comprises three sections: Fiore dei Liberi and His World, The Art of Arms, and the facsimile, transcription and translation of the Getty ms.

The first section is a historical tour de force, which includes biographies of Fiore, Niccolo d’Este, and Galeazzo da Mantoa, and detailed discussion of the weapons, armour, clothing, and duelling culture of the time. It’s fantastic; this section alone justifies buying the book.

The next section is an overview of the manuscript, which for me is perhaps the least useful part of this book, but will serve the less experienced very well. Yes, those of you familiar with my interpretations will find some things there that I would disagree with, but so what? It’s a thoughtful and in-depth overview of the manuscript as seen through the eyes of a very experienced practitioner.

The facsimile, translation, and transcription are very good; the translation itself is by Tom Leoni, and it is the cleanest, most accurate published translation out there. You have to have it, even if you can read the Italian. The transcription is helpful to have, though it’s rendered in a font that mimics the handwriting; it’s perfectly clear to read, but it’s not as instantly legible as it might be. I have not checked the entire transcription for accuracy, but the parts I have looked at have been flawless. My biggest quibble would be with the layout.

As you can see, on each page you get the manuscript folio on one side, and the transcription and translation on the other. This makes the entire book easy to refer to, but it interferes with the visual presentation of the manuscript. In these examples, these two pages should both be visible at once, as together they show the ‘five things’ you should know regarding the dagger. I think Fiore was careful about many of the two-page spreads we see in the book, and that element is lost in this edition.

I think the perfect approach is the one taken in the Royal Armouries ms I.33 by Extraordinary Editions: a perfect facsimile in one volume, and a translation and transcription in another, overlaid on the images as you can see:

I think I understand why they did it though, and there are always compromises to be made. Fortunately, you can get a very reasonably-priced bound facsimile of the manuscript to go with this glorious book. But if you don't have Flowers of Battle yet, save your pennies and buy that first. Clear?

There’s one thing that I ought to give you some background on. I am honoured to have been included in the acknowledgments, with the following:

Guy Windsor, for challenging our interpretations and forcing us to rethink them. … victory is not always ours.

Way back when, maybe 2003, Tom Leoni got it into his head that I am the spitting image of Stewie, from Family Guy. And pretty much every time we’ve met he’s asked me to say “Victory is mine!”. 

So this acknowledgment in the book is a continuation of a joke that has been running for about 15 years. I must say though, that when it comes to this book, victory is most certainly theirs. Bravo, gentlemen, bravo.

I get a lot of stuff done, as you have probably noticed. A while ago, a kind soul took a few of my blog posts on time management and my approach to getting stuff done and put them together into a pdf. I was touched, and enjoyed the idea of it, but didn't do anything much about it until last week when I took those articles, and a few more, and formatted them together into a nice little ebook mostly because, as a productive person with good systems in place, I had time on my hands.

You can find the book on my Gumroad shop here and on Amazon here.

It's called Guy on Time.

As the blurb says:

“This short book brings together half a dozen of Guy's articles on productivity, time management, and generally getting shit done. It is short (about 12,000 words) because if you are pressed for time, do you really want a great big doorstop of a book to get through before getting on with your life?

NOTE: you can read all of these articles for free on his blog. But do you have the time to sift through all of the sword-fighting and other stuff on there to find these?”

I hope you find this useful! Though as you're right here on the blog, you could probably go looking for the articles yourself.

Of course,  I could provide a list of links to them, but that would take me time, and save you a pitiful £1.99, so I'm not going to. See how it works? One of the most important things when it comes to time management is to value your own time.

If you are time rich and cash poor, go looking. If you are cash rich and time poor, buy the book. It works either way.

Are there any other topics you'd like my thoughts on? Guy on XYZ? Let me know in the comments…

As you may know I've been working on a second edition of Veni Vadi Vici for several years, as part of my PhD work. I have completely rewritten the book, so much so that it has been re-titled as The Art of Sword Fighting in Earnest.

It is now available to buy in glorious full-colour hardback, which includes a facsimile of the manuscript, a new introduction, and a completely updated translation.

I made the translation available for free on gumroad; if you missed it, it's here.

You can order the hardback from any bookshop, or on Amazon. It's expensive though ($65) because of the whole full-colour hardback thing.

I am working on a black-and-white paperback version which will be about a third the price, and won't have the facsimile built in. Expect that to be out in a few months.

If you have already bought Veni Vadi Vici, then I will be very happy to email you a link to download the 180mb colour pdf file of the new book. I think it's only fair, as the new book was necessary to correct the errors in the first one. You shouldn't have to pay extra to get the corrected text. Just send me an email and I'll send you a download link for the print file. If you have friends that have Veni Vadi Vici please let them know that they can get the new book in pdf for free.

My security-minded friends will be having conniptions at the complete lack of suspiciousness in this approach. Yes, you could email me and lie about having bought Veni Vadi Vici, and I would still send you the pdf. Why? Because:

a) I trust my readers

b) if you need the book that badly and are so hard up you can't buy it and are willing to lie to me to get it, then firstly, you should probably read my book on ethics, but secondly I'd rather you had the book than stewed in horrid ignorance

c) the cost in thought, time, and suspicious-mindedness necessary to create some kind of checking system is not worth the possibility that I might be doing myself out of a few book sales

d) I think it's a good book. People who get the free pdf are more likely to go and buy the book in hardcopy.

At the end of the day, my fans won't cheat me. What my non-fans do doesn't matter.

UPDATE: This book hit #1 on Amazon… in the category “Medieval Literary Criticism”. So what? So it's a really good idea to know what categories to put your book into. It is now, despite having sold perhaps 10 copies, forever and for all time a “Bestseller”.

My book on Vadi's manuscript De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi is available now as The Art of Sword Fighting in Earnest.

As with my first attempt at translating this manuscript I have released the translation for free, under a creative commons attribution 4.0 licence. This means you can do whatever you want with it, provided you give me credit for doing the work.

The rest of the book includes a detailed introduction, a practical commentary, and a glossary.

You can find the translation here:

I'm making it available through my Gumroad account rather than a direct download because that way generous souls can pay something for it if they wish.


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