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

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German longsword

In July I flew to Kansas to shoot video with Jessica Finley. I originally intended to just get the material for my medieval Italian wrestling course, but when I saw this amazing mural on Jessica's salle wall, I was hit by a really good idea- why not use this memory-tree of the 12 hauptstucke (“chief pieces of the art”) as a course plan?

12 hauptstucke mural

Jessica is one of my oldest sword friends, and a highly respected colleague. We first met at a Western Martial Arts workshop event in about 2007. She was my first choice for a podcast guest (and has been back on the show twice since then). She started out as Christian Tobler’s student, and used the training he gave her to develop her own areas of expertise, notably in medieval German wrestling. She wrote the book Medieval Wrestling, published in 2014, which was one good reason why I shot my own medieval wrestling course with her. And she has her own way of organising and interpreting Liechtenauer’s longsword material, based on Liechtenauer’s own categorisation of the hauptstucke.

You can find the course here:

It's currently 40% off, until Friday 10th November.
We have quite different teaching styles, as you can see in this video where she teaches the guard Ochs:

I think it’s important to expose your students to other instructors, and this is no less true in online courses as it is in person. When I ran my school in Helsinki, we averaged 3-4 visiting instructors per year.
But there is a very small overlap between the quite large group of instructors whom I would deem worthy to teach my students, and the much smaller group who have the skills to produce a course like Medieval German Longsword: the Hauptstucke of Johannes Liechtenauer. To be clear- Jessica herself doesn’t have the technical background to produce a course either (though she is solidly in the first group, and indeed taught a seminar for my students in Helsinki in 2015). But I do, and we had the time, the space, and the very clearly organised system that you need for producing a course, when I was over in Kansas in July this year.
My part in this course includes directing, producing, editing, and providing the Fiore perspective in each section, so the course itself is very much a collaboration. But every bit of Liechtenauer interpretation is 100% Jessica.
Here’s the next video in the sequence: Thrusting from Ochs and Pflug:

And yes! the launch window is closing, so if you’d like to get 40% off the course, you can do so with this link:
The discount expires on November 10th. Tell your friends!
See you on the course!

This post is intended to be useful to the attendees at the recent seminar I taught with Chris Vanslambrouck in Madison, Wisconsin. It may also be of interest to folk who couldn't make it.

First up, huge thanks to Heidi Zimmerman who organised the seminar. It literally couldn’t have happened without her. And thanks also to Chris Vanslambrouck, who co-taught the seminar, with related plays from Meyer. Given that there was also a lot of Meyer technique being taught that weekend, it’s a miracle we covered so much ground, so hats off to the students. I’ve assembled a list of the material we covered, some planned, some answers to questions posed by the students.

Saturday: Fiore Longsword

We started with the most  basic blows, and saw how they created the guards.

The blows were:

  • Mandritto fendente
  • Roverso fendente
  • Mandritto sottano
  • Roverso sottano
  • Thrust

You can find a more complete version of the drill we used here:

And the guards they created were:

  • Posta di donna destra,
  • Posta di donna lasinestra,
  • Posta longa,
  • Tutta porta di ferro,
  • Dente di zenghiaro, coda longa

You can find all the guards here:

We then did a parry and strike from donna, against the mandritto fendente, and a parry and strike from dente di zenghiaro, against the same blow. The latter is the beginning of our Second Drill:


This lead us to the universal counter-remedy: the pommel strike (as shown in the 8th play of the master of coda longa on horseback).

We then defended against thrusts with the Exchange of thrusts:

Then Breaking the thrust:

In the afternoon session we covered the rear-weighted guards (donna and fenestra), and briefly went over the 3 turns (volta stabile, meza volta, tutta volta), and the four steps (accrescere/discrescere; passare/tornare).

We then did a not-very-deep mechanical dive into the guard bicorno, including how to use it to prevent an exchange, and as a feint. This included an introduction to the woman in the window drill:


We finished up our survey with the 4 corners drill:

All of this material can be found in book form in The Medieval Longsword, as an online course here.

The following day, Sunday, we did a pretty thorough overview of Capoferro's rapier. We began with basic footwork:

  • passes,
  • lunge,
  • step,
  • lean

Which you can find here:

Then played Hunt the debole (to get an idea of what the sword is supposed to be doing- keeping you safe!).

We then worked through Plate 7 (stringer on the inside, thrust through the left eye):


And plate 16 (stringer on the outside, thrust to the neck):

Plate 8 (slip the leg)

Plate 10 (enter against the cut),

Plate 13 (the scannatura)

And plates 17 and/or 19, the avoidances of the right foot or waist:

We also did a pretty deep dive on the mechanics of the lunge. We didn't video the Madison seminar, but I covered the lunge in a similar way in this seminar:


We also looked at the mechanics of passing, specifically the difference between the passing foot pointing forwards or out to the side.

Then we constructed a mechanically sound seconda position, starting from first principles. I covered this in a blog post, here: Function First, then Form

We then went through my system for teaching students the basic skill of parrying with the dagger, in four stages. You can find the four stages on this wiki page:

And we then applied those skills in executing Plate 23:

And then had a look at murdering left-handers in Plate 38:

All of this rapier material is covered in the Complete Rapier Workbook, and in the new Duellist’s Companion 2nd edition. If you prefer an online course, you can find it here:

Thanks again to the lovely Heidi for organising it, Chris for introducing us all to Meyer, and to the most excellent students.

Don't tell anyone I said this, but there's more to life than swords. Pens are important too. As are chisels, saws, planes…

Pencil Box in Brown Oak, Maple, Cherry, Walnut, and Resin

On my recent trip to the USA I was sitting in my friend Heidi Zimmerman’s garden when she dropped a truth bomb on my head. We have been close friends for a long time, but she doesn’t have anything I’ve made in her house. This unacceptable state of affairs had to be rectified, and we settled on a pencil box. I had complete artistic freedom, it just had to hold pencils. Oh, and a sliding top, not hinged. I’ve never made one before so I bashed out this in plywood:

It’s just butt-jointed and glued, nothing fancy. But it gave me the dimensions, and an idea about order of operations. I made the box out of brown oak (because I have tons of it. Literally. A dead tree in our garden had to come down and I had it sawn into planks, the thinner of which are about ready to be used).  I used lap dovetails at one end, and through dovetails at the other, just because. I decided to make it long enough to have a section for sharpeners and rubbers.


I chose a scrap of walnut for the divider because it had an ombre effect, light to dark, that I thought might tie the dark sides to the light base.

The base was a piece of maple I’ve had lying around for about five years, too small for most projects, but too nice to throw away. It was way too thick though, so I decided to leave it full thickness, and carve feet out of it when the box was assembled. Using such a pale wood should make the inside of the box lighter, making it easier to see what’s inside. 

The sliding top came from a leftover bit of cherry that I had used for experimenting with resin. I like the idea of a translucent window into the box.

I have no idea how long it all took- I did everything by hand (including sawing to thickness, stock preparation, etc.) because that’s more fun than firing up the machines. The only exception was the grooves for the lid and the base. I didn’t have the right size blade for my plough plane, and didn’t want to grind one to fit, so I slummed it with the router. I think it turned out ok!


Pen Tray in Pine, Brown Oak, and Leather

A while ago the philosopher and swordsman Damon Young (prof, dr, etc. Also guest on my podcast) posted a photo on Twitbook of his pen drawer. A small drawer in his writing desk with his pens in it:

They looked very sad in that crappy cardboard tray, and I couldn’t help but share a photo of mine:

But not being a total arse, I softened the sting by offering to make Damon a proper pen tray. He’s in Tasmania, and I’m in the UK, but all I needed was an accurately cut template of the inside of the drawer, and it should slide right in. Prof. Dr. Young is an accomplished writer and philosopher, but not a craftsman, as the template rudely attested. A bit gappy sir! In fact, as gappy as the plot in most Marvel movies. But I made some educated guesses, and made this:

It’s pine, with grooves routed out, spaces for the drawer handle screws (which are in huge saucers for some reason), covered in goatskin and edged in brown oak. The edges are just pinned on so if the insert was a bit too big, they could be easily popped off. The whole thing took maybe two hours, not including waiting an hour for the glue holding the leather down to go off. I posted it off to the far side of the world, and turns out if fits ok!

Now I really should get on and make the next bookcase…

Who doesn’t love Fiore’s art of arms? I mean really, it’s got everything. If you’re into medieval stuff, it’s the best-documented knightly sword, with source manuscripts dating back to the late 14th century. If you’re into any kind of unarmoured fencing, this system lays down the eternal fundamental rule: parry and strike. Then takes that idea and riffs on it with exchanges, breaks, and some very cool tricks.

I’ve been working with Fiore dei Liberi’s art of arms since first coming across a dodgy photocopy of the Pisani Dossi manuscript in the early nineties, and have been developing my interpretation and teaching classes regularly in the system since 2001. I've encapsulated my understanding and teaching method in The Complete Medieval Longsword Course.

This course bundle includes:

  • The Medieval Longsword Complete Course
  • The Medieval Dagger Course
  • Fundamentals: Footwork Course

The Longsword course is organised into nine main sections.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Basic Striking
  3. Basic Defences
  4. Counter-Remedies
  5. How to Strike
  6. The Cutting Drill, Complete
  7. Introducing Complexity
  8. Fiore’s Longsword Plays
  9. Advanced Training

The Medieval Dagger Course comprises:

  1. Foundations: theory, footwork, falling
  2. Basics: Dagger handling and joint locks
  3. The System Overview
  4. Other lines of attack
  5. The Dagger Disarm Flowdrill
  6. Completing the Base

Fundamentals: Footwork includes:

  1. Safety
  2. Grounding
  3. Controlling Measure
  4. Longsword module
  5. Rapier module
  6. Sword and Buckler module
  7. Bonus material

Together this bundle costs $600 (plus sales tax if you live in the EU). For the next week only, you can get 50% off the bundle price, so it will cost just $300 (or $60/month for five months). Just use this link:

All my courses come with a 30-day money back guarantee. If you buy it but find it’s not for you, then just let me know and I’ll refund you with a couple of mouse clicks.
But I'm confident you'll love it. Why? Because so far less than one student in 400 has asked for a refund, and we get testimonials like this one from Jason:

I was living in a historical martial arts desert during the pandemic, so I started with Swordschool's free introductory class for longsword and was immediately hooked. Guy provided clear instruction with video demonstration. I was able to run a small Fiore study group working through the materials here to jump start me into using the manuscripts themselves. Guy provided that necessary bridge that I needed to into being able to interpret and work through the material first hand. And best of all, he was only an email away if I had questions. I would absolutely recommend these courses to anyone who needs a historical martial arts starting point, especially if you are trying to enter into this world of swordsmanship on your own or to challenge your interpretation of your own art or to try a new historical form. – Jason James

Interested? here's the link:



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