Back in the Modem age of the internet, I found a digitized version of George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defense — a manual on swordplay (and axeplay, and staffplay, and spearplay, and so on) that argued strenuously against the rapier and in favor of the “traditional” weapons of England, which ranged from shortsword to pike, and included battle axes, billhooks, greatwords, and everything in between. In fact Silver also discussed the merits of the “longsword” or rapier but considered it overly offensive, at the cost of defense. He even challenged an Italian fencing master to a duel (using the short sword, halberd, greatsword, etc.) and was apparently ignored.
It’s not clear to me whether Silver was decrying the loss of the old martial arts using weapons he preferred or if he merely saw a loss of business with all those Italian and Spanish and French fencing masters and their newfangled fighting schools. But After reading some of Silver I began to be interested in finding more of the old fighting manuals (many are German and so called fechtbuchs). You can find books with all kinds of instructions, and while there is also a bit of a renaissance of interest in them among people who want to revive or at least preserve these European martial arts, I find the books terribly hard going and I just can’t justify the effort it would take to understand them. Still, the pictures are awesome.
And here’s a couple of interesting diagrams from an Italian fencing manual… look like they could be acupuncture charts or magical diagrams or both.
A fantastic German fecthbuch is digitized here — entirely hand drawn, and colored, and in manuscript. There are some 600 pages…
A few images:
Those are some far out spiked shields. But I’ve seen this sort of thing in many, many places. Hackenschild.
Thanks to Bibliodyssey for finding this!
There are some other Fechtbuchs online at The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts’ resources page.
Apparently most are restricted access but with the titles and authors in hand, you can actually find many other versions, selections, and plates from them online.