Frog DNA, Concentric Rings and Old-Fashioned Necromancy: Reconstructing Historical European Swordsmanship

(c) 2014, Gregory D. Mele, Chicago Swordplay Guild Most of the modern WMA community is based, not on living tradition, but rather on reconstruction of martial arts long dead. While these arts survive in detailed written and pictorial form, they were recorded for contemporary, not modern audiences. This means that anyone who finds himself acting […]

Smile And Attack!

In my classes on how to enter a fight, one of the things I teach is to constantly smile. Smiling helps you to relax and remain calm. If you are calm, you can tense up in a controlled manner whenever required, instead of wasting energy and slowing yourself down by being too tense too early […]

In Search of the Rudis

This article was originally posted at It has been re-posted here, with permission from the author, Puck Curtis, with our thanks. ——— Like many of the stories of my life, this one should start with me being a fool.  It was WMAW and assembled there were a collection of instructors trained through Maestro William Gaugler’s […]

Stable, Striking and Mutable: Fighting from the Guards of L’Arte dell’Armizare

“I am the sword and I am lethal against any weapon; lances, axes and dagger are worthless against me. I can become extended or withdrawn; when I get near the opponent I can enter into close play, perform disarms and abrazare. My art is to turn and to bind; I am expert in defense and […]

Memory and Performance: Visual and Rhetorical Strategies of Il Fior di Battaglia

(First presented at the Renaissance Society of America’s Venice conference in 2010. Presented also as part of an academic session followed by an armoured combat demonstration, organized by Dr. Regina Pskai, at the American Association for Italian Studies conference at University of Oregon, 2013) This paper is part of a larger study on medieval and Renaissance martial arts manuscripts, […]

Wide and Close Play in Armizare, the Martial Tradition of Fiore dei Liberi  

Gregory D. Mele, ©2014 [N.B: This article greatly expands and upon an earlier one “Understanding Wide and Close Play in the Martial Tradition of Fiore dei Liberi”, first presented in 2008 and later published with photo interpretations in In the Service of Mars, Proceedings from the Western Martial Arts Workshop (1999 – 2009), Vol. I. In addition to […]

The Elderly Master: Unarmed Techniques from Fabian von Auerswald

by Tim Hall, David Rowe and Bill Grandy – Instructors at the Virginia Academy of Fencing, Historical Swordsmanship Division Fabian von Auerswald was a German Renaissance master of Ringen (wrestling). In 1537, at the age of 75, he completed a beautifully illustrated treatise on wrestling called Ringer kunst: funf und Achtzig Stücke (The Art of […]

From Drills to Free Play: Putting Practice into Practice (Part II)

Bill Grandy, Director of Historical Swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing In Part I of this article we explored a few variations of drills to help develop both tactical proficiency as well as fluidity between actions under pressure. Those drills allowed more dynamism than static drills, and yet they are still a step apart […]

From Drills to Free Play: Putting Practice into Practice (Part I)

Bill Grandy, Director of Historical Swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing So you’re a student of Historical European Martial Arts. You’ve read your historical fencing treatises dozens of times. Your guards are perfect, and you’ve practiced your attacks and counters so often that you could do them asleep. Despite all of your practice, though, […]

Classical Fencing

Scherma Tradizionale Italiana: Traditional Italian Fencing

Traditional Italian Fencing is the late 19th century practice of the foil (a blunted training weapon), the épeé or spada (the dueling sword), and the sabre (a cutting as well as thrusting weapon).  It is the art from which the modern sport of fencing derives.  Today’s practitioners study the traditional art as a means to […]

Fiore dei Liberi

The Role of Filippo Vadi in the dei Liberi Tradition, Pt. II

(c) 2010 Greg Mele, Chicago Swordplay Guild While Filippo Vadi’s De arte gladiatoria dimicandi differs in the main very little from the work of Fiore dei Liberi in terms of technique, the assertion that Vadi’s work does not differ in method of communication is simply incorrect. The true originality of the De arte gladiatoria dimicandi stands in the sixteen introductory […]


The Unorthodox Fighter

A while ago, I was asked the following question: „I.33 and most of the other manuscripts are based on the idea that there will be a meeting of the swords and actions at that bind will determine the victor. How do you deal with an opponent who refuses to bind, using only his buckler to […]


The Origins of European Swordsmanship

A common feature of all historical European sword-fighting, as reflected in medieval and Renaissance combat treatises, is fencing with blade binds. In this refined fighting art, a crossing of swords informs a combatant on appropriate maneuvers, based on pressure feedback sensed through one’s blade. Actually, the concept of going where pressure takes you is, indeed, […]


Italian Rapier Fencing – The Art of the Duel

by Gregory Mele, Chicago Swordplay Guild Rapier fencing was the first truly “civilian” system of fencing, maximized for single combat and meant to be used without either any secondary arms (although their use continued for quite some time) or protective armour. Originating in Italy, rapier fencing spread throughout Europe, where it developed into several unique […]


English Longsword: The Harleian Manuscript

Most period two hand sword texts or fechtbücher of the 14th and 15th centuries were of German or Italian provenance so folios 82 – 85 of Harley ms 3542 provide a rare and welcome  glimpse into a medieval method of English two-hand sword combat. Contained within this work (ff.84v -85r ) is  a well-written verse that hitherto, due to its use of supposed cryptic […]


Jessica Finley Ringen and Langes Messer Seminar Report

On Saturday July 28, Jessica Finley gave a day-long seminar in Ringen and Messer techniques from the German medieval martial arts tradition. The day started with a three hour Ringen course, for which thirteen people attended. Drawing from the techniques of Master Ott, Jessica skillfully led the group through a series of basic exercises leading […]