Unsheathing the Sword: Fencing between civilian and military contexts in Late Medieval Europe

In this lecture I discuss “Blossfechten” vs. “Harnischfechten”, meaning unarmored vs. armored fencing. In the German language manuals, these are clearly delineated as such, and there is a related issue of some parts of the manuals being more for sport (schule / schimpf-fechten), and others more for war (ernstfechten). Many people in the HEMA world assume that only the “Harnichfechten” techniques, which are about half-swording, grappling, striking with the pommel or the cross and so on, are the “real” fighting techniques, (because in war people wore armor) and therefore “Blossfechten” is just for sport or duels. I’m trying to point out here that partial armor was very common both on the battlefield and in a ‘paramilitary’ context, and therefore “Blossfechten” techniques (cutting as well as thrusting, fencing with the sword quickly and nimbly) are probably applicable. My focus in most of my lectures for the HEMA community has been on the context of the manuals and how people really fought.

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