Skip to main content

Book review: The Medieval Longsword, Guy Windsor

"Do you like swords? Do you want to know how to use them? Then this book is for you. With a foreword by historical novelist Christian Cameron, in this book renowned swordsman and author Guy Windsor will take you through the principles and practice of medieval knightly combat with the longsword."

I'd just like to say at the outset that I don't just read Guy Windsor books. That this, my second recent book review, happens to be another Guy Windsor book is co-incidence and it just happens that the last two books I've felt were noteworthy enough to put a few lines on the blog have been his. That said I feel like this book is everything that I felt his "swordfighting" book is not. If I was a "writer, game designer or martial artists" this is the book I would hand them.

First at $8.29 I feel that this book this ridiculously cheap. That's a fact. However, if this sets the bar for future HEMA publications I wouldn't argue...

Now I must also say that when I first read this book I was very disappointed. I was disappointed because I felt like someone had written the book that I'd always felt should be written about a historical system, that'd I'd always secretly imagined I'd would one day write and here someone had gone and got there first. Then I got over that. Now I feel gladdened that someone has set the bar on what an introduction to a historical fencing should look like. No one can write an "introduction" book again like they used to be written. Thanks Guy Windsor.

Why? Because he walks the tightrope between the yin and yang of HEMA publications better than anyone I've yet read:
  • Most importantly he's an artist as Aristotle would have understood it: he appears to be driven from understanding the "why" of his material not the "how", this shows either from the well thought out mechanics or from the convincing interpretation of the techniques: this is not a simple translation of the original treatise nor is this an attempt to shoe horn a modern interpretation into medieval shoes but an genuine introduction and attempt to explain the foundations of a treatise. 
  • His method is often as interesting as the content, his examples of how to improve your practice through feedback loops is very interesting. 
  • His writing style is very good: concise but also thorough, it seems that everything he touches upon is meaningful without being verbose. I found this text extremely accessible and would imagine most beginners would also. 
  • It doesn't feel like he's got an agenda: he's doesn't seem like he's selling his super special school or seminar where for only $xxx you can learn the ultimate mysteries of the sword. Neither does he particularly feel like he's selling himself as the "ultimate HEMA swordsman." It's particularly noteworthy that he respectfully mentions other interpretations or opinions that he doesn't agree with, allowing students the opportunity to discover more themselves.  
So all up this is a two thumbs up. On a personal level I'm quite glad to have learned more about Fiore, something I should have done a long time ago.

Footnote: though he doesn't credit it in his bibliography it's seems obvious from his use of language and ideas that The Book of Martial Power has formed a key influence on Guy Windsor. I would suggest reading this as a compliment to Guy's books. 


Popular posts from this blog

Kit mod: heavy sparring glove 2

This is a follow on to heavy sparring gloves and SPES arm protectors.

Finally: a pretty good HEMA glove.

Essentially I've created this final stage by removing the cuff from the gauntlet and attaching Velcro so the SPES arm & elbow protection attaches to the gauntlet. The Velcro attaches under the lip of the arm protection providing a solid join between the pieces.

My photography is lame but I hope you get the idea:

Good protection.

I would say that this setup has good protection from injury from sparring blows from fingers to elbow. Against full force blows it takes it down from injury to some mild discomfort and possibly light bruising, against moderate blows you feel some pressure with no discomfort. The fingers are where I've invested the heaviest protection but there is still some room for improvement.

Light weight

Because the weight is distributed along the length of the arm rather than at the wrist/hands end and because they can fit quite tightly to your body they seem…

Halberd Waster

Several times through my historical martial arts career I've got it into my head that I'd like to do halberd. However, the issues with a suitable waster have tended to put me off, specifically creating anything that can be used at something approaching full intention. The issue is that if you make the head from the usual materials (steel, aluminium, wood, leather etc) you have to exercise extreme caution at very slow speed because all you've made is a giant heavy mace on the end of a 6ft lever.

Recently I was working on making foam swords for another side project and while doing this it occurred to me that foam was the obvious solution to the halberd head issue. Pretty quickly I developed this simple waster.

The head is cut from EVA foam matting. This material is importantly both ultra light and pretty robust. To get a good strength I cut two head shapes out and stuck them together. The bracket to attach the head to the pole is just PVC piping with a slot cut into it for th…

Absolutely no absolutes

The more I study and learn of historical fighting, and the more I teach, the more I become careful in throwing around "absolutes" in terms of technique. I find that to say that something is "wrong" is a sub-optimal way of thinking about fencing that hinders development. Rather I like to highlight that everything is situational, i.e. with a proper understanding of the principles of fencing that there is often a time and a place where a particular technique is optimal and that you should not completely discount anything.

For example:

(and I'd like to make it clear that I'm not being negative on these examples, I liked and remembered both these videos I'm just using them to illustrate a pedagogical mindset.)

In this interesting video, the view is put forward that you should cut and step at the same pace to ensure that your hand and body land together. This is so that you cut with maximum strength and for reasons of balance.  The idea of not stepping and cu…