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. 


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