Sword AND BUCKLER

Sword and buckler fencing is one of the most lon­gest used medie­val fencing sty­les. The one-han­ded arming sword (also cal­led knight­ly sword) and a buckler was pro­bably the most com­mon­ly car­ried medie­val wea­pon set used by both civi­lians and sol­diers ali­ke and was in use from at least 12th cen­tu­ry well into 16th century.

Accor­ding to his­to­rical sources the sword and buckler was used in judicial duels, in
unsanc­tio­ned figh­ting on the streets and as a sidearm set for com­mon sol­diers like the famous english
long­bow­men. Sword and buckler fencing was also a popu­lar pas­ti­me and seve­ral schools of fencing were
teac­hing the­se wea­pons. At one time in Lon­don sword and buckler fencing and tes­ting your skills against
other fencers, was so popu­lar amongst the young men that the King had to limit the num­ber of fencing
schools and enact laws to limit fencing amongst the­se so-cal­led ”swash­bucklers”.

I.33 / 01-00033
Manusc­ript illustra­tion of two men fencing with sword and buckler. From the ‘Tower Fecht­buch’. Ger­man, late 13th cen­tu­ry
Copy­right: The Board of Trus­tees of the Armou­ries
Roy­al Armou­ries Museum, Leeds LS10 1LT
Digi­tal Pho­to­graph Di 2005-246
Has­selblad 555ELD / Imacon digi­tal back

The arming sword is a ver­sa­ti­le and fast wea­pon with a bla­de 60 to 80 cen­ti­me­ters long and equal­ly sui­ted
for both cut­ting and thrus­ting. The sword weights around one kilo. The buckler is a small shield held in
fist with typical dia­me­ter from 20 to 40 cen­ti­me­ters and weight of one kilo or less. Bucklers were
his­to­rical­ly made from eit­her steel or wood and leat­her with metal boss.

Our main source for sword and buckler fencing is the Roy­al Armou­ries Manusc­ript I.33. This manusc­ript, crea­ted in Franco­nia some­ti­me between 1275 and 1320, is the ear­liest known sur­vi­ving Euro­pean com­bat manual and one of the oldest sur­vi­ving mar­tial arts manuals dea­ling with armed com­bat worldwi­de. The aut­hor of the source is an unk­nown church­man cal­led the Priest and in the manusc­ript he is shown teac­hing his pupils, clients and a fas­hio­nably dres­sed lady named Wal­pur­gis. The manusc­ript desc­ri­bes a unique sys­tem of unar­mou­red fencing this fasci­na­ting set of wea­pons with a varie­ty of dif­fe­rent tech­niques ran­ging from let­hal thrusts and cuts to punc­hing with a buckler, disar­ming the oppo­nent and
grappling.

I.33 / 01-00033
Manusc­ript illustra­tion of two men fencing with sword and buckler. From the ‘Tower Fecht­buch’. Ger­man, late 13th cen­tu­ry
Copy­right: The Board of Trus­tees of the Armou­ries
Roy­al Armou­ries Museum, Leeds LS10 1LT
Digi­tal Pho­to­graph Di 2005-289
Has­selblad 555ELD / Imacon digi­tal back

Other sword and buckler sources from 14th and 15th cen­tu­ry like Andrei Lig­nitzer plays from Danzig fecht­buch (1452) and Hans Tal­hof­fer plays from his 1443, 1459 and 1467 edi­tions are some­ti­mes used to aug­ment our pri­ma­ry source.