GW: Before we get into the interview this week, I should mention that we had a raft of technical problems related to the fact that my guest, Dr. Daniel Jaquet’s neighbours were doing renovation work, which meant I had some drilling noises and what have you to edit out. That wasn’t such a problem, but you may find there’s a little bit of background noise here in there, but most critically, they managed to cut the power to his house rather abruptly when we were about 90 minutes into our interview. Now, we did end up getting back on together and trying to re-record something, but unfortunately Daniel was on his phone and it didn’t work at all. The sound quality was just so appallingly bad I couldn’t salvage it. So, this interview ends rather abruptly. But that’s okay because it gives me a golden excuse to invite him back onto the show for a second round, because I’m sure when you got to the end of this one, you’ll be like, oh my God, we have so much more to talk about. So, without further ado, on with the show.
I’m here today with Dr. Daniel Jaquet, who should need no introduction. He has been extremely active in both the academic and practical aspects of medieval combat research for the last couple of decades or more. He is perhaps best known for his work on how well a knight could move in armour. And he has a Ph.D. from Geneva University in medieval history on combat in armour at the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance, based on studying combat manuals. So, he has a Ph.D. in actual, like proper medieval sword fighting stuff, not just general medieval history stuff. He is a founder and co-editor of Acta Periodica Duellatorum, the only academic journal focussing on historical martial arts. And he is perhaps best known for his video demonstrations of climbing walls and ladders, doing flips and even chopping firewood in full armour. So, without further ado, Daniel, welcome to the show.
DJ: Thank you for having me. And thank you for the nice introduction.
GW: Sure. Well, it’s really nice to see you. And I think it’s the first time we’ve had a proper conversation, isn’t it?
DJ: True, we have exchanged by email, but never live.
GW: Right. So, let’s orient everyone to start with. So, whereabouts in the world are you?
DJ: In Switzerland. The French speaking part, in a lovely valley away from any city centre. I’m really happy there.
GW: But don’t tell us which valley or people will come looking for your house with all the swords and the armour.
DJ: I was easier to find before because I lived in the castle, so in the castle everybody knows where it is. Now, I’m a bit more lost.
GW: So, you lived in a castle? How come?
DJ: For five years. Was private property. Built in the 14th century. Rebuilt in the 16th century. And I was happily living there with three more families. Was great. On the shores of the lake. 3 minutes away from the lake. Perfect.
GW: Why did you ever leave?
DJ: Yeah, because they wanted to buy in Chinese investors. Now they’re looking to turn this into a Harry Potter school.
GW: Oh no.
DJ: Yes, they do this.
GW: They’re turning it into Hogwarts.
DJ: And I didn’t have the 25 million needed to buy this castle, so we went away.
GW: Well, in which case, the historical martial arts community has let you down severely, because they should have bought enough of your books and what have you, to have €25 million to buy a castle. Because, I mean, let’s face it, if you owned that castle, it would be some sort of historical martial arts retreat centre eventually, wouldn’t it? That would happen.
DJ: Yeah, I think it’s the dream of many, but we’ll see. We’ll see what the future holds. I’m not sure I’m going to get there with books because as academics we don’t earn any money on books we publish; you give your rights. And yeah, maybe sometimes if you’re happy, you get like 100 bucks. So, you go to the restaurant and you feast.
GW: Yeah. My God. Yeah, that’s funny, because I make about half of my income from my books because I don’t go the academic publishing route, because I’m not interested in the sort of academic status side of it. Like, I don’t write my books so that universities will give me a job. I write them so that people who want to read them will buy them. And that’s good. And, you know, I make money that way, but it’s a very, very different proposition being in academia, I think.
DJ: Yeah, it’s part of the job. So, you refuse to get any income from this, but if you get well, I don’t know, famous enough, then you can start making money out of your books. But it’s a long way.
GW: So how did you get started with the whole thing?
DJ: As many of your guests, I think, I have the same answer like child’s dream, blah, blah, blah. But in my case, the armour stuff was kind of different. I started LARPing very early, then scenic, medieval combat stuff? And then I went to study and I discovered Beautiful Worlds, was 2000ish. Not a lot of these things were available. I met the guys in Dijon and my world just opened up. I turned all my academic endeavours in that direction. And at some point, when I come to sign on on my dissertation, my supervisor told me, “Yeah, well, how many, how many manuscripts do you have? Like 50? That’s too much. Find a way to cut it.” I know exactly how I will cut this. I would just focus on everything that is armour fighting related. He said, “Oh, that’s a very good idea.” So yes, it did.
GW: That’s a good supervisor. So, you actually sort of got into it through academia.
DJ: Yeah. No, I think it was just before, like when I was 14 or 15, I was already into it, fighting with wooden sticks and stuff like this. And then I discovered that there were these fight books and I said, I want to study this, and I want to study history. So, I should just focus on this.
GW: What was the first fight book you came across?
DJ: I was the student of a so-called master, one of these self-titled “masters”, and he was teaching scenic sword fighting.
GW: Like, stage combat?
DJ: Stage combat.
GW: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
DJ: And he said, “Yes, I have very ancient knowledge.” And I said, “I’m studying history. So where, how? “And he said, “Yeah, I have books.” “Oh, crazy. You have books?” “Yes.” And it took me two years until I was to the level of his confidence to say, “Well, I will bring you these books. Maybe you can learn a little bit about them.” And he brought me the 19th century editions of the Talhoffer.
GW: Oh, wow.
DJ: And I was very, very disappointed. “That’s your ancient books? That’s 19th century.” “No, no, that’s from the Middle Ages.” “No, that’s from the 19th century.”
GW: And he made you wait two years before he would even show you the books. Yeah, that is, by definition, a dickhead.
DJ: Yeah, well, but he knows how to earn money. I think he made his way to this and yeah, it’s good.
GW: But at least the 19th century editions of Talhoffer, they are sort of based on a 15th century source. So they are like a window into the Middle Ages stuff.
DJ: True. And nobody cares about reading what is written. Nobody understands them. So it’s just images, image books. And it’s easy for a stage combat fighter to make it look like medieval fighting. And I said, “Well, it’s not what I’m interested in. I want the real stuff.” So. Yeah, we separated ways there.
GW: But that got you into looking for the medieval materials. I had a similar experience with I found a book in my grandmother’s house that had belonged to my grandfather called The Sword in the Centuries by Alfred Hutton. And that made me realise, hang on, because there were like extracts of historical testimony, like these pictures are from books actually about how to fight with swords, actually written in the time period where people actually fought with swords. Oh, my God. I had no idea such things existed. And that’s when I started looking for them. Must have been in about 92, 93, something like that. And oh, my God. And then we started finding these books, because that 19th century book, I think it’s 1904 or something, very early 20th century. But its main contribution really is it tells people that these older books exist. So, I guess those 19th century German versions of Talhoffer have done pretty much the same thing.
DJ: Yeah. Exactly. And usually there are these networks, they were either collectors, fencers themselves or they were. Well, maybe. And they knew all of them. Sidney Anglo, in his late contributions, I think it was in the Glasgow conference ten years ago. He was saying, well, just go to the archives and look how Hutton knew him and him and him and how they get together. And I think that there is a lot of people who actually try to well dig into this.
GW: They did. Yeah.
DJ: But I haven’t seen any publications that really just like exhaustively go through this. So yeah, maybe, you know one I should know.
GW: No, I don’t think anyone has done a proper study of the, not the historical martial arts of the late 19th century, but the historical martial arts…
DJ: Interest, or Revival?
GW: Interest. Yeah, our historical martial arts thing is not the first time this has happened. The first one was started in the 1880s with Egerton Castle and Alfred Hutton and people like that, Cyril Matthey as well. I’m more aware of the English ones because they wrote their books in English, but they were also people. Why did Novati publish the Pisani Dossi in facsimile in like 1903? Well, it was part of this sort of bigger Europe-wide trend of just looking into these books and trying to figure out how people fought back then.
DJ: Yeah, true. So that would be very interesting to have someone digging this out more.
GW: There’s definitely a story there. I don’t think I am the right person to do it, but somebody listening might be. So if you’re looking for like a thesis topic, a good sort of overview of the historical martial arts community. Because people had communities before they had the Internet, right? There was this international community of Europeans scholars.
DJ: Scholars and collectors and fencers themselves. And I know at least from the French one, the Italian one, the Austrian ones. And of course, the English ones, this has some publications on this. So, yeah, there will be something to look for and to work. Going back to your question what was the first books that I look into, it was well, Fiore dei Liberi was known, Talhoffer was known, and I figured out there were a lot more in the South Germany. I said, well, between North Italy and South Germany, one of the main commercial routes go through Switzerland. There should be a Swiss fightbook. Let’s find it. And that was my quest. That was my early quest.
GW: Was it successful?
DJ: Yes. Well, depends on how you define the borders of Switzerland.
GW: So which source are you claiming for the Swiss?
DJ: The so-called Hugues Wittenwiller Hausbuch. Yeah, I think you might have come across it. We don’t agree with the dating. That’s between 1463 to 1493, in between those, and it’s a non straight Liechtenauer comments. It has weird thing including Swiss weird stuff like the baselard fencing.
GW: Fencing with baselards? Oh, that’s super cool.
DJ: Yeah, that’s really nice. Well, but that’s about the same of any Messer, I would say.
DJ: It’s Messer related, but because of the length. But it’s nice. So, this one has wrestling, longswords, dagger and baselards and that was my first. So, something nobody knew about this one or it was not really well known. Only various experts would say.
GW: I still don’t know about it.
DJ: I did my licence thesis on this. I did the first edition looking into to this and this was 2004. 2003 and 2004
GW: Okay. And what language is this?
DJ: Middle high German.
GW: That would be one of the reasons why I don’t know it, is because I don’t do German at all, unfortunately. Excellent, so it is actually a Swiss source. But the baselard it does make it kind of Swiss, doesn’t it?
DJ: Yeah, but it’s like the sausage. Everybody says that sausage comes from Frankfurt. No, no, they come from Basel. No, they come from this one. Depends on which region you are in. And this kind of weapon is well, one of the centres of production was Basel, Switzerland. And it takes his name from there, but actually it was produced everywhere in Germany and also north of the Alps. But specifically, this shape and name and also some part of the dialect led us to think that is indeed from this region.
GW: I’m quite happy to call it Swiss, if that makes you happy.
DJ: That makes me happy.
GW: Now. Okay. I’m going to just throw this out there because of all the people I know who have spent serious time and effort demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that a man in full armour is not this clumsy, heavy, can barely move, if you drop him on his back he lies there like a turtle waving his arms and legs, going “help”. All right. So, here’s my question. So, it’s true that knights have to be winched on to their horses, right?
DJ: Of course. Of course. Of course. According to Mark Twain mythology.
GW: That’s right.
DJ: Yeah. Well, myth busting, there are scholars who already did this and very early on. And yeah, it’s in the popular culture because of this novel of Mark Twain.
GW: Yeah. There’s a Connecticut Yankee King Arthur’s Court. Yeah. Yeah.
DJ: And this was invented there. This crane lifting him on the horse. And we have no archaeological source, no documentary sources, and no iconography.
GW: And if you’re fit enough to ride the horse usefully, you pretty much have to be fit enough to get onto it. Because if you can’t use your legs, you can’t direct the horse.
DJ: But it’s so embedded into people’s minds. Like in conferences, I tried to show this and very established scholars or authorities in the field say, “But you cannot move like this.” So. Yes, yes, you can just forget about this. Yeah.
GW: Yeah. You know, Mark Twain is great writer. And, you know, he’s written some absolutely immortal things. But this is the problem. We see the same problem with movies now. They are a force for good or evil. They can spread a really good idea, or they can spread a really bad idea and just kind of build it into the popular consciousness in a way that academic research just doesn’t.
DJ: True. But that’s not only his fault, it’s also the cinema, movies. So, it was embedded into this and this idea got its own life.
GW: And we should also point out that the key part of that novel is this American guy, this Connecticut Yankee, gets hit on the head or something and wakes up in King Arthur’s court. So, he goes back in time about 600 years or something, 800 years, whatever. So, it’s not supposed to be historical realism. It’s a fantasy book.
DJ: But true, it must be appealing at this time, because a lot of people in that time era were also fascinated with Middle Ages and wealthy people covered their houses with replicas of armour which were not functional, which were heavy. And if you have this as an example, when you see one, of course, you cannot move into this, it’s clumsy. And I think it was also appealing because of this.
GW: Yeah, that’s a good point. Okay. So basically, Mark Twain has influenced your career to an extreme degree?
DJ: Yeah, in the field of history, the many fields of history, there are turns, as they call it. And at some point happening into the nineties was this material turn. More and more scholars said, let’s get out of the archives and just confront your ideas with the real stuff. And when I started with the armour, the first thing my colleagues or supervisor or anyone saying, well, what’s the object? And what’s the impact of this object that we don’t know, that we can see through glass in museums but that nobody wears, on your body? And I said, yes, what I should do is that I should have lived in the late 19th century and know a lot of wealthy collectors and just borrow an historical armour to make a test. Of course.
GW: Know you know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s grandson in the 1950s, strapped on actual historical, like genuine medieval armour, to fight his friends who were also wearing genuine medieval armour. There was an article about it in Life magazine, and I have that copy of Life magazine from the 1950s. It is fascinating. Just imagine, now, what it would take to persuade a museum or the owner of a suit of armour just to let you put it on and fight people in it. This is the original stuff. This armour is like 500 years old, and there they are, just put it on and off they go, having fun with their friends.
DJ: Yeah, but you had Toby on the podcast and he has the same well, sometimes you have access. I also worked as a museum professional. I tried to have both feet, one in the academic area and one in the museum world. There are opportunities where you can actually have your hands on this, but usually wearing it and using it – Not now.
GW: I mean, you might be allowed to put the helmets on or maybe try on a gauntlet or something.
DJ: Yeah. Or try the maximal extension. If the rivets are okay and the leather works, stuff like this, you can, but wearing it – no.
GW: No, and then wearing it to fight people. Now, the theme of today’s show, actually, I should say I’m just really pleased to know that you’re actually listening to the show. That’s really cool. It’s hard for me to know who’s listening because, you know, it just goes out into the podcast apps all over the place. And I know that some people are downloading it because it’s there in the thing, but it’s always nice to come across a guest who’s actually listened to the show. But, okay, we’re going to be going into quite a lot of detail about a lot of things, as you know, because I sent you the questions. But I do normally bring up one or two of my guest’s academic papers. If they have any. Most of my guests are not professional academics. But on your CV, there are seven pages of papers, books, articles, contributions, conferences, and so on. Which is a simply astonishing output. My guess is, obviously, you don’t have any anything else to do in your life except write papers.
DJ: That’s my job.
GW: Yeah. Fair enough. But if you want it to be remembered for just a couple of them, which would you choose?
DJ: Yeah, I think I haven’t written the book yet, but who can say? Well, I’m 40 years old, so I should come about now it’s time to make finally an impact on the one authoritative stuff. But I think I have scratched many surfaces and there are many articles I am proud of, but usually as an academic, I like the idea of “publish as fast as you can, even if it’s not perfect”, which is not the German way.
GW: It is the right way. Because if you don’t publish, no one can comment on what you’ve done. Unpublished work you might as well not have bothered. Because it is not going to change anything and you won’t get any feedback on its quality if people can’t it.
DJ: I have lots of colleagues who are sitting on mines of treasures and not publishing this, and I said, Yeah, but why? They say it’s not finished, it’s not perfect. It’s too German. They are educated to do this in Germany. So yeah, not only in Germany, some other countries as well, but yeah. So yeah. Back to the questions. I don’t know, the armour thing was interesting because I said, okay, I’m an historian, I’m not a museum person. When I was doing my Ph.D. and I said, I need to have something really objective on how what’s the impact of the armour? And this in my field, I cannot do. Yes, of course I can pull out quotes from romances and comments on them. Compare this with technical literature in the fight books. This I can do, but I want a scientist who actually measures what’s the impacts. So I knocked on doors and an article came out of this. We did the work in 2011/12, but as usual with academic papers, it takes ages to get published. And this one was published in 2016 in a weird journal called Historical Methods. And it’s more about statistical stuff like this. But yeah, so we got an interdisciplinary with movement scientists, specialists of energy expenditures and gait analysis, medical guys, and we put up a team, we put my replica on and we did lots of experiments.
GW: Like what?
DJ: We did, how do you say this, when you run on the treadmill? A treadmill run when you measure the gas exchange. We did the 3D motion capture, measuring every angle of all the joints. So you have three measures. You have extension of flexion, adduction, abduction, internal rotation, external rotation. This for all the joints. In two conditions they say either for what they call natural movement, which is walking, sitting, going down, going up, and what they called an analytical or maximal range of motion where you test to your maximal ability to move. And then we did all of these sets with and without armour and we compared it. Basically, it was this.
GW: Did you is that the study where you jumped on a trampoline to find or jumped to a pad to find the impact? So, what is the difference? I’ve worn armour, so I have an internal sense of what the difference is, but many of the listeners will never have actually won a piece of armour in their life.
DJ: Basically doesn’t do anything. You have an average of 2% of range of motion difference from natural movement.
DJ: Yes. For walking, it’s 2%.
DJ: So really nothing. This is not the energy expenditure. This is the ability to move.
GW: Yeah, the ability to move.
DJ: And on the analytical movements there you have another number. And that’s 20% difference in my study.
GW: Okay. So that’s 2% in natural motion. So armour restricts your motion by 20%. Is that fair?
DJ: Yeah, it’s average. It’s average because the highest measure obstacle to move was this movement.
GW: Lifting your hand above your head. That was the worst. That accords with my experience.
DJ: And one of the one of the key findings there was some movements are limited, some others are not.
DJ: The idea there, because my suit is from the second half of the 15th century, and there was already a lot of experience. So it was really high technological exoskeleton by then. They knew what they were doing and according to me, they designed these obstacles of movements.
DJ: Yeah, because, well, you have stuff that you cannot go around, but like you don’t really need this movement when fighting in armour, what you need is this movement, the pushing forward, the pulling backwards. This you need to push your points in. This has no limitation.
DJ: Lifting has limitations. Above your head. But it exposes weaknesses.
GW: Right. So you don’t want to be lifting your arms up because the armpit is a classic target for armoured combat. So the armour basically is helping you to stop yourself from exposing delicate bits.
DJ: Yep. And also the limitations, like the full extensions of the arm. So extending your elbow is also limited.
GW: Only slightly.
DJ: You can fine tune this, because you don’t want your arm to be broken.
GW: Yeah. You don’t want to hyperextend it. So the armour protects you from a hyperextension? That’s genius.
DJ: You can fine tune this at the settings you wish with your armourer. Said, I don’t want my arm extended more like this or I want it hyperextended. Or depending on what you do. You fight on foot, you fight in tournaments, you go to war. And also at that point, if you had the money and the wealth, you don’t have one suit of armour. You have a kit of different interchangeable pieces that you put together.
GW: Wow, that is super cool. So it’s an average of a 20% restriction. But actually some motions are severely restricted and many other motions are not restricted at all. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Although I have an armour restriction. When I first got my cuirass, which had the tassets and stuff on it. And I didn’t have the arms and the helmet and the legs yet, so I’m just going to get used to it. I’ll just teach my regular class. And of course, there’s a warmup. And I found that was one critical restriction. When I went to do push-ups, the tassets sort of flopped down so they were vertical and they stopped me from going down towards the ground. I don’t think that has any relevance to combat effectiveness.
DJ: Correct. And I don’t think it was designed to make push ups. Otherwise they would have made it differently.
GW: Exactly. Maybe they would strap the end of the tasset to the leg or something.
DJ: I have an anecdote on this research thingy. I remember we were doing the walking analysis, the gait analysis, as they call them, and we got the first results on the monitor and I was sitting next to the scientists and said, okay, so these are the graphics and this shows how blah, blah, blah. And I said, wait, is this blue line the one in armour? She said, yes. So how come I have more movement in armour than without. And she said, I don’t know. And I said, well, the test is wrong. And she looked at me furiously, said, no. That’s established methodology for sports scientist. It is not wrong. You have more in armour than without. And that was crazy. This was measured for a few movements. It was the flexion of the foot. And it’s because you are loaded of 30 more percent of your body weight.
GW: And so the foot will flex more because it’s absorbing that force.
DJ: Because of the weight. That also means that people experimenting or doing historical European martial arts, specifically for armour fighting, without wearing some kind of kit that will give the weight, their impetus and speed, but moreover the power is missing. You do have more power when you do any kind of movement that goes forward with the added loads. Well, as an armour fighter you would know. But many of other people say, well, it will restrict your movement. Well, no, some of them will be extended.
GW: Yeah. Because the weight of the armour will pull you into it. Well, it’s a bit like people doing like squats, holding a kettlebell. They will tend to go deeper holding the kettlebell because the weight of the kettlebell pulls them deeper into the squat. So, I guess it’s the same sort of principle in play. It’s fascinating. So where can people find this study.
DJ: This one is online, open access. So you just have to have the link and then you can read through it.
GW: All right. I will put a link in the show notes so that people who are who want to go see this stuff themselves, it’s totally worth going to have a look at because it is absolutely fascinating. I actually have a note here. Like, if he doesn’t bring this particular study up, when I ask him the previous question about the studies he really likes, then I have to ask the question. I’m glad you got to it. Okay. So, yeah, the link will be in the show notes and you can go find the study. Is it available in English?
DJ: Yes, it’s in English.
GW: Yes. Okay. And makes life a lot easier for us anglophones. Well, I can read French reasonably well, but it’s much easier in English. Okay. When you were talking about which studies you would like to be remembered for, you were sort of like, well, I haven’t written the book yet. My feeling is the book will be something along the lines of the practise and consequences of wearing armour. So everything, all the stuff you know about wearing armour, what it does, what it’s good for, what restrictions. That seems to me like the natural sort of summary of all of that armoured combat research from a practical perspective. Let me just float that into your brain.
DJ: There’s something coming out in two weeks.
GW: Oh really?
DJ: There is a beautiful exhibition in the making, it’s opening at the end of March. It’s in Vienna. Hofjagd- und Rustkammer, Historical Museum. If you are a lover of armour, you would know that’s one of the pilgrimages for armour, this imperial collection. And now it’s called the Welt Museum, because they did some few changes. But the curator there, Stefan Krause, put up a very, very good show, which is called “Iron Man”. Well, usually curators, they don’t choose their exhibition titles. It is the communication department who do this.
DJ: So it’s basically it’s armour from child armour to funerary armour, 15th, 16th century, with their great pieces. There’s a lot of textile involved, a lot of iconography there. It’s a really big show, four years in the making.
DJ: And yeah, it’s going to be really great.
GW: How long will it be on for?
DJ: I think now they tend to do these major exhibitions and only let it there for four months. I think it’s five months, this one. So yeah. Book your ticket.
GW: Yeah. Well, because this episode, this episode isn’t going to be going out for a couple of months after we speak. So while I might do is go find that and put a link to it in my newsletter, I’ll check so that I’ll get that link out early, so people have a bit more time and then I will speak to my wife about a weekend in Vienna.
DJ: And I have a contribution in the exhibition catalogue where I was asked, well, I went because the armour that I wear is a replica for the one that is in the collection. And the curator said, well then can you come and do a few of moving in armour stuff for us? And I went and they said, yeah, this is this is good. We also did a lot of social media stuff, funny stuff you’re going to see. But I said, I want to write something in the book as well to talk about my experience wearing the armour. Because usually you don’t find this. It’s more about either the historical production of the armour, tracing the history of the particular pieces, but usually you don’t have the opportunity to actually do this. And the curators, this is great, let’s do something about this. So seeing, talking, was seeing, smelling, feeling in armour about my experience and what is it like. An ethnographical researcher going back on his notes, writing about his experience wearing a replica. So that’s what I did.
DJ: It’s going out in German and English in two weeks.
GW: Wow. Actually. Okay, now, that’s not the book.
DJ: No, that’s not the book. Yeah.
GW: That’s like the basic topic of the book has been has been addressed there. And yes, definitely armour fans need to have a look at their travel schedules and get themselves to Vienna sometime this year.
DJ: Yeah, the show ends on 26 June.
GW: That does not give us much time. Okay, I may bump this episode a bit further ahead in the schedules because I know if somebody gets this on 27th of June they are just going to curl up and die of disappointment.
DJ: No! I had the opportunity there, I was willing to do this. I’m pretty sure you know the collection, but you have this great room with a lot of late 15th and early 16th century armour on the wall lined up.
GW: I’ve only seen in pictures. I’ve never been to Vienna in my whole life. Never been. I need to go.
DJ: Yes, you should. You should. And then I said, okay, I want to have an empty podest where I could just me myself just going in and do the armour pose, like the armour going to the job, to his work day, standing on this podest for ages. And we did just that. It was really great.
GW: Okay, so slight change of direction. Now, as a Fiore man, as I am, we have to talk about Marshal Boucicaut, the guy who famously lost to Fiore’s student, Galeazzo da Mantova, twice, but he was still considered one of the greatest knights in Europe. Obviously not as good as Galeazzo da Mantova, but actually in his time, I think his reputation was probably even higher and wider than Galeazzo’s.
DJ: And sadly, if you read French, guys, you have this tendency to say France is the centre of the world. So of course Boucicaut was the greatest knight ever.
GW: Of course. So now, there is this almost hagiographical biography of Jean le Meingre II, written in his lifetime, I think. Or was in his lifetime, was it slightly after?
DJ: Yeah, it’s written in his lifetime. But the manuscript that we got are after. But it was written in his lifetime.
GW: Which basically details some of his feats of arms and training methods and what have you and you’re the only person who I’ve ever seen climb up a ladder from the underside in armour. So could you summarise for us what those training methods are and what it’s like to actually do them in armour?
DJ: We did a selection of those. The videos I did were quite successful, but it was not expected. In the beginning, I said this was always linked with an exhibition. And the first one I put up was 2011 for this exhibition on swords. And this one went viral. It has 4 million views. It’s crazy. And people say, well, you have to do this. You have to. I say, yeah, it’s not my job. And if people knew how much budget we had, like nothing, peanuts, to do this. So I was encouraged to do more. So that’s why I picked the Boucicaut story, because Boucicaut’s stories is known because of this text. And it’s one of the very few texts that relates to training. And there is a list of training, especially in that section where he says when he was younger, this is how he trained for tournaments and there is a list of exercises.
GW: When he was younger, emphasis on “when he was younger”. At 48, I am not expected to do these things.
DJ: Correct. It’s like other authors as well. If you’ve read Montes, he also said, when I was younger, I can do this, I cannot do anything anymore. But yeah, you have to be flexible. And crazy. I think it is the emphasis there. But yeah, we chose a few stuff that we didn’t choose what I was able to do. We chose what was really nice to see on the screen. And the original idea was to make one shots in historical context without any modern gear, gym stuff and other stuff, and the same exercise into a modern controlled environment, like a gym hall or a modern climbing wall. We didn’t get the money to do this. So we took images that we had. But we did climbing. Boucicaut says that he can climb between two walls, up and down without falling. And it gives us the distance between these walls. And I remember I went to a castle and I said, I want to climb there and the curator said, you’re not allowed to do this. I said, why? You’re afraid for your stones? And he said no, I’m afraid for you. No security if you fall. How high would you like to climb? But I said, yeah, I don’t know, like three metres. So we did this and we also climbed this wall. So this is one. The other is jumping on the horseback without the stirrups. I don’t ride. I have friends who ride. And I said, can I do this on your horse? They said, are you going to hurt the horse?
GW: Fair. If you’re not a rider, I think the horse needs to be sort of trained for that to kind of know what’s going on so it doesn’t move at the wrong moment.
DJ: Yeah. And you just basically what you have to do for this is to put up your foot as high as you can. So, yeah, it can hurt the horse with the armour pieces around the leg. This we did. He talks about running. It talks about it was on the shore with its striking firewood. But in the text it talks about striking on wood, which is probably one of these training stuff.
GW: Right. Yeah. It’s probably like hitting the pell.
DJ: So it’s hitting the pell. But we did the firewood stuff because he says do this longer with the axe, longer and longer in the day. And remember, do not lift your arm too much. Interesting. Because you don’t want you to train to do actually this all the time.
GW: You don’t want to put your hands over your head. Yeah.
DJ: So we did this. The ladder, reverse ladder, of course. And as you know. Yeah, this this hurts the neck.
GW: Right. I was going to say because getting your hands above your head is really hard in armour. There you are, you’re hanging. And just let me describe this. So you have a ladder set up, like against the wall and on the underside of the ladder, you reach up and grab the rungs and you climb up the ladder hand over hand and your feet don’t touch the ladder. You’re just doing it like going across a monkey gym swinging from hand to hand, but you’re doing it going up a ladder in armour, which means the whole weight of your armour and body is hanging on your arms, which is going to pull them straight and your elbows will go near your ears and the armour will do horrible things to you.
DJ: Indeed. Like putting the elbow protection in your throat. Really nice. But so I had to build special muscles to do this, like balancing in and it’s lifting your body on one sense. You have to balance yourself from left to right.
GW: Yes. So you are sort of swinging left side, the right side.
DJ: You are swinging to compensate the fact that you cannot really hang. And I was really disappointed also because I had a big ladder, but not big enough. I had again, very small budget on this and if I had to do it again, maybe I would do one day, before I’m 50. When I can still wear the stuff doing it on the higher ladder.
GW: I would suggest getting friends who are climbers to set up a belay rope so that if you do slip and fall, you fall about a metre onto a rope, and not all the way down the castle wall, because armour is not very good at protecting you from falling. We would hate to lose you. It would be a bad thing for the historical martial arts community if you ended up killing yourself trying to recreate Marshal Boucicaut’s feats in armour. Because it is also worth remembering that this guy was trained from a child to be a professional warrior and clearly was massively into it.
DJ: That was that was his job, basically.
DJ: But the funny part, that’s hence the video there is an additional comments on the oldest manuscripts that goes into margin and says that he was very well-known from everywhere because he was able to do what the English translator called somersaults in armour. And he specifies without wearing the helmet. And he was also dancing without wearing the helmet. And of course, the French word for this could be meaning. And then you have to help me. So either jumping and slapping your feet together and this I don’t know how to translate in English.
GW: I’m not sure what the English Channel translation for that would be. But it’s like you jump off the ground and you kick your heels together.
GW: I can’t think that we would call that a somersault, but maybe back in the 15th century, something we did could be.
DJ: Could be, could be a dance move with the feet and jumping, could be as well, what we call the wheel. So going on your hands and cartwheel.
DJ: Cartwheel or the proper somersault. And so I trained all of these moves.
GW: Where there is vagueness in interpretation or translation. One has to try all options.
DJ: Yeah. So the somersault was hard.
GW: I can’t do a somersault without armour.
DJ: And the easiest way to do a somersault is the back one which you cannot do in armour because the weight it doesn’t allows you to move the back as efficiently. So I had to go for the front one which involves running, jumping on the vault and try to land on your feet.
GW: I’ve seen the video.
DJ: I’m not landing on my foot. Almost.
GW: Well you did pretty well. Okay. So you found this text and thought, I’m going to have a go at some of these things. Boucicaut is known for these things. Do you think that most knights could do something like that? Or do you think this was extraordinary?
DJ: Textual analyses, Critical textual analyses, basics. We don’t know. We don’t know. Maybe it is as you as you said, almost hagiographic character of this text could be put in doubt. One of the goal of these chivalric biographies, which is of one of the early examples, is to make sure about the reputation of your character. So maybe there was a over emphasis on this. This is one of the reasons why I was willing to try these out. But the real goal, usually it’s the other way around. If you do a scientific enquiry on one of those things, you want to test it all and so on. This was not my goal. My goal was to produce a video for an exhibition to go for things just over the top. And Boucicaut was very a visual example that would be nice to put in vision, not in words, but in vision. And that was the goal. I don’t believe that most of the people who were able to do this. I have friends who are firefighters. Some of them train and do crazy things in their firefighting suits, which most of the firefighters don’t do.
GW: Right. Yeah. And my reading of it, I’ve read an English translation of that source. And it was like, they are presenting these things as this is an extraordinary thing he was able to do. This is one of the reasons why he’s such a great knight, which, of course, didn’t stop him getting captured at Agincourt and spending the rest of his life in England.
DJ: Or losing duels.
GW: On the same sort of vein. And you mentioned firefighters. Your obstacle run in armour video? Well, let me just run through the specifications for the listener who can mimic if they want. There’s an obstacle course, and you guys do it. You have a knight, a soldier and a fireman, and you go over the obstacle course in light gear. The soldier did it in 1:34, the fireman in 1:36, and the knight in 1:37. So that’s pretty much identical. Then again, in full gear, the fireman did it in 3 minutes. The knight is 3:10 with a 13 second penalty, and the soldier in 3:35 with a 14 second penalty, which is a slightly bigger gap between them. The loads you were carrying, the firemen had 28.5kg, the knight 29kg, and the soldier 31.2kg. What I got from that video was proof beyond reasonable doubt that the knight was approximately as agile and able to move around in full gear as we would expect a modern soldier or indeed a modern fireman. And the differences in capabilities wasn’t that great. Is that fair?
DJ: Completely fair. The goal of the video was to explain that it’s the same thing. It’s about the same loads. It’s about the same movements, range of motion. And this was not my idea. This was a remake of a video that was already published in the 1920s.
GW: How did I miss that?
DJ: Well, they didn’t do an obstacle run, though. But there is this comparison between a modern soldier and a medieval knight. And this was when they were exploring this new media, the video, as pedagogical elements for the Metropolitan Museum, New York. You can see the film. It’s on the Met’s media. You can find it. And you had at some points a young assistant curator wearing an original suit, by the way.
GW: The fuckers! How did they get to play with the originals?
DJ: They invited a soldier just to say hello and just to compare this visually for the audience that they can relate. It’s about the same weight. So it just pushing this a little bit further and to say, since a lot of people, in the Swiss context, a lot of people are very, very near of the military experience because we have this militia stuff. So a lot of the males did these obstacles run. So they exactly know how hard it is.
GW: So you actually used the Swiss military obstacle course. Okay.
DJ: And I took the fireman because we didn’t want to make it too military. And it’s also about the same amount of weight. It was difficult for many reasons, and we had to do adjustments. I have to say both of the fireman and the soldier were not professionals. They were militians. And this is good because I’m not a professional knight. I am not Boucicaut so I don’t train. I wore the armour a lot when I received it, like five days a week, 2 hours a day. That was the minimum. I was willing to build the muscles of my body to make experiments.
GW: Yes, you have to.
DJ: So it was good to have this militia sense of the term, or part time firemen, part time soldier, part time knight. But both of them were ten years younger than me.
GW: Yeah, that helps.
DJ: That helps. And also, first time in this video, I had a little bit of budget, so we had the professional filming team. It was three days of shooting. Of course, we chose the middle of August, very hot days, terrible. And I said, I don’t want any injuries, so don’t push it over the top. And if we were to do this experiment correctly, which was not a scientific experiment, it was watched. We measured a few things like heart beats. We did some analyses of the blood to see how you can recover and so on. But it was not a scientific experiment per se, because if you were to do this, we should have trained on this obstacle run before and everybody should do the obstacle run with every gear and then you can compare.
DJ: This we didn’t do, we had to fight with equipment. I said my goal is to have the same weight. So we have to adjust. The light gear and heavy gear is very different from one to another. And also like the fire fighter had to wear the oxygen belts on his back, which is a very different way to move with a loaded back and blah, blah, blah.
GW: But the fireman actually is the only one didn’t get any penalties.
GW: So what penalties did you get? I forgot. How did you fall from grace?
DJ: It was not explained in the video. What we said. Each of the runners each had an assistant. If something happened, like, I don’t know, you get stuck, somebody impedes your vision during the run or stuff like this. And this time which were subtracted, was the time where the helper came to fix something on the equipment. And for my case, when I was doing the ramping, it was so exhausting because a very, very long distance, it’s like, I don’t know, 30 metres.
GW: Is that when you were like crawling on the ground.
DJ: Crawling. Yeah. And at that point the underwear. No not the underwear. What I wore under the helmet, came half over my eyes. So I couldn’t see really where I was going. So I called for help. She came, pulled it over and I continued my course.
DJ: And for the soldier who had 40 seconds, this was harder. He got stuck into one of the bars, so yeah, his helper was pulling him out of one of the obstacles.
GW: Fair enough. It’s a classic bit of public communications. Because you’re not claiming something, you’re just showing it. Now, given the nature of the show, which I have a minimum 50% of my guests are female. One of the points of my podcast is to get people from all sorts of backgrounds and all sorts of areas and what have you onto the show so that we can see the breadth and diversity of the historical martial arts community and adjacent communities. So we should talk about the book, which you contributed a chapter to, Combattantes: Une histoire de la violence féminine en Occident. How’s that for French? I haven’t spoken French in years and years and years. Okay. Now, you’ve done that chapter in English as well. And I will put a link to the English version of that chapter in the show notes, because it’s helpful for people to go and read it themselves. But tell us about that project and the chapter that you wrote.
DJ: Okay. English title in the journal reads Fight Like a Girl! an Investigation into Female Martial Practise in Europe in Fight Books from the 14th to the 20th century. The idea behind this chapter is a query for a very young lady. She was 16 years old. She trains with me and said, where are the girls in your books?
GW: It’s a fair question.
DJ: Yeah. And I said, well, basically, from what I know, you have a few exceptions in the late Middle Ages. Then they completely disappear to reappear only in the late 19th, early 20th century. So that’s the basics. Now, what are the reasons? And I said, it’s worth a small study to try to understand this observation. So basically, of course, white, male, European society, religious, you understand why they were taken out from the context of technical manuals such as fight books. They were made invisible, doesn’t mean that they didn’t practise. And this is really the case for the 16th, 17th century where they are really hard to find. You can find them in early sources. And then the question is why? And there are lots of theories, as you know, for the reason of the presence or absence of these women in fighting practise. I don’t know, basically, the most elements where you can see that a female fighter is doing a technique that is designed for a female, is only into a weird tradition that is that we can call the judicial duelling.
DJ: And this is where the author of the fight book says this technique is for a female. And this is one of the very few examples. Then you have one exception on the very first fight books where a female is not only drawn but also named in the text, even though some of the specialists says, well, maybe it’s an image to illustrate that this technique is maybe weaker or there are many theories behind it.
GW: Oh, horseshit.
GW: Any fucker says that you send them to me. I will demonstrate Walpurgis’s actions upon that person. And then they can say, oh, yeah, that’s definitely a weak technique. We’re talking about, just for listeners who aren’t familiar, in the fight book known as the 1.33, it’s in the Royal Armouries. It is the oldest treatise we have, from the 1340s and there is a character or one of the people doing the fencing towards the end of the book is called Walpurgis and she’s clearly a woman and she is a scholar of the priest who is teaching this stuff. And she does the various things that she’s supposed to do. It’s presented without any kind of explanation or anything. It’s just like this is just a normal thing, you know? We had the scholar up to now this generic sort of male scholar, unnamed, and then we have this woman whose name is Walpurgis and but other than giving her a name, not so singled out as and in any way different, which I find really interesting. But. Yes. Because girls can’t fight. Right. Tell that to Jessica Finley.
DJ: Or Jessica Kershaw. She took the subject lately and she’s giving a series of conferences about this. Of course, as an historian, I know from other sources that women were fighting. And the problem with this patriarchal society of ours is that we try to do anything that it’s our duty to protect the weak women. That’s why they don’t appear in books. And that’s why you would do anything to not let them fight. So if you write a fight book, just don’t write it for women. And this only changes in the late 19th, very early 20th century, where women were suddenly again able to fight. And of course, you know about the suffragettes and others, but the first author, female author of a fight book is 1904. In a Wyatt, it’s so in English context. One of the students of Barton Wright, and she was writing and teaching techniques designed for girls to fight.
GW: Because they are wearing different clothes and they’re not carrying walking sticks.
DJ: These are also the contexts of the actual society. And if you read previous sources where women are mentioned, it’s either they are not able to perform the technique designed by men or because they are too weak, of course.
GW: Tell that to Beth Hammer, another guest of mine whose party trick is, basically her favourite way of saying hello to people she actually likes to like lift them up into a fireman’s carry. She’s done that to me, but I don’t think I could do that to her. Even though she’s much shorter than me.
GW: Just because. Yeah, I’m just not that strong.
DJ: Know, it’s not about personal belief. It just is observation of what is there is these fight books. And of course, we both know and the female audience also know that women can fight as good as men. Sometimes even better, depends. Where was I going with this? When you read these earlier fight books, usually it’s either you have to make something that is a simplified version of the technique for male or no technique at all. And this is obviously wrong. And yeah, but that’s what’s written. And in my article and my research, I try to understand or to explain why it might be so, because you have conflicting evidence that women were actually fighting.
GW: Right. I have my notes to ask you about a female burgher from the town of Bern, who in 1460 owned 6 full armours.
DJ: In my academic career, after my Ph.D. and after all of this stuff, most of my colleagues said, why are you not a professor yet? And so because I’m too focussed on fight books. I should show off and make some kind of other enquiries. So my latest project is about finding traces of fighting practises in other type of documents to compare them with the fight books. And this is what I have done for the last past six years, and I’ve collected a lot of material, and in some of those you find women. And yeah, this female burgher, from Bern, she was also a burgher from Zurich. She owns these armours because she can loan them to other members of the guild.
GW: Rent them out maybe.
DJ: Yeah. Or to arm them because they basically she has the resources to arm a lot of men, she was not wearing this herself because it was not socially accepted that women were called to show up in arms at arming controls so the burghers of the city were obliged to have to have weapons and to, if they are enlisted or called to help. And this usually did not include women. However, if you look in the sources, a lot of women show up, either because the husband was sick, because the husband was dead, because many, many reasons. That means that in case of emergency, they would just do the job.
GW: My favourite story about that, Lady Agnes Hottot in the UK, well it wasn’t the UK back then. 1380s. Her father was disputing with a neighbour over a patch of land. They agreed that they would joust and the land and whoever won the joust would win the land. Her father came down with gout on the day of the joust. So she put on armour and off she went and she knocked the neighbour off his horse and then took off the helmet to reveal that he had been knocked off the horse by a girl. She was about 18. There’s absolutely no way on God’s good earth that you could possibly do that if you hadn’t trained. The armour had to fit her. She had to know how to ride and joust.
DJ: Or to adjust to the armour.
GW: Right. Yeah, I’ve done enough riding with weapons in my hand to know just how much training she must have done. There’s no way in hell I could do that. She’s like a super famous, in my head, at least example of, well, women and girls sometimes trained in this and did particularly well. And the reason she’s particularly remembered, I mean, if she’d been her father’s son then no one would remember, because it wouldn’t be a thing. But the fact that it was a woman doing this is unusual.
DJ: It goes against the social norms.
GW: Yeah, but it’s not. But not to the point where no one would do it.
DJ: But it goes against the social norms. And if you look into the early boxing champions, lady boxing champions, it’s the same. The practise was there. The fact that they were recorded in any kind of documents made something because it disturbed the natural order of society as men would see it. So, yeah, you have to look at your sources with that perspective.
GW: Now, so you have some sort of current research going on this, but I’m also aware of a project you’re working on at the moment about tracking down martial experts in the archives of medieval cities. And you have other people working with you. And I have a note here to ask you about Shaolin monks. Do tell.
DJ: Marvels, you know, archives, research. Sometimes you don’t find anything. And sometimes we find a very rare document that should not be here. But for some reason, it’s kept, it’s conserved. And for this case, 1460, City of Basel, we have a contract, an original contract between the city and a member of the minor order. Basically, a monk. Name is Bruder Joss, brother Joss.
GW: So not an actual Shaolin monk then. He’s a German monk.
DJ: He’s a German monk. But he was paid for his martial abilities. And his martial abilities are very like Shaolin monks. Actually, he was paid because he was a specialist in caltrops. Putting these caltrops on the ground to prevents cavalry or infantry to come on. He could destroy canon in half from a distance.
DJ: It’s not written. He was just paid to do this.
GW: He could break a canon in half.
DJ: Yes. He could also design some amulets to be worn by the defenders on the wall, not to be touched by any firearm.
GW: That’s helpful. Yeah, I think they could use that in the modern army.
DJ: Yeah, yeah. And he was well paid, so. And also he has other very intense knowledge of how an army should be deployed, how the wall should be defended and many other knowledge. So that was just to outline that. Usually we think of religious men as very far away from anything that happens to the battlefield. That is wrong. Obviously like women, same.
GW: Like 1.33 was written by a priest.
DJ: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
GW: It says priest in the text, but whether he is actually an ordained priest, we don’t know.
DJ: Of course. And this context it’s still a mystery for a lot of reasons. But I go along the theory that this book was originating from it has what we called clerical influence in the way it is written and constructed and everything. But clerical doesn’t mean a monastery. It means as well, people teaching at university in urban centres.
DJ: And we know that sword fighting was happening with people trying to train or to play it within the city walls because they were punished for it. So, we know it was happening and maybe the author of this book was a teacher at the university.
GW: Okay, and possibly a retired soldier.
DJ: It is also possible. And we have other stories telling us about this before Fiore. Not before Fiore, after Fiore. This Dardi guy.
GW: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
DJ: We have a bunch of exchange of letters because the city complained that he was earning more money by teaching martial arts than his actual salary as university teacher.
GW: Which is just outrageous. Shame on him! Martial arts teachers shouldn’t make money. I’m not sure my wife would agree with that statement.
DJ: But that is interesting because in these documents, you have the amount of the number of hours he was training, the number of people he was training and salary he was claiming for this.
GW: Right. So this this monk in Basel. What is your feeling about what was really going on there? To get paid that kind of money, he must have had a reputation.
DJ: Yeah, possibly. Maybe he was recommended. Maybe at that point, the city of Basel was under high pressure for many reasons. They were investing a lot to update or upgrade their defences. This is not the scholar, the researcher talking. It’s just this kind of feeling. You asked the question. I think he was very well aware of how he could get paid. So it was about playing the flute, I think, just saying I can do exactly what you need and I have some extra stuff I could do.
GW: Okay, see that cannon (which my assistant prepared earlier.) Watch this! Boom! And the cannon breaks in half and they all go, oh my God.
DJ: Yeah, we have to hire him. Hire him.
GW: He can break cannons in half with his head. I do wonder about the cannon breaking thing, because the cannon in 1460 was a pretty chunky piece of metal.
DJ: Yeah, but we have a one chronicle illustration in an illustrated chronicle, which we have plenty in Switzerland showing exactly Monks doing this. So they were going at night at the enemy camp, loading powder into the cannon itself and lighting it.
DJ: So they wear Navy SEALs of the time.
GW: Right. So actually, what he was quite possibly doing, which is actually a useful thing, is he had a technique for breaking cannon by overcharging them or, you know, doing something to the touch hole or something that or maybe do you know the expression, to spike your guns.
DJ: Or break your pipe, same.
GW: So, just like in the Crimean War, we often have these copper nails and a hammer. And when they get behind enemy lines, they would stick the copper in the touch hole and hammer in. So it could be drilled out so the gun wasn’t useless, but it was useless for a while. And that should give you long enough to overrun the position. So maybe there’s actually some sort of less sort of mystical, canoon breaking magic trick and more a practical, I have a technique for doing this and I can teach it to soldiers or I can sneak in behind enemy lines and get it done for you.
DJ: Yeah, well, it is about the same with the Boucicaut stuff. We don’t know exactly how. What we know is that he was paid, but just for one year. So it was enough to hold the illusion for one year, and then he had to go.
GW: All right. Now, I know you’ve done a lot of work to make historical martial arts a recognised field of research according to academic standards, more accessible to a general audience, all that sort of stuff. And that of course, includes ACTA Periodica Duellatorum. So how are you going about this? I mean, I have notes here to ask you about the UNESCO initiative, martial arts museum, research grants, etc.. So. Tell us about your aims.
DJ: Okay. I was looking how I could actually develop or sustain the development of research into this because we have, I don’t know, thirty careers just to do a critical edition of books. So and I said this requires funding. This requires recognition by academia. This is a proper field. How do you do this? Well, I spent hours and hours and late nights to understand how it works. And I looked at how dance research developed, because I think there’s a lot of analogies between what we do and the dance research. And dance research didn’t exist until the nineties, not really as a proper recognised academic field.
GW: I have a friend in Finland who has a Ph.D. in research in ballet. She got that maybe ten or 15 years ago. But that was unusual. Like a Ph.D. in ballet. Really?
DJ: It exists, but only as from the nineties, because it’s the period where official departments were funded to do research on this topic, how they got there. Well, there are a few weird guys. Usually it’s an authoritative expert who published a first seminal work. If we were to compare this with our field, I would say it’s Anglo book into 2000.
GW: 2003, the Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe. Great book.
DJ: This at some point opened the field to other fields that make this kind of recognition. That’s the starting point. That was in the sixties for dance research. So it took them 30 years to get from this seminal work into a funded department who does research explicitly in this field, and there are the steps where, a, you have to do a specific way of publishing your research. That is a journal and that is international conferences happening regularly and an association of researchers. But we have to reach a critical mass of paid researchers doing this. And I have a lot of colleagues, friends, a lot of people who contact me as well. How do you do this? Why, how? What’s the way? I want to do my Ph.D.? Could you supervise me? I said, no, I’m not a professor yet. I cannot do this. Sorry.
DJ: And one of the key point is the journal and in we started in 2013, it was an Hungarian initiative, not mine. And I said, I have to jump on this because this is exactly what we should do, but they are not into a format that is properly academic. So we have to turn this into something that is not aimed at the community of practitioners. You already have different platforms to do this. This is something that should be aimed at recognition for professional academics.
GW: It’s aimed at the universities, yes.
DJ: That’s the journal. And I am doing this unpaid with a lot of great people doing late nights. By the way, I’m two months late on the schedule actually, for the next issue.
DJ: No, it’s fine, but it has been difficult. It is still difficult because we are not funded. But that is a necessary step just to develop the fields and to get recognition, not from, I don’t know, funders or people from the community. It’s specifically for people in the university.
GW: That is one of the reasons why I wanted to go and get a Ph.D. for the work I’ve done on the research side of things, because every time a university recognises work like that with something like a Ph.D., it is another brick in the wall of academic credibility for historical martial arts. And honestly, the hardest thing. Well, not the hardest thing, doing the work was the hardest thing for me. The hardest thing from the university’s perspective, was finding people who are qualified to act as external examiners, just like. Huh? Who do we have that can ask Guy nasty questions?
DJ: My supervisor was a specialist of religious texts in the 13th century. When, in 2007, when I tried to get this Ph.D. going, I looked for someone willing to sign and the only one I found was this guy. And he said, I’ll retire in ten years. I will do nothing for your career. I’ll just put my name there. But you have to find the technical expertise elsewhere. Where can you go? And I said, well, I have a few names, but yeah, there is no established authority on this field.
DJ: And this is slowly changing. I remember I had an Excel file of every academic work from the licence level, now Master level in historical European martial arts. And now there are too many for me to track. So that’s a good sign. And I know at least I don’t know, I had 12 people with Ph.D.s related on this list. And again, I cannot, it’s difficult because you cannot really name your Ph.D. historical European martial arts stuff.
GW: I did. Because I got mine in a slightly different way. I didn’t write a thesis. I submitted three published books and a lengthy explanation as to why they constituted a Ph.D.. And it was examined in the usual way. And so the thing that is in the university library where Ph.D. theses are stored, and I had to submit that kind of critical review in the same format as a thesis. And yeah, the title of it, I forgot the details, but it was recreating historical martial arts or historical combat systems, something like that, but specific. You know what it’s like, as soon as you publish something, all the details just go out of your head.
DJ: Just look at the CV.
GW: Okay. Now I have a couple of questions that I tend to ask my guests. And as a listener of the show, you will probably know what’s coming, and I sent you the questions in advance. All right, what’s the best idea you never acted on?
DJ: What’s the best idea I never acted on?
GW: Yeah. The best idea you’ve had that you haven’t acted on.
DJ: Yeah. Being a professor in historical European martial arts.
GW: But you’ve acted on it! You’re acting on it.
DJ: I’m acting on it, but I’m not there yet.
GW: Okay. And, yeah, we need to get a university to fund a Chair for historical martial arts.
DJ: That would be great. And I think exactly I know where to go, what to do, and I have projects in the drawers to run the Chair.
GW: I have a though. So how much does it cost to endow a Chair?
DJ: In Switzerland? Too much. It depends.
GW: In general, what sort of money are we actually talking about?
DJ: Now what they call early career funding for what I’m applying for now three years in a row. It’s about 1,000,000 CHF. And this only covers salaries. A proper Chair.
GW: Yeah. Okay. Let me tell you a story from my father’s life. My father is a veterinary surgeon, and a friend of his was doing some veterinary surgery for horses in the States. And there was this massive horse ranch thing where they breed horses. It is huge. That’s not where most their money came from. The money came from other sort of livestock stuff, you know, but they were like massively rich and they were having difficulty getting the horses onto the railway trucks to take them to where they needed to go. They just didn’t have a good way of doing it. And so this vet friend of my dad’s said, if I can get those horses onto the truck without fuss and show you how to do it, what’s that worth? And they said, well, name your price. He said, well, okay, if I could do it, I want you to endow a Chair of veterinary medicine at such and such university in Texas. You’re on. So he goes and gets a sack and he puts it over the horse’s head, and the horse follows behind, goes on the railway truck, sack comes off, puts the sack on the next horse’s head. Job done. And so they duly endowed a Chair of that veterinary medicine at this university. That’s what I mean by how much money does it take to endow a Chair.
DJ: I have no idea.
GW: You could just find somebody rich enough to simply endow a Chair. That by itself solves the problem.
DJ: Yes, that is true. But now university systems in Germany, Switzerland, France, they work with project related. So yes, you have first to fund projects-based stuff and usually now it’s two years, but you can go up to five years.
GW: That’s no good. We want a tenured professorship for you somewhere decent. Cambridge is only an hour up the road from me. Okay, let’s see. I’ll ask the Cambridge colleges how much it costs to endow a Chair. And then we have a budget.
DJ: Perfect. Thank you.