GW: I’m here today with Paul Wagner, who is an instructor at the Stoccata School of Historical Fencing in Australia. He’s also the author of several works, including Master of Defence and Medieval Sword and Shield: Combat System of the Royal Armouries Ms 1.33, which is, of course, co-written with Stephen Hand. And he has a broad and deep interest in historical martial arts, which will be digging into shortly. So without further ado, Paul, welcome to the show.
PW: G’day Guy.
GW: How very Australian. So whereabouts in the world are you, Paul?
PW: Well, I am in Sydney, Australia, which, given the events of the last 18 months, is the only place in the world anybody would want to be. Everywhere else, with the possible exception of New Zealand, is completely screwed.
GW: True. And I’ve visited you in Sydney several times. And every time you’re like, Guy, you should really move there. And you know what? I’m starting to think you might have been right. It takes an awful lot for me to suggest that Paul Wagner might have been right, but no, I think you might have been. OK. Now, let’s set the scene. You’ve been doing this quite a long time. How did you get started, what did that look like?
PW: Well, the short answer is music. The long answer to get from music is a little convoluted.
GW: Go ahead.
PW: OK, good. If we’ve got the time.
GW: We have all the time in the world.
PW: All right. So late high school, early university, I discovered folk music, Celtic folk in particular. And I knew a girl of Scottish extraction who said, oh, you know the Scottish stuff is so much better and lent me some and she was right. It was really good. And one of the bands that we discovered through that was called the Tannahill Weavers. And we bought a bunch of their CDs and most of the songs were about killing Englishmen. The liner notes came with very amusing little historical anecdotes to go along with the songs, and that just got me really interested in Scottish history. So I started reading up about that. And then I turned up at Macquarie Uni to start a PhD in biology. So nothing to do with history at all and joined the local re-enactment group because it looked like fun and I was interested in such things now. And the chap who was running it was a chap named Stephen Hand, who had just picked up this book by this George Silver fellow and decided that whatever was going on in here has got to be better than the “make it up as you go along” school of swordsmanship. So I just randomly arrived on the ground floor of that whole thing just when he was first trying to figure it out. So I never learnt re-enactment fighting or anything like that. And about the same time the Internet started to happen and we started to find other people around the world interested in in similar sorts of things through message boards and home pages and other things from the Dark Ages. Folks like Greg Mele, Ken Frinder, Chris Thompson, Terry Brown. Of course, I started to chat to them and it all took off from there. And the other thing that helped that, because I was enrolled in a PhD actually, I had access to the interlibrary loan system. In the days before the Internet could send graphics, I used to avoid Web pages with pictures because they took so too long to download, that was extremely useful. So I ran the poor girl at the library ragged getting these random things from other places in the world, none of which had anything to do with my studies at all.
GW: But actually, these days you’re definitely more of a historical swordsmanship instructor than you are a biologist. Your career was set. OK, so you’re studying George Silver with Stephen Hand. This is in, I guess, the mid to late 90s?
PW: The early 90s, really.
GW: Proper Dark Ages. Round about the time Paul MacDonald and I were starting the DDS. OK, so we are the grandfathers.
PW: Yep. And we feel it.
GW: Yeah. This is true. OK, so now you’ve got several books out, Medieval Sword and Shield, Master of Defence, which is about George Silver and you even have an Osprey book on the Pictish Warrior.
PW: That paid for our honeymoon to the UK.
GW: Did it? So Osprey books actually pay do they?
PW: Oh yes. It’s a set fee but yes, they pay you.
GW: OK, ok, good.
PW: A few years ago, I had a chap turned up who was doing postgrad in history at Macquarie Uni and he turned up at Stoccata and it turns out that he’d written an Osprey book as well and he said that Osprey had given him my book along with a couple of others as an exemplar of the form that they want for that particular series, I was quite shocked by that.
GW: That’s great. OK, so you have this broad spread of interests. What are your favourite systems and why?
PW: Well, if I get to pick more than one, I have to say Page’s Highland Broadsword is number one.
GW: All right, tell us about Page’s Highland Broadsword. Most people listening will never have heard of it. So start at the beginning and tell us everything.
PW: The beginning is, well, refer to my previous comment about my interest in Scottish history, always wanting to know how Highlanders used that broadsword. And I always said that if we ever found out the system was completely crap, I would do it anyway. And it turns out that it’s not crap. It’s actually really good. It’s really simple. It’s intuitive, but has a depth of sophistication, particularly in the sort of biomechanical area that keeps you interested in studying for years. And most importantly, it’s really fun to fight.
GW: OK, so what is it like?
PW: Lots of parry ripostes and recoveries and lots and lots of exchanges, blade on blade exchanges. And it’s kind of more like a game of ping pong than chess.
GW: OK, now, I mean, you must be familiar with sort of regular, broadswordy sabrey type stuff.
GW: Yeah. OK, so how is it different to that?
PW: OK, so the big difference with Page, and I could dispute as to how different it is, is that Page, his primary piece of footwork is traversing. That is walking circularly around your opponent. So it’s not a lunge and recover system. It’s much more circular. And when you look through the later British broadsword manuals, even though a lot of them are presented as a sort of lunge and recover system, there’s usually a paragraph at the back to say, actually, you should be traversing around to the side because that’s much better. And the difference between broadsword and smallsword is broadsword is fought on the traverse and smallsword isn’t. So I think there was a lot more traversing going on in the later permutations than people generally give credit to. And I was going to say the other thing about it is if you’re doing, say, Silver and you get hit, it’s because you did something stupid and you feel bad. Whereas if you get hit and broadsword, it’s usually because the other chap did something clever and you can both enjoy it.
GW: That’s a really good distinction. OK. So how did you come across Page? Because his Highland Broadsword manual comes from 1746. That’s right slap bang right after a certain period of Scottish history that I dare not mention.
PW: He started writing it as the rebellion was starting because he says so and obviously he says I know how these chaps fight, there’s going to be a market because people are going to want to know this stuff. And you can see by the end of the book, he’s really hurrying to get it out because he can see the rebellion petering out and he’s going to lose his audience. So he kind of rushes through the last bit. I came across it because a friend of mine from Melbourne, Alex Hughes, found a reference to it in a catalogue of stuff, and he said, oh, this sounds interesting. And he sent it to me. And then we wrote off to the library in question and got hold of a copy. So, again, very analogue.
GW: Yeah. So how long have you been working with Page?
PW: Oh, goodness me. It was a long time because it was back when Stoccata was just one school and Steve was still in Sydney, so… I’d almost have to go back and search through the YouTube channel to pin it down. Being of a certain age you tend to lose track of the decades, but a long time, OK, probably getting on to 20 years.
GW: Now, Page himself, I have a Scottish friend whose surname is Page, but we’re talking Lowlander. He wasn’t a Highlander himself, was he?
PW: He was English. As far as we know, he was a clockmaker. He also sold Highland broadswords in Norfolk, but he had a shop and he imported Highland broadswords and he sold them as well as clocks and there is some reference to him once being in the army. So he may have well been posted to Scotland earlier in his life. And that’s how he lived what he knew. And he also seems to have been active in the sort of prize fighting circuit of the period.
GW: I mean, if you have got an Englishman serving in the English army in occupied Scotland and he’s learning Highland broadsword from Highlanders, one has to entertain the possibility that they taught him wrong for a joke.
PW: I refer to my previous comment that if it turned out to be crap, I would have done it anyway.
GW: Fair enough. So do you have any information about how representative that system is for things that are actually done in the Highlands at the time? Is there any corroborating evidence there at all?
PW: So apart from some written accounts of Highlanders in battle, which are all reasonably vague, one of the main things we have is a thing called the Penicuik Sketches, which is a series of sketches from Penicuik made during the occupation of the Jacobite army of the area. And somebody went out and sketched them doing their stuff in various poses, holding swords and even there’s one nice sketch of two of them practising with broadsword and targe. And quite a lot of the details of those sketches, if you want to take them seriously, does match up quite well with what Page is talking about. So there’s that. And apart from that, we have the authors of the of the time, of the Napoleonic period, were quite definite that there was a thing they called the Highland Method, which was quite different to the sort of thing that was going on in the London salles. And there seems to be a fairly good consistency of what they’re talking about. So you hold your sword closer to your body rather than in a straight arm guard. You slip your leg at every parry and not just when it’s attacked.
GW: Just to explain that to the listeners who may not be familiar. So we’re talking about is normally if your sword arm is very far out and you have a fairly wide stance, you pull your front leg back if somebody cuts at it. But what you’re saying, is that keeping the sword closer to the body and every time they parry, they would draw the front leg, just in case.
PW: Just in case, correct.
GW: Makes sense, particularly if you are wearing a kilt.
PW: They get these consistent differences between the English texts, such as Wild or Godfrey and the contemporary Highland texts, whether they’re Napoleonic era and just saying this is the Highland method.
GW: Do we have texts saying this is the Highland method?
PW: Yes. Yes. We even know where Angelo learnt his Highland broadsword system from.
GW: So Angelo’s Highland broadsword method is actually genuinely Highland?
PW: Yes, he learned it from Haight, who was from Aberdeen, who was in debtors’ prison. He would go and visit him once a week and they played Highland Broadsword on the roof of the prison. That’s where he learned how to fight Highland broadsword.
GW: So we’re talking about Harry Angelo, son of Dominico Angelo, leading light of late 18th century London fencing, and his 1799 Highland broadsword manual. This is what we’re referring to. So how did you find that out?
PW: That’s in Henry Angelo’s memoir. He wrote a book called Angelo’s Picnic or something like that.
GW: That’s right. Henry Angelo, The Picnic. I’ve not actually read it, as you can probably tell from my surprise at the broadsword on the roof of the debtor’s prison. It is kind of cool though, that you’re in jail and you can go up on the roof with a sword and fence your mates. Prison isn’t like that anymore. OK, sorry, I derailed you slightly.
PW: He got his stuff from a genuine Scotsman. There is also the Art of Defence on Foot in various editions attributed to Roworth with Taylor, et cetera. Another bit from Angelo tells us that he was called as a witness in a court case about a chap who had pirated a fencing manual by a friend of his, an excellent amateur of the broadsword system called McHowarth and Angelo, as the professional of the art, was called as a witness. I found the pirated copy and putting it all together makes me believe that all the editions of The Art of Defence were written by this McHowarth chap anonymously. Roworth is only credited with adding the spidroon bit, Taylor is only credited with adding the spidroon bit. And in some catalogues such as the Bodleian, it’s not credited to Roworth, it’s credited to Howarth. So I reckon that they were all written by the same guy and he just revised them. Every couple of years, people say, actually, you shouldn’t parry it like that because this could happen, you should parry it like this and he goes, yeah, that’s better. And then in the next edition, he changes his mind about a few bits and pieces.
GW: Huh. See, I’ve studied Roworth years and years and years ago, and I can still fence kind of Roworth style broadsword. I had no idea that he was a pirate.
PW: Roworth wasn’t a pirate. The pirate copy was printed in an encyclopedia, the addition under fencing. Basically, the whole manual from the beginning with other bits from Angelo’s smallsword manual, the earlier Angelo.
GW: OK, I mean, Diderot used Angelo’s Ecole d’Arms from 1763 as the entry on fencing in his encyclopedia. But I think he did that with permission. So taking other people’s books and sticking them in encyclopedias was not uncommon.
PW: But this was done without permission, apparently, according to.
GW: Sure. So how come Charles Roworth is publishing a book under his own name that was actually written by someone else?
PW: He’s not. That’s the thing. He is actually credited with the additional lessons on the spidroon.
GW: I’ve read the book a million times and… Ha! OK, I need to dig it out and have another look at the title page. OK, well, that is fascinating. It’s always an education talking to you, Paul.
PW: So the point is there’s an awful lot to that story to be untangled.
GW: Yes. And also the point is we do actually have sources written by documented Highlanders, which would suggest that their system is actually what was being done in Scotland. And so Page is, shall we say, authentically Scottish, although written by an Englishman.
PW: Yes. And it seems that the Highland system became the standard British army system. So everybody did a variation of it.
GW: Oh really. OK. Well, that kind of makes sense. There’s an awful lot of historical precedent for occupying armies, taking the best military technology of their opponents and just adopting it.
PW: Well, plus, of course, the only way Highlanders could hang onto their swords was by joining the Army. They did in large numbers. There are an awful lot of Highland regiments around and they managed to hang onto their swords long after everybody else had to give them up.
GW: OK, wow. How is Page different to say Roworth?
PW: Just more of an emphasis on the biomechanics, but the thing is, all the Art of Defence editions have Page’s footwork diagram on about page two. They don’t tend to go into great detail about it, but it’s they say this is the footwork, whereas Page goes into a great amount of detail about moving your feet and changing your guards, and this is why you do it.
GW: OK, I’ve seen you teaching Page and fencing in Page’s style, and it is a very distinctive kind of turning back and forth sort of notion, like opening and closing a door. And that’s coming directly from the text.
PW: That’s coming directly from the text. And it’s in the later stuff. So in the Art of Defence stuff, instead of having the arm out, if you’re on an inside guard, you’re in a narrow stance and your left arm is out the back, thrown out as far as you can, according to Page, whereas in, say, Taylor or McBane, it’s up by the face, but still the back. When you go to the outside guard, you go to a slightly wider stance. Mathewson says six inches, and you will put your left hand either on your hip or on your thigh, or in Page’s case, across the belly.
GW: So your back hand is flapping back and forth every time you change guard.
PW: It’s slightly different positions, depending on the author, but it’s doing the same thing to the left shoulder, which is the important bit. And a lot of people don’t notice that and tend not to do it because none of the texts tell you, why should I change where my left hand is when I change guards, what’s the point? Whereas Page does and I think it might be one of those things that’s just everybody knew that it was so obvious. There was no point in writing it down.
GW: So why do that?
PW: So my modern definition of Page’s biomechanical principle of equilibrio is the use of the left hand to manipulate the left shoulder, to maintain alignment with the right shoulder.
GW: OK, which is exactly what we use the left hand for in, for example, rapier fencing.
PW: Yes. But it’s just much more three dimensional, because you’re making big sweeping cuts.
GW: Yeah, and you can see an echo in the Domenico Angelo where he says if your sword hand is palm up your back hand should extend palm up. And if your sword hand is palm down your back hand should extend palm down. I was like, why the hell would that matter? So I tested it using testing the groundpath that would occur when you do that. And sure enough, it is an awful lot stronger if you do it that way.
PW: Yes. In the short answer, it’s all groundpath.
GW: Now, we may come back to the mechanics of Page, but I do have a question for you regarding English longsword.
PW: Before we move on, you did promise me I could pick more than one favourite system.
GW: Oh, no problem. Yes, please carry on.
PW: So I would say my favourite companion weapon system is the English version of sword and buckler with the great big satellite dish thing. Because it’s a great big concave buckler, and the concaveness, the spreading out allows you to have a basket hilted backsword and swing close to your buckler. And because it flares outwards, you can pass your hilt close by.
GW: Very handy.
PW: Very handy. So the buckler’s huge. Your listeners won’t be able to see it.
GW: Let me describe it, it is absolutely fecking enormous. So it’s like a big bowl that is facing away from you with another bowl in the middle on the inside of it, which is facing towards you. So there is a space for the handgrip and then sticking out of the inner dome that is gigantic spike, which in Paul’s example, has something blunt on the end. OK, I need a photograph of that and I will stick it in the show notes. It’s a bit difficult to visualize.
PW: It’s a 12 inch pike. Basically, if you’ve both got a backsword and one of those, you can really see how you go down to Smithfield on a Friday night, have a couple of pints, and then bash away without any real danger of hitting each other.
GW: OK, so where does the source for that buckler come from?
PW: Well, if you have a look at, say, the English edition of di Grassi, where they’ve replaced the pictures with terrible blocky English woodcuts, that’s what he’s holding. There are a whole bunch of them in the Royal Armouries. And in fact, when I went to the Royal Armouries, I realised that the first one I’d got made wasn’t big enough. I was like, oh my God, that’s huge. And they apparently aren’t they aren’t at all uncommon. We have pictures of them from the 16th century, as well as lots of extant examples. And although I’m saying it’s English, the invention of it seems to be Welsh. OK, and there were Welsh buckler making hubs and they were very proud of their bucklers. And they wrote poems, love poems, about their bucklers.
GW: Did they indeed? I did not know that.
PW: Lovely Welsh love poems about their bucklers. They really like their sword and bucklers.
GW: Send me one and I’ll stick it in the show notes because I have to see a love poem written to a buckler.
PW: And this one’s just made out of metal, but the real ones tend to have a sort of a metal web and then covered in heavy leather and then held on with lots of studs.
GW: OK, so they should be a little bit lighter than the solid steel one.
PW: I don’t know, I reckon that the heavy leather, it’s going to be bloody heavy. I have found just a flat buckler because it’s sort of 14th, 15th century, a Welsh one up on a battlefield. And that weighed nearly three kilos.
GW: Bloody hell. That’s a big heavy buckler.
PW: But the weight of it is part of the joy because you just leave it there. It doesn’t matter what people do, they can hit it all day. It doesn’t move.
GW: And you have your arm in a sling for the next week because you can’t move it because you’ve wrecked all the muscles. OK, so what are your sources for its use?
PW: OK, basically just Silver and a bit of Swetnam.
GW: Do you think when Silver is talking about a buckler, that’s the kind of buckler he’s talking about?
PW: That’s the sort of buckler that was around at the time. That’s what he would have been familiar with. So when he says “bucklers are better than daggers because of their weight and circumference”, it all makes sense. Well, that’s got weight, that’s got circumference. That makes perfect sense now, not the pissy little 12 inch delicate little thing. There’s even a series of maps that were drawn of 16th century cities all over Europe. And they have little portraits of the locals walking around and showing the costumes of the place. And in all the European cities, you have gentlemen and his lady and maybe one in 10, the gentleman might be wearing a rapier. But in all the English cities, everybody’s carrying weapons and they’ve got to servant carrying this enormous buckler on his back wandering around.
GW: I need a buckler carrying servant, I have a new ambition in life. I need to make so much money that I could afford to hire someone to carry my buckler in the street as I promenade down the centre of Ipswich. An excellent life goal established.
PW: England was a very special place.
GW: Always has been. So your area of choice would be Page broadsword and a solid English buckler.
PW: Yes. Unless I was fighting like dissimilar weapons. If I just wanted to humiliate them, I would choose broadsword and alehouse dagger.
GW: OK, now, I know what an alehouse dagger is, because I have fenced you with one I believe, or at least played with them, and but I don’t think the average listener will have any clue what an alehouse dagger is. And there will be another photo of this one in the shownotes.
PW: Yeah. So an alehouse dagger is more or less half a broadsword. It’s a basket hilted dagger, a somewhat less salubrious name for it was the bum dagger. And according to the accounts we have, it’s 12 to 18 inches long. It has a basket hilt on it, which is one poem says you could serve your soup in, brain somebody like a maul with it. And it was too big to conceal. And so you would wear it in a sash, have it stuck sort of around your waist, down your back. Which is why it was called the bum dagger. And for a period of time, this is what your average Englishman would take to the pub if they were expecting to get in a knife fight.
GW: OK, it is very apt that you’re Australian. Because the Crocodile Dundee thing, that’s not a knife.
PW: Pretty much, yeah, exactly.
GW: I pull out my bollock knife to stab you and you pull out your bum dagger and you’re basically a very short sword.
PW: Yes. And if people look at the YouTube video on it, we do a quick demonstration bout between normal knife and alehouse dagger.
GW: OK, I will put a link to that in the show notes.
PW: It just humiliates nearly every other weapon, if you’ve got a broadsword and a dagger, you just stick it out there. You can block just about anything with it. As well of course, chop people’s arms off with it. It’s big enough to be a short machete.
GW: OK, so. If you had to choose, would you go with buckler or the alehouse dagger?
PW: Well, that’s the thing, if I was fighting the same weapon would be buckler, if it was fighting a different weapon, it would be dagger. And that’s just because it’s more like two swords if you’ve ever done the case of swords thing. Against other the weapons, that’s fantastic. Against itself, it can get very messy. You’ve got all these blades and they all get tangled up in each other and there’s a lot less freedom of action with the dagger when it’s fighting itself. Whereas with the buckler, the buckler just takes care of everything, and so you sword is free to swoop and dive in any way it seems fit and it’s a lot of fun.
PW: That said, a buckler with a 12 inch spike on it is mostly a dagger. A dagger with an enormous basket around your hand is mostly a buckler. It’s not that much difference between them.
GW: I think the alehouse dagger is probably a little easier to carry. You don’t need a servant for that.
PW: True. That is true.
GW: OK, so those would be your top system choices. Fair enough. OK, now we do need to discuss English longsword a little bit. Now, my previous guest, James Hester. And listeners can find his episode about 20 episodes back, I asked him about English longsword material, and he and I generally agree that the texts that we have for English longsword are Additional Manuscript 39564; Cotton and Titus, A.25; and Harlean Manuscript 3542. Yes, I’m reading from my notes. I do not have that stuff in my head. And within those rather short unillustrated sources, there is not a great deal of actual hard and fast instruction to work with. So James and I are of the opinion that you can make an interpretation of that, and that interpretation may work, but there isn’t enough information to know whether that’s what they were actually doing back in, say, the early 16th century with the English longsword. Do you agree?
GW: Aha! I thought not. Good.
PW: Right. The first thing I guess is, well, yes, you’re right insofar as if that was all we had, that would probably be true. But it’s not all we have, because first of all, we’ve got a whole plethora of other European longsword texts that tell us in much more detail how some of these things are done. Plus, we have Silver who says it’s just like quarterstaff. Then we have Swetnam, who does staff, and Wild, who does very longswordy-looking staff. So we’ve got access to that as well. And there’s evidence from the manuscripts themselves that tell us that they were well aware of what other Europeans were doing with their longswords and probably nicked it and used it in a very similar way. So in the Harlean manuscript, we have the Hawke, which is sort of a descending cut, generally speaking. And the rabbit. Which is a rising cut and why is it a hawke and a rabbit, and it’s probably because hawke is Haw.
GW: Yeah, German for blow.
PW: Yes, and rabbit is rabat. So you have a combination in Harlean that goes you deliver a hawke down to the ground, then a rabbit up to the sky and then a hawke down to the ground. So you’re swinging your sword up and down.
GW: So that tells you that the hawke is down and the rabbit is up.
PW: Yeah. Then in Ledall, so Additional Manuscript, you have a down right blow followed by a rabbit, followed by a down right blow. So you’ve got the same sequence, but suddenly it’s just like, oh, now we’ve got a change in language, Ledall being closer to Silver is now using a Silver term for that down right blow. So you’ve got the sword going up and down and we know how that works because we’ve seen it in Fiore. We know how rabats work and we know how blows work. To quote a friend of mine, it’s not rocket science, swordsmanship is fairly direct. It’s not rocket science. We’ve all got bodies and they all move the same way. And the weapons are all more or less the same sort of thing. And so, if you swing the slow down from your right shoulder to your left hip and then up again, it’s going to work in the same way. And then we have instructions within those manuscripts that are actually so specific that they give us a really good insight. So one example would be, again, from Ledall where you deliver a down right blow, stepping back with your left foot, then a rake bringing your sword above your right shoulder, stepping forward with your right foot. So you go, all right, well, what’s that about? Well, if you’re stepping back, you’re probably defending yourself. And if you’re stepping back with your left foot and stepping forward with your right foot, you’re not going all the way back. It’s not a pass directly back because then you would be weird. You would end up doing the splits. So you’ll probably bringing your left foot back to about the level of your right foot and then you can bring your right foot forward in the next section. So the down right blow stepping back. Suddenly you’ve got a piece of footwork which is more or less a slip. Stepping back with a down right blow. So you’re cutting down on the attacking sword. And then we are told to step in with our right foot for the riposte. With a rake bringing us all up above our right shoulder, which is a cut three in broadsword or cut two left ox in German. I’ve forgotten what that is in Fiore.
GW: Rising, you say, above the right shoulder.
PW: Stepping back, parrying with the down right blow, then, rather than delivering a thrust to the face as my riposte, I’m bringing it up with a rising cut.
GW: I would bring that rising cut up from the left to the right. You’ve cut down from right to left, would you not then cut up from left to right?
PW: Well, that depends on what the other guy does, because if I’ve swung my sword at somebody and they whack it down, I’m going to do the traditional English thing of retreat into a hanging guard and run away. So I’m basically going to go to that left ox type position, which is pretty standard, they’re delivering the energy. You just roll your hands and let it go. And if they do that, my direct riposte at say the face with a thrust isn’t going to work. They’re going to recover and deal with that. If, however, I throw that cut, I tend to take their arms off. So that little sequence is actually quite sophisticated because you’re parrying, your finishing with your point online, threatening the thrust, they are forced to recover into a hanging guard which exposes their hands to the cut from underneath.
GW: So the rake is a cut. It’s a cut from underneath.
PW: The rake is a rising cut with the true edge, whereas the rabbit tends to be with false edge.
GW: OK, and you figured that out by what works in this situation.
PW: And also Swetnam talks about the rake, the rake is mentioned in his Welsh hook part. So a lot of these terms have definitions from later English systems.
GW: OK, and we’re talking like a hundred and thirty years later, something like that.
PW: Ledall is supposedly early to mid 16th century, so it’s 50-60 years. And you can see from Harlean to Ledall, that’s one hundred years, most of the terminology is the same, some terms have changed. OK, then you go to Silver and Swetnam and you see some of the terms that used in Ledall are in Silver and Swetnam and some of them aren’t. I’ve published in The Arts of Mars series, the WMAW, I did an article in there where I explained where all the definitions of all the terms and all manuscripts and how what they are and how I came to those conclusions and justified for that. So if you know what a hawke and a rake and a rabbit and a quarter blow is, then putting the system together is not that hard because again, it’s not that complicated.
GW: This is something where we definitely agree. Fundamentally, you put your sword in the way of your opponent’s sword and you hit them. And if their sword is in the way, you go around. And that’s basically it. All swordsmanship is simple.
PW: There’s even a wind in it. So I may have a vague way, if you deliver a little blow and then it says and then you deliver a broken foin, thrusting your pommel over and under your right elbow. So as soon as you start doing that, you’re going, all right, I’ve parried the blow and then I’m doing that or I’m doing that.
GW: Which is a wind.
PW: Yeah, except they called it a broken foin, because it’s a thrust you do after your attack has been broken, presumably. Again, without the German material, we’d have no idea what the utility of that is. But we do have the German material so we can recognise and say, oh, OK, so they’re doing a thrust, turning the sword. And so therefore it’s a wind.
GW: Right. OK, “A tumbling chate as round as a ball.”
PW: Yes, I call it the tumbling cat as round as a ball.
GW: OK, you call it a cat, not chate?
Speaker 3 [00:42:38] OK, well, yes.
PW: Yes, just because “Le chat”. It’s probably not. Chate is probably not cat, but it’s easier to remember for everyone that way.
GW: It’s good to put this in context and it’s a word that for which we have no definitive definition, but it seems to be some kind of combination of actions strung together into something you do in a sword fight.
PW: More or less. So this is essentially it’s starting on your right shoulder. It’s a down right blow where you pass forward and right, followed by another down right blow as you make your corrective step back with your left foot. Which works marvellously as a feint against somebody who’s really twitchy and swings hard at everything you throw at them. So you throw your first blow really fast, they swing it and they miss because you’ve swung through really fast and you just let the momentum of the sword swing itself over and you strike them on the head with the corrective step.
GW: So basically like a Molinello on the inside?
PW: Correct, yeah.
GW: OK, so what do you think of the word “chate” or “cat”?
PW: Well, I said it’s not cat, it’s just a cat as round as a ball is just marvellous. There’s no real information about what that means. So we can only guess. But yes, it does seem to be some sort of sequence of techniques.
GW: I just came up with a wild theory.
GW: It’s actually the origin of the Japanese word “kata”.
PW: I’m happy to agree with you. Musashi learned his swordsmanship from an Englishman with a broadsword and an alehouse dagger, you know.
GW: Of course he did. So where should people go if they want to find out more about English longsword and how it works?
PW: OK, so I have articles in the aforementioned WMAW series. And also in that Brill book. I’ll find it on my shelf.
GW: I’m looking for the Arts of Mars one as well. I have it, but I can’t put my hand on it right now. I need to reorganise my library or rather, I need to stop reorganising my library. Volume 2.
PW: I’m not sure if it’s in one or two, but it’s one of them.
GW: And Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books. Excellent. Daniel Jaquet, Karin Verelst, and Timothy Dawson are the editors. All right, published by Brill. OK, I will find those books and put things in the notes.
PW: Other than that, if you go to our YouTube channel, I have done several fairly detailed videos of the principles of English longsword and the actions and seeing it in action and if you want to learn it and you don’t have anybody nearby who does it, go and do some Fiore because that’s pretty close. Carlo Parise once described it as Fiore done all wrong.
GW: Now, Silver’s come up a lot, unsurprisingly, as in the early 90s, he was the one English language source that we all found in libraries. And I can remember I found in the Edinburgh University Library, I came across Paradoxes of Defence in that nineteen sixties facsimile edition. Which is super mindblowing and helpful. Your Master of Defence book, this is the, in my opinion, the definitive study of Paradoxes of Defence and Brief Instructions. And you have kindly included it as one of the perks in my audiobook campaign, where I am getting Paradoxes of Defence read, narrated as audiobooks in both modern pronunciation and also in original pronunciation. And the original pronunciation is particularly interesting because the accent and the voice and the pronunciation changes how you absorb the language. So I think, personally, particularly as an Italian rapier fencer, I tend to the view that Silver is perhaps a trifle overrated. Would you care to comment on that?
PW: The thing about Silver is, regardless of what you think of his system, his principles and his concepts and his language, is just too bloody useful to avoid. He just explains the theory behind everything and gives you a language with which to talk about it and explain it and think about it like no other source. So I’m quite happy to admit, if you read the difference between what he says in Paradoxes and what he says about rapiers in Brief Instructions. He changed his mind. In Paradoxes it was all about open fight and gardant fight much better than this point forward rubbish. But when he gets to Paradoxes, he says if you’re fighting a rapier, don’t be an open or garden, make narrow space. So obviously somebody has come along and poked him in the belly a few times and he’s going, all right.
GW: OK, can we justify an open fight, gardant fight, variable fight and close fight for the listeners who will not all be Silver people?
PW: OK, so open fight of which Silver gives us one line, which we call open ward, is where your sword is held above your head, ready to deliver a jolly good down right blow. OK, gardant fight, of which he gives us one line and one additional ward, which is really two, is point down hanging guards and the one he likes is what the latest British sources called the prime hanging guard. So it’s held quite close to your body rather than pointing forwards. So you can see it in, say, Anti-Pugilism. Sinclair has a nice picture of it. There’s also one in one of the Angelo publications as well. But it’s basically where you put your sword when you’re parrying in a hanging guard. And he also says if it’s lower, you drop your sword down to what will later call the inside or outside half hangers and which Silver calls bastard gardant. And that’s gardant fight. Just those three.
GW: OK. And a “fight” is basically…
PW: A collection of positions in which you hold your sword that have something in common. So even though he only gives us one open fight, which is straight above your head, if you were lying in right shoulder.
GW: That would be open fight.
PW: Left shoulder would be open fight. Underarm would probably be open fight, because they’re all charged guards, they’re not closing the line, they’re not presenting a point. They’re not engaging other persons. They just ready to deliver a blow. So that’s really open fight. Gardant fight, even though Silver only gives us the point down versions, I’d say in an expanded universe, gardant fight is probably something that closes off the line of attack of your opponent.
GW: OK, makes sense.
PW: Then we have close fight, which Silver says if you are getting physically close enough to your opponent so that you can engage their blade, what he calls the half sword, which is not German sword, it means halfway up the sword, then you should do so because you’re getting very close. They can attack you very quickly. And by engaging their blade, they then have to disengage to hit you. And the time that takes substitutes more distance. So it’s safe to do so.
GW: So close fight is basically fencing from engagement.
PW: Yes. And that includes your standard inside and outside guards and probably your extended hanging guard would count as that as well. And variable fight, Silver says, is anything that doesn’t fit into any of the above categories. The examples he gives us are all point forward thrusting wards. So they’re all rapier wards. So we have stocata, which is sword foot forward, essentially Saviolo’s kind of withdrawn guard, sword by your right hip. Passata, which is the same thing, but sword foot back. Mountanta and imbrocata, is hand in first pointing forward.
GW: But why is he using these absolutely butchered Italian terms?
PW: I think Sir William Hope put it best when he said, I know I’m using lots of foreign words, but that’s because this art was brought to this country by foreigners and now everybody understands that language. So we’re stuck with it.
GW: No, no, but he uses them wrong. Stoccata is not a guard position, it’s a thrust.
PW: Yes. Because he’s English and he doesn’t care. See the hawks and rabbits. It’s the same thing, adopting foreign terminology and using it in an amusing, or at least, butchered way. Long tradition.
GW: OK, so we have these four kinds of fight, open fight, variable fight, gardant fight, close fight; and close fight is not grappling. Close fight is fencing from the swords crossed in the middle. There is a whole lot of stuff we could go into around how Fiore uses the terms of zogho largo and zogho stretto, which is all about the crossing of the sword. But let’s not dive down that particular rabbit hole, cause I don’t think it’s terribly useful for people who are listening if they can’t see. OK, so what else does this Silver give us other than these fight definitions?
PW: He gives us a very simple, self-contained system that works fabulously against itself, it works exactly the way he says. When we first started back in the early 90s, we were doing Silver and Saviolo and Silver worked exactly the way Silver said it would work. And Saviolo didn’t work in exactly the way Silver said it wouldn’t work.
GW: OK, I have to get Chris Chatfield on the show, who is a Saviolo person to rebut your statement? OK, making a note here. Invite Chris.
PW: In particular, the subtleties of timing that you could get when you’re fighting from open fight tends to befuddle people who have not seen it before.
PW: So you’ve got this sword, it’s way up in the air, it’s way back there. You can’t engage it, you can’t play with the you can’t beat it, you can’t do anything about it. And it can come down at pretty well any angle and it can change direction halfway through. So if you commit to your defence too early, the person attacking has time to just turn their wrist and hit you somewhere else and that, if you have not seen it and you don’t understand how it works, can really throw people off right now. Even though I love Page tremendously, I still teach Silver on a fairly regular basis, so my students have seen it and can understand it and don’t freak out when people do it to them. And every now and again, I get a student who just takes to it like a duck to water and doesn’t want to do anything else ever again.
GW: That’s the thing. I may have come across as dismissive of Silver and that’s not really fair. It has this kind of grammar of how swordsmanship works, which actually applies really well to what you’re describing about open fight. It’s like fencing from posta di donna because of the way the sword is held back, it can’t be fiddled about with by your opponent. And there are, as Fiore says, posta di donna could do all seven blows of the sword. And you can time it in all sorts of different ways to offer various threats or feints or opportunities or openings or whatever for your opponent so that you can sort of manipulate them into behaving a certain way so you can hit them somewhere else.
PW: Precisely the same.
GW: Huh. OK. And of course, he gives us the true times and the false times.
PW: He does indeed.
GW: By all means, tell us about the true time and the false time.
PW: You want to go there, do you?
GW: Let’s, because, again, I am well aware that an awful lot of the people listening have never read Silver or trained Silver or anything else. To my mind, it is one of those treatises where you have an awful lot of information that is applicable to a lot of other systems. And understanding, even if you’re not particularly interested in 16th century English fencing and maybe you prefer 14th century German fencing or 17th century French fencing or whatever. There are still things that are made explicit in Silver that are not made explicit elsewhere. Time of the hands being one of those ones where Capoferro does say you should lead with the sword. But he only briefly mentioned in passing and doesn’t make a big thing of it.
PW: So basically, the great insight about the true times is that rather than talking about, say, tempos, you know, the time it takes to do a fencing action, Silver says that OK, different fencing actions take different amounts of time, depending on what part of the body is moving. So you can move your hand really fast and drop your hand from open ward down onto your opponent’s head really, really fast. But it can only do that if you’re close enough to hit them. So that’s what he calls the “time of the hand”. If you’re a little further away and the hand alone won’t work, but you could do it by shifting your weight forward, then that is what he calls the “time of the body”. That’s a little bit slower, but it’s still pretty fast. If you’re at a normal kind of fencing distance where you can’t hit each other, even if you lean in, but you need to step with say, a lunge, that’s what he calls the “time of the foot”. And if you may have to make a bigger motion, so a passing step or multiple footsteps to reach your opponent from further away, that’s “time of the feet”. So a triangle step attack is in time of the feet. And because these different actions move at different speeds, that has a profound effect on how you fight, because if I’m standing at distance in open fight with my sword foot back, and I want to attack. If I moved my hand as fast as I could while passing forward as fast as I could, I would miss because my sword would finish its action with the time of the hand long before my feet can get me close enough to hit my opponent. So I’ve got a paradox. I can either swing my sword really fast, step forward and miss, or I can step into distance till I’m close enough to swing my hand really fast, which puts me in the distance where my opponent can stab me in their time of the hand. So that doesn’t work either. And the true times explains how you attack in order to be safe from that position. He says the true times is very simple. True times is where the hand moves before the feet. False times is where the feet moves before the hand. So if I’m sword foot back and open fight and going to attack, I start my hand motion first. That will make my body weight shift forward, which is the time of the body. And then I will move my feet and my hand has to be before me. And before means in time, but it also means more importantly in front of. So it’s what we would call attacking with opposition, making sure your weapon is between you and the other person, particularly their sword, before you enter the distance in which they can hit you.
GW: Right. It’s an explicit discussion of initiation. What moves first.
PW: Yes. What, how, why.
GW: And the problem is you’ll hit much harder if you step with the feet first and then swing. I’ve tested it. Your body wants to step into measure. If you want to hit hard, you step into measure and then you strike. And you have both feet planted and then you strike. And that gives you by far the hardest hit. If you’re striking from the edge of measure and you have to step in behind it, you sacrifice an awful lot of power, which feels frustrating for beginners. And so that’s why they will tend to step in first and then swing. But, of course, then you get stabbed in the face. So, yes, it’s tricky. It helps if you’ve got a sodding great big sharp weapon. You don’t actually have to hit that hard with it to do damage.
PW: And the other thing is to remember is that Silver’s using a basket hilt broadsword, which allows you to lead with, as he says, the hand. He doesn’t say the sword, he says the hand, because your hand is safely encased in the cage of steel, which means you can keep the point of your sword hanging back right at the very last second before you hit. You just squeeze your hand and the tip of the sword whips forward at enormous speed so you can actually deliver… We used to wonder about some of the things that people doing longsword were saying overseas about what sort of protection they needed, because that’s clearly inadequate. And this is long before we started doing longsword and realized, oh, I see, you can’t do that with a longsword, you’ll get your hands cut off. But with the with the backswords, we can deliver an enormous amount of force in that just last fraction of a second, just as you whip that point forward.
GW: With a longsword, you have to have the blade out in front of your hands, or you’re just going to get them chopped off.
PW: Precisely. Whereas with the broadsword, you don’t need to and you don’t want to. You leave it hanging back to the last fraction of a second and then squeeze your hand and smack him.
GW: So I think maybe we’ve illustrated the usefulness of Silver as a source.
PW: The other important thing to remember about Silver, is that he has quarterstaff in it. And as a child, I used to watch Monkey Magic. We wanted to fight with quarterstaffs, so we’d go and get some broomsticks and within a few minutes of smacking each other on the knuckles and throwing them down in disgust. And that’s why I started reading Silver, because he had staff in it and I read it and went, oh, my God. But you have a like a long bit out the front, and a short bit behind you.
GW: Yeah. You hold it at the quarter, not at the half.
PW: Yeah, exactly. And that’s important.
GW: Very important. So you go to Silver for all your quarterstaff needs.
PW: Swetnam is pretty good, too.
GW: You’ve mentioned Swetnam quite a bit, and I don’t think anyone else has really mentioned him on this show, so I’m guessing that quite a lot of my listeners don’t know who Swetnam was and when he was writing.
PW: Swetnam used to be the fencing master to Prince Henry in the early 17th century who died as a young lad.
GW: Not in a sword fight.
PW: Not in a sword fight.
GW: That’s very important, because if he died in a sword fight, we can dismiss Swetnam as an instructor.
PW: He was obviously pretty good. He, from what we can tell, was probably an ex-sailor from Plymouth. Entails lots of nautical stories and uses lots of nautical analogies. He had a copy of Silver because he steals large portions of it in his manual, uncredited, but also disagrees vehemently with Silver about the usefulness of the rapier. Doesn’t necessarily disagree with Silver about the Italian system because he uses his rapier in a very, very, very non-Italian way. And the reason I got into Swetnam, this is right back in the very beginning, is the aforementioned comment about Saviolo not working. I’d read in history of fencing thing somewhere that Swetnam says rapier are so simple any idiot could learn it in three weeks and I thought that’s the rapier system for me. So back in those days when we were getting those photocopies.
GW: I remember those photocopies.
PW: I read chapter 12 which is the sword fighting bit. Everything else is waffle. Amusing waffle, but waffle nonetheless. And I went to class and I just wiped the floor with everybody. Just by doing this simple Swetnam stuff, and it was just like, this is good. Yeah, I mean, we quickly discovered it’s boring. Not a lot happens, but it’s bloody effective and didn’t even take me three weeks.
GW: Swetnam is also famous for writing a monstrous…
PW: Against lewd and unconstant women.
GW: Yes, exactly. He’s a raging misogynist, but I guess it’s not really fair to dismiss his rapier system just because he himself wasn’t particularly nice.
PW: Yes. Although Steve Hand argues that it just comes across badly. He was really trying to give kind uncle advice to the young men of the era.
GW: Yeah, OK, good luck with that. Put that on Twitter and see what you get.
PW: I think that after the Silver thing, we should definitely do the complete works of Swetnam, plus a dramatic rendition of the play, Swetnam the Woman Hater.
GW: Right, you mean, after my audiobook thing?
PW: That would be a lovely package. And Swetnam is funnier than Silver. He tells funny stories.
GW: Well, that is true. But OK, so the play, Swetnam, the Woman Hater, who wrote that?
PW: I can’t remember who wrote it. But the queen was the one who commissioned it because after he wrote his arraignment against lewd women, she was so offended she had the play commissioned and then made him sit next to her while it was performed at court.
GW: Now, that is payback. Oh, my God. OK, where did you find that out from?
PW: Oh, I can’t remember where I read that.
GW: OK, I think I need to look into that because that is genius. OK, so yeah, looks like I’m going to need to do another crowdfunding campaign because. Because Swetnam should be.
PW: Swetnam should be essential reading just for the stories, I mean, his principles are great, they’re not in any way incompatible with Silver’s, they’re quite similar in many ways. But he gives really good practical advice and also a really good insight into the context of use of the weapons at the time. So two things he says that are really, I think, insightful is that most of the book is about how not to get into fights with drunk people.
GW: Now, that is good advice.
PW: He says everybody’s drunk. And when people are drunk, the wits go out and they don’t defend themselves and they do stupid, suicidal things and they’re easy to kill but hard to defend against. And so if you’re challenged to a duel, make sure you do it first thing in the morning. Because by lunch, he says the drink is in and the wits out. By lunch everybody is drunk. The other thing that he says, which I think is interesting and gives you an insight into what people are fighting with, is he says one of the reasons he doesn’t like blows as opposed to thrusts is the extreme likelihood of your sword breaking. Or even the pike flying out of your quarterstaff if you swing a blow. He says that when people do swing blows, they swing so hard that they will swing around and turn their back on their opponent. So the context of use of both Silver and Swetnam is not very well trained people who are probably pissed with bad quality weapons, which they don’t really know how to use, trying to kill you in a drunken street fight. That’s what it’s designed for. It’s not for winning tournament. It’s not for genteel fencing. It’s for defending yourself from people who are not particularly sophisticated, but bloody murderous.
GW: Like Silver himself says that he would he would put all these fencing masters to a test where you have to fence three other masters and actually land blows on them. You have to fence three unskilled but valiant
men and not get hurt. And also three valiant men, half drunk.
PW: Yes, indeed. We have carried that experiment out.
GW: OK. What happened?
PW: Well, if you go to the Stoccata YouTube channel and you type in “halfe drunke”, you will see the experiment and the results of it in action. And let’s just say it depends a little bit on how you react to your period ale. It was enlightening.
GW: In what way?
PW: The two of us who volunteered to be half drunk were me and
GW: Of course it was you, Paul.
PW: and our in-house brewer brewed up some period barley wine for me. I think an apple brandy, for Tim. I got much faster and much more aggressive and much scarier overall, and I felt fine, but everyone said you were moving twice as fast as you normally do and you were completely ignoring any little feinty, delicate thing and just hammering in and became actually quite hard to fight. Tim, who is a more cautious fencer to start with, got more so.
GW: It exaggerated your natural tendencies.
PW: Seems to, yes.
GW: Huh, interesting. All right, everyone should go and check out your YouTube channel. You also have some, shall we call them, “rants”?
PW: You can call them that.
GW: Which are always well thought out and relatively politely expressed.
PW: I try.
GW: I think we should probably not go into details of any of them. If people are interested in your opinions or those subjects, they can just check out your YouTube channel. I will put a link to it in the show notes. OK, now I have a couple of questions that I ask most of my guests. And the first is, what is the best idea you have not acted on?
PW: OK, so until recently, I would have said my Beowulf: The Musical. Took me years, but I’ve actually finished that. So I have written Beowulf the musical.
GW: Is it going to be performed anytime soon?
PW: Yes. I’m hoping to put a concert version together first. Covid isn’t great for touring musical productions. But, yes, it’s 20 years in the making and really funny. So which is not something you can say for the original.
GW: OK, Beowulf: The Musical. You heard it here first.
PW: I’ve got off my bum and I’ve got Superior Fencing to make me a Highland cotun-based fencing jacket. There will be a review of on our YouTube channel very soon, which I am extremely ecstatic over. It’s everything I’ve always wanted in commercial HEMA armour. So I can take that off the list.
GW: Just tell us a bit about it.
PW: OK, so for some weird reason, this is one of our most watched and most controversial videos was a rant which I just did on the spur of the moment was just like because I’ve got a SPES jacket, first generation, which I want in a tournament in America, I think as a prize. And initially I thought, oh, this is great. And after a little bit of wearing it, I realised this is not great at all. It’s really ridiculously hot and stuffy, doesn’t breathe at all. It’s only padding, which really doesn’t present enough protection for what we were doing. See aforementioned comment about backsword fencing and of course was only down to the waist. So you didn’t have to wear special fighting trousers or something. Whereas before I had always just made a full length gambeson-type thing that covered you from neck to thigh. And in particular I’d made a reasonably authentically made Highland cotun, which is sort of 15th, 16th century type of Highland armour that was made from leather stuffed with cotton or wool to make sort of tubes, much like a cricket pad. Essentially, it’s a full body cricket pad. You can see carvings of these on Highland gravestones.
GW: how do you spell the word cotun?
PW: Cotun, which is Irish for cotton, because it was a stuffed with cotton, possibly it was stuffed with not cotton but what they call bog cotton, which is a plant that grows up in Northern Britain and Ireland, you may be familiar with it, it has antiseptic properties as well. So during the war they used it for wound dressing. So it would be a sensible thing to stuff armour with I would have thought.
GW: Yeah, sure.
PW: Whatever it was, it a stuffed gambeson and just by itself it’s solid, sword-proof protection really. So I said why can’t we make something like this and for some reason, that was very controversial. And after many years, I finally got somebody to make me one and put them into production.
GW: And what’s the name of the company that’s doing that?
PW: This is Superior Fencing,
GW: Superior Fencing.
PW: I could show it to you, but that wouldn’t do listeners any good.
GW: Send me a photo. I’ll stick it in the shownotes.
PW: I will do so. But basically, it’s made like a sort of absolute fencing plastron in that it has got solid strips, vertical strips of plastic, sewn into the material with a little bit of padding behind. So you’ve got essentially a full body plastron, absorbs the blows really well. We’ve been doing lots of sort of Highland two-handed sword type stuff, so we need the added protection. And it’s great. I love it. And the fact that it’s got a sort of flared skirt means that it’s vastly cooler as well, even without the ventilation.
GW: Right. Of course. And that’s air flow.
PW: Yeah, I hate the fighting trousers. They’re just dreadful things
GW: I don’t wear them. OK, so that’s two ideas you have acted on.
PW: This is a thought I had recently. So, you know, have people argue about the effectiveness of this blow or that blow or the stress of that thrust, whether it would actually stop you and blah blah blah blah blah, which is not something we can test, for ethical reasons. I was thinking of starting Leave Your Body to HEMA scheme, so when you die and those of us in the first generation of HEMA researchers are getting to the point where the end of life is something we need to start contemplating, we could arrange a scheme where you leave your body to a local HEMA club that they can use for test cutting and answer some of these questions.
GW: OK, is there a reason not to use a pig, a dead pig?
PW: No! Well, this is the thing is like, of course, people, some people will be looking for a voluntary euthanasia type solution.
GW: So I’m dying of cancer or something horrible, and so I go to my local club and charge at them going, “I’m going to smack you”. And they see whether a mandritto fendente to the head will actually drop me in my tracks.
PW: Correct. Exactly. Leave your body to science.
GW: OK, maybe I should have clarified, what’s the best good idea you’ve never acted on. Honestly, Paul, I can’t see that taking off, I really can’t.
PW: I think the Russians would go for it, don’t you?
PW: Being serious for a moment. I’ve done some sort of instructional books and that kind of thing, like when we did the sword and buckler book, I had the weird experience of going around the world on a tour a year after it had come out. I got and watching other people’s interpretation of our interpretation based on the photos.
GW: I am very familiar with that.
PW: Yes. And that convinced me that a series of still photos are not a good way of conveying movement. And, you know, technology such as DVDs and things like that are useful, but I’ve always wanted to have something like essentially a Harry Potter book where you’ve got your text and all your references, and all that, and a picture that repeats the action over and over. Like in the Harry Potter universe. I’m not sure the technology is quite there yet, but that’s what I want.
GW: Dude. I’ve done this for my Rapier Workbooks. It’s not quite the Harry Potter thing, but everyone does have a magic box in their pocket. And so what I’ve got in my Rapier Workbooks is there’s a picture, and it’s the usual sort of text and instruction, blah, blah, blah. But then there’s a QR code which takes you to a pretty link, which is a link that goes through my website so I can change the target of the link, so if I need to update the video or change the video, I can do that without changing the link in the printed book. And so you literally take your phone out, you point the QR code reader at the QR code and the video pops up on the screen. It is super cool, and it also gets around the problem of like if it was a PDF or something where you can actually embed video.
PW: I’ve experimented with that.
GW: It doesn’t work on a Kindle. It doesn’t work on anything other than like an iPad sort of thing or a computer.
PW: Or you can do the same thing in Microsoft Word, but it freaks out if it gets too much.
GW: And then the file sizes get too big and you can’t distribute them. So I have these video clips, which are in my Vimeo account and the links in the book just take you straight to the particular video. So, you know, if I’m discussing attack by disengage, you point your video at it and then the video of me doing the attack by disengage or teaching attack by disengage comes up and it works, it is super simple and straightforward, it is not difficult. Feel free to steal.
PW: That is what I want to do, that kind of thing.
GW: OK, so you’re going to write an instructional book using these video clips rather than still pictures. Yeah, OK, that is a very good idea. And I know it’s a very good idea because I’ve acted on it. Excellent. OK, last question. Somebody gives you a huge sum of money to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide. How would you spend it?
PW: Oh, goodness me, I’d embezzle a lot of it.
GW: Good start. All right.
PW: I don’t know, maybe start an international HEMA university.
GW: OK, how would that work?
PW: Well, it would be a university where you would learn useful things. And there’s so much involved on the periphery of historical swordsmanship that is interesting and worth studying, so history, obviously, but you could use swordsmanship to explain geometry and physics and anatomy and movement and physiotherapy, metallurgy, blacksmithing, materials, engineering, all this sort of stuff. So you could probably get most of what you need for a rounded education. All focussed on becoming better swordspeople. And I will be the chancellor, obviously, and I would need a big, big house on campus.
GW: And campus is probably a castle somewhere.
PW: Yeah, I think if we could clear the other colleges out of Oxford, that would work quite well.
GW: It’s not like they’re doing anything useful.
PW: Yeah, exactly.
GW: Actually, leave the virology department. They are actually useful.
PW: Yes, indeed. I’ve had my Oxford jab.
GW: Yeah, me too. Brilliant. OK, so a HEMA university where they are history and mythology and mechanics and geometry.
PW: Anything else. All that. Everything you might possibly need that will make you a better swordsman.
GW: I think you’re going to need a lot of money.
PW: You did say a huge sum of money.
GW: I did, OK, fair. In which case I’m now obliged to make good on that. All right, there you go, Paul, here is a gigantic sack of cash. Go start the historical washhouse university and you’re going to need professors.
PW: I will, yes.
GW: Just saying. Marvellous. It’s been lovely to talk to you, Paul. Thanks for joining us today.
PW: Absolute pleasure.