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Reviews of Medieval Swordsmanship

Journal of Asian Martial Arts
Volume 9, Number 1, May 2000.

" Medieval Swordsmanship is a splendid addition to the martial arts literature and belongs on the shelf of every serious fencer, martial artist, medievalist, and military historian. It goes a long way towards putting European martial arts in proper perspective relative to the Asian martial arts.…essential reading for anyone interested in European swordsmanship and martial arts."

…The book is so rich in information and written at such a high standard that it will almost certainly be used as an instructional tool. It is the best available introduction to medieval swordsmanship, and it is of enormous value to everyone interested in this subject."

Blacksmith’s Gazette
David W. Wilson, Reviewers Consortium, Oct 1999

"Considering that the practice of swordsmanship in Medieval times was very common, it is very unusual that there was not more literature devoted to the subject. The much neglected topic has often been portrayed crudely and incorrectly in movies. It has justifiably needed more in depth, truthful coverage and Medieval Swordsmanship is a fantastic achievement in this area."

"Beginning with insightful, preparatory information, the author defines the Medieval period and swordsmanship. But the text quickly turns to the living, action aspect of swordsmanship. Hundreds of easy to understand drawings describe the movements of proper swordsmanship. Included are detailed descriptions with the drawings and in addition, directional arrows leave no doubt about the actions. No less than nine extensive appendices and a bibliography round out this thoroughly engaging publication. As a source for knowledge about swordsmanship, this edition will fill many huge holes with useful information. It should prove to be a valuable companion to those intrigued with the often misunderstood practice of medieval swordsmanship."

Arms Collecting
Review Editor, Nov 1998

"In the past few years there has been a renewed interest in the Medieval arms and armor. This new book will be a welcome addition to the very meager library on the subject. John Clements, who has studied swordsmanship for about 20 years, has based his research of this branch of the subject on the fighting manuals of the fourteenth to early seventeenth century. They have been used as the source for many of his illustrations and have been reproduced in the chapter on history. His chapter on the sword traces its design and development single handed, hand and a half, and two handed: how each was handled, how it was carried, and how it design influenced the handling and carrying."

"The same treatment covers the shield which in some forms of combat was a prerequisite where its design was dictated by its use (or its use was dictated by its design). Illustrations, and there are many hundreds of them, are mainly position drawings of the movements and the method of gripping the sword for each form of combat. Intermingled in each chapter are little background pieces recording social history and customs which will be of interest. This is a well rounded book on a rarely covered subject."

Tactical Knives
Steven Dick, Editor, April 1999

"This is John Clements’ second text on European swordsmanship, with the first being "Renaissance Swordsmanship, " reviewed in the Nov. ’97 issue. The first book dealt primarily with the use of the rapier and, to a lesser degree, with the cut-and-thrust swords of the same period. Clements’ new book covers sword-handling techniques from the Vikings, and Saxons, to the Normans and classic armored knight centuries."

"The author has long felt that Asian sword methods have been over-emphasized and European systems unfairly dismissed. Almost all of us have probably read that the medieval sword was imply a big, heavy meat cleaver used with no particular skill to chop men down. Clements uses medieval sword manuals and his vast experience gained from hands-on sword handling to disprove these theories."

"Chapters cover Fighting Manuals, Medieval Swords, "The Making of Medieval Swords, Swords Against Plate Armor, Medieval Shields, The Long Sword, and a number of appendices on sparring and training with modern swords. The illustrations copied from the Medieval sword manuals are particularly interesting and seem to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Europeans were just as well trained as the Japanese. The main difference appears to have been that Europeans dropped much of their sword training as firearms and other weapons evolved. Japan’s closed society continued to emphasize blades over firearms up to fairly recent times."

"Given the greatly expanded size of this text over the author’s first manual. I have a feeling I know where his real interest centers. It’s an excellent book that will give you a much better feel for how our European ancestors survived their battles."

Man at Arms - 1999
Walter J. Karacheski, Jr., Curator of Arms and Armor Higgins Armory Museum

"John Clements’ second book on ancient Western swordsmanship is, like his first work, a hands-on publication that emphasizes actual employment of the weapons. It is clear from Clements’ writing that he has little patience for those who claim to have an understanding of medieval swordplay based purely on use of inaccurate reproductions, or duct-taped sticks within a rules system developed for their own convenience. He takes his study quite seriously, and views Western swordfighting as a generally overlooked art of equal importance as Asian martial arts. His work is not directed towards "enthusiasts" or combat choreographers, but at those who wish to study seriously the history of medieval Western sword combat."

"The books is organized in eleven chapters that provide brief overviews of manufacture, historical development, general typology and use of medieval (and early Renaissance) swords and body armor. Clements acknowledges that one can never know with complete certainly how medieval swordfighting was conducted. Nonetheless, he states his belief that it is possible to have a much better understanding of the various maneuvers and their execution by thoroughly studying the surviving imagery and period accounts, and through well-reasoned and repeated practical experience. The author is quick to stress the importance of primary source swordfighting manuals. Clements repeatedly stresses the importance of using accurate reproductions, not only against static targets, but also in mock combats, or "sparring" against a fellow opponent. There are also sections on the use of the sword against certain other weapons such as staff weapons.

"As anyone who has ever served in the military can attest to, arms training and training manuals are based on a process of repetition. Certain points and ideas are repeatedly encountered, a method necessary for the active student of practical swordplay, but which may appear to be circular reasoning for other readers. The various appendices deal with practical advice for physical cross-training, how to obtain a ‘real’ sword (read accurate reproduction, not original antique), sparring, stage combat, and a serious, on-the-mark critique of the actions of many medieval reenactors.

"The text is generally well written and interesting, but is wordy and preachy in places. It suffers from inadequate editing and proofreading, and to address the latter, Clements has included extensive errata and "2nd "Edition Closing Comments" on his Historical Armed Combat Association website. For those whose libraries and personal arms reading are restricted to purely academic and curatorial studies, the book makes both an entertaining and informative read, written from the perspective a serious practitioner of a long-ignored martial art."


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