The Weapons that Made Britain.

Discussion in 'Misc. Sword Arts' started by arnisador, Jan 10, 2006.

  1. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    I posted on MartialTalk about this show that I watched last night. It was the first of 5 hour-long episodes of this series on the Military History Channel. It focused on the sword as used in the War of the Roses (15th century England). Future episodes will cover other weapons, including the spear and longbow.

    An expert in historical swordsmanship, Mike Loades, hosts the show in a way that is reminiscent of the History Channel's Conquest but with much more of a documentary flavor and less of a reality-show flavor. In this episode he discussed the types of swords, the need for strength and flexibility in a sword, sword-making, tactics, and so on, with an emphasis on tactics, and also described a particular battle in great detail (the 1471 Battle of Barnet).

    A group of his students were trained in the use of the sword. It was interesting to see the techniques. One thing that was very noticeable is that they assume the use of a gauntlet, for they grabbed their own blade constantly for pommel-strikes and the like. Also, they were taught stances, then basic strikes, then they drilled in a standardized pattern that, in my opinion, could only be termed a kata. The instructor felt the pattern was important for ingraining the techniques and the transitions between positions/stances/guards. It could have been a Japanese martial art, based on the training methods!

    Of course they practiced techniques in pairs as well. There was a segment on swordfighting from horseback and they drew extensively from certain old swordfighting manuals (though no English swordsmanship manuals from that period survive, they said).

    They showed some historic swords, and tested swords against one another in cutting and thrusting practice (on a block of clay), and against a helmet. Since armor was worn, the sword was effectively a bludgeon rather than a cutting weapon. There was also a segment showing in some detail the forging of a layered sword. Seeing the twisted form that would be heated again, and seeing how it lead to the pattern on the sword after etching, was fascinating.

    The battle itself--and why it lead to such a preponderance of swordfighting rather than artillery/archery carrying the day--was covered in detail, including the motivations of the opposing armies.

    I really enjoyed this show, and am looking forward to further episodes. There are a few relevant links in post #4 in the thread on MartialTalk.
  2. Christopher Umbs

    Christopher Umbs New Member

    Many of those blades were dull just so one could use a half-swording grip. With full plate, you're not going to cut through so often only the pommel, quillions and the tip of the sword (often triangular and sharp on all 3 sides). You use the half-swording grip and attack the joints and eye-slot.

  3. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Ah, I didn't realize that! So, this would be a safe technique bare-handed, then, or would you need a glove of some sort still?

    For at least one sword, he said that you still needed the edge so it would "bite" into the armor...but I don't know how sharp such an edge would need to be.

    (I had to look up quillons.)
  4. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    The Longbow.

    Last night I watched the episode on the longbow. It was not quite as interesting to me: Less testing, though they did fire it against armor (using a testing device to fire it, not a bow), less of the interaction seen in the sword-training segments, and a lesser emphasis on historical weapons and documents, though they did show some bows from about 500 years ago. It was still interesting, but the nature of the weapon didn't allow for the person-to-person excitement of the swordsmanship. It was very similar to the longbow episode of Conquest. However, crossbows were also discussed, and their effectiveness was compared to that of the bow.

    The battle covered was fought in France in the 1300s as part of the 100 Years' War (the Battle of Crécy):

    I believe there are three more episodes to be shown.
  5. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    We watched the episode on the lance today. It covered evolving usage of the spear from the time of William the Conqueror and his conquest of England, through the lance in the time of Henry III and the establishment of the first parliament (focusing on the Battle of Lewes), and finally through pikes and the shiltron tactic in the time of Robert the Bruce. There was again less emphasis on training sequences and on specific aspects of the weapon itself, as the show focused on changing tactics used by the commanders and the changing nature of the weapon (held spear, held spear used while mounted, thrown spear, lance, pike). Still, once again it was well-done and interesting.

    The next episode covers the shiled, and we already have it taped.
  6. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Last night we finally watched the episode on the shield. They discussed different types of shields and shield tactics, in contexts including battle (particularly the 878 CE Battle of Edington), gentlemanly dueling (with bucklers), and so on. Once again, the shields were tested for strength by a British government weapons testing facility, and once again, historians were consulted as to the actual usage and importance of the weapons, and old museum pieces were shown.

    I found the episode less interesting than some others; watching a group of people drill in shield wall tactics is a bit dull. But there was a fascinating segment on the (Swabisch?) German judicial shield, a somewhat cello-shaped device with hooks and spikes that was used for trial by combat; there are some pictures here. (I have attached one such image.) A brief bit of training with that, as the host and his partner attempted to learn how to use the hooks to advantage, was very interesting. The all-too-short segment on the use of the buckler was also interesting.

    As an aside, we also watched the episode of Conquest concerning tournaments last night, and they also discussed the shield in some depth.

    Attached Files:

  7. Christopher Umbs

    Christopher Umbs New Member

    I always say that you have to be pretty pissed off at someone to attack them with a coffee table...

  8. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Heh. Yeah, it does make me wonder who came up with that design's hardly natural. I guess for possibly untrained defendants you get a better fight if they are wielding clunky weapons that cover most of their bodies...I assume it prolongs the battle and better randomizes the outcome.

    Watching them try it out was interesting though. I could see myself enjoying the intellectual challenge of figuring out its possibilities.

    For those interested, the series is being repeated now, by the way.
  9. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Tonight we watched the fifth and final episode, on armor. It discussed the arms race between offense and defense that led to the development of plate mail to replace chain mail. The discussion included the use of armor and archery at the Battle of Verneuil of the Hundred Years' War. Of course, armor was tested against arrows and other weapons at a weapons lab.

    There was considerable discussion of striking to the joints between plates and using an awl-like weapon to deliver a coup de grace to fallen opponents. These aspects reminded me of the FMA--why do we strike where we do on certain strikes? The strikes fall at weak points of the Spanish armor. The discussion of visibility through visors reminds me of my complaints about limited visibility when using protective equipment in stick sparring!

    This was possibly the least interesting of the five episodes, but did contain some useful information. Overall, we have enjoyed the series.
  10. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Darth Vindicatus Supporting Member

    Definately an interesting series. I've played a little bit with some of their ideas, definately fun stuff.
  11. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    I've heard that more episodes were made for braodcast in the U.K., but if so I haven't been able to find any more info. on it. I have also seen Mike Loades pop up on other shows, as in a Military History Channel show on archery, hosted by someone else, that I recently watched. He seems quite interesting. I wonder if he has a school, or if he trains stuntpeople, or what?
  12. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    On a related note, last night we watched the "Swords of the Musketeers" episode of Conquest. The rapier-and-dagger material was very interesting. The techniques are similar to FMA techniques in many ways. The block for the Modern Arnis #5 strike--tip down, stick roughly vertical and swept in front of you--was certainly in evidence, as were other standard FMA techniques. Of course, the lunge figured prominently here, and we don't lunge that much, but overall it was very interesting to see how much is similar.
  13. Apollo

    Apollo Administrator


    Article by him:

    "[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, Sans Serif]Mike Loades works professionally as an Historical Action Arranger and Fight Choreographer for television and the theatre. He also researches, writes and lectures extensively on the history of arms and armour and covers all periods from Neolithic to Napoleon. His own production company, Running Wolf Productions, has produced best-selling videos on the history of archery and swordfighting."

    Found a video here:

  14. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Hmmmm...if [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, Sans Serif]an Historical Action Arranger isn't a Fight Choreographer, what is it?
  15. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    On a marginally related note, from a fencing FAQ:
    What sports and martial arts comprise fencing?

    A description of the three weapons (foil, epee, sabre) and a list of other martial arts/sports that use the sword (both Occidental and Oriental). At the end, it says:

  16. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Pirate Weapons on Conquest.

    There is an episode of Conquest on pirate weapons that might be of current interest. They discuss the use of a short sword due to tight spaces and why the pistol was often pulled and fired in close quarters combat when swords were crossed. A quick left-handed draw-and-shoot dropped the opponent and allowed the pirate to move on. I recommend this episode if pirate swordwork interests you! As usual, one of the most interesting aspects is host Peter Woodward's discussion of why certain sword designs were preferred over others for the task at hand.
  17. Douglas

    Douglas New Member

    If this is the show I think it is... Most impressive was a segment where was "miked", on horseback, galloping in armor, when he threw himself off the horse and landed on the ground in front of the camera, still talking about history. I want to be like that when I grow up! :)
  18. Apollo

    Apollo Administrator

    :) Thats the one. Excellent series.
  19. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    I remember that scene! But was it "The Weapons..." or Conquest? Yes, the host is quite serious eitehr way.
  20. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

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