Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 48

Thread: Belgian Longsword Rules

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    732

    Belgian Longsword Rules

    Greetings, All!

    Here's a simplified version of the rules used in Belgian fencing guilds during their yearly competitions with the longsword. The rules are the "common denominator" between the various rule sets; individual guilds had some variations on these. These rules were in effect in Northern France (Paris, Lille) and Belgium (Ghent, Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp) from at least the 1540s until the late 1700s.

    I would encourage people to try these rules out and provide feedback, since these are the best-documented set of longsword fencing rules in existence.

    Important note: One party is designated as the "King"; he has certain advantages (see below). His opponent is called the "Champion." If the Champion defeats the King, he becomes the new King, and has the corresponding handicap. The goal is to remain King until everyone has fenced; the last person remaining as King wins the tournament.

    - Each bout consists of a single round.

    - Both cut & thrust are allowed.

    - Valid target area is above the belt and above the elbows (ie, no hands or forearms).

    - No corps-a-corps is allowed; no grappling or pommel strikes.

    - Only two-handed technique (no one-handed or half-sword).

    - If you lose your weapon, you lose the bout. If you fall, the bout is played over.

    - If the King hits the Champion a clean hit, he wins the bout, and remains King. (Go on to the next contestant.)

    - If the Champion hits the King with a clean hit, the King still has one last chance to hit him (called an "after-stroke"). The King can take one step with his after-stroke. If he hits, he wins the bout. (This after-stroke must be delivered immediately, without delay, or it is lost.) If the Champion parries or evades the blow, then the Champion wins the bout, and becomes King.

    - If there is a double hit, the highest hit wins (head wins over chest, etc.). If it's the King who has the highest hit, he wins. If it's the Champion, the King still gets his after-stroke (see rule above).

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Connecticut USA
    Posts
    55
    where did you find these?
    ~Frederick William Francis Rivard dit Sieur de La Vigne~

  3. #3
    This is very interesting.

    If you have access to the all the individual rule sets, which it seems like you may, would you mind posting some of the earlier rules in their entirety?

    Also, what is the context of this competition? Was it a gathering between guilds to match up students and compete that way (a sort of "Playoffs for the Longsword"), or was it for training and competition within a single guild? Also, any commentary on the weaponry and equipment used? Wasters, blunt steel, gambesons, etc?

  4. #4
    Hi Matt,

    Thanks heaps for these. I think there is alot of merit in these rules - we will definately try them out! The more historical we can make our practice, the better!

    Cheers,

  5. #5
    Very interesting Matt, thanks for posting it!
    I like it somehow that they obviously had the problem of double hits in freeplay as well.

    Regards
    Wolfgang
    "Wenn wir nicht Weltmeister werden, bleiben wir immer noch Papst!"

  6. #6
    thanks matt
    One Ringeck to bring them all and in darkness bind them,
    In the Land of Windsor where phlip phlop live.

    http://www.ringeck.org

  7. #7
    Thanks a lot. We should try this in our next free fencing session!

    Similar to the old "king of the hill" game we played as kids

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    near Bonn, Germany
    Posts
    1,698
    Thomas, we *will* try this out next time.

    All we need now are some dry days...
    Member of Ochs

    "It is a bad teacher that does not allow his student to become better than himself" (Sixten Ivarsson)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    732
    Hi, Joerg & Thomas!

    Feedback is what I'm after, so please let me know.

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  10. #10
    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for posting this. We will certainly give this rule set a try and post some feedback.

    I do, however, have some questions in an effort gain a better understanding of the rule set's context.

    [historically speaking]

    What type of longswords were used in these bouts? (foils? sharpness?)

    What type of clothes/PPE were worn?

    What level of intensity were put into blows, and what constituted an acceptable hit?

    How competitive would of the bouts been?

    What type of arena were the bouts conducted in? (outdoors? within barriers?)

    Sorry if these have been answered on the forum before. I'm line shaped at the moment and don't have to time to search at a snail's pace.

    Regards,

    Matt

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Sydney, Australia
    Posts
    1,774
    Interesting set of rules - they are pretty well what I would use for a "safe" steel longsword bout - presumably that's exactly why the rules are as they are! However, the removal of hands-as-targets and single-handed techniques I find emasculates the system I use to an unacceptable degree for "serious" bouting. Do we have any other similar sets of rules from elsewhere in Europe?

    Paul

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Suburban Chicago area
    Posts
    3,595
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Wagner View Post
    Interesting set of rules - they are pretty well what I would use for a "safe" steel longsword bout - presumably that's exactly why the rules are as they are! However, the removal of hands-as-targets and single-handed techniques I find emasculates the system I use to an unacceptable degree for "serious" bouting. Do we have any other similar sets of rules from elsewhere in Europe?

    Paul
    If you're looking for hand hits, we likely won't find them. All of the bouting rules I've seen from the Renaissance and later exclude the hands, blows below the waist, grappling and hilt strikes. The Guild rules Matt has posted are some of the more permissable I've seen. Medieval tournament rules are more brisk, but then they are in varying degrees of armour.

    I don't think we should be surprised at this: look at the limitted targeting of kendo (even before WWI, when it allowed sweeps, some throws and hilt strikes), vs. kenjutsu. For friendly competition, there is a limit to how much risk you are going to accept in a world without orthopedic surgeons or antibiotics. A broken hand, when you are a craftsman, isn't a good idea. In that world, and sans armour, these rules are fairly brisk.

    Like I told Matt when he sent these - most WMA guys will find these interesting, but limitting. They are - but maybe the bigger question we need to ask ourselves is what was really the *martial* role of free play? To physically simulate real combat? Or to serve as an adjunct to form training (plays) to create a way to prform in a relatively unplanned fashion, under the pressure of competition. (Agonistic competition serving as a pyschological stand in for antagonitic combat.)

    OTOH, playing with these may give us some ideas of how those rules worked and why and form a basis for modern competitions.
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Fort Knox, KY
    Posts
    84
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregory Mele View Post

    Like I told Matt when he sent these - most WMA guys will find these interesting, but limitting. They are - but maybe the bigger question we need to ask ourselves is what was really the *martial* role of free play?
    Yes, I think this is a very important question and I am intrigued by the direction that these rules suggest.

    To physically simulate real combat? Or to serve as an adjunct to form training (plays) to create a way to prform in a relatively unplanned fashion, under the pressure of competition. (Agonistic competition serving as a pyschological stand in for antagonitic combat.)
    Personally I agree with the latter.
    Having had some experience in both I think the comparison to Kendo/Kenjutsu is a good one. You can never with complete accuracy replicate the physical conditions of real combat with sharps and still maintain an acceptable degree of safety. However you can replicate the psychological conditions and train physical attributes through agonistic competition.

    Jeffry
    Jeffry C. Larson

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    massachusetts
    Posts
    86
    Quote Originally Posted by T. Stoeppler View Post
    Thanks a lot. We should try this in our next free fencing session!

    Similar to the old "king of the hill" game we played as kids

    Regards, Thomas

    Thank you Mr. Stoeppler, I have been racking my brain over why these rules seemed so familiar, we called it "King of the Mountain" funny considering lower Michigan is mostly Flat!!!
    The Strong Shall Stand! The Weak Shall Fall By The Wayside!

  15. Another effect of these rules would be to force a very clean style of fencing- thus making the fights more pleasing to watch.
    "Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid."

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregory Mele View Post
    For friendly competition, there is a limit to how much risk you are going to accept in a world without orthopedic surgeons or antibiotics. A broken hand, when you are a craftsman, isn't a good idea. In that world, and sans armour, these rules are fairly brisk.
    Hi Greg,

    As I've had a broken hand from bouting, and as I rely on my hands for a keyboard, I'm here to tell you a broken hand isn't a good idea in any period! In fact, whilst we have a few modern items of PPE they didn't, by and large we are in the same boat they were when it comes to free-fencing. Add too much armour (or use silly boffers) and it becomes something very different, but without armour and with reasonable sword-like simulators, it can be dangerous. So rather than re-inventing the wheel, I like learning more and more about how they assaulted, so that we can incorporate it (in the same way we turn to the historical texts as our first source of actual technique and principles). That just seems logical to me.

    Like I told Matt when he sent these - most WMA guys will find these interesting, but limitting. They are - but maybe the bigger question we need to ask ourselves is what was really the *martial* role of free play? To physically simulate real combat? Or to serve as an adjunct to form training (plays) to create a way to prform in a relatively unplanned fashion, under the pressure of competition. (Agonistic competition serving as a pyschological stand in for antagonitic combat.)


    Yes, I've been thinking, more and more, about what historical fencing practice is all about, what role assaulting played in period and what role it should play today. Clearly, whilst they (eg middle class fencing guild members in particular) were prepared to take more risks than us generally speaking, they surely weren't prepared to be routinely maimed, crippled and killed in school based free-fencing. They clearly saw a role for bouting under rule sets that seem to be designed to encourage good, clean fencing that targets the critical areas (head, torso) whilst avoiding easily crippled areas (hands, knees) and I think it worth emulating. The extremely dangerous techniques, the crippling and maiming ones, the ones that are difficult to do safely in school based free-fencing, are precisely the ones that should be kept to plays/forms/devices where they can be practiced in relative safety.

    Finally, if our ability to defend ourselves with a sword in bouting is severly compromised by the removal of a small target area (such as hands), and a small subset of techniques (pommel strikes, grappling) I can't help wondering how much more work we have ahead of us to become better, more rounded fencers. Especially since IMO good movement, technique and understanding of time, place and measure should be able to see any fencer through these Belgium guild rules sets or similar ones.

    Cheers,

  17. #17
    Agreed.

    A friend from the MMA had a saying there, as a standard reply to people that keep saying the MMA rules are limiting and all the realy cool "earnest" techniques (eye gouges, fish hooking, breaking techniques etc) are forbidden although they present the "ultimate" means of ending combat..

    "If you can´t win with the rules, what makes you so sure you could win without them?"

    Regards, Thomas
    Erschrickstu gern /
    Keyn Fechten lern.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    732

    Context

    Hi, Mat!

    To answer your questions:

    "What type of longswords were used in these bouts? (foils? sharpness?)"

    All the evidence points to the same type of longsword foils that the Germans used (what people are normally referring to as a "Feder" in our community). They were almost certainly blunt. The rules generally say that you have to strike with the _flat_ not the edge.

    "What type of clothes/PPE were worn?"

    The rules appear designed to replicate combat in street clothes, but the rules make references to "wambaes" (gambeson), "cassacke", and "accoutrement", so it is likely that some kind of padded garment was worn. Likewise, there are references to some kind of head-gear: "slagsweerdevryhoete" (literally, "battle sword free hat"), "chapeau" (hat), and "bonnet" (hat, bonnet). Gloves were mandatory, and there were fines for fencing without gloves.

    "What level of intensity were put into blows, and what constituted an acceptable hit?"

    Hard to say, except that there were fines for injuring your opponent. Blows were with the flat or the point. An acceptable hit was above the belt, and above the elbows. It appears likely that the face was taken out of the thrusting zone (this appears in rapier rules), but it's not explicitly documented in the longsword rules. In terms of intensity, put it this way: The Guild of St. Michael in Lille employed a surgeon to tend to the fencers injured in the hall.

    "How competitive would of the bouts been?"

    Extremely. There are lots of references to arguments and disputes. Many rule-sets explicitly say they have been re-drafted because there were so many disputes. (Nothing changes.) Some of the target and technique limitations must be seen in this light; they were clearly afraid of this degenerating into a brawl. (This can be documented _many_ times in Germany, with some city councils outlawing competitions for this reason.)

    "What type of arena were the bouts conducted in? (outdoors? within barriers?)"

    Usually outdoors, in one of the town squares. There are references to benches, which probably helped define the fighting area.

    Regards,
    Last edited by Matt Galas; 06-30-2007 at 03:13 AM.
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    732
    Hi, Paul!

    You wrote:

    "Do we have any other similar sets of rules from elsewhere in Europe?"

    Yes, the German rules are very similar, although they don't explicitly limit the target area. German rules contain the same rule about how the higher hit wins, so the target tended to be the head. Joachim Meyer confirms this, when he says that most of the fencing in his day aimed at the head. German rules tended to explicitly limit grappling, pommel strikes, and often thrusting (at least with the longsword). Thus, in Germany you end up with a set of rules that strikes largely at the head, using cuts only.

    "However, the removal of hands-as-targets and single-handed techniques I find emasculates the system I use to an unacceptable degree for "serious" bouting."

    I understand your point of view. However, to the extent that we claim to be reconstructing historical European fencing, it would be somewhat incongruous to discard their bouting rules. I feel the same way about substituting our judgment for what is appropriate for serious bouting.

    It's important to view these rules in context: They were intended for public competitions, for the very prestigious title of "King". There was a _lot_ of money put into these events. The figures are pretty impressive in terms of costs of wine & food, not to mention prizes. Many of the rule sets contain mentions of heated disputes over the rules, indicating that these competitions were taken very seriously. There were also rules establishing fines for injuring an opponent.

    All of this leads to the conclusion that the "emasculation" you refer to was based primarily on considerations of public order -- that is, to prevent a public event from turning into a brawl. As I mentioned in another post, that happened frequently in Germany, and the city councils were often reluctant to grant permission for competitions for this reason.

    Another reason may be the fact that this was a public event, and good fencing is generally nicer to watch than close-in techniques (grappling tends to get messy pretty quickly, I think you would agree).

    Final comment: It is likely that free-fencing in the context of the guild's normal Sunday gatherings was much more permissive. For example, the rules from Ghent say that someone who falls while fencing pays a penalty, unless he was "artfully thrown."

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Oxford, CT, USA
    Posts
    2,614
    Hi Matt!

    This information is nothing short of astounding. Thank you so much for posting this...we'll try to have a go with this rule set in the near future, although striking with the flat may take some getting used to!

    All the best,

    Christian
    Christian Henry Tobler
    Selohaar Fechtschule

    The Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Author, Captain of the Guild, DVD: The Poleaxe, In Saint George's Name

    "Though I love the stout blow and the cunningly placed thrust, my greatest joy when crossing swords lies in those rare moments when Chivalry herself leans over and takes one into Her confidence."

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    732
    Hi, Christian!

    Yes, I've played around with Meyer's strikes with the inside and outside flat, but I've never tried them in sparring. I would be very interested in your feedback on this (as well as on the rules in general).

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Herndon, VA, USA
    Posts
    1,170
    The thing I find incredible is the performance group I was a part of came upon most of these rules on our own...

    We performed unchoreographed swordplay with steel blunts, but with home-grown techniques. (When we started in 1996 we didn't know about Meyer, etc.) But we never really thought our swordplay had any historical value, so that's neither here nor there.

    However, we share in common turning the blade at the last second so that the hit occurs with the flat, disallowing thrusts, and no points to the forearms and or hands. Of course, we do not share the hits to the head factor, that being strictly disallowed in our performances.

    Now, interestingly on that last point, we originally did allow the points to the hands. After a couple of years, though, we changed the rules. Sure, it hurt to get hit in the hands and you acted to avoid it, but the biggest factor was that we found the audience wasn't very interested to see point after point taken to the hands or forearm. It's simply not interesting to spectators. So, for primarily performance reasons, we stopped counting any hits below the elbow.

    I wonder if historic audiences, too, found it more dramatic to see a hit to the chest or head than to the hands. I'd imagine if the fighters received "tips" from the audience based on their showing, they'd find that they were tipped better for more dramatic fights.

    Thoughts, anyone?
    Jess

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Lawrence, Kansas USA
    Posts
    74
    Quote Originally Posted by T. Stoeppler View Post

    A friend from the MMA had a saying there, as a standard reply to people that keep saying the MMA rules are limiting and all the realy cool "earnest" techniques (eye gouges, fish hooking, breaking techniques etc) are forbidden...

    "If you can´t win with the rules, what makes you so sure you could win without them?"

    That's a really good point!
    Travis

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Belgium
    Posts
    732
    Hi, Jessica!

    No doubt, there was an element of showmanship in these competitions, both in Germany and in Belgium. Doebringer (aka "The Artist Formerly Known as Doebringer) mentions flashy swordsmanship "for the sake of making a good impression." The German Fechtschule tradition certainly had a commercial basis, with entry fees and in some cases "tips" as well. The Belgian competitions don't seem to have involved entry fees (as far as I can tell), but they were definitely public. So this is most likely an influence on the rules as well.

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Herndon, VA, USA
    Posts
    1,170
    Matt -

    Incredible information! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

    Jess

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •