MSI.33: History, Principles, and Practice   Leave a comment

History, Principles, and Practice of Royal Armouries MS I.33
(“One Thirty-Three”, “Tower Fechtbuch”)
By Wistric Oftun, Atlantian Rapier Academie, 09 May 2009

History of MS I.33

· Earliest extant fechtbuch, late 13th/early 14th centuries

· German, written in poetic stanzas with prose commentary

· Unarmored sword-and-buckler combat between “Priest” and “Scholar” (and then a woman, named “Walpurgis”)

· Origin in priestly instruction or cathedral schools


Sword of Oakeshott type XII and XIII
From Bjorn Hellqvist:

Type XII characteristics: The blade is broad, flat and evenly tapering. Oakeshott’s criteria for this type (in order to differentiate from other, similar, types) are: 1) a noticeable taper and an acute point, and that the grip should be short (never of hand-and-a-half length), and 2) that the fuller should not extend further than 2/3’s of the length of the blade. The type XII swords are easily confused with other types, and this is further complicated by the fact that type XII’s were in use during much of the High Medieval period.

XIII characteristics: This type has blades with almost parallel edges running to a rounded point, and where the tang is longer than those of the usual single-handed variety. Generally, the fuller runs about halfway along the blade. The fuller is usually single, but it can be multiple. The type was in use from the middle of the 13th century to the latter half of the 14th. The same goes for the sub-types.

Buckler Shape: A nippled boss with swept-back brim.

Windrose 14” bossed buckler is best approximation

Principles of the System

Each ward has at least one counterward

Attack the close target, i.e. the hand, and always defend your own hand

Bind before entering, pursue through the bind (“Contrary and Irate”)

He who acts correctly first wins

The obvious attack is too obvious

Fundamental Actions

“Falling under the sword” – An underbind and offline step to the left which initiates most contact

“Shield-knock” – Use of the buckler to bind opponent’s buckler and sword

“Thrust-strike” – A thrust delivered while holding the buckler in place to serve the same role as the forte of the sword


Closer to Liechtenauer stance: more upright, more planted, slight forward lean

Weight kept on toes.  Fought in turnshoes or other smooth-soled shoes with no traction.


Sheitelhau – Vertical center-line cut

Oberhau left/right – Diagonal downward cut

Mittelhau left/right – Horizontal cut

Unterhau left/right/center – Rising diagonal cut

Thrust in quarte – Primary thrust-strike delivered in form

“Nucken” – A rising false-edge cut to the head delivered after over-binding the opponent’s blade

Ward Counterwards
Underarm Half-shield, Crutch, Underarm, Longpoint
Right Shoulder Half-shield, Right Cover, Longpoint
Left Shoulder Left Cover, Half-shield, Longpoint
Head (“Vom Tag”) Half-shield, Longpoint, High Cover
Nebenhut (“Tail”) Half-shield, Tail, Longpoint, “Rare Opposition to Fifth Guard”
Breast (“Plow”) Half-shield, Longpoint
Longpoint (High, Middle, Low, Priest’s Special Longpoint) Any other ward, Fiddlebow, Half-shield, Longpoint, “Priest’s Special Counter”
Walpurgis (aka Special Second) Same counters as Right Shoulder


Medieval Sword and Shield, Wagner and Hand, 2003

The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship, ed./trans. Forgeng, 2003

Posted February 26, 2010 by wistric

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