Book Review: Masters of Medieval and Renaissance Martial Arts

Journal of Western Martial Art

Masters of Medieval and Renaissance Martial Arts
ISBN 13: 978-1-58160-668-3
John Clements and Jeffrey Hull
Paladin Press, Boulder, CO, 2008

Review David M. Cvet
December 2008

In general, the purpose of publications with respect to Western historical fighting arts is to further the research, understanding and practice of the art. Publications on this subject would offer new interpretations of the historical treatises which would enhance study and appreciation of the arts in the larger community, or provide a new perspective previously unknown by researchers and practitioners of the art. Unfortunately, aside from a few contributions in this book, this publication fails to deliver.

Much of the material, in particular those from Clements have been recycled from previous publications or the ARMA website. The material is dated adding no further insights to historical fighting arts for practitioners in the historical fighting arts community. Outright errors in the information provided is a dis-service, especially for those individuals who have started their foray into Western historical fighting arts.

The addition of material produced by Dr. Sydney Anglo were added to the book for the purpose of elevating its credibility, but falls short, given the piece on "Le Jeu de la hache" has been also recycled as it was published before in the journal entitled Archaeologia (Society of Antiquaries of London) in 1991 with the same title "Le Jeu de la Hache".

The treatment of Fiore's treatise is a dated regurgitation of interpretations and translations which are peppered with inaccuracies and out right errors. The publication would've been better served if this entire section on Fiore was simply not included.

The chapter contributed by Stacy Clifford on English Staff Fighting offers little if any new information, as much of the material has been available on numerous websites for many years.

Most of the images included in this publication are of low quality, having the appearance of being sourced from various websites which presents these images in low resolution format. It is a pity that a hard-copy publication does not in the least, offer the reader high-quality images which are, in general, unavailable on the public-domain Internet.

What's good about this publication? There are a number of sections worthy of mention. The first is Chapter 3 submitted by Grzegorz Zabinski. Mr. Zabinski has a proven track record from the fine schollarly work, in particular, his first excellent contribution to increasing the collective intellectual capital of the Western historical fightings arts community with the publication of "Codex Wallerstein: A Medieval Fighting Book from the Fifteenth Century on Longsword, Falchion, Dagger and Wrestling", co-authored by Bartlomiej Walczak in 2002. Precious little has been written on Döbringer and this chapter certainly offers a student of the art, an intelligent presentation of the treatise with transcriptions of the original text, translations and interpretations of the text. An invaluable study aid on this particular treatise.

Bartlomiej Walczak's contribution in Chapter 6 on the comparative analysis of armoured dagger combat sections of Gladiatoria (MS. Germ. 16) and the manuscript known as KK 5013. Gladiatoria's over 100 pages is a beautifully illustrated manuscript which deserves greater analysis with respect to the other sections, however, focusing on the dagger section implies that a future examination may be in the "books" in the future by Mr. Walczak. He had authored the transcription of KK 5013 and co-authored the transcription of Gladiatoria with Grzegorz Zabinski.

Szabolics Waldmann's contribution in Chapter 10 on his treatment of shortened sword sourced form Speyer's manuscript, in the least, presents a relatively new practitioner to the scene. The chapter is fairly standard in the presentation of the transcription and translation of the text found in that manuscript. Perhaps with further study and training, we can expect to see some enlightenment in these arts in future research and publications by this gentleman.

The only redeeming quality of this book are those contributions mentioned earlier. Much of the material found in this book is recycled from previous publications or websites and which have been available to the historical Western fighting arts community for years. The essays contributions by Clements does nothing to enhance the publication. However, the book does offer a preview of works which may be produced by those mentioned and therefore, some value can be attributed to this publication for that reason.

Journal of Western Martial Art