Arms & Armor Reference Information for Writing a Fantasy Novel – Part IV

Studies in European Arms and Armor: The C. Otto Von Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Here is our final post on arms and armor of the middle ages. In the first three parts we covered armor, weapons, siege tactics, and military organization. Now for the final part:

Fighting Information and Strategy
-a good fighting strategy is to cut the back of the opponent’s leg (hamstring, ankle, knee)
-a knight could be stabbed downward or thrust from below
-approaching the enemy on horseback quickly provides more force to your blow but allows the enemy to maneuver easily out of the way, but if you have a well-trained horse which adjusts quickly you have the advantage
-ascending and descending blows
-a warded blow should be immediately converted into an attack
-beware of feints, using feints yield a time advantage to the opponent
-by letting the opponent strike first, there are many defenses which can be simultaneously used as an attack or turned into a counter thrust
-combination attacks
-cuts and thrusts almost invariably used in swift combination of two or three strokes
-cuts and thrusts should follow one upon the other without pause
-cuts – downward from a high position (vulnerable), upward cuts from a low position, horizontal cuts
-cuts followed by thrust
-cuts which require greater movement are easier to read by opponent
-cuts intended primarily to force an opponent to defend the threatened part of the body leave the real target uncovered
-cuts open the way for the decisive use of the thrust point
-cuts which might be instantaneously converted into thrusts are the best
-defend by offending, offend by defending – no defense without good offence, no offence without good defense
-fighting on horseback requires good horsemanship
-fighting terms – ward or ward a blow, thrust, cut, lunge, feint, riposte (quick deft thrust made after parrying a lunge, dodge, blow, stance, leading with the right or left foot, deflect, counter-attack or counter-strike, downward blow, divert, strike, guard, counter, jab, duck, fend or fend off, parry
-fighting with a quarterstaff or staff-fighting
-fighting with a sword and buckler (small shield)
-fighting with both right and left hand (or being able to lead with both) can be a great advantage
-fluid movements require less strain, when your sword is deflected use the momentum it was hit away with to circle it back around in a cutting motion to continue the flow
-for stability in foot fighting have weight resting on back leg
-horses were an easy target in battle, a foot soldier can aim for the horse rather than the rider
-in foot fighting or fighting on horseback a rapid change of direction could muddle the enemy
-intentions can be easily red if the opponent’s stance is generally static
-keep opponent guessing
-large war horses break through a crowd and by shear weight could overthrow an enemy mount
-no two men fight the same way so the more you practice with different fighters, the more you will be ready when your opponent does something unexpected
-offensive guard vs defensive guard
-some men like to wait to see what an opponent does before they make the move to attack while other men like to make the first move so as to force their opponent to be on the defense
-sword carried on the left hip, left hand holds the scabbard while the right hand removes the sword
-swordman’s intention should be to strike rather than parry
-the pommel of a sword could be used as a weapon if needed in close quarters
-to cause the enemy tolose his horse, try cutting the horse’s nose or cut the reigns
-watch the opponent’s sword point, hil, his body, arm, or wrist while seeming to look into his eyes
-when fighting someone on horseback approach on their left side to force him to fight across his own horse
-when fighting with a sword against a staff, use sword as a staff by gripping the sword with your left hand near the pommel as usual and placing the right hand between the great and small guard of your sword
-when sword fighting, try not to expose your flank (side)

Other Information
-barracks – temporary housing for soldiers
-corporal punishment reserved for certain offenses such as violence towards a superior officer, insubordination, mutiny, theft, and drinking on duty
-corporal punishments were usually a flogging or whipping of 25 lashes
-farriers were assigned to each troop of soldiers to brand horses, dock their tails, and shod them
-farriers generally had two mules with them, one for carrying a small anvil and bellows and one for carrying charcoal and iron
-instead of fighting, unlawful activity was encouraged, called privateering
-mesnie – military personnel of the castle household
-only officers were allowed to marry and only with permission
-pel or palum – wooden post used to practice on with a sword
-practice swords were wooden swords or staves
-soldier’s meal consisted of boiled beef and potatoes, bread, and beer
-teachers of fighting were called masters of defense or masters of arms

I know I haven’t covered everything you need to know on arms and armor for writing a fantasy novel. But this is a good start. For more helpful reference information, check out all the great books on Guides to Writing a Fantasy Novel.


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