Face mask (~1625)

 It seems that the first known depiction of a plate fencing mask with ties is from 1686 [1] . However there are some tantalizing signs that protective masks were used several decades earlier. Below we could examine two face masks from the Stibbert Collection (Florence). The first mask is a rather interesting one, because it is difficult to say for sure: Was this mask a decorative one (resembling Venetian masks)? Or was it used for some other purposes e.g. fencing?!

 The second one, simply placed in a gorget by a curator or originally attached to a gorget, is especially interesting, because it matches really close the description of the object from the Pennsylvania Museum.

Purchase of European Armor

 The Museum's collection of European armor has been greatly strengthened by a recent purchase of fourteen specimens acquired at an important sale in New York. [...] The most striking piece in the group is a French fencing mask of 1625. It is embossed with the verisimilitude of a face with long mustachios and a Louis Trieze pointed beard; the mouth and eye openings have upraised borders, to deflect the stroke of the opponent's blade; the eyelids, beard, and mustachios are ornamented with roping.” (Page 24) [2][3]

Accessions October, 1921 - February, 1922
Class: ............... Armor
Object: ............ Fencing mask, French, 1625
Source: ............By purchase, Keehmle Fund and Bloomfield Moore Fund” (Page 29)
  1. Fencing Material Culture (2014)
  3. This bulletin is marked with a library stamp: „Philadelphia Museum, Library, College of Art”.



  The whole thing is only tangentially connected to the main topic of this blog, but it is nevertheless great fun to watch. There is a group who has been creating several realistic „lightsaber” models based on the currently available technologies. Their latest achievement is the 2000°C plasma „saber” with a retractable (!) blade. 

 And naturally they have tested it in every imaginable way, even against... a commercially available „lightsaber”.

A deadly encounter...

...and the final result!


R. I. P. Wazull

 Today I have learned that an old-old online opponent, Wazull passed away in May. He was just 52 years old... How sad...

 Wazull had been practicing kendo since around the early 90s and for many years was the very active member of Hungarian online community, especially on the biggest local forum called Harcművészetek (Martial Arts). He wrote at least 7588 posts in total, including 5805 posts dedicated to the different aspects of martial arts, especially Japanese swordsmanship, including kendo.

 Back in 2008-2009 we had rather heated discussions about fencing, about HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts), about the possibility to reconstruct these lost arts based on available medieval books, on the quality of fencing displayed by European HEMA-enthusiasts around that time. He was a relentless, learned, highly intelligent and skilled debater, who -- occasionally -- came across as rather sarcastic or even arrogant. Despite of this he left behind a huge amount of interesting and valuable posts! 

R. I. P.

  1. Hungarian readers could browse through his posts at Index dot hu. (Részletes keresés mező, nicknév alapján.)
  2. At the moment I think it would be inappropriate to disclose his IRL name, his profession or details of his biography. It may change in the future.



 Mit tegyen az ember, ha szeretne megtanulni hosszúkardozni, de nincs lehetősége eljárni az ismertebb HEMA-iskolák (Ars Ensis, Kard Rendje, AULE stb.) kezdő edzéseire, mert ezek jó messze vannak? Könyvet sem akar venni, viszont már rendelkezik kellő szablyavívó tapasztalattal, van egy kiváló edzőtársa [1], aki épp nemrég vett két műanyag hosszúkardot.

 A kérdés viszonylag egyszerűen megválaszolható: YT-videók!

 Jelenleg számos külhoni vívóiskolának vannak egész videósorozatai, melyek egész részletesen foglalkoznak pl. a német hosszúkardvívás (Lichtenauer, Meyer) technikai részleteivel. Csupán be kell azonosítani a legminőségibb tartalmakat, és már lehet is gyakorolni. Némi keresgélés és tanulmányozás után én a Sword Carolina csapat anyagát választottam. [2]
 Lássuk a listát -- angol nyelvű videók (2014, 2015) a Lichtenauer-féle hosszúkard-vívásról -- , amit használni fogunk az elkövetkező pár hónapban. [3]
  1. Lábmunka (Footwork)
  2. Vívóállások (Vier Leger)
  3. A 2 legfontosabb vágás (Lesson 3: The 2 Most Important Cuts for HEMA) [4]
  4. Zornhau I. (Lesson 2: Zornhau, High and Low)
  5. Zornhau II. (Zornhau-Ort, Abnehmen) [5]
 (A lista folyamatosan frissítve lesz.)

  1. Igazából az edzőtárs -- aki helyi hagyományőrző -- akar hosszúkardvívást tanulni, én csupán mindenben támogatom.
  2. A csapat vezetőjéről -- Aaron Shoberről -- itt lehet többet megtudni. Kellemesen, érthetően magyaráz, meglehetősen régen csinálja. Máskülönben kiváló vívó: jelenleg a 155. helyen van a hosszúkardvívók listáján (összlétszám: 5200+ fő a HEMAratings szerint).
  3. Ez az anyag nagyjából megfelel az Ars Ensis-féle tananyag első két évének: Scholler I, Scholler II.
  4. Oberhau, Unterhau: „They are the principal cuts, the grounding of all other cuts.”
  5. Itt már egy haladóbb technika is szerepel. Abnehmen = „To move away or free yourself from a bind and make another attack.”


How to...

 ...modify the tip of a plastic longsword (Red Dragon, RD) in order to make it more or less compatible with kendo headgear. We have been using a pair of synthetic longswords since May. They are absolutely great for beginners to learn the basics of the German longsword tradition (KDF), and also for light sparring (basically with nothing more than leather gloves and standard 350N masks).

 After a while, together with my fencing partner we have decided that it would be a good fun to fence with local kendo guys. More than 10 years ago -- as a complete beginner -- I fenced with them: shinai vs Olympic sabre. [1] But there is one big problem: shinai -- Japanese bamboo sword -- is really stiff (static flexibility somewhere between 17 and 22 kg), compared to Red Dragon's flexibilty (3.2-3.5 kg). So substituting shinais with plastic longswords while fencing with kendo guys is basically rather straightforward idea, but you have to overcome the next obstacle: the plastic blade could easily slide between horizontal steel bars of the kendo headgear (men), with obvious serious consequences (eye damage via blunt trauma). 

  The biggest distances between adjacent bars is 11-13 mm. [2]

Contours of RD's tip, width (23 mm),
thickness of the edge (6.5 mm)

 After taking into account all these details we thought the following modification would be sufficient to ensure relatively safe sparring with plastic longswords between a kendoka and a fencer. What we need for this? Only very basic stuff: a plastic cork [3], a piece of leather (approx. dimensions: length - 230 mm, width - 20-21 mm) and some insulation tape for securing the cork to the RD's tip.

 In this post I am using an aluminum blade (width: 30 mm) to show the process of the modification. I think that the pictures are definitely self-explanatory.

The final result

 After this modification we have a rather solid addition to RD's tip, whose dimensions -- thickness in one direction: 23 mm, in another: 31-32 mm -- might prevent the tip to enter any gap between mengane's horizontal bars. We have already tested one longsword with the modified tip against standard 350N fencing masks. It has survived two training sessions with any damage, also made thrusts with such a longsword less painful, because the modified tip is at least 3.7 times bigger than the original one. Naturally the final test will be the encounter between an empty kendo headgear and the modified longsword. 

 Everybody should be extremely cautious while fencing, especially during free sparring sessions between the representatives of different fencing schools. We are not advocating the usage of modified fencing equipment. Everybody performs such a modification, and uses the modified equipment at his / her own risks. The safest way to fence with plastic longswords is to use standard Olympic headgear for both the kendoka and the fencer. 

  1. The YT-video of this encounter has reached almost 2 million views (1,981,461).
  2. Mengane.
  3. Diameter: 21 mm, height: 36 mm; it is advisable to split only the first 30-32 mm. 


Filiberto Sauro

 It is really exciting to find a catalogue picture which shows such a rich assortment of fencing sabres. (A better picture.)

From Gerard Six FB-page [1] [2]

 I planned to use the previous blog entries in order to be able to identify as many sabre hilts as possible. But with some luck I have found that Chris Holzman made my life much easier by posting a pdf of Filiberto Sauro's printed catalogue (1932). Thus we can identify all sabres with absolute certainty. (Page 5 & 6 of the Italian catalogue.)

Page 5

Page 6

 The whole story just underlines the importance of mutually beneficial cooperation between HEMA-enthusiasts: Gerard Six had some good photos, but no text, and Chris Holzman had only text, without pictures. So by combining their goodies, now they -- and also the whole community -- have much better understanding which fencing swords were manufactured in Italy in the 30s.

Part of the last page

  1. Originally it has been tentatively identified as a photo from the Sauro's catalogue.
  2. 1st row: Parise, Parise, Radaelli (35), Radaelli, Barbasetti, ???; 2nd row: Sauro, Bonna, Sauro, Masiello, Masiello, Baracco; 3rd row: ???, Sauro, Gennari, Galante, Tomazzoni, Mensur.



 Very impressive cutting skills!!
 In 2019 Russian Cossacks were competing in cutting different objects. 

  1. В частности, до сих пор сами казаки используют в качестве самоназвания родовых, а не набранных и, тем более, ряженых казаков слова «казара», «казарра», «казарла», «козарлюги»” (Wiki) Even till now the Cossacks themselves use words kazara, kazarra, kazarla as  self-names for generic, not recruited Cossacks. 



 This might be the strangest sword I have ever seen so far... OK, to say ever can be a bit of exaggeration, but it is definitely true for this year. It could be the top nominee for the Strangest Sword of the Year award.

 I have found a short description of this item, and fours photos at an auction site [1] while searching for Chinese jians sword of Qin dynasty. So it is fair to classify it as a completely random find!

 The description from the auction site provides us with the following: „Lot 34 A RARE EAST EUROPEAN SWORD HUNGARIAN OR POLISH SECOND HALF OF THE 17TH CENTURY Broad flat double-edged blade with rebated tip the lower half etched on both sides with an heraldic crest surmounting a classical portrait bust and a Latin inscription differing over the respective sides with iron crosspiece formed with button tips and upper and lower langets flat beak-shaped cap-pommel canted downwards at its front original grip bound with leather over cords and the blade tang secured by a lateral rivet on iron rosette washers.

Overall length is 37.5 inches, 95 cm, blade: 32 ? inches (83 cm).
Very good condition. Blade has a chip towards the tip and minors scratches

 So what we have here? Basically a strange mixture of features:
  • a straight broad blade;
  • which is double edged;
  • and without a tip (rebated);
  • a very recognizable sabre hilt (a long crosspiece, langets etc).
 Also there is a well visible dent on the working edge of the sword, near its tip. The most intriguing question: Who might have used this sword? The blade itself has all characteristics of an executioner's sword: a) straight; b) double edged; c) with a round tip. So this is one real possibility. Another -- a less probable -- option, that its owner was a Hussar who wanted an Turkish straight sword, but in this case it is rather difficult to explain the round tip of the blade.


Poster (1959)

 „Original poster maquette for the 1959 World Fencing Championship. Lajos Vajda made two different designs for the same occasion. The artist used elements of both designs for the final design, which became the printed poster. The design shows a Hungarian hussar with his sword, which refers to the Hungarian traditions in fencing. The typography of the title is very elegant and decorative. Size: 18,5x26 cm” [1]

Variant A

Final design

 „World Fencing Championships 1959 in Budapest is a vintage Hungarian sport event advertising poster designed by Lajos Vajda.” [2] The Hussar silhouette was inspired by a statue in the Buda Castle (Budapest) called The Old Hussar created by Kisfaludi Strobl Zsigmond in 1932.

The Old Hussar (1932)


Stab test

  Russian re-enactors created an entertaining and historically accurate video (2017) about the protective features of riveted chain mail (the 4-to-1 pattern) against different medieval weapons.  

 They tested several types of chain mail:

Chain mail (A)

10 kg -- wire thickness: 1.2 mm, ring diameter: 10 mm (A)
14 kg -- wire thickness: 1.6 mm, ring diameter: 11 mm (B)
15 kg -- wire thickness: 1.6 mm, ring diameter: 12 mm (C)
18 kg -- wire thickness: 2.0 mm, ring diameter: 12 mm (D)

 Naturally cuts -- slashing cuts -- were not very effective against this personal armour. As expected they failed to penetrate the chain mail at all, but their impact could have caused serious blunt traumas to warriors wearing chain mail. Thrusts with a sabre, and later with a straight sword having pointy tip penetrated chain mails rather easily. How much the blade had penetrated the armour, depended on the characteristics of a particular sample. 

Chain mail (A) against a sabre [2]

 In this particular case we can see a really deep penetration, somewhere around 20-25 cm, which could have caused a mortal wound. 

An approximate length of the blade 
which penetrated the chain mail sample (A)

   The thickest chain mail (D) against the pointy straight sword (1.5 kg).

This much!

  Most definitely one wouldn't want to have so much steel through his chain mail.
  1. It is better to use the term chain mail, because ring mail is a different type of armour: „an assumed type of personal armour constructed as series of metallic rings sewn to a fabric or leather foundation”. (Wiki) Also it is advisable to avoid the term scimitar.
  2. In the video they called it Horde sabre (0.7 kg), meaning that is a replica of a sabre used by warriors of the Golden Horde.


Medieval sabre

 In a FB group called Military & Classical Sabre Artem Lokhmatov wrote an interesting post about a modern replica of a medieval sabre. He said it is a Khazar sabre. 

A modern replica

Nice hilt

 Later a member of the group asked Artem based on what original artefacts the replica was created. And he posted the following pictures:

Two medieval sabres [1]

A blade sleeve

 In the last photo an interesting feature could be observed: next to the small crossguard there is a metal sleeve, covering the first few centimetres of the cutting edge. 
  1. It isn't completely clear if those two sabres are from a museum or they were found by illegal gravediggers.


Old Hungarian

 At the time when maestro Parise invented (~1884) his fencing headgear Hungarian sabreurs were using a rather different type of head protection.

From the Németh Fencing Collection [1]

 Many contemporary drawings and photos show us the widespread use of it. One of the first sources where we can find this type of head protection is the book of Raimund Sebetic (1886).


 In the following picture members of a Transylvanian fencing club (Kolozsvár) were photographed with their fencing gear, around 1888.


 In the next one Hungarian sabre champion Gyula Iványi (left) can be seen together with his fencing master Zsiga Halasz in 1895. [2]


 A manufacturing company established by Károly Pacholek in 1864 was famous for its swords, fencing equipment etc. At the Millennial Exhibition in 1896 the company displayed a wide range of their products. [3]


A well-known fencing master
Lajos Vermes (~1896)

 Even as late as in 1917 we can recognize this gear in a military manual for Hussars. (The third edition.)

 And finally a photo from a Hungarian exhibition (2016) detailing the development of sabre fencing between the late 18th century and the establishment of Ludovika Military Academy. Several drawings from Sebetic's book (1886) can be recognized. (Fig. 1-5 from his book.)

Old headgear & Sebetic (1886)
  1. Link to the item.
  2. Link to the original.
  3. Fortepan Collection.


Mod. Parise

 An excellent set of photos depicting an Italian fencing headgear (secondo mod. Parise) and also a fencing glove, manufactured in Germany. [1] On the leather forearm protection there is the manufacturer's name „Baviera”. Now we can study this headgear from angles rarely seen in the previously available pictures.

Stuffed with horsehair
  1. From Italian catawiki: 53 photos.
  2. Description: „Casco e guanto da scherma in cuoio - sciabola o scherma - XIX secolo - Germania XIX secolo, Germania - Il guanto presenta una firma "Baviera" - in condizioni d'uso Casco e guanto da scherma in cuoio di produzione tedesca. Probabilmente del XIX secolo. Le condizioni sono buone con segni di usura (vedere foto) Il guanto presenta una firma "Baviera". Dimensione guanto: 46 x 15 x 10 (cm) ... Dimensione casco: 30 x 35 (cm)