Class: Introduction to binding in the Priest’s system, I.33
Josh Little is the President, Curriculum Director, and founder of Ars Gladii. Josh began studying the fencing manuscripts of central Europe around 1999 and has concentrated primarily on the chivalric fighting and dueling arts left to us by those associated with Johannes Lichtenauer and his students. Josh is a historian by training, having graduated from Western Michigan University in ’98 with a degree in medieval history and philosophy. Despite training in what are essentially very late medieval fighting arts, Josh is an early medievalist at heart, studying the Germanic migrations, Anglo-Saxon England, the Scandinavian Diaspora, and medieval heretical movements. He is also a husband and father of a fierce young daughter.
The Priest’s system of sword and buckler, commonly known by its manuscript designation – Tower Manuscript I.33 – comprises the whole of the oldest known fencing treatise. Dating from the first quarter of the 14th century, I.33 is also our only truly “medieval” fencing treatise. But despite being “early” in comparison, the system contained within it is intricate yet simple and indicative of a very mature fencing tradition within medieval Europe.
While the Priest’s system appears complex, it really isn’t. At its core, the system shows how to get into and out of a limited number of binds. Each play shown compresses down to one of these binds that repeat throughout the manual. The Priest himself (or at least the authors of the manuscript) recognize this fact with references to follow up actions by phrases similar to “those who are clever will know what to do from here” or “you have already been shown what comes next”. By learning these limited number of binds and common plays from the bind, the system becomes very easy to internalize.
In this class, we will look at the first bind pair shown by the Priest, illustrated in the manual as 1st Ward (Underarm) vs. Halbschilt (Half-Shield). This bind, however, is not limited to this pair but does constitute probably the most common bind pair in fencing, hence why it is illustrated first.
A thick, close fitting cap and safety glasses or a fencing mask
An arming sword, messer, or other such medieval style sword. Shorter side swords may work, depending on the hilt type, but rapiers probably won’t. Steel is preferred but synthetic can also be used.
Only a few loaner swords/bucklers will be available
Students should have a very basic understanding or familiarity with the Priest’s system/I.33. Nothing in-depth, but we will want to move quickly through the material so only a very limited overview will be given.