Monday, December 11, 2006

SCA Errata Sheet: Florentine and Two Sword

Florentine was first used as a term for a weapon style within the Society for Creative Anachronism circa A.S.2 (1970 AD) to describe a fighting style involving the use of two pounds of spinach and a pair of salad forks. Later the spinach was either discarded or eaten (feasts often started late in those days) and the term came to denote any two-weapon style, or, alternatively "what medieval knights would have called fighting in tournaments with two weapons at once if they had ever done such a thing, which they didn't". The style is sometimes referred to as “Too many swords.”

While medieval men at arms sometimes carried a second sword in case their primary weapon was lost or broken, there is no evidence they fought in armored combat with two at one time.

There are three main sources of inspiration for the use of two swords or two weapons in the Society’s recreation of medieval armored combat. The Icelandic sagas sometimes describe characters fighting with two weapons. In Njal's Saga, for example one character is bushwacked while cutting firewood, and fights with his axe and his sword. The hero Gunnar often fights with his sword and his magic "halberd". (Since the story is supposed to be happening long before what we think of as halberds appear, it's a little unclear what the weapon actually was). One could argue that these were special cases, and that the Sagas are not entirely dependable as factual evidence. But even taken at face value, they are not evidence for the use of "two weapons" in tournaments, since the action occurs before the first tournaments are invented.

The second is renaissance styles of unarmored combat that used either sword and dagger or, more rarely two swords.

The third is a fighting style using two swords introduced by the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi some time after 1600.

The early 15th c. fighting manual Flos Duellatorum by Fiore dei Liberi does include a brief sequence on fighting with due bastone or two clubs. This seems to be an example of how to improvise a defense in unarmored combat, like a similar sequence on how to defend yourself using only a walking stick and a dagger. The clubs are rude and unshaped tree branches, the attacker is armed more conventionally, and the sequence ends with the defender throwing away one of the clubs.

Fighting with two swords at once can be a reasonably effective technique using Society armored combat rules, but the combat style was almost or entirely unknown in medieval armored combat. The difference probably stems from a mismatch between the combat rules and reality. In SCA armored combat, swords are virtually unbreakable and hands are considered to be invulnerable to attack. Neither was true in the actual Middle Ages.


Lay said...

Hm. It's interesting ot hear of somebody else interested in tackling the two-sword issue. I've tried to study the two-sword systems of the Italian masters and they were honestly a headache for me since I'm too strongly right-handed.

Taryn said...

Great article.
FYI - Miyamoto's technique was for Katana + Wakasashi (which is a short sword/long dagger). This is quite different from case-of-rapier (paired rapier) or "florentine" - both of which use two swords of (roughly) equal length.

One of the big problems with the two-sword thing, of course, being that you can only operate at one range - which gives a big advantage to your opponent as long as they can pick another range to kill you at.

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Eoin mac Diarmid said...

And what does one make of the Dimacheri? That would be the two sword wielding Roman Gladiators. I find it rather presumptuous that the Roman's would 1) have create the term and not actually had fighters using the style and 2) have fighters wielding two swords and it would not show up in post Roman ear in the dark and middle ages.

We can certainly find examples pre-period and post-period so what reasonble person would assume it was not also found in period?

/Ld. Eoin mac Diarmid.

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Micky said...

Taryn - I wholeheartedly agree on the quality of this article.

But : I am a student of the Five Rings [Scrolls Miyamoto created to pass on his styles] and would like to correct your statement on his technique. It was meant to be used with a pair of "long blades" of equal length, in his case, two katana.

Tsuinjin said...

Musashi was fighting duels using his two weapon technique in the very late 1500's, it is completely documented and within period.

The translation of these japanese duels (which were common) could very easily be compared to the european tournament. For this reason, I fully accept that two weapon fighting citing musashi is a legit fighting form.

Micky; if you read the book and study his art, you will find you are wrong. He suggested that students use two long blades in order to adapt and become skilled at something awkward. Then, the student progressed to using the long blade and the companion blade; the wakizashi.

Anonymous said...

I used to fight using 1 sword (36" long) and a mace. No being left-handed, but learning to be ambidextorus I could use either in either hand.

The advantage - I'd start by using the mace as my "main" weapon, as the opponent moved in to his sword range (outside of mace range) I would swap feet, so that the sword was now my main weapon putting my opponent into range, and usually upsetting his timing in the process.