Here’s what the Company of St. Michael has evolved over several iterations to adapt his rules to foot combat in the Society for Creative Anachronism.
After any telling blow, retreat to your end of the lists, cry your cry, and return to the fray. Do not act out amputations. The melee may start with an exchange of spear-thrusts, after which everyone switches to weapons no more than six feet long: a sword, pollaxe or short spear.
René’s rules assumed the combatants would batter each other with blunt weapons, and if a combatant was temporarily stunned his retainers would protect him until he recovered. Standard SCA rules in which the man struck pretended he was crippled or killed were not appropriate. After our first recreation we omitted the armored retainers who protected their master in René’s rules: under the adapted rules they didn’t have a lot to do or scope to enjoy themselves. (In the original, this was irrelevant: they were paid to do their job, not to have fun).
We often fight this over the barrier. Barriers didn’t become part of friendly deeds of arms until around 1500, rather later than René’s rules. However, barriers do allow good control of the melee with minimal need for marshaling. We’ve found that if some combatants have long spears at the barriers and the others don’t the others can feel like helpless targets as the spearmen poke them from a safe distance on the other side of the barriers. Sword and shield at the barrier tends to be an uninteresting fight, and I would discourage that choice if the combatant is able to use one of the other options.
Since we fight on foot we faced a fundamental choice. Should we use contemporary foot combat conventions while using as much of René’s format as made sense, or should we follow as many of his rules as possible even if they lose their purpose in the absence of horses? We eventually chose the first, and so allowed the typical weapons of foot combat. Thrusts were only rarely prohibited in contemporary foot combat so we allowed them.
If we were following the second course the weapons would be single handed swords or maces used without shields, and thrusting and blows below the waist would be prohibited.
The knight or squire of honor provides a useful way to call local holds as needed without interrupting the general combat.