Sunday, February 26, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Disarms

A disarmed opponent is much less threatening than one who isn't. Medieval combat manuals taught many disarming techniques, and combatants in recorded medieval armored combat often did their best to disarm their opponent. For example, in the Annesley vs. Katrington fight of 1380:
they began the battell, first with speares, after with swords, and lastlie with daggers.The esquire [...] ouerthrowne. They fought long, till finallie the knight had bereft the esquier of all his weapons, and at length the esquier was manfullie ouerthrowne by the knight.*

Georges Chastellain reported that when Jacques de Lalaing fought on foot against Jean de Boniface in Ghent in 1445, "Sir Jacques, who was strong and powerful, hastened towards the knight, and struck downwards so sharply that he made him lose and drop the axe out of both his hands."**

As usual, Olivier de la Marche gave a different and somewhat less impressive account of Lalaing's perfomance. In his version, Boniface seized Lalaing's axe with his left hand, Lalaing took a great step backwards and pulled it from Boniface's grip, and at this point the judge threw down his baton and stopped the fight.***

Chastellain reported how the squire Jacques d"Avanchier was disarmed at the Pass of the Fountain of Tears in 1450.
They fought well and valiantly for 12 or 14 blows, and then d'Avanchier closed with the knight of the pass and took his axe in one hand. Then the knight of the pass quickly took d'Avanchier strongly by the gorgerin, and pulled him for three or four paces, so that he lost the axe out of both his hands and it fell to earth****

Once again, de la Marche gave a somewhat different report, noting that d'Avanchies was a small man of slight build.
..the knight, recovering the lower spike of the axe, struck him so strongly on the gorgerin that the squire stepped back more than two paces. And when the squire, who was determined and self-assured, saw the danger of the knight's weapon,and knew that the longer it went, the less he would be able to sustain the weight of the weapon, he ventured to advance, axe in hand, right up to Sir Jacques, and seized the knight's axe with his right hand, and quickly secured it with his left hand, abandoning his own, to hold that of his companion more strongly. I remember that the squire's axe remained leaning against Sir Jacques.

But the knight took two or three big steps backwards, pulling the squire, who held his axe, after him with all his force and with that retreat the squire's axe fell to the sand, but the squire did not lose his grip at all. And when the judge saw the squire disarmed he threw down his baton and had them taken. Jacques d'Avanchies was dispossessed of his axe, and holding and retaining in both hands that of Sir Jacques, and I was so close that I heard Sir Jacques say "let go of my axe, because you can't have it"*****

*Raphael Holinshed Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland London, 1587 Volume 6, pp. 424-425

**Chastellain, Georges, and Jean Le Fèvre. 1825. Chronique de J. de Lalain. Paris: Verdière. ch. 29 p. 101 Translation copyright Will Mclean 2012

***La Marche, Olivier de. 1837. Les mémoires de Messire Oliver de La Marche: augmentés d'un estat particulier de la maison du duc Charles Le Hardy, composé du mesme auteur. Paris: [s.n.]. p. 440 Vol. 3 ch. 16, p. 418 Translation copyright Will Mclean 2012

****Chastellain, ch. 72 p. 263

*****La Marche, Vol. 3 ch. 21 p. 440

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