One of our favorite medieval sword masters is Fiore die Liberi, who wrote the 14th century treatise known as Fior di Battaglia (The Flower of Battle) for longsword. There are four known copies of this manuscript, and part of the delightful rush of scholasticism on Western Martial Arts has been the translation of this manuscript and subsequent fervent interpretive discussions (sometimes with swords in hand, of course).
Fiore wrote the manual to an audience that was versed in basic mechanics of sword fighting, and there is a deficit of instruction in the Sword Fighting 101 regard, which has put scholars in the position of relying on the line art to assist in the canonical plays. Some, like this one which is based on the Remedy Master of the first play of the dagger, are pretty easy to figure out.
Others, like the counter to this play, get a little more complicated. Somehow you get from the above to the below in a couple of steps. It’s like a medieval version of Twister, but with sharp pointy objects.
There are a number of excellent books on Fiore’s treatise (including Ken Mondschein’s The Knight Art of Battle). What has made Fiore afficiandos worldwide very happy these last few weeks is that the Getty Center has finally released high quality scans of every page of their copy of the Fior di Battaglia to the public.
When we gather and nerd out about sword fighting, it’s old hand-worn copies of these pages that we’re passing around.