Following on from my first article on the wards of I.33, this article covers the first play of the manual, namely that of Underarm against Half-Shield.

I am now working from the Royal Armories edition of the manuscript, which contains high quality images, transcriptions and translations of each page, and which I recommend. The purpose behind my work is to convert the manuscript into something I can listen to, as I can’t actually read the printed book these days. To this end the process requires scanning, OCR and reading in inverted colour on big screens, not just for the text, but to describe the images.

The description below has three parts. The first is the images, which are numbered with the major number, corresponding to the sequence within the plays being described, and the minor number being the count within a given sequence. The second is the text, which is taken from the English translation. I can work my way through written Latin, but not audio. Additionally, I have omitted duplicate text, and resolved ambiguities, or text that really should have been edited, such as ‘The one in First Guard on the other hand can oppose the one who is opposing him with an opposition that in a way resembles the opposition called Half-Shield’. By the time you work this out in your head, the audio has moved on and you;ve missed bits. The final part are the notes. These are entirely my own observations and opinions.

As I progress, some of my opinions change, so any article is only a snapshot of my current thoughts. To counter this I’ve also started keeping a record at WikiDot (, which seemed more appropriate tha a blog.


Plate 3


Here we show the Priest in Underarm, and the Scholar with Half-Shield. I advise with good counsel that he who stands in Underarm should not deliver any blow, for he cannot reach his opponent’s upper part; if he attacks the lower part, it will be dangerous to his head. But the one who adopts Half-Shield can enter and attack the Priest at any time, if the Priest omits what he should do, as is written below.


Remember the sloped stance of I.33. Against half-shield, there is no opening to the head and the torse is withdrawn. The half-shield guard is high, but going underneath to the legs means the sword has to go under the half-shield guard. leaving the head unprotected, as the buckler should be protecting the sword hand and arm. If,it isn’t, then the sword arm itself can just be cut instead.


Underarm has two counters:
The first is Half-Shield, and Longpoint the second.

Image 1.1

The Priest is in Underarm, with the buckler covering the sword arm, and the Scholar in Half-Shield. The drawing of the rear foot indicates that the shield leg is forwards. Similarly, the Scholar appears to have the sword leg forwards. However, in both cases the shoulders are square, ensuring that the buckler can remain alongside the sword hand as required.


Given the imperative of keeping buckler and sword together, and hence the arms in sync, it seems unlikely that which leg is forwards makes much difference, except to the exact footwork used. Using the range offered by one leg or the other means separating the sword and buckler.


When Half-Shield is adopted, fall under the sword and shield;
If he is ordinary he will go for your head; you should use a Thrust-Strike;
If he counterbinds and steps, your counter should use a Shield-Strike


Despite the final line advocating a Shield-Strike, this is not what the later examples do.


He who lies above sends a blow towards the head without a Shield-Strike if he is an ordinary combatant. But if you wish to learn from the Priest’s advice, then counterbind and step.

Image 1.2

The Scholar is still in Half-Shield, although the impression is that his weight has shifted backwards due to a change in the way the legs are depicted, the front straighter and the back a bit more bent. The Priest has attacked and is shown in Longpoint with his sword pointing at the Scholar’s face and apparently parried, behind the Scholar’s buckler, with the strong of the Scholar’s blade on the weak of the Priest’s blade. Key points are that the Priest’s hand is not inverted, but knuckles down and palm towards the shield hand, and his buckler is alongside the sword hand. The bind is on the outside line, but the bucklers of both are still protecting the inside.


The image shows a position highly disadvantageous to the Priest with his weak held by the Scholar’s strong, and with the Scholar above. I.33 has already made clear that the Priest should not attack his opponent’s body, and it seems extremely unlikely that the purpose is to initiate a bind so much in the Scholar’s favour. Thus, the likely target of the attack is the Scholar’s hands. The Scholar, shifting his weight back, would then move to a weaker part of the Priest’s blade and, by geometry, also move the attack from the hands to above their own hilt. If the Scholar fails to react, the Priest’s attack will strike home.

Most likely the Priest’s blade is not directly pointed at the Scholar’s face, but will have been blocked further to the Scholar’s sword side so that the blade will actually be pointing over the Scholar’s shoulder.

If the Scholar is ‘ordinary’, as described above, then as he strikes directly for the Priest’s head, the upward cut will take the Scholar’s arms instead, or, if he moves early enough, as I.33 says, the attack can become a Thrust-Strike to the head.

A key point to note is that the upwards strike is not the fencing cut from scabbard to first guard, in which the hand remains inverted. Besides the image, it is easy to see why. Try to cut in the fencing fashion, and have a straight arm with the sword pointing at the opponent’s face: it is extremely uncomfortable. The elbow quickly locks and much of the movement has to come from the shoulder. Do it with any force, and you’ll likely injure or over-extend your elbow in the attempt.

To move from Underarm to Longpoint, the hand must rotate as the strike is made, most effectively as the sword is in the lowest part of the arc. In essence what you achieve is a reversed wrap, ad it doesn’t take much to impart a lot of speed to the sword tip, and hence impact energy. The elbow is in no danger of locking and very little movement is required from the shoulder.

Should the Scholar be holding Half-Shield in an upright stance, and hence have to cover more of his torso with a lower Half-Shield guard, the same movement will act as effective false edge beat against the weaker part of his blade, whilst still covering a counter direct to the head. It is not advisable to alter the aim to hit the lower hands, as the more horizontal stroke will no longer hit any target if the Scholar does the head strike.


Underarm can be opposed by itself, that is, the one who adopts the opposition can use the same guard. The one in Umderarm on the other hand can oppose the one who is opposing him with an opposition that in a way resembles the opposition called Half-Shield. However, it differs in that the sword under the arm is extended over the shield, so that the hand holding the shield is enclosed in the hand holding the sword.

Plate 4


Here the Scholar counterbinds and steps, so that he can get a Shield-Strike as follows; but let him beware of those things that the Priest should do, because after the counterbind the Priest will be the first to act. Note also that the Student has nothing he can do but a Shield-Strike, or to use his left hand to envelop the Priest’s arms, i.e. his sword and shield.

The Priest, on the other hand, has three things he can do, namely to change his sword, so that he will be above, or to ‘step through’ [durchtreten], or to use his right hand to grab the Scholar’s arms, i.e. his sword and shield.

Image 1.3

The Scholar is now in Longpoint with the sword pointing at the Priest’s thigh. The Priest is also in Longpoint pointoing at the Scholar’s knee. The Scholar’s sword is on top, binding about one quarter of the blade length from the hilt, with the Priest’s sword bound about two thirds of the blade from the hilt. The overbind has moved the bind to the iside line and the buclers of both cover their hands to the inside.


Stepping forwards and slightly left would provide the Scholar with the best angle to counterbind and force the Priest’s sword down, whilst maintaining his strong position in the bind, and giving a good angle for the subsequent Shield-Strike.

If the Priest has split his sword and buckler for some reason, such as to attenpt a Shield- Strike at the Scholar, then the gap provides a path for the Scholar, whilst shield-striking the sword or arm sword arm. The scholar’s sword provides more range than the Priest’s buckler.


Note that what is said above you will find here by way of example.

Image 1.4

The Priest is now in Longpoint pointing at the Scholar’s front foot. This position is forced by the Scholar’s buckler placed on the Priest’s buckler forcing both his shield and sword hands sown after a Shield-Strike. The Scholar’s sword is striking the shield side of the Priest’s head in a rising horizontal strike.


The image shows the situation after the Scholar has directed a Shield-Strike at the Priest’s hands. It would be tempting to Shield-Strike directly at the Priest’s face, but this overlooks the fact that the counterbind only controls the Proest’s sword, alloowing him freedom to Shield-Strike himself. Thus, the Scholar’s Shield-Strike should be at the hands of the Priest to control both sword and buckler, releasing the Scolar’s sword for the final blow. The Scholar’s Shield-Strike, or envelopment, must be swift to prevent the Priest completing his own options which he can begin as soon as he feels the counterbind take effect.

If the Priest has split his sword and buckler for some reason, such as predicting and blocking the incoming head strike, then that Scholar can strike instead through the gap at the sword arm, which should still be the target of the Scholar’s Shield-Strike.. This sequence shows what the Scholar can do if the Priest’s defence is inadequate.

Plate 5


Here we resume Underarm for the sake of certain actions of the first sequence, i.e. of the First Guard, that have been discussed previously. But everything here you will find in the first folio, up to the change of the sword

Image 2.1

We have reset to the beginning, with the Priest in Underarm, buckler covering the sword arm, and the Scholar in Half-Shield. The lPriest’s leg position is more ambiguos as the back foot is drawn facing forwards.


When Half-Shield is adopted, fall under the sword and shield.

Image 2.2

The sequence starts as previously with the Priest moving to Longpoint pointed at the Scholars face. The Scholar has blocked the attack as before and they are bound on the outside line.

Plate 6


Here the Scholar executes a counterbind, and all the other things mentioned before, up to the change of sword that follows.

Image 2.3

The Scholar’s arms slope down, whilst the sword is horizontal pointing at the Proest’s belly. The Proiest’s arms are horizontal at shoulder height with the sword pointing down at about 45°. Again the Scholar’s sword is on top, bound about a third of the blade from the hilt, whilst the Priest’s is about half way alonng the blade. The overbind has moved the bind to the inside line and the buclers of both cover their hands to the inside.


The Scholar has done the same overbind and step as before. However, whereas previously the Priest followed the forced depression of his sword with his arms (keeping the Longpoint form), this time the Priest has kept his arms where his initial strike brought them, and has allowed just the sword to be depressed. Thus, with the arms kept high, the sword itself is at a steeper angle, and the Scholar has achieved less control.

The only way for the Priest to allow the sword to be despressed so far, and be able to still be effective, is for him to roll his sword hand inwards and rotate the sword so that the true edge is now holding the bind. The Scholar has to commit to the overbind, and this tiome, instead of futilely resisiting, the Priest is allowing the Scholar to push through and is taking some of the momentum into his sword whilst starting to deflect the Scholar, as in practice the Priest’s sword will also have to be pointing slightly out of the page as his hand rolls, which will also be roughly coincident with the line the Scholar is pressing.


Here the Scholar is in need of good advice on how to resist this. And you should know that when the play is in the state shown here, then one should execute a thrust [Stich], as is generally found in this book, although there are no pictures of it.

The Priest changes his sword here, because he was below before, but now he will be above. Finally he sends his sword back towards his opponent’s head, which is called ‘flipping’ [nucken], leading to a separation of the Scholar’s sword and shield. Whence the verse: ‘Clerics thus “flip”; ordinary combatants do not unless they are “covering” [schutzen]’.

Image 2.4

Both combatants are in Longpoint pointing at the other’s front foot. The Priests’s blade is now above the Scholar’s, and the bind has returned to the outside line. Both bucklers have been rotated to now cover the hands on the outside line. This necessitates that both combatants have crossed their arms. The image shows the Priest’s sword wrist over the shield wrist. The Scholar’s wrists are hidden, but the buckler is slightly raised showing that the Scholar is opposite with his shield wrist over his sword wrist.


I.33 does not explicitly say or show how the Priest ‘changes his sword’, and this was probably assumed to be obvious. There are clues however. The previous image suggested that the Priest was allowing only his sword to be despressedm and in the process gain some momentum from the Scholar’s advance. Secondly, the bucklers would be rotated around the arms in such a way as to cover the threat of the opponent’s sword during the movement from one snapshot ot the next. This means that the Scholar was threatened from above. Thus, I think, the Priest continues to move his sword using the momentum the Scholar has imparted. This involves the Priest dropping his sword through the vertical, through the Crook guard. At this point the Priest also turns the sword hand backwards so that the true edge faces backwards, simultaneously rotating the buckler under the sword

arm. Keeping the sword moving the Priest swings the blade the rough a vertical loop up past his shield side, in effect a molinet or tramazzone. It is the strike from this molinet from which the Scholar is protecting his upper arm.

The temptation is to strike the molinet directly at the Scholar’s head. However, the molinet gives the Scholar an opportunity to counter and follow the ‘good advice’ above to thrust. The molinet must go to the bind, rather than the head, to block this potential thrust and will also establish the overbind. If the Scholar does not cover his arms with the buckler, the strike can instead be directly at them instead.

Plate 7


Let the Priest beware here not to make any delay with his sword, lest that delay should lead to a wrestling action; but at once he should reestablish the bind for the sake of caution.

Image 2.5

This image is odd, possibly poorly drawn. The scholar is still in the enforced Longpoint at the Priest’s foot. The Priest’s buckler is against the Scholar’s buckler, controlling the Scholar’s hands and pushing them to the Priest’s sword side. The Priest’s sword is now between the Scholar’s arms, however, and held in an anatomically impossible manner, knuckles down, and palm outwards, with the thumb facing the Scholar.


The Priest’s hand simply cannot physically attain the orientation drawn.Given the way the Scholar is shown properly covering his hands and arms, I can see no way for the sword to get between his arms, and I think inthis case the artist has got his layers confiused. The Priest’s sword should be above both of the Scholar’s arms as it sktrikes upwards towards the Scholar’s head.This movement, a flip or jerk, is a backhanded strike at the head using the false edge. It is, in essence, the same movement as the second part of the initial attack from Underarm.

I am not clear why this head strike should lead to a separation of the Scholar’s sword and shield. or why this is even desirable at this final stage.