Sword and Shield: Basic principles and technique of medieval buckler combat is a DVD by Roland Warzecha and Tobias Wenzel, published through Agilitas in 2011. The subject is fencing with the medieval sword and buckler in general, as opposed to concentrating on a single source such as I.33 or Lignitzer’s treatise.
This review: motivation and transparency
I bought this DVD for my own use in 2012. I have referred to it a few times since then. I want to share my thoughts about a DVD that has helped shape some of my thinking about the practice of sword and buckler.
(Edit: this “motivation” section was added on the 9th of March 2019, as part of an effort to improve the transparency of the various reviews on this website.)
The intended audience seems to be anyone with an interest in sword and buckler fencing. The material is perfectly pitched for beginners, yet still contains many useful pieces for consideration by more experienced practitioners.
The running time is a little over 80 minutes. With this length of presentation, it certainly feels like you get your money’s worth from the purchase!
Presentation of information
The presentation is great and the two demonstrators look professional in their outfits. The colour co-ordination gives a uniform impression and allows the viewer to distinguish between the fencers during demonstrations. When the fencers demonstrate sequences in fully protective gear, again it looks very professional and safety-conscious. From this point of view the DVD is an excellent ambassador for historical fencing!
There is a lot of useful basic information for beginners, such as balance and lines of pressure. Even so, some of the basic information is put very concisely and is of benefit even to more experienced practitioners who may not have thought about things in quite the same fashion. For example, in terms of how to apply pressure most effectively, the statement “in a blade bind, the edge is always stronger than the flat” is a useful piece of advice for beginners, and may help put the concept into words for people who had played with the idea in their practice but who had not solidified it in their own minds.
There is an excellent discussion about the reason why earlier manuscripts show a forward leaning stance and why this stance is not seen in later sources – the discussion makes reference to angles and geometry, and also to the difference in length between the earlier medieval swords and the swords that were used over the following centuries. There is also a discussion of vibratory points and the centre of percussion. This is useful knowledge for practitioners of sword and buckler (and indeed for longsword fencing as well!) and is worth revising even for more experienced fencers. In a similar fashion, the DVD discusses footwork, with valuable information for the beginner fencer, and with salient points for revision by experienced fencers.
The DVD includes solo drills for practising the mechanics of some of the strikes, binds and follow-up motions that are central to the use of sword and buckler. These are described verbally and shown from several different angles, both slowly and at speed. This makes them simple to follow and to reproduce for personal practice. Each of the solo drills can be applied against an opponent in a drilling or sparring situation, so practising them would be time well spent.
When discussing the different wards, strikes and actions from the bind, plenty of details are provided. The motions are always shown from several angles, both slowly and at full speed; very helpful for observing how the motions are done and why they are done that way.
The production is of a very high quality throughout. The script is very strong, and is presented in English by a voice-over, as Roland speaks quietly in German in the background.
The music is dynamic in places, and soft in others. It never detracts from the presentation itself, and often supports what it being shown on screen.
Unfortunately, the DVD has no “play all” feature. Every so often, the flow of the DVD is interrupted by returning to the menu screen, requiring some interaction to continue. Apparently this feature was supposed to be included in the production, but for whatever reason it did not reach in the final version of the DVD.
Sword and Shield is very well produced with a strong script. The material contained within the production is very helpful for beginners without going into too much detail, but also valuable for more experienced practitioners to revisit and revise. Many of the concepts discussed are also very relevant to longsword practitioners; the DVD is a very good exposition on the subject of medieval swordsmanship in general, with a focus on sword and buckler fighting in particular.
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.