Why do I write about fencing? Because as a student that is what I am supposed to do.
In the Middle Ages students didn’t just memorize and mindless repeat what they were told. No, they had to go far beyond that. When studying a topic such as Aristotle they would not just read the text. They would pull the text apart, section by section, paragraph by paragraph, and explain it in their own words.
To pass a course, a Medieval student would, in effect, submit a book on the topic. Their commentary is their proof that they not only read, but critically thought about each and every concept the original book’s author presented. They don’t have to agree with it all, but they have to prove to themselves and others that each concept is accurate or inaccurate.
For historic example of such commentaries we can look at Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck, Peter von Danzig zum Ingolstadt, and Jud Lew. We also have commentaries and notes from less auspicious people such as the anonymous student taking lessons on the techniques for the rapier and dagger.
Some like Guy Windsor and Christian Tobler have done just this by publishing their interpretations alone or along with their translations. Right or wrong, they put themselves out there for the world to judge. Even if it means later going back and admitting to making mistakes.
Others like myself are just beginning the process through the use of blogs and videos. I keep a blog because I’m less inclined to lose it than my notebooks. I record videos so that I can see my flaws in motion and work towards correcting them. And I make it publically available so that I can inform those who are behind me and be informed by those ahead of me.
I believe in this so much that all of the handouts for our club are in the form of workbooks. They are large spaces so that the student can write record their notes about the guard or technique they are studying. And each lesson concludes with questions. Not quizzes with right and wrong answers, but rather just questions for them to explore and discuss. Because it does no good to learn a concept or technique today and forget it tomorrow. Fiore himself learned this lesson from one of his students.
Also I say that none of my students, especially those mentioned above, have ever had a book about the art of combat, except for Messer Galeazzo da Mantova. Because he said that without books no one can be a good master or a good student in this art. And I, Fiore, confirm it to be true, because this art is so vast that there is no one in the world who has such a big memory to keep in mind the fourth section of this art without books. Though not knowing the fourth section of this art I would not be a Master any more. — Fiore de’i Liberi