MS I.33 and the Problem of Distance

An ongoing problem I’ve been seeing in I.33 interpretations is a disregard for measure, the distance between a fencer and his opponent’s weapon. Consider this illustration:


The red lines on the bottom are of equal length, suggesting that the front feet of the fencers are roughly one stance length apart. Furthermore, both fencers are in the same wide stance. The sword is clearly aimed at the face and is quite close, offering a rather significant threat.

Now look at this photograph from the article Fall Under the Sword and Shield.


Compared to the illustration, the opponents are much too far apart for this technique. The fencer on the left stepped wide instead of forward. This places the point of his sword on his opponent’s hilt rather than near his face where it can be a threat.

Also note the upright stance the left fencer adopts. This differs significantly from the half-bowed stance you see his companion and the fencers the in the illustration adopt. Because he stepped so far offline, attempting the bow in order to better present his point would just result in him falling over.

This next photograph is taken from a video titled Falling Under the Sword and Shield.


Again, we see the sword isn’t in a good position to threaten the opponent. This time they are standing too close, which may be why the point is far too high. Or perhaps the problem is, again, the wide off-line step and the lack of a bow.

For the next photograph, from Part 2, Sword & Buckler Interpretation, I.33 Clerus Lutegerus p 3, we see another example of fencers that are too far apart.


Rather than one stance length apart, they are three apart. (The right fencer has a fairly narrow stance, so perhaps it is more accurate to say they are two stance lengths apart.) There is a bow, but because of the really wide distance the point is again on the hilt instead rather than threatening the face. And for the third time in a row we see that the left foot is out wide rather than forward as per the illustration.

For the final photograph we turn to MS I.33 First Play Drill 25 Mar 2013.


The fencers are close together, but they are also adopting narrow stances so we are keeping the same one stance length distance. More importantly, the point is at face while still being under the opponent’s sword.

The Four of Five Guideline

A lot of people argue that the illustrations are wrong and not worth paying attention to. But my  theory is that they are making too mistakes that compound each other.

Consider these five features:

  • stance length
  • distance between front feet
  • body lean
  • point height
  • hilt height

If you get four out of the five correct but can’t quite make the last one fit, then you can argue the illustrations are unreliable. But if you can barely make one of the five correct then you don’t have the right to make that claim.

Exaggerated for Importance

Note here that I didn’t say “exactly like the illustration”. It isn’t a photograph; they intentionally exaggerate things so that you’ll pay attention to them. In case it is a huge elbow to remind you to turn it upwards. In several others we see giant bucklers to tell you that you are more protected with your arm extended.

So if you are thinking “those stances are absurdly long” don’t leap to the conclusion that its ok to ignore the illustration and square up to your opponent. Take it so mean “they want me to take a long, narrow stance”. Maybe not as long as the illustration, but longer than you would otherwise prefer.

This entry was posted in MS I.33 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to MS I.33 and the Problem of Distance

  1. Michael AAF says:

    I do think a lot of people try to do 1,33 at too great a distance. 1.33 is a BUCKLER and sword fight, in most of the plays safety comes from having your buckler pressing against his sword hand, If you cant do that then your too far away.

    Using the illustrations are fraught, check the length of leg to arm, but some of the details of buckler placement and hold are brilliant.
    Michael l


    Falling under the sword, as a action has to prevent a stabstrike, be hard to bind and threaten the opponent. The distance is just far enough out so if they dive in with fast stab half can do you can bind it but close enough that they have to react to your threat. Tyring a direct cut at half shield gets you stabbed, trying to stab gets you bound, it to far to strong bind. ( which is why we do the weak bind as shown in the manuscript, which puts the point in line to threaten the face.)

    I disagree with Rans, cut to the arm ( I get stabbed in the face) but his starting distance is good (stances aside) for the weak bind. As he closes for the cut the distance is shorted by the actions of Half (Both foot and body lean). So the trouble with comparing the still to manuscript is by Ran actions underam should be taking halfs arm off in the manuscript picture?

    The thrust after the falling bind (or Rands cut) should not land but force half to act, so gives underam back the initiative he has lost by being countered by half (Half will enter and hit him if he pauses).

    • Grauenwolf says:

      >The thrust after the falling bind (or Rands cut) should not land but force half to act, so gives underam back the initiative he has lost by being countered by half (Half will enter and hit him if he pauses).

      That was my suspicion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s