I.33 – Why is the Sword Tucked Under the Arm?

A common question is “Why is the Sword Tucked Under the Arm?”. And lately some people have begun to say things akin to “The illustrations are all wrong, don’t look at them.” I don’t like that answer, but first, the illustration in question:



Other Manuals


File:Ms.Thott.290.2º 117v.jpg



Paris Version (after 1495)


Erlangen Version (1500)


Berlin Version (ca. 1512)


Munich Version (1556)


Gladiatoria (MS Germ.Quart.16)


Talhoffer Fechtbuch (Cod.Guelf.125.16.Extrav.)

Not actually by Talhoffer, but rather a copy and commentary on his work and on I.33.


Wolfenbüttel Sketchbook (Cod.Guelf.78.2 Aug.2º)


Schermkunst (VAULT Case MS Fol.U.423.792)



First and foremost, I.33 isn’t unusual in how it depicts underarm. Of the 11 illustrations that I was able to find, 5 others appear to be tucking the sword tightly under the arm. The theory that they are simply drawn badly wrong doesn’t hold water. And with nearly half of them drawn if other poses, it is pretty clear that it wasn’t just a convention either.

My next thought is that these are snapshots of dynamic movement. Underarm isn’t a guard one lingers in for very long, or more accurately one shouldn’t linger in any guard. As a student of the Bolognese, we often cut into underarm and immediately right back out of it. Usually the longest we linger there is the time it takes to draw back the lead foot to meet the other.

When I first cut into underarm, I look like a lot like Gladiatoria. As I prepare the next cut, my hand goes through Talhoffer and into Paris. Look closely and you’ll see the thumb, indicating that the long edge is up and Paris is ready for a descending strike.


I’m not talking about trying to match Bolognese sidesword and buckler with I.33. I’m just talking about the other manuals that are clearly using the same weapons and postures discussed in I.33. Even the ones without text at least give us different views into how the guards were formed. They even show which damn foot is forward.

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

1 Response to I.33 – Why is the Sword Tucked Under the Arm?

  1. Michael AAF says:

    Underarm all about the buckler and binding.

    From underarm your opponents sword will most likely to on the right of your sword, so you want your buckler to the right of your sword as well. When you cut forward from underarm the buckler ends up on the right with your sword hand under your buckler.

    From the similar left shoulder (3rd) ward when you cut your buckler naturally ends up under your sword hand, a much more vulnerable position.

    Cutting and binding from underarm start lower and so easily covers more options of where you opponents sword can be, from left shoulder you have to go up or down. I feel the binds in particular work better from under, from left shoulder you have to get your hand down to get the same solid connection.

    On the palm out, for me this makes for a faster flick up and out, which in 1.33 I find I more likely to want to do then dong a rising cut from underarm.

    On that note hanging out in underarm is fine? You have good sweeping binds vs almost all blows and varied quick cuts and your buckler is free.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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