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The Art of the Two-Handed Sword [Paperback]

Ken Mondschein Ph.D. , Francesco Alfieri
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Jan 2012
The Art of the Two-Handed Sword translates one of the last surviving works on the use of the two-handed sword, also called the great sword, a Renaissance descendant of the medieval knightly weapon that was equally at home on the battlefield, at tournaments, in the fencing academy, or on the street. The second half of the book provides a clear, practical, detailed guide to its use, as well as to the theory and practice of historical fencing. Francesco Alfieri’s 1653 Lo Spadone (The Two-Handed Sword), translated here, provides a “missing link” between medieval and modern martial arts. It displays clear continuity with both medieval swordsmanship and the still living traditions of sabre and great stick. Beginning in the 14th Century, swords became more sharply pointed in order to pierce the heavy plate armor of the day, and the grip became longer to allow two-handed use for greater power. By the end of the 15th Century, the two-hander, as long as a man is tall, had become a fearsome infantry weapon used to break up pike formations and in honor guards defending the standard or banner. It was also used in tournaments, on the field of honor, and for civilian self-defense. This long two-hander was known in Italy as the spadone. Its basic methods have continued to the present day in great stick technique. The Art of the Two-Handed Sword is the first complete English translation of Alfieri’s book, supplemented by related materials: the MS Riccardiano (c. 1550) and works by Camillo Agrippa (1553), Giacomo di Grassi (1570), and finally Guieseppe Colombani (1711), who provides our last textual reference to the weapon. Alfieri’s work is supplemented by Ken Mondschein’s painstaking reconstruction and adaptation of longsword practice for the present day. He draws on primary sources, martial arts traditions, classical and modern fencing theory, and extensive practical experience to create a practical and enjoyable method for learning and practicing the spadone under modern conditions. Numerous photographs illustrate the techniques that he describes.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: SKA SwordPlay Books (18 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0978902289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0978902285
  • Product Dimensions: 25 x 18 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Ken Mondschein, a lifelong student of history and the martial arts, received his Ph.D. in medieval history from Fordham University. He is certified as a Prévôt d’Escrime by the International Academy of Arms and holds a second-degree black belt in traditional Japanese karate. He is a historical fencing instructor and Research Fellow at the Higgins Armory Museum, a Visiting Fellow at University of Massachusetts— Amherst Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, and a fencing coach at Pioneer Valley Fencing Center. He was a Fulbright grantee to France in 2007–2008 and a visiting fellow at Harvard in 2009–2010. Ken is the translator of Camillo Agrippa’s seminal 1553 rapier treatise (Italica Press, 2009), and The Knightly Art of Battle, a study of Fiore dei Liberi’s medieval martial arts (Getty Publications, 2011), among other works. In all, Ken has almost two decades of martial arts experience, with fourteen years of experience in traditional Western swordsmanship and stick fighting. He is also an experienced equestrian.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the two handed sword 3 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is essentially in two parts: the first is primarily a translation of Alfieri's 17th century treatise on the Two Handed Sword, the second is an introduction to use of the two handed sword using modern terminology and intended for the modern student of Historical European Martial Arts. While the Alfieri translation may be of interest for reference purposes the much longer second section is, to me, the far more valuable element. After a comprehensive introduction to footwork, guards and parries Mondschein moves on through Basic Drills and Intermediate Techniques to Advanced Tactics. This book left me with a clearer understanding of how the two handed sword should be used in practice than anything else I have read. For the modern student new to the longsword or two handed sword this is arguably the best instruction manual currently available. The only comparable book is Guy Windsor's "Swordsman's Companion". Both are excellent.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well received. 13 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Given as a present for someone intersested in the history & practice of this sport who found it very interesting.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Translation and Interpretation! 7 Mar 2012
By Richard P. Marsden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is great for anyone interest in historical swordsmanship. The author provides translations of three works on the two-handed sword or spadone. Alfiere, Di Grassi and Agrippa- all three of which are more famous for their single-sword work, but have something to say about the use of the two-handed sword as well!

Alas, the translations provide hints, but not a complete picture of the system involved. The artwork is sparse, the instructions simple and sometimes frustratingly lacking and even with three translated texts- there is a sense that something is missing.

Not a problem!

Ken Mondschien, PHD has taken the bold step of providing his interpretation of the system and included photos, instructions, reasoning and text-citations to support his conclusions. It's hard to take a large work and interpret it for a modern audience. It's truly yeoman's work to take sparse text and do the same thing.

For the price, the book is a steal. You get THREE translations with art, then a whole interpretation from the author with photos. For anyone interested in medieval longsword the book shows 'where things went', for those interested in Renaissance swordsmanship, the book is ready to go for drills, techniques and application. A fine addition to one's historical, or western martial arts bookshelf!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for fencing enthusiasts. 16 Mar 2013
By Will Petillo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Imagine "The Science of Fencing" by William Gaugler, but written for two-handed sword. The classical influence is clearly present in this book, which can be a danger, but the author channels it perfectly: using extensive outside knowledge to more deeply understand, but not second-guess, the source material (which is also included in the original for those who wish to experiment with other interpretations). The book flows naturally from principles, to solo drills, to partner drills of increasing sophistication, including step-by-step instructions and lots of photographs. Be warned, though, this may take a long time to read, not because it is exceptionally long or at all difficult to follow, but because with every page you will want to pick up a sword and go practice!
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