on 18 February 2009
The Codex Wallerstein is a facsimile of a 15th century German manual detailing many nifty ways of fighting, disarming and killing your opponent using weapons such as the sword, dagger, falcion and even shields with sharpened corners. I bought this book for a friend of mine who takes part in Medieval reenactments and he said it was his favourite gift for Christmas 2008! There is a very interesting section on unarmed combat which includes instructions on how to take down more that one opponent on your own! The original Medieval German text has been included with both modern German and English translations so there is the chance for those of you with language skills to read the original text. The book includes original illustrations which provide a great source of reference for male clothing and hairstyles from the period. Curiously all the illustrated characters look very pleased with themselves and are perfect models of fine, well shaped Medieval men dressed in fashionable fitted hose and doublets! Altogether a good primary reference source and will be useful for re-enactors and living history demonstrators, military historians, combat enthusiasts and anyone interested in medieval military life.
on 8 December 2011
I am highly impressed by this book, due to several main reasons. It shows with a simple and clear description; the purpose of the techniques shown and the goal they aim to achieve. It does not waste time walking you through every little detail, it is an advanced manual that assumes you have the basics such as blade grips, stance and general melee weapon knowledge. The one picture shown per technique along with the description is enough to fully understand what is bieng shown, but may take a few reads to sink in. I highly reccomend practice with wooden wasters (Safely) To really sink in the knowledge via practical application. You will find no sword twirling here, instead you will find a healthy amount of using these weapons as tools of fighting, not as a statement to impress. This book is translated superbly and is a refreshing realistic showcasing of the highly underrated and very much lethal western martial arts. I would only reccomend this book to serious practioners of weaponplay who are rediscovering the old methods, or historians/ people of extreme interest in the subject.
One criticism is that the Falchion section is very small, literally 4 pages long i believe. I bought this book largely (initially) on the strength that i would learn more of the facts of this weapons' use.
That bieng said it is very expansive on the longsword and grappling (some of which i am finding works well in an mma environment), and it has rekindled my interest in the multitude of techniques it can offer, such as striking with the hilt/guard and so forth.
This book is also quick to take into account that we are not all the same, and it specifies very often that a larger/ stronger man can take advantage in certain situations. Bieng 5'11 and 130kg and a gym fanatic, in free sparring i have found this to be completely accurate, and the codex wallerstein did not dissapoint when i disengaged a sword lock clinch by simply throwing the smaller opponent with ease taking advantage of the fact he is gripping a weapon and cannot defend the takedown without reacting very fast. Lesson learned, the leaner man has his superior speed but should not initiate the clinch unless unavoidable.
Rememeber that even with armour/pads on, wooden or dull-non live weapons can still cause serious damage, and repeating some of the techniques shown here are very inadvisable unless you dont want any more sparring partners - Use common sense.
on 21 June 2014
First of all, this four-star rating is based on how useful I found the source as a practicing scholar.
I realize the authors are working with a historical source so are probably limited with how much they could convey so this is not a criticism of their expertise. Having said that though, the reasons I could not award five stars is as follows:
1) the book itself is a bit large and cumbersome. If you're someone traveling with a fencing helmet, PPE and a book-reading stand in your bag you might find this book impractical to carry with you for practicing. As an urban resident, I don't have the luxury of a garden so must practice outside in a few select locations or in a training session. I've struggled to fit this in my bag with everything else. The layout of the book has illustrations on the right side page and on the left hand you have plate description + translation. However, there are many many pages with less than a 1/3 or 1/2 written on the left page. I felt the authors could have used to this extra space to elaborate further than on each plate. It's possible this book could have been half the size/weight without compromising on quality.
2) The illustrations do provide a nice medieval feel and some of these techniques might be recognizable intuitively by intermediate/advanced learners. However, there were some plates where I felt there was a disconnect between the descriptions and what the pictures where conveying and I have a feeling this would be confusing for novices. For some of the "plates", it's a bit confusing who in the picture is performing techniques/actions because of visual ambiguity (the illustrations are in 2D). I hope in future editions the authors mention something along the lines of "Swordsman A performs "X" action when Swordsman "B" thrusts into neck" in a sequential and easy to understand format.
3) As a left hander, with the exception on the longsword I found limited information for techniques against a right-handed swordsman.
Having said that... It is an informative read and if you have been doing HEMA for some time you might not have trouble interpreting the pictures. There is not a lot information on guards/timing/distances etc (this is more a feature of modern books and not a criticism of the authors themselves) so you may have to look elsewhere for that. Otherwise, it is an entertaining read despite its relative shortcomings.