on 12 July 2013
I thought long and hard about buying this book after reading a lot of good reviews and reading some not so favourable reviews and also not hearing great things from other HEMA practitioners I know.
I ignored them all and went ahead and bought the book. I'm pleased to say that I'm glad that I did. I am relatively new to HEMA so could be forgiven for reviewing this book from a position of someone who has very little knowledge on the subject, but I think that this is a strength. I have found the book ( thus far) very interesting from an historical perspective and have been particularly pleased and excited to start practicing the flourishes.
On just these flourishes, the book would get five stars from me because I don't have anyone nearby that I can sparre with, so being able to engage in rigorous sword practice on my own is worth its weight on gold. It helps me to put the guards and various techniques into a context and see how they all fit together in a fighting scenario. Having only learnt the first flourish the day before yesterday, I can already see how I could 'improvise' moving from one guard into a strike and to another guard etc. also, practicing the flourishes very slowly is akin to a good yoga workout, not to mention helping programming yourself to move in the most efficient way possible. I study fiore with a really good trainer, but my experience thus far has been one of learning fragments of Fiore's techniques with nothing to string together in a coherent manner when practicing. Whereas LOTEL gives me english longsword techniques in context that I can practice in long flowing sequences. Ironic, given that English longsword texts are very very few in comparison to Fiore. I would definitely advise though, watching the accompanying videos the authors have made of various techniques and flourishes in the book as trying to get it all to flow from just the book was hard for me. It really came together when watching the videos too. A very big shame (to the authors) that they didn't do a big accompanying DVD to the book as this would have seriously enhanced the learning.
It seems that the two main 'beefs' that people have with this book are:
The fact they didn't see the medieval texts for themselves, and the Pan-European argument.
Addressing the first point. Who cares? The point for me is that they unlocked the info from the old texts and have helped revive a lost sword art, something that makes me very proud as a 23rd generation Englishman. It doesn't in Ny way trivialise the quality or accuracy of the techniques presented.
On the second point, only an idiot would think that there wasn't any kind of crossover or exchange of ideas and techniques by contemporary practitioners in those times. Plus, as the authors clearly state, this is a feature of feudal society - fighting men from different countries fighting for other kings. Plus I would add that there are only a finite ways that a sword can move and the way that the human body moves.
Overall, a fantastic book and one that I will study for quite some time to come.