The manuscript I.33 (the Royal Armouries catalogue number) is the oldest known manuscript depicting European fighting arts. It is dated to approximately 1295. It shows a Priest teaching a student or Scholar how to fight with sword and buckler (a small shield). In places we are given statements that a ‘common man’ will do one type of action, but the Priest teaches the use of a different action.
The idea of the fighting priest is not new; in the Old Testament, “thou shalt not kill” has many exceptions and get-outs.
Many monks and priests would have been experienced soldiers returning from the Crusades (such as the Knights Templar) to take holy orders. They would have defended the monasteries and abbeys from raiders.
At the end of the manuscript we see a woman student by the name of Walpurgis. In the perpetual state of warfare in Medieval Europe, while the men were away fighting in feudal armies, the women would be left at home to defend themselves, their families and homesteads against incursions.
Guards and Wards
“Seven guards should begin with Under-Arm; The Second is given to the right shoulder, the Third to the left; Give the Fourth to the head, give the Fifth to the right side; Give the Sixth to the breast; finally you should have Longpoint”
Sword and buckler can be seen in the Medieval period in two schools: an open fight sees the sword and buckler track independently or separately of one another (Talhoffer); a closed fight sees sword and buckler track together, such as the system shown in the I.33.