Episode 155 You can’t learn swordfighting from a book, with Dr. Antti Ijäs

Episode 155 You can’t learn swordfighting from a book, with Dr. Antti Ijäs

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Dr. Antti Ijäs is a grant-funded researcher, whose recent doctoral dissertation is a scholarly examination of Royal Armouries MS I.33 and includes a complete transcription and translation of the entire manuscript. In our conversation we talk about 1.33 as the first, complete, fight book and its position in the wider fencing context of the time. We compare it to later sources but also talk about much earlier ones, all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. Antti has written an article, Greek Papyri of Pragmatic Literature on Combat Technique (P. Oxy. III 466 and LXXIX 5204) about two papyri fragments of a book on wrestling. Which of course leads us on to talking about Ancient Greek sex manuals…

Changing the subject, Antti is also a practitioner of bayonet fencing, and we talk about the development of competing methods in Europe, with the Swedes, Prussians and Saxons (and others) each coming up with their own systems.





Guy Windsor: I'm here today with Dr. Antti Ijäs, whose recent doctoral dissertation is a scholarly examination of Royal Armouries MS I.33, and includes, get this: this is just an appendix, just something you have to do to keep his notes in order, a complete transcription and translation of the entire manuscript, that’s just the appendix. So without further ado, Antti, welcome to the show.


Antti Ijäs: Thank you.


Guy Windsor: So I'm guessing you're in Helsinki, correct?


Antti Ijäs: Yes, that is true. I am in Helsinki, in the capital of Finland, currently in my home study.


Guy Windsor: Excellent. And Helsinki is basically my hometown. When I think hometown, it is Helsinki. So while I lived in Helsinki, I don't think we ever met, did we?


Antti Ijäs: No, I don't think so. We've exchanged a few emails once or something, and I actually saw you at the FinnCon Convention, but that must have been in the U.S., I think. And that was like 20 plus years ago.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. So I think that was FinnCon 2001 in Jyväskylä


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, most likely, yeah.


Guy Windsor: It was the year I moved to Finland. I remember it really clearly. Okay. So how did you get into certain martial arts?


Antti Ijäs: Well, I mean, if I ignore having watched relevant movies and stuff like that, the first thing that comes to mind is around year 2000, I was reading a martial arts book by Keith Kernspecht on Wing Chun, mostly. But it also included this chapter on the history of martial arts. And he also refers there to several of these older German books. Among them, there were illustrations from Albrecht Dürer’s Οπλοδιδασκαλια [Hoplodilascalia] and Swetnam’s School of Arms and Joachim Meyer and also Jacob Happel's book from 1865. And at the time, I simply thought, oh, this is something very interesting, because of course, he had picked some images showing weapons similar to those used in Wing Chun for obvious reasons. And being already interested in all the literature and languages at the time I was enthralled by these images. But at the time I had no means to pursue this any further. Besides, I did quite a lot of reading at the local bookstore. I remember seeing Sydney Anglo’s, Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, for example, there in Akateeminen Kirjakauppa, which used to be pretty good in the old days.


Guy Windsor: It used to be, but it's always been very expensive.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. Yeah, of course. And then in 2001 was the actually the first time I did some relevant training, that was in Denmark and that was the European Historical Combat Guild. So it's a bit different from anything that I do today, actually.


Guy Windsor: I have a vague recollection of them.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. It's based on the late John Waller’s teaching.


Guy Windsor: Okay. Yes. So primarily stage combat.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. So kind of a system based off his ideas of stage combat, which is quite interesting in its own right, I must say. But anyway, then of course, like I said, I didn't really have the means at the time to pursue this interest further. Doing my other martial arts business of course, training Wing Chun and Escrima at the time, but my one of my Danish instructors eventually did get me to sort of start actively training with these kinds of weapons and Lars Lind from Copenhagen. And we've also done quite a lot of training with Konhard Kessler from Germany.


Guy Windsor: Can I just say that all this time I was right there in Helsinki, and you could have just shown up. You got to do it the hard way, right?


Antti Ijäs: I think these things go the way they go. And nowadays I'm teaching a small group at our club as a kind of a part of Lars Lind’s weapons combat systems thing and then I train with a Grieswartt  group. So, training with a group of friends and teaching a small group in historical martial arts. That's basically.


Guy Windsor: So what's your group called?


Antti Ijäs: Grieswartt. It’s run by Joeli Takala.


Guy Windsor: Oh, it’s Joeli. Oh yeah. He was a student of mine for a very long time. Okay, you're part of Joeli’s crew now. Excellent.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have a lot of fun.


Guy Windsor: In martial arts terms that makes you my grandchild, you realise?


Antti Ijäs: I suppose, if we want to go for this lineage thing.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, honestly, I'm not a fan. So don’t worry. How did you come across the Royal Armouries manuscript 1.33?


Antti Ijäs: Well, originally, I suppose, somewhere on the internet, you know, in the early days.


Guy Windsor: I think Anglo mentions it in the Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. He talks about it in his book and there are some quite nice facsimiles there. A few pages and some notes on the technical terms and how 1.33 goes about communicating technique and so forth. But of course I suppose I did find around that time also something on the internet, some of the transcriptions or whatnot. But yeah, yeah. I've known the manuscript as such for a long time, so I can't pinpoint the exact moment I came to know it.


Guy Windsor: I don’t mean the exact moment you first saw it, I mean the moment when you thought I'm going to spend years of my life being incredibly nerdy about this particular book.


Antti Ijäs: Okay, well, that's a more perhaps a more interesting story, actually, because at the time I actually majored in English philology, specialising in Old English Anglo-Saxon related stuff. But then because of some reasons, I was sort of prevented from doing what I wanted to do for my PhD at the time within that realm of knowledge. So I decided to go for Latin language because at the time I had also done Latin and Greek, both the whole thing, the advanced studies, which I suppose somewhere it make sense to call it like a triple major or something.


Guy Windsor: Okay, so it's English philology, Latin and Greek as a kind of triple major.


Antti Ijäs: So then I sort of got this idea as I was writing something that never came to be because I decided to do something else with it. But essentially studying this medieval Latin manuscript, because as I said, I had been working with medieval stuff earlier anyway. So I thought this was something of a sweet spot because it wasn't exactly like boring linguistics or translation studies or something like that, but it was more like how you communicate ideas or technique and stuff like that. Plus, it had something to do with my hobbies, having to do with martial arts and fencing and stuff. And so it felt like a good idea. And of course, you know, this being basically the only medieval Latin fencing manuscript, it was of course the obvious choice. What I was a bit worried about was, of course that at that time they had already published this French edition. And there was, of course, Jeffrey Vorgeng’s wonderful edition at that time in the second edition already of the extraordinary one.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, the extraordinary edition. Oh God that's a good book.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. So lots had been written on this topic, and what actually I suppose surprised myself and other people afterwards was that how much I eventually did find to say about this this topic.


Guy Windsor: Can I just interject? Your PhD thesis is extremely long. When I described it as monumental, I was being absolutely literal. It is huge and it manages to combine being huge with actually being interesting the whole way through. So I don't know how you did that.


Antti Ijäs: Thank you. Thank you. I'd like to hear it because, I mean, obviously not each and every chapter is going to please each and every reader. But then again, that wasn't the point anyway. But of course, because I sort of widened my questions to not only this particular manuscript and its contents, but to cover the genre. So then of course, the scope of the study sort of becomes wider and allowed me to, and I'm saying “allowed me to” because I really enjoyed this and I thought that this is something that will be more useful for me in the future than having just, you know, looked at one text. So, to look at this genre and not only how it sort of comes to be around the same time when 1.33 was composed, I mean, I sort of take it for granted now that's there existed more literature at the time and before 1.33. So speculating on that and well, not speculating but making educated guesses on that, inferring things from 1.33 and of course 1.33’s position when you look at what comes later. So, in a sense, how does 1.33 represent the corpus of literature that existed at the time from whence all this other stuff comes? That became a rather interesting endeavour to find out and of course one of my favourite details is Giles of Rome who slightly before in the late 13th century published his De regimine principum on the governing of princes which is like a manual for, well as it says on the tin, a manual for princes on how to govern and it has extensive paraphrases from Vegetius and he also has two chapters on using the sword and footwork and this is kind of interesting when you think of Giles of Rome as being quite popular. So there are hundreds of imprints of his work.


Guy Windsor: In his time.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it was translated into other languages. I mean, I haven't looked at this in more detail. I mean like the reception of his teachings in that sense and, and I might in the future. But anyway, you could say tentatively that his was the most popular fight book in the medieval period in a sense. I mean it's just like some chapters within this larger book, but it's still quite interesting.


Guy Windsor: Sure, but it's reasonable to suppose that the more copies survive, the more popular the book was. That’s reasonable.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, but of course the book being popular is one thing, individual sections having being read and studied and applied is another thing.


Guy Windsor: That is another thing.


Antti Ijäs: So then you'd have to go for the manuscripts and look at the marginal notes to find signs of reading.


Guy Windsor: Am I sensing your next research project? Yes, please do because I want a translation.


Antti Ijäs: There’s a lot of stuff that's going on. But we can talk about that later. But about of course there is that that one section where 1.33 refers to footwork. That's one little part where it says that you can either step forward with the left or back with the right. Implying that you sort of stand in a position from which you would end up in the same alignment of feet, whether you pass with the left or pass with the right backward. So this only part where 1.33 refers to footwork is in contrast to what Giles of Rome says because he writes sort of following Vegetius that you should only move the right foot. I mean, it's a very small thing, but it doesn't feel like a coincidence. So it could be that this is something of a comment that, yes, you can actually also, you know move the other way.


Guy Windsor: So you think the author of 1.33 may have read Giles?


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, why not?


Guy Windsor: Fair.


Antti Ijäs: Or had been exposed to this idea because it is which Vegetius, so whatever, you know.


Guy Windsor: So basically the earliest reference to footwork in Giles, he's basically recommending the kind of footwork that modern sport fencers do, just with the right forward all the time.


Antti Ijäs: No, I think what he means is that you either pass back with the right or pass forward with the right. So the left is sort of the immobile centre like in I think it's Vadi’s diagram.


Guy Windsor: The left foot is the sun and the towers and the left foot is firm for your safety and the right turns around it.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. I think it's something like that and it doesn't quite fit what Vegetius says. But when you start interpreting these small technical details from a text that has a lot of ambiguity, especially the older it gets, it's always slightly difficult. So it's I'm not taking any definite stance on that yet. So whatever I wrote in my dissertation about that, of course you should probably check that out but it's an interesting matter.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. And it's interesting see how these we tend to think of, in the kind of wider historical martial arts, we tend to think of 1.33 as the ‘first book’. And there's nothing really before that but you just check on Wiktenauer and there's lots of sort of books before that, but it's 1.33 is like the first complete, this is all about sword fighting and nothing else text that you could just look at go, yes, that's a fight book and that is its function. So why are you doing all this sort of putting it in its wider fencing context? Was there anything that particularly surprised you?


Antti Ijäs: Well, I suppose what I just talked about this is this amount of intertextuality that you can find in in time, back and forth, like we just talked about backwards to Giles of Rome and then also this whole structure, when you think of these seven parts, it's this logical structure where you just divide, you know, you've got cuts from below, left and right and the high cut, the vertical cut and then from the other side and then you've got the thrust and then you've got the end position of all movements. That's defined. So that's kind of just a logical way of talking about fencing. It's doesn't necessarily mean that this is now a system of fencing, but it's just, you know, we want to talk about this, so let's divide it up like this. And something similar to this structure then shows up later on in Andreas Lignitzer’s six Stücke of Sword and Buckler where he kind of goes, not in the same order, of course, but he also sort of starts from the cut from the right. And there's the low cut and he calls it the ‘changing cut’ and so forth. And then there's the thrust that is very similar to how the thrust is depicted in 1.33. So can see these traces of this intellectual effort that was apparently taken somewhere in the early 14th century, late 13th century to conceptualise fencing. So you can see these traces later on. But then you also see these like less coherent, let's say. I mean, when I say less coherent, I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying that it's more like just putting random things in order, like Liechtenauer’s seventeen Hauptstücke. It's just, you know, things one after another. It doesn't divide the system in the same way.


Guy Windsor: This is something that has bugged me for a long time. 1.33 is beautifully organised. Here are these seven wards which make sense and then the treatise is organised. So let’s have a look at First Ward and let’s have a look at Second Ward. Let’s have a look at Third Ward. And it just basically is organised like that. So it has a very clear organisational structure which is easy to follow. Then we have Fiore who organises things differently, but it's a very clear, very organised structure. Depending on which manuscripts you look at. Here’s the wrestling, here is the dagger. The dagger plays are organised by these nine masters, these nine different ways of defending. Then there's the sword in one hand and so on it goes. And it's all beautifully organised. And then the Germans in the 15th century just sort of slapped stuff together in this sort of like, okay, here's a bit of this, here’s a bit of that and yes, they kind of organise it vaguely, according to Liechtenauer’s Merkverse, the Zettel, but the treatise themselves are not these ordered, organised things. They're much more haphazard. Why is that?


Antti Ijäs: I mean, it's maybe comparing apples and oranges in the sense that if you look at Fiore’s book, he has collected material and explicitly organised it in order to be a presentable copy. So if you want to compare that to something, then you might compare that to like Joachim Meyer later, or Paulus Hector Mair or something like that and who have also sort of well collected stuff and of course include the stuff that I know and compose stuff themselves maybe, but so that's different from these individual shorter texts that we have, for example, from Andreas Lignitzer whom I just mentioned, he's got this one text on Sword and Buckler, six points. And that's also kind of it's an organisation, it has one topic, a sword and buckler, and then it's organised under these six exercises. And I have to say Andreas Lignitzer,  one of my favourites in this sense, he always numbers everything. So he's kind of trying to be the organised one.


Guy Windsor: Although he is the exception.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then, the other shorter text, you've got these. Okay now we've got the armoured fencing from four guards that's also organised according to four guards. So it's in a sense the same system as in 1.33 that you start from the first one, then you move on to the second and third and the fourth. So I wouldn't say that they are completely disorganised. And of course Liechtenauer’s Merkverse that probably has some kind of history that explains that, okay, when he composed when he compiled his system from what he had learned that it would have made sense for him to compose his verse in this way, for whatever reason, for safekeeping or, you know, as something that you need to learn to be sort of part of his secret society, so to speak, or something like that. So who knows? And of course, even there it does kind of make sense that you've got all the five master cuts in the beginning. It's not like you've got to get one master cut and then later on, after something else, you get the second master cut. So there is some hint of organisation there as well. But regarding using guards, or wards.


Guy Windsor: Same thing.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, same thing, different dialects. Yes, that is something we have in 1.33 where it makes absolutely sense. And when you think of influences or loanwords in languages, wherever it can be analysed, that's usually the loan giver and the language in which you can't analyse a loan word, that's got the loan. So it's not the other way around. So where it makes sense, that's probably the original one. So if you're looking at this sort of historically in 1.33, the organisation makes sense because it's kind of based on this division of the whole of fencing. And then the entire book proceeds according to this division, which is very much in accordance with medieval intellectual sensibilities. And then later on we sort of get remnants of this that's like I said, this text on the fighting in armour from the four guards and then in the Rome manuscript, the so-called Von Danzig Codex it also has the four guards at the beginning, which it’s the only illustration in the book. So it kind of goes to say that for some reason whoever made this manuscript thought that showing the guards in the beginning is something that you're sort of supposed to do. Even though in this context it doesn't really make sense because Liechtenauer’s longsword doesn't really proceed from these different guards. They are not really used for any of this. And I would argue the same goes for Fiore. He also has a list of guards and then he sort of forgets about them.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, absolutely.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. So it's kind of like he has the guards because he feels that, okay, this is how you write a fight book. You put in the guards first, then he says anything that comes to mind regarding the guards. And then he goes on listing his favourite moves that he has seen performed.


Guy Windsor: Okay. No. If you look at the organization of Fiore, we're talking about the longsword material, right? Yes, the guards are organised in or presented it as somewhat, not haphazard, but an inconsistent way. And it's not consistent across all the manuscript. So yes, but the organisation of the longsword plays themselves make perfect sense. They are an exercise in basically demonstrating how… firstly they're divided into the largo plays and the stretto plays. Okay, so the largo plays proceed from the crossing of the sword where you've beaten your opponent’s weapon away and you are in some degree free to strike. Okay, so you have the beat it away, strike over the arms. That's the first thing. But if you have control of their sword, but you're not quite free to leave the sword to strike, you grab the blade, hit them or grab the blade then kick them in the knee. Now, then we have the colpo di villano. If the blow comes in really hard, you cover it in the same way. But moving across and let it slide off to the side and you hit them on the other side of the blade, and you follow that up with a thrust or something else. So that's the next two plays. Okay. Then we have the blades coming together in such a way that again, the points are up out of the way. You're not going to get hit. But again, you're not quite free just to leave the blade and strike. So you kick them in the nuts, so that their cover will falter. And then the next play after that, oh, after the crossing or even before the crossing, the context isn't entirely clear, there's a cut to the leg and you slip the leg and you strike them in the head. So he's going through the various possibilities of what can happen when these two blows come together. I can keep going on this for the next hour. This is your interview.


Antti Ijäs: Actually I appreciate all of that, but that's not what I meant. What I meant was that instead of going for this kind of that you show the guards and then you do something with the guards, organise them according to the guards, that's not what's happening there. And like I said before, he has organised his material. There is no doubt about that. I mean obviously, as you say. That's not the point. But still you know, you can sort of catch these different ideas of how to write fight books.


Guy Windsor: I mean it is an entirely fair question as to why he would have these guards of the poleax, guards of the sword and armour and the guards of the spear. Why would he include those when they're really not necessary? And yeah, maybe it's because this is how we present a fight book.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, And of course. I mean, it's his source material because there existed fight books. He refers to existing fight books. So he's probably making the best use of the existing corpus of fight books.


Guy Windsor: Does he refer to existing fight boots?


Antti Ijäs: Well, he mentions that one of his students owns fight books.


Guy Windsor: Books


Antti Ijäs: Fight books? Well, yeah, books. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean.


Guy Windsor: No one can master the art without books.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. Yeah.


Guy Windsor: I would absolutely dearly love it if there was a bibliography in the back of Fiore where he says, you should check out these works by other masters such as... And then a nice little list of manuscripts we can go and hunt down in libraries. But yeah, I would love it if we could find solid evidence of a library of fight books that existed in the 14th century.


Antti Ijäs: I suppose there is a lot of material that's now lost to us because this kind of stuff obviously hasn't attracted that much interest because, I mean, what are you going to do with it? Because the widely held belief seems to have been that this is not something you can even intellectually teach to people. So even Fiore has to justify that, like even his student says that you can't be a good student of this art if you don't own books. Why would you make this point if it were obvious to everybody? Because yeah, obviously it's not. And this is something that we find all the way to the 19th century bayonet combat, it's the same idea that personal combat is not something you can teach people. And in antiquity as well, we've got in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia we've got this passage where we just imply that anybody can fight with sword and shield because we all, since we are children, we pick up sticks and we know how to poke things with them. And if somebody hits us, we know how to raise our left hand to defend. So if we fight our enemy with swords and shields, they have no advantage over us because everybody has the equal opportunity, so to speak.


Guy Windsor: Except literally every successful army in the world trains its soldiers, always has done.


Antti Ijäs: Yes, but train in what? Do they train them in personal, interpersonal combat? Or do they train them in all the other stuff like keeping formation, marching with discipline to actually meet the enemy and so forth. So this is actually a very interesting question, which is not that straightforward. And we can get back to that later on.


Guy Windsor: It's an interesting thought that, according to Xenophon, basically I've wasted my life trying to teach people skills that can't be taught.


Antti Ijäs: Well, you can be happy that Aristotle disagreed with him.


Guy Windsor: Well, honestly, I would take Aristotle over Xenophon any day.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, but to some extent it's probably that people are talking about different things, you know, it's always when you say that you can't learn sword fighting from a book. Well, obviously, you can't read a book and then you can go and do sword fighting. But I suppose you can read a book and pick up the exercises, to do with them with a partner, train with a partner, and then you will have gained some sort of skills. So you could say that, yes, I learned this from a book as opposed to somebody teaching me. But still, you did not gain that skill from the book. You gained that from practice. And this is something that on the level of discourse gets muddled very easily when people talk about this.


Guy Windsor: It comes down to this semantic knowledge and procedural knowledge. And so the book gives you the semantic knowledge that this is a sword and this is what you do with it.


Antti Ijäs: And this is exactly the kind of thing that these books give us. They can give some pointers like, okay, yes, you should point the sword at the enemy at all times. And you should not you should not hit his weapon, but you should fight against his openings and so forth, which are all very nice. And you can actually use them in your exercises when you do something and you try to figure out what am I doing wrong? Okay, Then I go through these precepts and oh, yes, I'm actually not following that one. So again, you get something out of that. So you can use this kind of stuff, but you need to apply it to actually embody it.


Guy Windsor: Right, exactly. And you know, I make a large chunk of my living from writing books to teach people how to fight with swords. So I agree entirely that you can't learn sword fighting from just reading a book. You absolutely can and do learn it from reading a book and applying the exercises therein. It’s that translation from semantic to procedural knowledge is the trick.


Antti Ijäs: The only thing is, of course, that you can learn some things from other people's bodies when you are in actual contact with them. Even if it's through a sword or something, when you move and they react and then you learn things from them. So that's something you can't get if you don't have a live teacher. But all the other stuff.


Guy Windsor: No, no, no. You can. I speak as a historical martial arts instructor. This has been my job for over 20 years. And I shouldn't say this because it's bad for business. You don't learn swordsmanship from the teacher. You learn it from the person you're crossing swords with. So the teacher’s job is make sure that the person you're crossing swords with is doing what they need to do so that you can learn what you need to learn.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, of course that's when we're talking about good teachers and stuff like that. But I mean you know when you got these expert practitioners who can't really explain anything, they just sort of want to show you and then when you do stuff with them and you sort of get the feeling that okay, now I'm sort of getting what he's doing and now I have this feeling that, okay, this is what works. And you can't really put it to words in a way. So it becomes this kind of silent knowledge that apparently gets passed from their body to yours. I mean, not to sound too esoteric about it, but this is just the kind of knowledge that I was referring to.


Guy Windsor: And you’re not wrong. Because when you watch somebody who's really good at what they're doing, when you watch the moves, your mirror neurones fire up. And one way of learning movement is to copy the movement by basically recreating through movement the feeling you get by watching the movement. So it communicates that way.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, yeah. And of course, it's a very interesting question of what kind of detail can you put into writing in a meaningful way. And I do like this idea of, what do you call it, this constraint based learning. So you can sort of freely do what you want, but you've got these constraints within which you must operate and then you sort of adapt to the best method your body is able to come up with. And in a way I like to use Ringeck’s glosses to Liechtenauer’s Zornhau as an example, because it kind of fits with this idea that, okay, the opponent cuts at you from their right shoulder and what do you do? You also cut them from your right shoulder without parrying. So that's one constraint. You are cutting at them. You're not parrying and obviously, well, you need to cut them in some way that their cut doesn't hit you. So you already know when your exercise fails if you do this, if they hit you, you did it wrong and you just sort of try to find okay, now I know how to cut them without them cutting me or hitting me. And it's not a parry because the next movement is then I threaten them with the point. So that's another constraint. You should be able to immediately thrust after this counter cut. So you've got these constraints that it's not a parry, it's a cut. And it should end up so that you are threatening them with the point. So using these pointers, you can sort of construct a technique that is similar enough to what they meant.


Guy Windsor: Also is the way that is done that actually works suggests to me that the word that is being translated as ‘parry’ does not mean parry the way we mean when we say ‘parry’. Because you're putting your sword in the way of their sword, but you're not aiming a strike at their sword. You're aiming it at them, but your sword is getting in the way of theirs. For your point to be free to strike them immediately, you can't actually hit them with a cut.


Antti Ijäs: Obviously, you can't if you both hit each other in the same way.


Guy Windsor: You’re doing a blow that closes the line of the incoming attack and places your point in line to strike. By any reasonable definition of the way we use the term ‘parry’ now, it’s a parry. It is. The way what they mean when they say ‘parry’, certainly in Fiore. I'm not an expert in the Liechtenauer stuff at all, but when Fiore is using the word, the closest word he uses to parry would be rebattere, which is ‘to beat aside’. And in that case, my point would be cutting your weapon out of the way and then I'd be striking. And so I think Liechtenauer is explicitly saying like, don't cut the weapon out of the way. Make this cut that ends in the middle.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. I mean, I don't know what everybody means when they say ‘parry’, because I suppose any defence can be called a parry to some extent. And that is pretty much the original meaning I suppose. But in this case, this versetzen, what I think is meant in Liechtenauer’s glosses and stuff is when you look at what they talk about if an opponent performs a versetzen. So it's always about them going too much to the side or not being in line and so forth. So that's probably what it means, that it's more like something, as you say, something that you shouldn't be doing, for various reasons. So it's exactly this. So you shouldn't be simply putting your sword or trying to hit their sword out of the way, but instead cut in a way, as you just put it very beautifully. But my point is still this, that these texts do include these kind of useful pointers for creating technique sometimes. And it's something that is certainly worth looking at. But then at other times, they just, you know, don't provide details like this.


Guy Windsor: Now it's true. Okay. Now I'm keenly aware that we're nearly 40 minutes in and I've only asked you three out of my nine questions, so I'm just going to jump to the next question, which was actually sent to me by Cornelius Berthold, who's been on the show before. We discussed tempo in great depth and detail. So he says, “You meticulously analyse both image and especially the text. But when trying to make sense of the content over the course of the book, you more and more base your arguments on a practical interpretation of the actual fighting techniques. This makes sense on the one hand, but on the other one is a slippery slope, as you can imagine. How did you try to separate the evidence from the book, from your own martial arts experience that naturally colours your interpretation of what techniques are being described?” Good question isn’t it?


Antti Ijäs: This is a very pertinent question. I think we already covered some of those topics. But yeah, of course there is always a problem of this researcher's bias. And it also goes for languages because the way you read, for example, an ancient language, it always has to do with what kind of texts have you read before and what kind of dictionaries you happen to be using and so forth. So there's always this kind of bias of interpretation. And when it comes to body technique, it has even more to do with how you are used to using your body. But still one interesting thing is that at my defence, my opponent was actually worried of the opposite thing. He asked me if I had actually worked through it, sword in hand.


Guy Windsor: Oh really? Who was your opponent, may I ask?


Antti Ijäs: Daniel Jacquet.


Guy Windsor: Oh right. Okay. I cannot think of a better person to be your opponent.


Antti Ijäs: He was very, very nice. But obviously people can read it in more than one way. But this is something I did give a lot of consideration to. And of course what I try most not to do is to identify any of the movements that I see described in texts as something that's the same as something that I knew from somewhere else. And to be quite honest, for this very reason, I mean, I have of course, played through 1.33 several times and I have done things based on 1.33. But I sort of stopped doing that at some point and I thought that it's simply better to try to stay on the level of what is actually said in the text and how that fits with what is said elsewhere and use these different discourses to try to create some kind of explanation for why they write the things they write. So sometimes I suppose one could argue that my own lack of talent comes in the way, for example, when I say that grabbing the opponent's buckler with your right hand is a complicated movement. Well, maybe somebody will come and say that it's actually not a complicated movement, I can do it I tournaments or something.


Guy Windsor: I don't think it's complicated.


Antti Ijäs: Well, I mean, yeah, it's not complicated to do as a movement. I mean, I can show it to people, but performing it against somebody who is actually fighting you against or something.


Guy Windsor: But you have to be really, really mentally prepared to let go of your own sword. That’s the hard bit.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, of course. But anyway, that's, that's just an example actually, which I use to underline the fact that some recurring movements in sword and buckler also seem to be less basic than others. So this is obviously something that's included, not because it's something that people just kept doing all the time when they were sword and buckler fencing with each other. Who knows? I mean, maybe they did, but still it seems like something that would happen less often but would be included because it was kind of felt to be you the sign of a complete text or a complete work on sword and buckler.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, the priest explicitly contrasts what he does with the common fencing. So one can reasonably expect that he's a bit more sophisticated, or at least thinks he is.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the way I read these captions is that whatever this book contains, or these images, what they contain is what's considered something rather extraordinary, which is the reason they were recorded in the first place, which is the reason they were commented on with these captions and so forth. So, yes, of course, this does contain something that not everybody was doing at the time.


Guy Windsor: Just a quick sidebar. Why do you think the book was written? What was it for? It is expensive.


Antti Ijäs: I’m not sure how expensive this particular book would have been. But yeah, I mean, to record this stuff for posterity. Maybe to set up like a something of a tradition or act as a collective memory for remembering how these things should be done or something. Because obviously if you are teaching the art, you need to teach it in a live teaching situation. But it's sort of like part of this intellectual effort of the time to make sense of sense of everything. So in a way, it just fits with that. I mean, why do we now write books about things? It's not that different from that, maybe.


Guy Windsor: So who do you think it was written for?


Antti Ijäs: I can't remember if I ventured any idea on that. So I will pass on this one.


Guy Windsor: Fair enough. Shall we say insufficient evidence to make a declarative statement. That’s a much more academic way of saying ‘pass’.


Antti Ijäs: That's the thing, you know, I don't like speculating much.


Guy Windsor: Fair, and I'm not trying to put you on the spot. Because it’s one thing that’s always bugged me, like where we have a dedicatee for a book. The Duke of Urbino for instance. Or Niccolò d'Este or whoever else, then there's at least an audience of one. And you can imagine, in the author's mind, that…


Antti Ijäs: Somebody they wanted to associate. Not an audience per se.


Guy Windsor: No, well, in the Getty manuscript at least, there are references to the Marquis within the book, like when he's putting poison dust out of the poleax on his face, “My gracious Lord, I know you would never do this sort of thing, but I include this here just for the sake of knowledge.” So he is addressing the Marquis within the book. And so you say, well, the marquis may never have actually seen the book but in the author's head, that's the kind of audience he's writing it for. And there isn't any such thing in 1.33.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, there is no there is no prologue or anything. So it's no hard to say.


Guy Windsor: It doesn't look like a presentation.


Antti Ijäs: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.


Guy Windsor: It's not a house book either. It is clearly a treatise of this one particular topic, done in depth and detail.


Antti Ijäs: Which has been then corrected and some changes made.


Guy Windsor: So yeah, I'm just wondering. I mean, maybe he had a student who he had in mind when he was writing.


Antti Ijäs: Or maybe they were setting up a martial arts school. Who knows.


Guy Windsor: That’s probably close to it. But we are going to leave 1.33 aside for a minute because I do have some other very important questions I have to ask you. And the first one is what are you currently working on?


Antti Ijäs: Currently, I'm working on Konrad Kyeser’s Bellifortis, which is slightly later than 1.33. But it's interesting because the poetic form of 1.33 is similarly incompetent as that of Bellifortis. And of course the material of Bellifortis is related in the sense that it deals with technology for war and all kinds of recipes and alchemy and astronomy and these kind of interesting topics. But what I intend to get done is a critical edition of the text and or a scientific edition of the text and translation, of course, and the commentary plus some work on his sources and the way the poetry is composed.


Guy Windsor: Okay, fantastic. So when would we expect that to come out?


Antti Ijäs: That depends entirely on if I can get this whole project funded so I can actually finish it.


Guy Windsor: Okay. Right. Fingers crossed that the grant giving bodies are merciful. Are you planning on producing your PhD as a book or two books?


Antti Ijäs: Yes. It was suggested that I should aim for two separate books, one 1.33 and on the other on all fight books more generally. And this is something that I'm pursuing at the moment, actually.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, because I would love to see those as publishable books. Okay. I have a very specific question for you. What might one find in the Greek Papyri of Pragmatic Literature on Combat Technique? Let me give you the reference: P. Oxy. III 466 and LXXIX 5204.


Antti Ijäs: Oh, that is the title of an article I wrote on this topic, so if one Googles that they will find my article.


Guy Windsor: And where do you think I got the idea from?


Antti Ijäs: But well, yes, obviously this is for the more ancient history of fight books. These are these two papyri fragments of the most ancient fight book fragments, if you will, that that we actually have. They are both from the second century preserved in Roman Egypt, and they have been published in the Papyri of Oxyrhynchus as numbers 466 and 5204 in 1903 and 2014. So the first one, number 466, that's fairly well known, much has been written about it and the second one was published slightly later. So it hasn't been discussed that much.


Guy Windsor: Fairly well-known in certain circles, but I'm guessing most of my listeners have never heard of it. So if you just expand a little bit, that would be great.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. So. it's a fragment from a book on wrestling or grappling written in a nice book hand. So it seems to have been a commercial book. And it's basically what we have are sequences of moves written in the form of commands, well, supposedly given by the instructor to their students. And one of the better preserved sequences goes something like you put your arm around, you grab under it, you step across and tangle, the end. We can't really make much of ancient Greek wrestling out of that because I mean, there are many there are resources for looking into what these terms actually mean. And Michael Poliakoff’s books are a great place to start for that. What I did, I wasn't trying to give any like technical interpretation of this fragment. But instead what I was interested in was what, what do these two fragments, the other the other is actually so fragmentary that the only thing it can sort of tell us is that it seems to match this form of the other one. So it also appears to be made up of commands and sequences, but it seems to establish the fact that there was a genre of wrestling manuals in existence. And they were something that people would have read at the time because obviously wrestling was hugely popular in the Greek speaking world and also, well, later on in the whole Greco-Roman world, I suppose. So this kind of gives us the first glimpse into what a fight book could look like. And what I find sort of interesting there is that it's only references to what we have. It's only references to techniques that the reader and the listener of the command are supposed to know, of course. So it's not like technical descriptions, but it just gives you a sequence that you can sort of perform.


Guy Windsor: From what you just said, it reminds me of like the late 19th century cutlass or bayonet manuals where the instructor says, line A goes in to this position, line B does this attack. And here are the commands that are given.


Antti Ijäs: And also like the way you write down classical fencing lessons sometimes you can also give them commands. So in one way, if you think of what would be the simplest way of writing down or depicting a fighting technique in a way that you can sort of put on papyrus or whatever writing surface. So you can write down what the teacher would say, or you can draw pictures showing the throws or the grips or whatever. And we of we find both of these in the ancient Greek world, we've got these vast paintings, you know, showing wrestling moves and we've got this these two wonderful fragments that give us lists of commands in the form as if they were given by a by a wrestling instructor. So you could think that this is the most naturalistic way of doing it or something, kind of like just writing down live teaching. But then again, as you say, these lists of commands are also given later on in the 19th century, for slightly different reasons. So it doesn't necessarily mean that it's like primitive in a bad sense. But of course, there is so little material that's that you can't really say much about it, unfortunately. But still, it's very interesting stuff. And of course, I would love to see if there ever was like a film set in Roman Egypt and they wanted to show wrestling. That would be great, you know, if they just used this. It would be really great. But I mean, I don't think that you can really make more educated guesses on how to actually play off it.


Guy Windsor: I just had a brilliant idea. About seven or eight years ago I did an April Fool's joke on the entire historical martial arts world because I fabricated a falchion treatise in Italian in manuscript form, and I published it on April the first, and then revealed that it was actually a complete fabrication. Honestly, okay, I absolve myself of any naughtiness because at the end there's a picture of the falchion and it's the Medici fountain from the Wallace collection, really clearly and obviously a mid-16th century falchion in a 14th century manuscript. So, it's like making the characters wear wristwatches. And it was hysterical. And the funniest bit was when people got a bit sniffy about having been taken in by it and said, “Well, yes. And of course, I knew from this head that the from the grammar and whatnot that it couldn't possibly be 14th century.” And it's like, yes, but actually I took that verbatim from one of Fiore’s manuscripts. So, I think the grammar is about right. Anyway, I digress. Some people can take a joke, some people can't. But wouldn't it be awesome to get some papyrus, copy some wrestling images from vases over the top with these Greek instructions underneath and age it with like tea and stick it in the oven or whatever.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. I mean, you probably wouldn't fool anyone.


Guy Windsor: No, the objective isn’t to seriously fool anyone. I think that actually we would fool almost everyone in historical martial arts because most of them don't know anything about the early classical stuff. And they can’t read Greek. I can’t read Greek.


Antti Ijäs: There’s not much to know about it, honestly.


Guy Windsor: It would be extremely funny.


Antti Ijäs: But yeah, I mean, to get back to this wonderful grappling fragment. So one more interesting thing is, of course, that they sort of these what I just called sequences, they are kind of like what people now call plays or Stücke or something. So in that sense, the way to conceptualise fighting technique in form of such sequences seems to be like the most ancient thing we know of.


Guy Windsor: It’s fantastic.


Antti Ijäs: And of course it didn't escape the Greeks that wrestling is, with these bodies entwined together and so forth. So it has some erotic connotations as well. And this is, these are the sources where we also know or where we have like corroborating evidence that this is how wrestling instruction was given, because we have some erotic epigrams that sort of indirectly show situations like this where one is giving commands to the other to do certain things. And there is this one erotic story where there is a lady who says that she will act as the wrestling coach and she will start giving this guy instructions and then he has to grab her by the thighs and throw her on her back and so forth. So, this is indirect evidence, but it kind of corroborates the form that these papyri display, which is kind of interesting.


Guy Windsor: I do have a note here to ask you about ancient Greek sex manuals.


Antti Ijäs: Oh, yes. Well, hopefully not just ancient Greeks, but ancient sex manuals. Yes. This is just something that I've also been pursuing lately because it sort of relates to this this topic of body technique and how body technique is communicated in writing and text and image. So, well, I mean, what we have is, of course, people who would most likely be familiar with the name of Ovid, who wrote Art of Love, which is about seduction and how you get to meet girls and what you need to say to them and so forth. And it also has a very short section on sexual positions that list a few positions and which position is the most suitable for which body type and in this kind of thing, mostly on like aesthetic grounds. So he's different from Lucretius there who actually says that more ferarum which is the manner of beasts or “the way you do it on the Discovery Channel”, so to speak, is the best because that's best for procreation and everything. Anything else is just bad because it defeats that aim. But Ovid talks about what looks the best, what is aesthetically pleasing or exciting and so forth. But Ovid was also not writing in a vacuum, he didn't invent the genre of ancient love manuals or anything. So before him, we have a few names and references to earlier existing literature. One name that pops up is Elephantis. I mean, I'm going to skip some of the details, some of the stuff that has been written about what do these names actually refer to? Are they just pseudonyms of men who are actually writing these books, or are they just, you know, generic prostitute names or something? I mean, that's not interesting at the moment. But we have these references in classical or ancient poetry of Elephantis’s books being used as models or her pictures being used as models. And for example, Suetonius tells us of the emperor Tiberius, having had her books and paintings in his several bed chambers, in his private island, in his infamous sex caves.


Guy Windsor: I have a new life goal. I need to have a private island with an infamous sex cave. Yes, that's what I want. That's my life ambition right there.


Antti Ijäs: And yes, Tiberius is there in this one film of Caligula with Malcolm McDowell and Peter O'Toole as Tiberius, which probably give a very accurate depiction thereof. But anyway, Suetonius says that he had these pictures in these bedchamber so that nobody would lack a model if they needed to perform any of the ordered positions.


Guy Windsor: Wow.


Antti Ijäs: So we have these very clear indications that these images from Elephantis’ books were used as models. So sort of communicating technical knowledge how to perform a certain position.


Guy Windsor: So he had these sex manuals in his infamous sex cave in exactly the same way that I have the treatise of the day open on a lectern. So when my students are training, they can see the book.


Antti Ijäs: Yes, it is exactly the same thing.


Guy Windsor: Wow.


Antti Ijäs: So then another author is Philaenis. She probably lived earlier. She probably lived in the fourth century BCE, and she apparently also authored a work of similar nature, which is referred to in similar ways and also used as a model. And this is something that we actually have a fragment of, again, in the Oxyrhynchus papyri, number 2891. Unfortunately, this fragment doesn't include any actual positions or anything like that, but it has the beginning of a section. It indicates the author, who is named as Φιλαινὶς  Ὠκυμένους Σαμία (Philainis Ōkymenous Samia). And so it includes the start of a section on seduction. And then it ends with the title On Kissing. So these are the kind of topics that we are also encountering in Ovid, so it's a very good reason to assume that all this work is somehow kind of inspired by Philaenis’ work. Unfortunately, this doesn't actually corroborate the fact that she would have discussed or depicted these different positions in any detail. But still, yeah, it's kind of like the wrestling manual that we've got this fragment that doesn't really tell us much about tells us enough so that several articles have already been written on it and much academic ink has been spilled on it.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, but it strikes me as interesting that it's a truism that every technology eventually gets used for violence and for sex. And like here we have like several thousand year old sources which, writing relatively new, I mean, not really new, but this is early days of writing anyway. And they're writing about how to do sex better and how to do violence better. It's fantastic.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, these topics sort of sort of go hand in hand. They are both themes that are at different times to different culture, they are very much part of everybody's everyday lives. And sometimes they are more taboos and so forth. But yes, and definitely and also one interesting thing is that that I do think that the way they sort of conceptualised sex in terms of these positions is the kind of same way they conceptualised wrestling in terms of these sequences because they actually use the same word, “σχῆμα”(schema) for both of them. And interestingly, there is this one ancient rhetorician, Isocrates, who lived in the fourth century BCE, and he actually wrote that if you want to train a speaker, you teach them just the same way as you train wrestlers, you teach them first all the schemes or the figures of wrestling, would be the correct word, the schema, the figures. And then after they've learned all the figures, they get to apply them freely. And it goes that way. So it goes from wrestling to speaking or thinking properly, like arguing logically and so forth. So again, I mean, we talked about earlier how you first have the guards and then you have the sequences based on those guys. But I wouldn't go as far as seeing a link here necessarily at this point. But it's sort of an intriguing idea that you've got this school where things like set figures and then you apply them, which is like a very basic idea in many martial arts even today, I think.


Guy Windsor: Here are the forms, now go.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And these sex positions, by the way, they are just called ‘figures’ in Latin and Greek as well. So there are these similarities. And not only that this is a way of way of communicating technique, but also how they think of this way of communicating technique. So this all ties together very nicely.


Guy Windsor: They are answering a fundamental problem: here is a skill and here are these are the theories and the propositions that it's related to. And again, how do you get from this propositional semantic knowledge to procedural knowledge or skill.


Antti Ijäs: And Isocrates actually says that there are so many, or there are an infinite number of different situations that can come across in the real world. So you can't have theory for all of them. You can't have like specific set theories for all of them. So if you know good figures and you have trained in them, then you can figure out most of them. So his thoughts like 2400 years ago or 2,300 years ago it's pretty much on topic now I think. I mean nothing new under the sun. Why are we doing all this?


Guy Windsor: Well, why wouldn't we? Okay. Now I see over your right shoulder a bayonet trainer leaning against the wall.


Antti Ijäs: Oh, yes, yes.


Guy Windsor: And we've mentioned bayonet stuff a little earlier. So what are your thoughts?


Antti Ijäs: Oh, yes. The bayonet combat or bayonet fencing is something that I've been pursuing for some years as something of a side project. And it also ties neatly with all these topics that we've been discussing. And also it's a very interesting phenomenon in European martial or combat arts, because it is something that came to be at the turn of the 19th century and existed for a relatively short time. And then it turned into something else. That is what I mean. We still have bayonet combat. We still have people training the use of bayonets, but I would argue that that's something different. It's not this thing that I'm mainly interested in because it has become more this is a pugilistic boxing kind of thing, not bayonet fencing using a bayonet rifle as you would use a fencing sword. I think, well, we talked about earlier how there have been in history several people who think that you can't really teach like interpersonal combat to anybody because it's like this intellectual thing. It depends on the intelligence of the person. You can't teach that. You can teach people to load a musket because it's just mechanical movements. You can show them to them. You can make pictures of them, like in these 16th century drill books, you can just give picture series and have people do them and you can see that they do it properly. So that is a skill that can be taught and then you can tell them to fire. And that's it's basically. But you can't teach these complex skills like you can't really teach anybody to win battles, if you know what I mean. I mean, you can give them education and hope they will be good officers or generals. Now I'm sidetracking slightly, but this is also a relatively new phenomenon that you would actually have schools for officers where you teach them to do their job, so to speak. So that's also a late 18th century idea, basically. But this is the idea that also permeated the scene of bayonet fencing. And even though, like after the 30 Years War, people somewhere started putting their daggers in the muskets and then they called them bayonets and people started using bayonets instead of pikes in the early 18th century. This doesn't mean that people were training bayonet fencing at the time, and the way they first held the bayonets was like. Like how you hold a pike in the field position that you have the rear arm straight and the front arms sort of vertical. And the pike is just lying there and you walk forward with that when you charge the pike. You charge the pike against infantry. So they would have the musket with the bayonet in more or less the same position, which was rather awkward. And in 1753, actually, the Prussian army changed the grip into what you now think of when you think of a bayonet combat grip that you hold it like normally, as if you could be also firing it from more or less the same position. And around this time, also, in 1762, there was this one French officer who was working as an officer in the Prussian army who was commenting on Maurice of Saxony’s book. And he wondered there, why don't we teach our soldiers to use the bayonets the same way we teach them to fence, with the feints and parries and so forth, because this wasn't something that they were doing at the time. And also one I remember one English manual where it simply says that in drills, you don't need a command for the thrust because everybody will know when to thrust because when your opponent, when the enemy is there, you do thrust and you can't mess with that. So it's not something you would train or anything. And speaking of the English of course, the British army did experiment with techniques of bayonet fencing. Anthony Gordon's name is famous enough, I suppose, because his book was published in 1805, which is on fencing and also bayonet combat.


Guy Windsor: I am loving this. The people who may have had of the Greek stuff are almost certainly will never have heard of the Gordon stuff from 1805 and vice versa. So just give a little more context.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. Okay. There isn't well, there isn't much to say about Anthony Gordon. I think Hutton said that he's just a weird curiosity or something, but he did develop a bayonet fighting system and he tried to sort of introduce it to the British army, but he was rejected in the 1790s I think. But he still published it in his book in 1805. And he claims that he's the scientific method because the way he lines up the men is that every time when you charge him bayonets, two guys, the guys in the back step forward. So you always have two guys against one of the enemy. And so this is scientific and you will always beat your enemy. And he also introduced the concepts of forte and foible to the game. So he certainly thought that he had come up with something very clever. But the British army didn't think so. And in the 1830s, the British army were experimenting with at least three other systems as well by a Major MacArthur about whom I know very little and the system of Henry Angelo, the grandson of Domenico Angelo, and also an English translation of the Swedish system developed by Pehr Henrik Ling. And they rejected them all because they are too complex. The command words are too long and hard to understand and the exercises are too strenuous and people will get hernia from doing them and soldiers’ gear is too heavy. They can't do these fancy movements in the field. And also the British soldier already knows how to use their rifle and taking away their free time to introduce new exercises is pointless.


Guy Windsor: That sounds so very British.


Antti Ijäs: The British army, actually, eventually, and you could say that the first time they were in at war with a nation who was actually doing bayonet fencing. I'm not saying this is the reason, but in the Crimean War, after the Crimean War, the British army did adopt Henry Angelo’s system as an official training curriculum. But even that is not really like a bayonet fencing system. It's like these different thrusts in different directions. And so it's nothing as complex as the complete Swedish system or the Saxon system, which actually I think they also tried out, but it was too strenuous with all the jumping and one handed thrust and stuff like that. And then later on of course Alfred Hutton did write his books and he was looking into all this stuff and wanted to come up with a good system of bayonet fencing. He actually also came up with something that is quite close to the modern kind of like what I like to call ‘bayonet boxing’, which he called it ‘butt fencing’, which is where you use the rifle butt and the bayonet as well. But that's kind of a different way of moving your body. And this is something that becomes popular after the Second World War and also in Finland. So it was like the new wave of bayonet fencing. But anyway, of course bayonet fencing sort of came to be independently as parallel development in several places at the turn of the 19th century. But one name sort of sticks out, and that is Edward von Selmnitz, a Saxon captain who was stationed in France for some time. And he learned he learned foil fencing in Germany, I think. And he also learnt that Italian style and the French style from Joseph Pinette, who was later also known as the originator of the French system of bayonet, even though his and Selmnitz’s systems are not really related in any way. But Selmnitz also learned from a French sailor or some soldiers actually say it was an American sailor. I'm not sure about that. I need to look into it. But he learned from a sailor this this system of fighting with the baton, so with a stick or a stump. So and then he put all these things he had learned together and created this perfect system of bayonet fencing against cavalry and against infantry and well, sometime later, he was a very sought after teacher and officers from other regiments and armies would come to him to learn the system. And it was, it basically spread to the other German nations.


Guy Windsor: So it was good, was it?


Antti Ijäs: Well, they must have thought it was good for whatever purpose they were training it for. Because it's a very good exercise. I love doing the warmup up drills and everything. It's very nice stuff to do and, like the German commentators say, it sort of obeys the rules of fencing, unlike, for example, the Swedish system. So yeah this Selmnitz is something of a Liechtenauer of the 19th century German bayonet scene I would say. Some regulations came out at the time which were pretty much based on his teachings. And he also he also managed to get a book self-published, a crowdfunded self-published book out in 1825. Part one only, which is only about against cavalry. So he didn't he never got to writing his own book on against infantry. So whatever he taught against infantry, you have to sort of piece together from the other regulations and military journals and all these commentaries on his teachings that exists elsewhere. But it also came out later as a second edition. But it's a very nice book with very beautiful engravings, showing the different positions and the movements.


Guy Windsor: So what do you actually practice?


Antti Ijäs: Well, I do practice this Selmnitz system and the Swedish system. The Swedish system is actually something that for a long time I felt that I knew it the best because there are Pehr Henrik Ling’s own writings, the regulation he wrote in 1836, and his commentaries, his replies to critics, for example, because there were many critics, because he didn't use the lunge, he thought that the Swedish body type was not good for lunging. And it's difficult and not good for jumping. The Nordic body type is not good for jumping and lunges are too difficult to teach, you can't teach a proper lunge and he also makes a very interesting claim that you don't need a lunge in bayonet fencing because the only the only reason you use the lunge is to move forward. And you can move forward by taking a step. And the second reason is that you get power when you do the lunge, but with the bayonet rifle, you don't need power because it's so heavy. Ergo, you don't need to lunge.


Guy Windsor: He's not wrong.


Antti Ijäs: Well, he's ignoring speed, I suppose. So this was his argument and he only has walking steps or passing steps because that was something that they were already taught in their basic training. So since the soldiers would know how to walk at that point, hopefully, I mean, this was not something that you could take for granted because at the time, if you've worked your whole life at a field or something, you are not ergonomically necessarily like ready to walk or stand properly. So this was one of the reasons that they came up with military gymnastics in the first place. But yeah so it's very interesting reading both his arguments and his responses to his critics because that kind of gives you more than just a regulation where he describes the movements and so forth. So you really get to these details and why you have to have the weight on the rear foot that you because you need to concentrate. You don't want eccentric force, you want concentrated force or something. And he gets sometimes a bit philosophical as well. And I should mention that his influence is very far reaching, the Swedish gymnastics that he developed was sort of practised all over and it became like a huge thing. And he's also the reason we call classical massage Swedish massage.


Guy Windsor: So he's the guy who developed the calisthenics that also got adopted by the yogis in India into something that they could teach back to the Europeans.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, yeah. He ties into all this as well. Yeah.


Guy Windsor: Wow.


Antti Ijäs: But his bayonet fencing is interesting and his fencing system as well.


Guy Windsor: And I also I knew of his calisthenics stuff, I didn't know about his bayonet stuff at all.


Antti Ijäs: And then because this system of his was actually adopted by the Prussian army in the 1840s, and the short average German manual was published at the time and of course that was also met with a lot of criticism because the Prussians didn't like the Swedish system. So you get a lot of information and not only from the books themselves, but from the prefaces and when they sort of respond to different points that people have brought up and so forth. So, the Swedish Prussian system is very well documented, very widely documented. And that that is something that I kind of actively practised and also taught to my group of students or some unfortunate people whom I expose to my experiments, so to speak. The other system I do mostly use is the Selmnitz system, the Saxon one, and at the moment I'm sort of trying to piece together from all these Saxon inspired sources what Selmnitz actually taught against the infantry. There's so much similar to like modern martial arts discourse in all this because you know this, which is the best art?


Guy Windsor: That old stupid thing.


Antti Ijäs: This was a very, very heated topic. And there was a Danish school which was somewhat independent and the Saxon school and the Swedish school and the French school. So one group of Prussian officers, they actually wrote a book where they criticised this Swedish system and came up with their idea of what the Prussian system should be like. And then later on, of course, the Prussians came up with their own regulation that was like a modified version of the Swedish system. And every new iteration of the Prussian regulation sort of brings it slightly closer to the Saxon system. So they bring back the one handed thrust and the lunge and stuff like that.


Guy Windsor: A one handed thrust with a rifle with a bayonet from that period, that is quite physically challenging.


Antti Ijäs: But that's what they, except for the Swedes. The so-called Danish thrust is like a slide that's you just loosen up the front hand and you let the musket slide through it. And the Swedes would just thrust with both hands and the Saxon thrust would be just letting go with the left altogether.


Guy Windsor: I think people need to try it to get an idea of what kind of physical conditioning needed to be able to do that. I trained it with spears and sticks and what not, to be able to hold it by the wrong end and strike accurately from far away. But it takes a lot of work.


Antti Ijäs: And this is something that they did a lot of this training with this stick that you would hold on the shoulder level or a bit higher and twirl it backwards and forwards and over your head and so forth to make your wrists supple and strong. And this, I think, is actually the only part in Selmnitz’s bayonet fencing that actually comes from these French baton practices. Because I can't really see anything else in his system that couldn't be explained as a version of foil fencing with changing the details, of course, because you are holding a rifle and not a light sword. And then they dropped that altogether at some point because they thought that okay you can just do exercises with your weapons. So why do you need this set of sticks? Because you can just do gymnastics, as they say. Yeah, but Selmnitz, also, he was also proficient with the flail.


Guy Windsor: Wow. That’s a hard weapon.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah. And in 1830 he did this like huge demonstration or show in Dresden and there he had his students perform fencing moves and stuff and then he defended himself successfully against multiple opponents, with this flail and he also showed staff or stick fighting there. But the report of that event, it's not quite clear on whether the technique was significantly different from his bayonet fencing. And of course, the person who was writing this report today wasn't really an expert on the topic. So it's a bit hard to piece together what kind of stuff his stick fighting actually was.


Guy Windsor: Fascinating. I have a couple of questions that I ask all of my guests. All of whom consent to being asked these questions because, as you know, my guests get their questions in advance. So what is the best idea you haven't acted on yet?


Antti Ijäs: Yes, all the good ideas I have hopefully acted on. So this is going to be one of the worse ones. No, but I mean, one thing that I was I'm thinking of acting on at some point is to draw up a research plan on more generally ancient or Greek military or martial education, looking at how this is done, not only in terms of these few fragments that we have of wrestling, which, of course, had a military significance as well, which we didn't talk about. But it is there. And you can look it up in the article, of course. But in Tyrtaeus’s  famous songs, these so-called Spartan songs, which were composed to sort of excite the men to battle and so forth. And also these works written on more or more like high level, like siege craft and stuff like that. So kind of bringing that together and trying to make some kind of maybe monograph out of that or a few articles or whatever.


Guy Windsor: OK, that would be fascinating. So basically, we should be expecting a book from you at some point.


Antti Ijäs: Well, I mean, I have so many things on right now and even there was just one idea earlier we talked about that I haven't also acted on yet. So regarding Giles of Rome.


Guy Windsor: Yes. Okay. I’ll tell you what you should do. Just give me complete control of your diary for the next ten years. I promise you, we will get at least four books out of you. Maybe not.


Antti Ijäs: Well. It's also a matter of funds.


Guy Windsor: Honestly, I think if it's pitched right, you wouldn't have any difficulty getting significant amounts of cash from the people who are likely to be interested to read the book. Because, I mean, like the Giles thing, for instance, if you're looking at the sword work or the foot work, if you stick to that, raising funds from the historical martial arts community to pay you to do that work and publish it should not be too hard really, because we're talking about low five figures. We’re not talking about six figures or seven. So yeah, really. Because it's fascinating.


Antti Ijäs: Well, I mean, I'm glad to hear that it's fascinating.


Guy Windsor: A bit of crowdfunding, maybe, that sort of thing.


Antti Ijäs: I have no experience in such matters.


Guy Windsor: I've got lots.


Antti Ijäs: Yes, I know.


Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. Okay. And pretty much every everything you suggested that you would like to do is something I would like to see done. So obviously, after we've finished this episode, if at some point you decide you would like to pursue something like this and you want any sort of advice or suggestions or help setting up the funding or the publishing or any that kind of stuff, just ask. Seriously. Because I would like to see this stuff out in the world in a sort of form that people can just buy it and read it because it would be good for the historical martial arts community as a whole. So count me in and no pressure. I'm not trying to put you on the spot. Okay. My last question. Somebody gives you €1,000,000 or similar, large amount of cash to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide. How would you spend it?


Antti Ijäs: Well, what we just talked about. Well, I mean, but of course, I have to be boring here. What I would see as the most rational thing to do would be to set up a private foundation with a board of trustees that would just give out yearly grants for research in the field of historical martial arts studies, whether philological or historical or material. So that would, in the long run most likely benefit this thing that the most.


Guy Windsor: Okay. So, basically use it as an alternative to crowdfunding.


Antti Ijäs: A more foundational form of funding.


Guy Windsor: Okay. So anyone who has a research proposal around historical martial arts should apply to the fund and get the money to go do the thing.


Antti Ijäs: Okay, if there was such a thing. Just to make clear.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. Because this is what this is for. You're not the first person on the show to suggest something like that.


Antti Ijäs: I'm glad.


Guy Windsor: People tend to go either towards the scholarships for people to travel to train. Or scholarships, grants or whatever for people to do some kind of research or translation. Those are the two main things that people tend to go for. And is it difficult to get funding from current mainstream sources for academic work in this area? I've never tried, so I wouldn't know.


Antti Ijäs: I mean, I would have to say yes, and I'm working on that right now, so I don't want to jinx it by talking about it, of course. And this is where all academics get very superstitious. There are always, you know, less money given out than there are people applying for it. So, yeah, I can always say that it's difficult to pin down on funding decisions, but yeah.


Guy Windsor: So are you currently employed by the university?


Antti Ijäs: No, I'm a grant researcher, so I'm working at the university but with an outside grant. So that's rather typical. And in my opinion, of course, a very unfortunate arrangement that it's become so typical. But that's the situation.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, we could spend another hour and a half talking about how academia has totally fucked itself over the last 30 years. I did consider 20 odd years ago going into academia and I just looked at it and I just couldn't get my head around the how much admin bullshit do you need to do to get one word of proper research done?


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, of course. That is one of the best things when you are a grant funded researcher that you don't really have is you don't need to have many other responsibilities at the same time, at least.


Guy Windsor: But you do have to apply for grants.


Antti Ijäs: Yes. And all the other stuff, of course. You have the feeling that you're a bit of an outsider.


Guy Windsor: As long as you don't have to go to faculty meetings, that's probably a good thing.


Antti Ijäs: Yeah, I suppose so. I still get all the emails.


Guy Windsor: I read somewhere that Stephen Hawking once attributed much of his academic success to the fact that due to his disabilities, he was never required to go to meetings. So he would just do his research and teach his classes and write his papers and that was that.


Antti Ijäs: I can relate to that.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. Okay. I've got a lot to think about now because like my readers, my students or what have you are effectively my grant giving body. And I know, I absolutely know for a sure and certain fact that there are people listening right now who are going I would throw money at this bloke to write that Greek thing. So I'm just going to leave you with that thought that exciting cool shit. Let's get it done.


Antti Ijäs: Well.


Guy Windsor: I'm sorry, you shouldn’t put a Finn on the spot like that, It’s not fair. Well, thank you so much for joining me today Antti, it’s been lovely meeting you.


Antti Ijäs: Thank you for having me.

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