Assessment and Review of Heimrick Armeor's Training Longswords
by David M. Cvet
May 20, 2003
The Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts or AEMMA[ 1 ] has as its purpose is the reconstruction and resurrection of medieval martial arts, specifically medieval Europe for the period between the 11th to the 15th centuries. The last few years saw AEMMA focused on 14th and 15th century Europe, working with historical sources such as Fiore dei Liberi[ 2 ] who had written "Flos Duellatorum" in 1410 which describes a comprehensive training system encompassing grappling, dagger, armoured and unarmoured longsword, spear, pollaxe and mounted training. For the purpose of armoured longsword training, AEMMA has used almost exclusively, Heimrick's longswords.
|A depiction of Oakshot's type XIIa|
AEMMA's longsword requirements can be mapped to Oakeshott's sword typology and therefore, come in three flavours or Oakeshott types that satisfy AEMMA's armoured longsword needs. The first, Type XII presents a longsword with a slight taper to the blade and an acute point (in AEMMA's case, the blade tips were rounded off for safety purposes), a relatively short grip and a fuller, which does not extend beyond two-thirds of the length of the blade. However, Oakeshott after much deliberation defined a further classification or subclass of Type XIIa (illustrated on the left) that expands upon the attributes defined for Type XII with the length of the grip extended to essentially a grip, which is consistent for a longsword. In this type, the blades measure from 88.9 cm (35") to 110 cm (43 1/4"). The period for which these swords were in use was between 1300 - 1400, with the odd Type XIIa positioned in and around 1250. The design of such swords was to compromise chain mail, which during this period was the principle defensive mechanism for the armoured warrior. The rather tapered shaped permitted for enhance efficiency for penetrating mail visible in areas such as arm pits, groin and throat areas.
|A depiction of Oakshot's type XVIa|
Continuing with Oakeshott's typology, two more flavours are employed at AEMMA, types XVIa and XVII. Type XVI were in use during the period between 1300-1350, exhibit attributes including a flat and broad enough cross-section providing an efficient cutting edge. The somewhat tapered blade suggests that the design was efficient to allow penetration through chain mail defences. This style of sword was popular with the Italian fighting man. The sub-type XVIa continues to exhibit the base attributes of Type XVI, but with variations to the grip length achieving what is expected with longsword type of weapons. Blade lengths measure from 78.8 cm (31") to 91.1 cm (35 3/4") capturing the bottom end of Heimrick's longsword specifications as described and illustrated below. The fuller rarely reaches beyond 1/2 of the blade length as illustrated in the image on the right.
The last "flavour" of Oakeshott's typology is the Type XVII, a sword designed to address the last quarter of the 14th century and the 15th century for the era of complete plate armour. Although mail was occasionally worn to reinforce plate in the form of "gussets"[ 3 ], the more acute taper which permitted the sword to enter between the gaps of the overlapping armour in search of the softer body parts beneath the armour. The design does not lend well to "bashing" the plate, but rather was an effective "hunter and seeker" approach to locating potential entry points within the plate armour defences, often times resulting in "giocco stretto" (close-quarters) type of engagements in which the sword was gripped on the blade with the left hand and used to leverage the opponent to the ground using techniques described as 1/2-sword or "meza spada" (middle-sword). These swords, according to Oakeshott's typology are positioned in the later half of the 14th century, some of the surviving examples today possibly originating in the Swabian (Germany) region when compared to the illustrations found in the German fechtbücher. Blade lengths measure from 76.2 cm (30") to 96.5 cm (38").
Oakshott indicates one example of the Type XVII, the sword weighed in at around 1 kg or 2 lbs. This of course, is without the grip (which had long since deteriorated away, and the oxidation of the blade resulting in loss of mass over time). It has been our experience with periodic examinations of the medieval sword collection at the Royal Ontario Museum or ROM, Heimrick swords are generally about 0.45 kg (1 lb) to 0.79 kg (1 3/4 lbs) heavier than their historical counterparts.
AEMMA has had a long and fruitful relationship with Heimrick Armeor, particularly with Jean-Philip Henry, Heimrick's sole proprietor since 1999. It has been our desire to achieve as close to historically authentic sword specifications, despite their "modern" machined look. It was important to AEMMA to achieve a blunt sword design and specifications that would map closely to their historical counterparts as described above. The initial attempt to influence Heimrick's design was that of the Type XVII in terms of dimensions and lightweight. The resulting early version of Mark II missed the mark back in 1999 and early 2000. However, it proved to be a versatile and durable blunt training longsword and the decision made then was to continue working with Heimrick, which resulted in later designs. As it would happen, later designs except for the Mark IV were not successful in achieving the desired Type XVII and therefore, would fall into one or more of Oakeshott's other sword types described above. However, the swords remained extremely effective training weapons, possessing important elements such as strength, durability and flexibility.
Longsword Specifications and Description
Heimrick's swords are constructed out of a steel-molybdenum alloy tempered to 50-52 Rockwell along the edges to approximately 47-48 Rockwell in the centre of the blade. This makes for extremely strong and durable blades, and at the same time, offers incredible flexibility being able to bend the blade almost 90 degrees to which it would spring back to its original straight shape. This attribute is extremely important for the type of gioco stretto armoured bouts AEMMA does. Techniques such as 1/2-sword and hooks using the longsword not only as a very large "dagger", but often as a "crowbar" for take-downs and throws, offers low risk of breakage, and enough rigidity to realistically deploy these techniques as described in the historical treatises.
The blades are constructed from flat stock and employs a method of "stock removal" to construct the blades shaping them into their traditional diamond shape cross-sectional geometry. In the "post" Mark I's, fullers were introduced to both lighten and strengthen the blades. The blades are constructed with full tangs thus delivering extremely strong blade characteristics and no breakage of swords in AEMMA's history while using Heimrick's swords. The blade, due to its alloy composition possesses a chrome shine that does not dull, despite the abuses the blades receives from armoured combat in the form of scratches and divots. Edge divots are a normal phenomena, especially with armoured combat training (see image on the left, click for a larger view). With a quick pass of a file or drummel tool, the edges will return to their relatively smooth blunted geometry. The edge diameter measures approximately 1.5 - 2 mm, which satisfies the AEMMA longsword requirements for armoured tournaments and training purposes. Care for the blades is easy and nearly effortless. Using chrome-rubbing compound periodically will ensure the blade retains its shiny, chrome-metallic finish.
|A closeup of the blade|
Given the metal properties of the blades, one can place the point on the floor, and apply weight to the sword forcing it to bend almost 90 degrees with no ill effects on the sword. This behaviour is consistent throughout the versions of the swords that AEMMA has purchased from Heimrick.
The edge geometry consists of a blunted edge of approximately 2-3 mm wide flat edge. Often at AEMMA, the "corners" of the edge are filed rounded to reduce the probability of divots when swords are struck on the corner edge of the blunted edge of the blade.
The crossguard or "quillon" are constructed from round stock and forged and hammered to shape. The quillons possess a machined finish and are attached to the blade using a hot riveted method of attachment. In the large AEMMA collection of Heimrick training swords, despite the incredible abuse the swords receive as a normal course of training and armoured fights, none of the Heimrick swords experienced loosened guards resulting in squeaking or creaking that some other swords experience sourced elsewhere. The pommel is firmly attached to the tang in a similar manner and never has a pommel become loosened through usage at AEMMA.
The grip is constructed of wood followed by a wrap with a thick leather "thong". This type of grip exhibits good wear and tear, and only in one case has the leather grip been replaced. The balance point is generally approximately 5.08 cm (2") from the quillon towards the point offering a very well balanced sword, making it "feel good" in one's hands. The point of percussion is where one would expect, which is approximately 1/3 of blade length south of the point. The second node is generally about the same distance south of the quillon as is the balance point is north of the quillon. This offers low vibration during sword strikes resulting in less tiring of the hands while gripping the sword for long periods of time.
Example measurements of Heimrich's Mark I to Mark IV in use at AEMMA
Below are some examples of new Heimrick swords that AEMMA has purchased and which possess attributes as defined by AEMMA. Click on the image below to retrieve a larger image for clarity. They are respectively: Mark II, Mark II (V2), Mark IV.
This sword is one of two original Mark I's purchased at AEMMA early 2000. The one pictured here remains in its original state, while the second one has been sharpened with an edge for sharp cutting practices. See "Study of the Destructive Capabilities of the European Longsword" for a report on the performance of Heimrick's Mark I with an edge.
weight: 4 1/2 lb
blade length: 34"
overall length (oa): 46"
Oakeshott Type: Type XVII (the original design specifications were to meet this particular type)
This design is closer to the original design specifications for a Type XVII, however, the result was closer to a Type XIIa given its physical attributes. It was decided to include balls on the tips of the quillons to improve the safe use of the sword, especially with respect to using the quillons as offensive weapons. This sword has been in use regularily since mid-2001.
weight: 4 7/8 lb
blade length: 38"
overall length (oa): 50 1/4"
Oakeshott Type: Type XIIa
The design principle behind this sword was to achieve similar attributes shared with the German longsword as depicted in some of the fechtbücher such as Hans Talhoffer (1443, 1459, 1467), Paulus Hector Mair (1510-1550) and Joachim Meyer (1570) of Type XVII. This sword has been in use regularily since mid-2001, and has seen tournament "action" at the WMAW's in NYC and Racine.
weight: 5 3/4 lb
blade length: 37 1/2"
overall length (oa): 50 1/4"
Oakeshott Type: Type XIIa
Heimrick was able to achieve the basic XVII specifications, however, in order to reduce the weight of the sword further, a fuller was added. However, despite the addition of a fuller, the type of sword remains closest to the Type XVII. This has been in use since the fall of 2002.
weight: 3.5 lb
blade length: 39"
overall length (oa): 51"
Oakeshott Type: Type XVII
Heimrick swords offer an excellent value for the money and for his products typically less than $190 USD (not including taxes nor shipping) are without a doubt an excellent choice for blunted steel training weapons for medieval armoured training and tournaments. They possess the key elements of strength, durability and flexibility resulting in a sword that delivers safe and consistent performance despite the brutal treatment received during "giocco stretto" (close-quarters) type of armoured combat engagements. AEMMA feels secure that during public demonstrations of armoured judicial duels and tournaments the Heimrick sword will withstand the torture inflicted to the swords and significantly reduces the risk of injury to spectators from the possibility of compromised swords. Although Heimrick swords do not have an authentic "historical" presentation that other vendors produce, as training swords they approach historical specifications in terms of weight, balance and dimensions.
Visit Heimrick's website by clicking Heimrick Armeor.
- AEMMA - The Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts, initially created in May of 1998, is a Toronto based non-profit corporation and has as its goals: (1) to resurrect and reconstruct historical European/Western medieval martial arts; (2) to provide instruction and training in developing personal defensive and offensive skills based on our research of the martial arts techniques of historical Europe.
- Fiore dei Liberi - Fiore dei Liberi of Cividale dAustria was born sometime between 1340 and 1350 in Cividale del Friuli, a small town on the river Natisone in Italy. According to available information, he had been practicing the art of swordsmanship for 50 years at the time of his writing the treatise entitled "Flos Duellatorum" or "Flower of the Battle". Accounts indicate that he trained in swordsmanship under the direction of the scholar and Swabian Johannes Suvenus (a former scholar of Nicolaus con Toblem). The knowledge and skill he developed under Johane's direction elevated Fiore dei Liberi to a master swordsman of his time.
- gussets - shaped pieces of mail which were sewn to the arming doublet to cover the armpits and portions of the arm left exposed by plate defenses.
- Brian McIlmoyle & David M. Cvet, "Study of the Destructive Capabilities of the European Longsword", AEMMA, December 2001
- The Oakeshott Institute, "Oakeshott's Sword Typology"
- Ewart Oakeshott, "Records of the Medieval Sword", Boydell & Brewer, May 1998
- Brian R. Price, "Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction: 14th Century", Paladin Press, September 2000
About the author: David M. Cvet is the President and Founder of the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA), an organization dedicated to the resurrection and formalization of medieval martial arts training systems. He is also an Instructor working on the development of training curriculums that include armoured and unarmoured training systems. He received training in Milan, Italy employing steel weapons in longsword techniques and has participated in various organizations dedicated to studying the Middle Ages. In addition David has studied some Asian combat arts in his past. His background and experience having fired his desire to pursue a formal medieval martial arts training program, he founded AEMMA in mid-1998. He is a member of the advisory board of the Swordplay Symposium International (SSI), an interdisciplinary colloquium of historical fencing specialists dedicated to promoting and advancing the study of Western swordsmanship, and participating board member of the Association for Historical Fencing (AHF). David received his appointment of free scholler in Oct, 2000 and the "Acknowledged Instructor" (AI) designation for armoured longsword instruction in Oct, 2000 by the International Masters at Arms Federation (IMAF). Working with representatives of other martial arts disciplines, David had contributed to creation of an online journal entitled the "Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences" (EJMAS), dedicated to promoting scholarship in various martial endeavors. He is the executive editor of the "Journal of Western Martial Art," one of the journals that comprise EJMAS.