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Armoured Combat Training (Arme) @ AEMMA

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Armoured combat training at AEMMA is one of a number of training programs offered at the Academy. This form of training and fighting arts is reserved for students of the Academy who have achieved at a minimum, a scholler's rank and who of course has accumulated a historically correct harness (see harness archetypes below for more info on the various period harnesses that work for this fighting arts type). Most people when they first visit or see AEMMA believe that they must be outfitted with a period harness very early and that it would be a costly proposition for them. This is, in fact, not the case. AEMMA has many students who've been training for 2 or more years who do not have armour and who are focused on mastering the various weapons fighting styles offered without the need for armour. However, all "unarmoured" fighting skills learned can be easily leveraged into armoured fighting.

For those individuals who do wish to pursue armoured combat training, they must first go through the core recruit training program. This offers the student all of the basic and foundational skills needed to move on to armoured training. Armoured combat training is scheduled at least once per week, and more frequently, is offered twice per week depending upon the schedule. The training involves working with longsword, grappling, dagger, spear and pollaxe.

Some particulars of the armour or "harness":

  1. The cost for a complete harness (kit) will range from $2,500 to more than $5,000 CAD depending upon style, material and source.
  2. Anyone wishing to purchase armour quickly will realize that even with "cash on the barrel head", it could take more than a year to acquire the necessary armour components.
  3. A complete harness will weigh in from 45lbs to 75lbs depending upon the size of the person and materials that make up the harness.
  4. Sources of the armour come from various places including Canada, United States, Czech Republic and the UK. Details on sources for armour can be found on the equipment requirements page on this website.
  5. Longswords used for armoured combat training are steel blunts.
  6. The acquisition of basic scholler equipment such as gambeson, gorget, metal gauntlets can all be leveraged as components useful in assembling a harness.

Brief History

The armour of the 14th century was characterized by the increased useage of plate armour made of various materials, including latten (a brass-like copper alloy), whalebone, iron and steel. For the duration of the 14th century, the knight would continue to wear a chain mail hauberk. The hauberk only reached to just below hip level, sleeves extending to the wrist. Mail chausses were worn, covered with plate armour on the legs, called greaves strapped with leather behind the legs. After mid 14th century, the arms were frequently completely covered in plate armour and the arm protection was completed with a pair of gauntlets. In the latter half of the century, breast plates made their first appearance. During the latter part of the century a body defense known as a brigandine was developed. This was a piece of body armour which followed the principle of a coat of plates.

During the beginning of the 14th century, the helmets followed a globular basinet design, along with an attached aventail of mail. However, the great helm remained in use for the most part of the first half of the 14th century. Later the skull component became so tapered that it formed a truncated cone and the side and front of the helm were extended downwards to almost rest on the shoulders and chest of the wearer. This evolution in the design facilitated the deflection of a downward thrust of a sword or battle axe. In the early half of the century, helms were often provided with pivoted visors.

In the beginning of the century, a knight still wore a surcoat or flowing gown over his armour. This may have proved to be a hindrance while fighting on foot. Often, illustrations depicted the surcoat tucked up into the belt. Later, the front of the gown was shortened to expose the bottom of the coat of plates. By mid 14th century, it had risen to knee level both at the front and the back. A garment known as coat of plates was also worn. Often they had heraldric devices affixed to the surcoat or jupon in order to display their identification on the battle field and tournaments.

Harness Archetypes
The following four images represents the range of harness that would satisfy the AEMMA armour requirements for armoured combat and training. The material shown below are extracts from the publication entitled "A Book of Armour" by Patrick Nicolle, Puffin Picture Book No. 97, 1954.

Note: AEMMA has been in contact with the original publisher in order to obtain formal permission to use this material. However, copyright/contact information for this material cannot be found by the publisher and therefore cannot grant formal permission to use this material. Without formally clear permission, the publisher cannot warrant that use of the material would not infringe any third party rights. However, understanding this, AEMMA presents this information with full credit to the original author and publication for the non-profit purpose of enhancing the practitioner's knowledge with respect to the assembling together of an appropriate and historically authentic harness in order to engage in the armoured fighting style of historical European martial arts.

click image to view larger of the same c1325
By the year 1320 many pieces of plate armour had been added. The figure on the left represents a knight of the reign of Edward II. Roundels of plate protect the arm-pit and elbow joint; the shoulder and upper arm were protected by rere-braces, and the lower part including the elbow by vambraces. Below the poleyn are the schynbalds and over the mailed feet are shoes of plate called sabotans.

About the year 1325 the knight's general appearance changed considerably. The great pointed helm was still used, but under it a snaller headpiece was worn. This was known as the bascinet. The mail attached to its edge and descending to the shoulder was called the aventail, At first it seems to have been riveted to the bascinet, but later it was secured by a thong or lace. Roundels, rere-braces, and couters (elbow defences) remain, but the sleeves of the hauberk are loose, and under them is seen a two-piece vambrace completely enclosing the forearm. The surcoat had become shortened from its earlier version to become the gipon. It was laced at the sides, fiting closely to the upper part of the body, while below the waist it is full but cut away in the front. At this period knights were learning to fight on foot, and the long surcoat was found to be a cumbersome garment.

click image to view larger of the same c1345
This is an excellent example of the armour worn at the time of the Battle of Crecy. The figure on th eleft wears a visor which has on its lower edge a curved projecting piece of steel to protect the throat. The gipon is now curtailed both back and front, and beneath it may be seen body armour of iron plates. These were riveted either inside or outside material of cloth or leather. The plates were never riveted together. Notice that prick-spurs are still used in some cases.

The helmets shown are types used in the second half of the fourteenth century. The first is a bascinet with cheek pieces to protect the face. These would not be seen if the aventail was in position. Over the brow are two projections serving to secure a visor or a metal nose-piece attached to the aventail. A bascinet of this type called the hounskull with its visor hinged at the sides is illustrated below.

click image to view larger of the same c1350
The sketch of a battle shows the conflict between the bowman and the mounted knight (click on the image on the left to view an enlarged image). The first horseman (on the left) wears a hounskull with additional plate to defend his throat and the edges of his aventail are secured with laces or points. His gipon has wide sleeves, and a shield with an outward curve is carried on the left arm. In one corner of this is a notch (called bouche). The horse's head is protected with hinged plates. Behind this figure is a knight who still vafours the great helm on which he wears a crest.

Surcoats are tight-fitting and laced at the back or sides and sometimes butoned at the front. The two forground figures show how complete was plate armour at the end of the fourteenth century. One of them wears a decorative cloth cover over his aventail.

click image to view larger of the same c1419
In the early years of hte fifteenth century the gipon went out of fashion, and the monuments and drawings of the period show us the complete plate armour. The bascinet with its aventail of mail also went out of fashion and was superseded by the great bascinet. This is illustrated at the top. Below it in this illustration is a similar great bascinet. The skull is of the small bascinet type and has neck and throat guards riveted to it. Its visor is of the hounskull type. The original helmet is in the Musee de l'Armee in Paris. The third helmet is taken from a manuscript painting of the early fifteenth century. It is a great bascinet of different type, its skull and visor being rounded.

The standing figure is taken from the monumental brass of Baron Camoys, 1419, at Trotton, Sussex. This was the type of armour worn at the Battle of Agincourt.

Below are some photos that depict actual harnesses worn by some of the students of the Academy.



Training is scheduled on a rotational basis, in which a class that is focused on unarmoured dagger training will be followed by the next training day's class working the same techniques but in armour. Training for schollers is offered three times weekly. For details on the scheduling for schollers training and fees, click here.

The images below depict a number of armoured bouts with longsword or dagger (see pole-weapons to see video clips on spear and pollaxe). Note the equipment worn by the combatants. Details on this can be found by clicking on armoured equipment requirements. Secondly, click on the images below to view a short video clip related to that image. Unfortunately, the left video clip is available only in "wmv" format, meaning Windows Media Video. The rest will require Quicktime.

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This clip is an extract from the Toronto Street Festival. Here David on the left and Kelly on the right are about to engage in armoured dagger. This clip is from the judicial duels held at Waterford last summer. In this clip, the brothers David and Anton go at it. The conclusion of that particular bout was the takedown. This clip is from the same series of judicial duels has Murph and Brian facing off. They exhibit 1/2-sword techniques. This clip is from the same series of judicial duels has Anton and Kelly squaring off. The tumble at the end surprises Anton as Kelly obtains the position of advantage.

Armoured combat is as much knowing how to fight with the techniques described by Fiore, as it is with respect to conditioning. Conditioning training is necessary to enhance one's endurance and aerobic contioning so that there is less probability that the armoured bout will degenerate into a "brawl" or "train wreck", because the combatant is fatigued early in the bout, and he/she would wish it to end ASAP. This is where mistakes can appear, or injuries are incurred. For further details and training on armoured combat training, see links in the section below entitled "Notes, References & Videos".

For details on AEMMA's training program, equipment requirements, armoured tournaments info, and ranking system, click on "training" on the navigation bar at the top of your browser window.

Relevant References, Resources & Videos

Copyright © 2009 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA)
Released: June 12, 2003 / Last modified: March 2, 2010