There was a time when I was writing my books that I decided to call all things equal and get the one thing I needed to help write the combat scenes. $135 later, I was the proud owner of a 3'8" longsword, not quite the shape as the Armiger sword in The Torment, The Shadow, The Heart, but good enough to help me imagine the weight, the feel, the movement required to fight.
What followed would best be described as what you see in Errol Flynn's (go the Aussies!) The Adventures of Robin Hood - stock standard thrust-fencing with some wild swings, the attempt at a pirouette, and acting all "yeah, check me out I gotta SWORD baby!"
That was, until an ex of mine got me an unexpected gift for my birthday. This was Mark Rector's Medieval Combat, which is a translation of the Hans Talhoffer Fechtbuch aus dem Jahre 1467, a little something that was called the Kunst des Fechten, or "the Art of Fighting." For those in the know, this martial art was compiled by Johannes Liechtenauer, who "travelled to many lands" to distil the methods of longsword fighting into his Twenty Directives.
Following that, a brief peek at D Lindholm and Friends' translation of manuscript Ms. 3227, which tells a lot about Liechtenauer and his tour of European sword fighting, and waiting 5 hours to download Jeffrey Hull's Fight Earnestly (Talhoffer's 1459 Fechtbuch) on a 56k modem, it led to some changes in the fight scenes, and a little more culture behind the sword play, notably a lot of stepping in time with attacks.
Having tried in the backyard, I can assure that if you swing or thrust from the right and step on the right foot, it is indeed a very strong attack. Think of it, and it makes sense - the body is going that way so why shouldn't it step and strike at the same time (and it tends to work in some Kung Fu movies, too!). Makes you want to respect those SCA guys who "play fight" on weekends doesn't it - because they fight with greater space between themselves so they don't kill one another.
Getting back to the Kunst des Fechtens, strangely enough the closest movie scene to this martial art is actually the Black Knight fight - aside from John Cleese losing his limbs and throwing a two-hander through another guy's helmet, you'll see Arthur in the Fool's Guard (sword pointed to opponent's feet, right leg forward), half-swording (you hold the sword by hilt and the blade, seen when the Black Knight disengages the flail wrapped around his sword), pummeling (the old fashioned crack on the skull with the pommel), and a couple of dirty tricks (kicking the guy between the legs).
I've not yet seen it in action in many movies. Typically, you'll get the parry-riposte, a bunch of people trying to blunt each other's swords, Samurai or Ninja style (looks good when its Sho Kasuge, not when its a white guy). I've yet to see the Murder Stroke (hold sword by blade, use the crossguard to puncture the skull), the skuller (Braveheart came close with that poor Englishman who took a cudgel to the top of the head, with resultant splat), or people actually use a shield as an offensive weapon.
"Swashbuckling," too, is a little hard to find, and no, it's not pirate-fighting (that's pansy sword tapping, wasting time and energy). Maybe you've seen Sean Bean with a sword and a shield in LOTR, but you need 300 to see shield bashing, Read your Talhoffer and you'll see blossfecthen as it was intended.
Combine it with wrestling, teach it as a comparitive medium with multiple weapons (you can use a sword like a polearm by turning it around and holding the blade, you can grip it like a spear for close-in fighting, add to it the freeform of "fighting for your neck" (ie, your life, either in war, self-defence or trial by combat) - and that includes hitting below the belt.
Bringing it into print was a natural progression for me. It takes me out of utilising the stock-standard Hollywood ideals of fighting, and into uncharted territory. It's also a good selling point, in fact one I actually use; whether to good effect or not is yet to be seen. Now that you can read it in The Torment, The Shadow, The Heart, one can only imagine what it would look like on the big screen - choreography to rival all those chop-socky Kung Fu movies (and maybe a cross-over challenge - a Samurai vs a Knight).
T. M. Shannon