Mamluk lance work is renowned for its numerous amount of treatise, the earliest being from Akhi Hizam al-Kuttali, a master-at-arms in the late 9th Century Abbasid Empire whose work was so vast, it was split into two treatises and these were separated, a lot of the material being copied and formatted in later treatises. Lance work (or more accurately spear work for cavalrymen) played a prominent role in conceptualising body mechanics and leverage work, and orientation, within Furusiya, stretching from Al-Andalus to Mesopotamia. The implication of the text is the application to mounted and dismounted combat, as well as being interchangeable concepts with other weapons, most notably the sword. Until further information is translated, it may be reasonable to assume that certain attackes, blocks/parries and stances were adapted and applied. This is seen a lot in Medieval sword fighting from, for example, the Late Medieval German and Italian traditions and it would be reasonable to assume this also applied in the Mamluk case. The purpose of this article will use two Mamluk treatises to deconstruct lance work, with the purpose of seeing how this may have been applied to swordsmanship (singularly and with a buckler).

The first is an anonymous Mamluk-Kipchak Treatise from the 14th Century called Munyatu’I-Guzat (wish of the warriors of the faith) which, for the purpose of this article, will be shortened to Guzat. It is unique for the time period it was published, as it is written in Kipchak-Turkish, the only copy being available from the Topkapi Sarayi Miizesi Library in Istanbul. The manuscript was copied from an Arabic treatise in 1446-47 (though the earliest copy of this is from the 14th Century), though the translator is not mentioned as was common literary convention at the time. The lack of the author’s mention was due to the treatise being seen as popular military literature and therefore subject to the supply and demands of the time. Most treatises such as these are usually copied from earlier works, either attributing the work to fictional writers or the writer leaving, themselves, anonymous. Though written in Kipchak-Turkic, the first two and a half pages and the chapter titles are in Arabic. Most likely, this was copied from the work of the Master Muhammed Ibn Ya’qub Ibn Ahi Hazzam (or Hizam) al-Hattali (or Hatli or Hatbi)’s treatise Kitab al-Furusiyya va’I-Baytara. The translation seems to have been taken at the request of Temuer Beg, the commander of the Sultan’s bodyguards for Turkish warriors. It provides a range of skills though the fourth skill (holding the shield) and a portion of the fifth skill (archery) is missing. Several copies exist:

  • Kitab-i Macu Tarcuman-i Turki va Acami va Mugali (1343)
  • Kitabu L-Idrak li-LIsani’I-Atrak (1312)
  • At-Tuhratu’z-Zakiyya fi Lugati’t-Turkiyya (written before 1425)
  • Kitab Bulgati’I-Mustaq di Lugati’t-Turk va’I-Qifcaq (early 15th Century)
  • Al-Qavaninu Kulliya li-Zabti’ I-Lugati’t-Turkiyya (15th Century in Egypt)
  • Ad-Durratu’l-Mudi’a fi Lugati’t-Turkiyya (time period not mentioned)

The second manual is known as Nihayat al-su’l wa-‘l-‘umniya fi ta’lim ‘a’mal al-furusiya (And end to the questioning and desire of teaching [alt: learning] the works of horsemanship), shortly referred to as Nihayat. It’s is focused on, and a section translated, by Kjersti Enger Jensen in her philological study of the treatise (which I am very grateful for). There are various known copies of this manuscript; four in London, two in Istanbul; and one in Cambridge, Paris, Cairo and Dublin.[1] This particular translation is based on a printed and edited book by Dr Halid al-Suwaydi in Syria and Enger speculates this copy, though inadequate in several features, is a copy from the British Library. This is also based on the critical edition by Lutful-Huq from 1955 which is based on five manuscripts: three from the British Museum (MS., Or 3641; MS., Add 23,488; MS., No. Add. 23,487) one from Cambridge (MS., Qq. 277) and one from Paris (MS., No. 2828) (Lutful-Hiuq, A Critical edition 2-4). This treatise is long, consisting of 500 pages with 292 folios, divided into twelve lessons, each one instructing on a specific aspect of cavalry training. The role of the treatise as an amalgamation falls into the category of an anthology, which consists of multiple disciplines, amalgamated into anthologies and complications, considered a mark of higher, prestigious, literary learning in Mamluk academic literature. The lack of author means this treatise finds itself in a similar situation to Guzat. Nevertheless, with this specific treatise we have some indication of its origins and which work it was copied from. The work itself was sourced to Muhammed b. Isa b. Isma’il al’Hanafi al-‘Aqsara’i, who died in 1348 in Damascus.[2] It’s recorded he was the grandstudent of the furusiya master Nagm al-Din ‘Ayyub al’-ahdab and a contemporary of the emir ‘Izz al-‘Din ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (an Ayyubid Emir of Aleppo who died at the age of 23),[3] though al-‘Aqsara’i was not a Mamluk but immigrated from Anatolia, Azerbaijan or Iran.[4]

Both treatises complement each other; on the one hand we have a unique case where an Arab Treatise, Guzat, has been translated to Turkish-Kipchak to train a large amount of warriors, therefore the treatise is simple and understandable as it’s intended to be consumed as quickly and proficiently as possible. Nihayat, deals with the same issues in a more technical, and conceptual, way when instructing and therefore provides a more descriptive, in-depth, image of how to maneuver oneself on a horse and, more importantly, how to utilise a lance. This will animate an accurate depiction of lance work from two different angles in a basic and more complex manner. In short, both treatises provide more or less the same guidelines for weapon use, though both add their own variations relative to what the audience will find useful. For example, Guzat adds further stances like the new Sagr (style) and Daylam tilting/guard (though Sagr may be the same as the tagri, a block mentioned later on). Nihayat deals with more technical variations for fewer, but the same, stances which is goes into more detail. It also deconstructs the process with a few underlying principles which Guzat doesn’t buy conceptually detailing moves. A good example is the mention of displacing the opponent’s lance and thrusting at the same time, called the tagri, meaning breach (as in the breach in a fortification) which will be mentioned later. This places a more academic and philosophical foundation to better explain, in a technical way, the nuances of lance work, though the explanation isn’t extensive in the section Kjersti Enger has translated. Most probably, the more extensive section is either a product of the work itself or is a part of an un-translated section.

Hopefully, this article will succeed in providing a basic outline for Mamluk lance work without having to go through both treatises by explaining certain moves and concepts in a digestible manner in order to inform swordplay. This is not to say this is a guide, merely an abridged work to help better understand the foundations. To understand the work fully, it’s better to read the treatises themselves.


1. Types of styles/ tilts/blocks/parries

1.1 Old Khorasani block
I had difficulty trying to find an appropriate image (maybe because it’s difficult to articulate a cross-armed block in art?) this is the closest I could find (the figure on the right):

If we are to go with what’s stated in the treatises, the body should be facing the other way than in the picture, and the lance should be aligned with the horse’s head. However, the above situation may be that the rider’s reacting to an engagement, the artist couldn’t articulate the block clearly and had to the show the body facing the reader, or this might despiction be a mistake (an equally valid point but it’s the closest I could find).

This, as the name suggests, is probably from Khorasan in the South of Iran and is one of the oldest guards. This is due to the reverence and prestige of Khorasani horsemen as being some of the best in Antiquity and the Early Medieval World. The shift from Khorasani horsemen to Turkic ghilams (slave guards) occurred at some point in the 800’s so this type of guard probably goes as far back, treatise wise, as Akim Hizam al-Kuttali who is responsible for the first Furusiya manual, being a master-at-arms and veterinary hippologist.

In Nihayat, The guard is held thus; for example on the right hand side, the lance would be held with the left arm near the butt of the lance and the right in front. This means on either side, the hands should always be crossed. The back of the user must be straight but the waist needs to lean to the side and the lance needs to be level to the side of the horse’s face.

The implication of this block is, with being on the right, that the left hand and arm cling to the left side while the left elbow sticks out; and the horse’s head, dominant shoulder (at the time) and the tip of your lance “come together on a single line, so that this is your shield and your guard at this time.” With this, any open point is concealed and any gap is breached in the single line (which is the strength of the tagri, which will be explained later). With the guard comes a shift from one side to the other, this implies various position and leverage on the horse to direct it where it needs to go. If, for example you want to go from right to left, it’s advised to raise the bottom of the lance with the left hand until the bottom is received in that hand, and the lance is aimed below the right forearm to strengthen it. The user shouldn’t put the tip to the ground but make the tip cross over the head of the horse to the left side. The main goal is managing to take the right hand to the bottom of the lance in the place of the left, while managing the reigns, and “make it stick to the buckle on your belt” on the right side. Like before, the arms need to end up crosswise (the right hand holding near the butt, the left an arm’s length in front and parallel to the horse’s face).

Having crossed arms might be seen as counter intuitive but, in practice, it enables the user to brace the lance and enable it to be stably held and thrusted.

Guzat states more or less a similar process with some minor differences. It points out the lance should be pressed against the shoulder blade of the horse and (with the hand holding the butt) should be four fingers from the end so it doesn’t travel up the sleeve. The lance also needs to press against the belt. With this, it’s emphasised that the reins need to be held in conjunction with the dominant side at the time (held by the left hand when left etc). Shifting is slightly simplified in this treatise, the hand that holds the butt of the lance needs to let go and the lance to pass in front, supported by the wrist of the opposite arm, with a switch of the bridle-rein hand. What’s interesting is the application of the Khorasani block is in a circular motion according to Guzat‘s treatise on a chapter on the science of using the lance:

Tilt to your left in the Khorasan (style) and (then) circle twice. Then transfer your lance in the Khorasan (style over the head of the horse……In every transfer and change, turn your horse in the same direction. Then tilt(the lance) to your right, turn your horse around and take him out (of the circle). Transfer to your right side and circle twice in this way.[5]

The mechanics are interesting because the block is contingent upon rotation based on the direction the horseman is leaning, so it determines both the angle of attack as well as deception in which changes can mean the opponent will shift to the other side as well. This is where faints can come in which ruins the opponent’s tempo.


1.2 The Damascus/Anatolian/Syrian/Roman style block

See picture below (figure on the left):

Different names are attributed depending on the treatise. Nihayat refers to it as the Syrian/ Roman block whereas Guzat refers to it as the Damascus/Anatolian block. There is a Historical precedent for both cases. All of them are somewhat interconnected and may have various origins. In the context of the time, the reference to all these places had to do with the definition of Rum (Roman). Within the Islamic world, Rum was associated with Roman such as the phrase Bilad al-Rum (land of the Romans) and would later be administered under the Ottomans as Rum-i-Millet (the Roman people). One would easily assume this is associated with the Byzantines or Eastern Romans whose Empire survived until 1453, however this would be a misnomer. The definition of Rum within the Arab/Islamic world, as was apparent in the Mamluk Sultanate and the later Ottoman Empire, also encompassed Orthodox Christians regardless of demographic. For the Syian/ Rum the Mamluks referenced, it most likely meant the Arab Orthodox Christians in Cyprus and Syria, who had a firm and indistinguishable connection. The treatise which places itself in the 14th Century, showed that the relationship between Cyprus and mainland Syria was close. The Suriens were Arab-speaking inhabitants of Cyprus who belonged partly to the Greek and Syrian Orthodox denominations and may have constituted the majority in Famagusta. A contextual understanding is therefore necessary in understanding what’s being said, otherwise one may assume Byzantine influence when the Byzantines had lacked control of the area, at the time the treatise was written, for 200 years. On the other hand, this type of block, which is a crouched lance under the armpit, may have arrived through the Byzantines and therefore had an effect on the area. The connection with Anatolia may have been the Sultanate of Rum, which at the time considered itself to be an Islamic Sultanate of the Romans in Anatolia and also was inhabited by Orthodox Christians.

The block is done so, for example on the right side, the lance is held by the right hand an arm’s length from the butt and the butt is placed under the armpit, which it clings to the side of the horse. However, rather than shifting, the point of the lance can be moved across to the left. The left, in the eyes of  Nihayat‘s author is weak, preferably because the opponent is also assumed to be right handed and therefore the left provides a disadvantage for leverage unless the opponent also shifts to the left. If the user wants to move into tagri (breach), they withdraw the lance from the armpit and point it forwards so the bottom comes in the left hand, while the right hand remains in the same place.

Guzat states more or less the same thing, with the added context that tilting (changing from right to left) is good for tricking the opponent. Other sections regurgitate this however it’s emphasised that the treatise is meant to be basic and understandable for training newcomers quickly. Therefore, the treatise will repeat itself in the relative sections. In a section to transfer to the sagr (style) block (which will be explained earlier), the implication is that this transition is the most convenient one.

As mentioned later on, this lance block is favoured because of the inability to lever it downwards, as the butt of the lance is stable in the armpit. Therefore the solution given to feint raising the lance, so the opponent does so, and then thrust them.

1.3 The Daylam (style) of tilting (block)
The etymology of the word is probably from the Daylami, a people in Iran who come from the North on the Caspian sea, the inhabitants (the Daylamites) being employed as soldiers during the Sassanid Empire and the Caliphates, many also serving as bodyguards to the Caliph.

Only a short excerpt of this exists in the Mamluk-Kipchak treatise and is described so: the user holds the lance with the right hand three arshins (a measurement) from the butt and the lance should be held with the palm underneath it so that it is resting on the right wrist. This is mentioned to be a very small section and most likely this stance would be used as a foundation for going into other blocks, as well as for carrying the lance easily.

1.4 The Sagr (style) of tiling (block)
This is only mentioned in the Guzat and not as extensively as the other blocks but might be the same as the tagri as it follows the same move and principle (though not with the conceptual framework that revolves around the tagri). Put simply, the left hand holds the lance four fingers from the butt, and the right side holds the lance towards the upper side, towards the head. Thrusts should be made without stretching the arm out to far and the user should go back to tilting quickly, preferably parallel to the right cheek of the horse (assuming that the left is holding the lance near the butt). The stance is emphasised to be leaning back a little, as if the user is protecting their fact, though not to much. It might be equivalent to a bracing stance.

Transferring from one side to the other (right to left) consists of pushing the lance with the right hand and loosening it with the left (to move it easier), then moving the head of the lance to the right of the horse; tilting it to the left (after dealing with the bridle-reins); then sliding down the right hand down until it reaches the left hand; the left hand needs to be below the right. then the user moves the head of the lance to the left side of the horse. It’s recommended as the best method of tilting and transferring. The transition from the Damascus stance is simplistic, so much as that’s seen as effective and is mentioned as such.

In Guzat, some variations of plays are given for this block. Examples are: holding the butt of the lance in the right hand, raising its head upwards, resting the butt on the thigh and attacking the opponent in an exposed place; or mounting the beast strap of the horse on the right side and raising the head upwards in the air, attacking. This is followed up by tilting at whatever side after.

1.5 The Tagri (Breach) block

See picture below (figure on the left):

tagri being performed by displacing the person’s blade and thrusting:

The concept is recognisable in both treatises but is only conceptualised into a term within Nihayat. The term tagri means breach (as in the breach in a city wall or mountain) but has a myriad of associated terms such as the pit between the collar bone, the mouth or front teeth, a port, mouthpieces of curb bits etc. In short, it is to denote creating an opening in which to thrust. It is a displacement of the blade and a thrust at the same time. A parallel can be made to the term versetzen in Germany terminology, concerning weapon use, and is evident in the Liechtenauer tradition; the etymology of the term for parrying within Arabic lance work is implied to stop something firmly, or as something which obstructs. This is a type of tasdid which is a type of defence technique which consists of blocking to the front. Indeed the term tagri and tasdid may be interchangeable based on the theme.

It’s done on both the right and the left sides and is described as not done excessively:

This is that you take the lance four fingers from the bottom with your left hand together with the reins and your palm above the reins. Put your right hand an arm’s length over that on the lance and balance slightly so your hand does not deviate much. You then thrust and block by the right cheek of the horse and throw it down a little with this block since it’s a lightness, as if you are throwing it down in your direction, so don’t throw it excessively. This is surely [the] ṯaġrī block. You block this way to the left as well. Everything I relate to you about the ṯaġrī block in what comes after this, follows the same principle.[6]

The treatise does a separate chapter on parrying but the theme is more or less the same and the concept follows the same convention. However, it does go into more technical detail concerning what a displacement would require, body mechanics wise, and how that provides the foundations for the tagri:

Now turn [to] your horse’s right; your way of going should always be to [where] your lance [points]. Turn to it with your lance on the inside, or slanting, either on a round on the nāward or parallelly. Don’t ever go straight while you parry, because if you go straight you lay [yourself] bare, and annul the parry. You [then] won’t be able to parry, so understand this. This is the sharpest parry, and it has your trust if you try it when falling into the hands of a rider. This method is the one I would see you use on him. It is the best parry, wich prepares for the displacement, sharp turns, piercing, holding back and other things with your hand, as it is stronger because the right is in front. If you want to parry to the left, put your right hand in place of the left, and the left in the place of the right like I told you and described for you, God knows best.[7]

On horseback, this serves to be both a mark of a basic displacement of the opponent’s lance and also as a mark of deception within an exchange of blows. Nihayat describes two strikes to the left of the opponent followed by a tagri which is deceived as the same blow but, at the last moment, displaces the opponent’s blade downwards rather than sideways, ending in a thrust. This is explained in a chapter on the muwagaha, one of the chapters dealing with the tagri:

This is when you attack him once from the left, and then again, then shift away from him ṯaġrī. Meet him and move away from him after striking his lance with yours so that he becomes familiar with that. When he does that, and believes that this is your move with him, you attack him, shift, and get closer to him than the first time. Take away your right hand and seize the bottom of the lance. When you get closer to him, pierce him in his face and chest so you don’t miss him, that is if your lance is longer than two arms. Don’t do this until you know that you reach him if you thrust at him. Direct your lance as fast as you can towards him in his place, with its bottom with the reins, and bring your hand back in a ṯaġrī block. Be careful, for there is a great danger in this. If he strikes your lance, I fear that its head will drop to the ground unless you are skilled. So beware of this, and don’t pierce him unless your lance is above his. If you can reach him, be on your guard against him. Break your horse away to the left and get away from him [so] he doesn’t follow you. If you can’t reach him, retract your lance to its place, bend slightly, and strike your lance, for you will be behind him. Don’t meet a rider, and don’t approach one, unless you have composed your horse and calmed it down enough that you are able to do what you want. It is necessary to fill the gaps in the frontal confrontation before you draw near to him, so that the gaps by his horse are filled. If you draw near to him, beware. This is the principle of every position in the frontal confrontation. Don’t forget that, for this is the base of the muwāǧaha.[8]

The emphasis on withdrawing clearly draws parrallels with the tagri as well. This is further qualified in an example of shifting the lance to prepare for the tagri:

Take the lance at arm length, quickly, and block with it while your right hand is forward. You do like that to the left if you are blocking the Khorasanian way, and do with your left hand like you did with your right. If you are blocking the modern way, take your right hand back on the lance until you reach your left hand with it at the bottom of the lance, and cross the top of it over the horse’s head so it runs with the horse’s ears. Pause, and [make the lance ready to be used as a weapon/raise it] also with your left hand like you did to the right. This is the modern tagri shift, so when you are ordered to do the modern shift, it is in this way. This shift and block are the procedures I like the best, and I assault horsemen with them.[9]

This is also described in transition from one stance to another:

If you are blocking the Syrian way like I described to you and you want to shift the lance to [an end position where the movement stops]; withdraw the lance from under your armpit and point it forward so the bottom of the lance comes to be in your left hand with the reins, while your right hand remains in place, unmoving, and do a modern ṯaġrī block. This is a very good shift.[10]

The tagri is also mentioned in the Mamluk-Kipchak treatise but does not provide a conceptual framework, however it provides a very clear description on the process. In short, it mentions the action but not the name.

When your come close to him, transfer your lance to your right in the Sagr (style), and meet (him) at your right. And do not forget to put your lance on his lance. If that person moves against you, both of your lances (will become ineffective.[11]

Another example:

You must charge your opponent once to his right, once to his left. Then transfer to your right in the Sagr (style) and meet your opponent facing you. You should stay at a distance from your opponent after you have hit his lance with yours, until he has the impression that this is your style of fighting. as soon as he is under that impression, and he assumed that you will always charge him in this stle, then gallop and come closer to him than you did before. Stretch your right hand toward the back and holding your lance at the butt, come close to him, and strike your opponent on the face or on the chest. In that situation you should make sure not to make any mistakes, because when (you) strike (him), your lance may extend too far. If you do not pull it back quickly, it is to be feared that he will strike you. Thus, do not proceed in this way, until you are certain that you will not make any mistake and that you will be able to pull your lance, together with the bridle-resins quickly, return them to their places, and tilt in the Sagr (style).[12]

Another example:

Then hold your lance over his lance, slide (your lance) and strike him. Without any doubt, he will be struck, ended.[13]

Another example:

Perform this maneuver (only) after having leaned these (maneuvers) precisely, because in his maneuver there is a great danger, for when he parries your lance, if you are not skillful, it is to be feared that the head of your lance will drop, you will (then) be exposed and he will thrust at you. So take care that as you strike him your lance is above his lance.[14]

Another example

Then employing the Damascus technique place the opponent opposite you. When you come close (to him), hold the lance like a spear, thrust his face from your right side and hold the upper part of the lacne with your right hand, hit his lance from above. Pull yourself back a little, so that you will be able to gain ground there. Then hold your land over his lance, slide (your lance) and strike him. Without any doubt, he will be struck, ended.[15]

Though the treatise lacks the wording, it does mention a greater variety of move for the tagri, not just a descending displacement of the opponent’s lance, but also an ascending one, though this is not approved by the original author, but is evident that such a move was common:

If you are able to reach and thrust at him (with your lance), return your lance quickly to its position then lean back and hit his lance from below, so that his lance will fall on his neck then do whatever you wish.[16]

Another example:

Some people parry (by hitting) the lance from below upwards. I never approve of it. And know that parrying is the skill of the lancer in the art of jousting. Always put your lance on top of your opponent’s lance and pay attention not to hit his lance unless (your lance) is firmly fixed on top of his lance. Only then parry it. Know that in this position you will never make a mistake. If you make a mistake, your lance will fall down on the ground and thus you will (let him) parry you and you will get the thrust. If you tilt (your lance) to your left in the Sagr (style), pay attention not to parry because in that position many mistakes are committed. But fatl is to get rid of (the opponent’s) lance by tackling it with your lance in order to thrust at him. If your opponent parries your lancebefore you do, pull and bring out your lance from underneath his lance and thrust at (him), because when he parries (with his lance, if you pull your lance) his lance becomes heavy and falls to the ground. If he parries your lance from below upwards, conceal your lance, raise it upwards, so his lance will be raised upwards (too). Then attack and thrust at him.[17]

Another example:

One cannot parry (this lance in any way) in the Damascus (style) except from below upwards, because the butt of his lance is under his armpit. If you parry (his lance) from above downwards, his armput does not allow his lance to fall down. If you opponent comes (at your) holding his lance in the Damascus (style), be sure not to make any mistakes when you parry, because if you make a mistake it is more difficult to bring your lance from above, rather than to bring it upwards from below. If you are afraid of your opponent, set your lance firmly on his lance. Do not parry his lance by pressing it hard, but rather move it by bringing it downwards so that the lances of both of your will, without any doubt, be parried. Always be aler that he might bring out his lance from underneath yours and thrust at you.[18]


1.4 Application of lance work

Nihayat implied lance work to be one of feinting and the tagri, with the added dimension of inverting the lance over the head when shifting. With this, the entire parrying process is clearly stated to be done with the tip of the lance. Manoeuvres to compliment this is done with a straight back, with the pulling and pushing of elbows to add momentum to the inversion; twisting the waist and, to an extent, throwing the lance from one side to another. If the user has twisted in the block, they’re meant to twist the lance lightly, then push it and change (preferable position). In any process, putting the right hand forwards a little will strengthen the grip on the lance (from the right. It’s also emphasised that holds the reins is at the bottom. In front of the opponent, the spearhead needs to be aimed at the face and eyes and the block is assumed to be from  Muwazana and muwazat; both are manoeuvres whereby the riders either form parallel to each other or the distance between them is the same. This implies that the manoeuvring is opposite, the user is parallel to the opponent but both are going in opposite directions. It also implies a moment where both meet in an instance where the distance between both is the same, both in front of each other. “When you get closer to him, pierce him in his face and chest so you don’t miss him, that is if your lance is longer than two arms. Don’t do this until you know that you can reach him if you thrust at him.”[19]

“It is necessary to fill the gaps in the frontal confrontation before you draw near to him, so that the gaps by his horse are filled. If you draw near to him, beware. This is the principle of every position in the frontal confrontation. Don’t forget that, for this is the base of the muwagha.” p. 91.

In this situation, parrying to the right, as mentioned in Guzat is not advised however this is the situation in which the person has utilised the Khorasani block to the left.

In the section on duelling (the nawardat, the battle or place of combat), shows that the user can strike to the left before entering and thrusting, with the follow up of grabbing his lance and turning your horse and advancing towards them, in which case they will thrust at you or be hesitant and you being hesitant can get you killed. if the opponent tries to escape, you can thrust him as he will be going left. In the same case when the opponent stabs, strike the lance with yours (for his arm will be weak) and it will drop to the ground. This is one example of some maneuvers that complement the tagri.

In guzat, the information follows more useful information to train people; the weapon as to be as light as possible (especially the lance). With this, further information shows the emphasis on maneuvers ranging from in a slow trot to a gallop. For example, the user completes a circle in a slow trot twice and the lance is moved over to the left of the horse and maneuvered, with the hand changing crosswise. The head of the lance should be on a level with the left stirrup. Then the lance should be raised equally and the right hand should be stretched out, the lower lance should be placed behind your right thigh; it’s advised to circle twice in this position. The implication is the teaching of positioning, manoeuvring in a circle and leverage in changing the position of the lance and creating muscle memory to best aid the use of the lance when it actually needs to be used. When applying this to engaging with an opponent, the empahsis is also on circling as the treatise specifically mentions not to turn your back to the opponent, and not to remove the head of the lance away from the opponent’s face. Circling is expressedly stated, after an attack, to be a means in which to assesss the opponent and see his personality; if he is alert, skilled or pretentious. After this, engagment can be done with multiple strikes on each side or this can be feinted. Like Nihayat, the theme is to get behind the opponent and thrust them. What’s also interesting is the mention of engaging the opponent head on (in a jousting match) in which the Damascus style is favoured, and the manoeuvring is serpentine “Holding your lance against your opponent in the Damascus (style), quickly charge to your right and to your left. (Do it quickly) so that you opponent will be surprised, so that he will not know from which side you are going to throw the lance”.[20] The objective is to thrust at he opened side.

Guzat talks about the joust (or duel) specifically in the context of being the pursuer or the pursued which is akin to a hunt, forcing the opponent to make a narrow circle, occupy him with transfers and intending to make sure their lance isn’t leveled at you as well as only thrusting when they are exposed. The lance is described to be on the inside and the horse should circle in the same direction.

2. Relating lance work to sword-play

It’s important to understand the mentality of the Arab world when it came to using weapons, the general mentality (especially in the Mamluk case) is to use the weapons like each other, especially with the sword. This is evident throughout Furusiya treatises. Ibn Hudayl, author of the treatise in al-Andalus Gala of the knight, Arms of the Champion (1392) describes the sword at in a general statement and anecdote. It is as follows.

And it is that the Arabs drives the sword as if it were a spear; with it they beat, as if it were a rod; with it they cut, as if it were a knife; they used it as a whip and as a lash; it is his ornament in public; his light in the darkness; his company in solitude; his fellow in the desert;  his comrade of sleep and the way, so they call it: “coat”, “cape”, “rod”, “dress”, “clothing”. It is the “judge of combats”, the “decision of  human litigation”.
All these facets have inspired poetry, and have cradled proverbs or histories.
This is how Utba ibn Abd al-Sulami referred: The prophet handed me a short sword, and warned me: “if you cannot wield it, spear with it”.

The predominance of the sword is it’s ability to adapt to any circumstance prescribed, it can thrust like a spear; bludgeon like a mace and cut like a knife. In many ways, it is similar to Fiore and the reason why he quotes the sword as being the Queen of all weapons. Therefore, there’s a strong case for the same concepts being used in multiple disciplines and incurring the same effect.

2.1 Old Khorasani block (speculative)
I couldn’t find any images, and (this may be speculation). The general theme is that the lance is held downwards and aligned. In a sword and buckler context, this may mean the same thing with the buckler held outwards or protecting the hand.

However, with the alignment to the thrust, this might be the same as the Damascus block.


2.2 The Damascus/Anatolian/Syrian/Roman style block

The concept and theme of the Damascus block is that of the lance being tucked into the armpit. With this in mind, the stance of the sword mimics this guard, probably with the same image in mind: the sword being held in close, possibly twisted at the wrist to imitate the lance going under the armpit. In a sword and buckler context, this is geared towards holding the sword back and having the buckler outwards, which enables for a thrust both while the shield displaces and also the sword being thrusted over shield while held outwards, the wrist facing upwards (something still done today in Sudanese sword dances and Omani sword and buckler).

Fatmid Manuscript Fragment from Fusat, 12th Century (British Museum, Registration Number 1938,0312,0.1

2.3 The Daylam (style) (speculative
The theme is to rest the lance with the wrist facing up. With this in mind, the basic idea is articulated to the sword with the buckler covering the hand. So there is a similar “at ease” guard which is similar to I.33. Unfortunately I could not find any images.

The “at ease” stance shown by Walpurgis (both figures on the left) in I.33
Sword and Buckler from the Khvesur region of Georgia. Note, the standard “at ease” stance is shown by the person on the left who holds the sword behind the buckler.

2.4 The Tagri (Breach) block
The concepts illustrated in lance work, namely the tagri, may have interchangeably applied to swordplay. With the emphasis on cutting both in general and to displace the blade, it is entirely possible the style stayed more or less the same even after the mass use of sabres, the only different is the tagri would transition from a thrust to a cut as sabres became more widely used. This is seen in Early Modern Work such as that of Luis Pacheco de Narvaez (1570-1640) in his treatise Libro de las Grandezas de la Espanda, in his section about fighting the Moor/Turk who is armed with the Alfange (another word for a sabre/cutlass).

In his extensive section on fighting the Moor/ Turk, he comments that they will typically cut into the opponent’s blade and if that misses, they will do a rising cut to the hands or the arms. What’s more interesting, he suggests that the attack were predominantly made from above, as he calls it a tajo hendido, which consisted of single ascending motions and descending motions, “rising your arm straight upwards and then lowering with great power”.[21] This is what he describes as  In his section “the Moor steadies himself in an obtuse angle, he writes:

And for this, they take confidence (when they fight against Christians) in – having risen their alfanjes upwards, until setting into an obtuse angle – leaving the body open, enticing the one wielding the sword, upon such a chance to cause injury, to go for it. And this attack being a thrust, not making sense to do otherwise, when trying to perform it, as the alfanje is so wide, robustly tempered and sharply edged, they lower it with great fury in order to chop the sword. And leaving the opponent thus unarmed, then kill or subdue him.[22]

The upwards cut is described in the section “If, not having got the blade with his first movement he wished to arrebatar, injure him with a thrust”:

And this happens when, having missed the sword with his tajo hendido, and being threatened by a thrust of the sword, he comes back with great fury to thus arrebatarla with a revés, intending to chop it or to strike it off the hand.[23]

From these sections, it becomes evident that the training and conceptual framework of Furusiya, was not only wide reaching but had the application of universality recognised concepts within the Arab world from Al-Andalus to Mesopotamia. The conclusion from this is therefore that the style was widely applied and seen to be common techniques and, if applied to swordmanship, common fencing. Perhaps this is the sabre/cutlass adaptation of the Tagri for when the majority of blades being used were sabres/cutlasses.

In application to straight, double-edged sword, and buckler; if the basic stance is to be referenced in terms of body mechanics, it is a slightly elevated stance with the lance which is used to perform a displacement of the blade, followed by a thrust. If one were to apply this to sword and buckler, the theme stays more or less the same, like in the picture below. The warrior below has moved their buckler outwards to displace the opponent’s blade, but the sword is in more or less the same blade. This creates a flexible guard which can do more or less the same thing.

Fatmid Ceramic Wall-plaque, depicting a fight between a Berber Infantryman and Turkish Cavalryman (Tunis, Bardo Museum)
A drawn reconstruction of the above image

A similarity would be the basic stance of Razmafzar, which reconstructs Persian Martial Arts from the late 15th Century onwards; though by this time the type of sword (and what’s it’s optimised for) changes. Nevertheless, the tagri may have looked like the below, as displayed by Dr Khorasani:

There are some exceptions, the use of a straight double-edged sword would mean the weapon is close into the body to optimise for thrusts more.

Conclusion
Deconstructing the lance-work in two Mamluk treatises has provided the opportunity to analyse different blocks with the lance, and how this is applied in a conceptual framework, namely the tagri which is a displacement of the opponent’s blade, from above, with a thrust at the same time. What has been alluded to is the application of the same conceptual framework within Mamluk swordplay. Hopefully with what has been mentioned a better understanding on a basic level and how that may interchangeable link to the use with other weapons as well. To expand on this further, and whether or not this is correct, further translations will be required to broaden this area of learning.

Footnotes
[1] G. Rex Smith, medieval Muslim Horsemanship (London: The British Library, 1979) pp. 3, 27

[2] Ibid, p. 27

[3] Tabbaa, Yasser, Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), p. 29.

[4] Ultich Haarmann, “The late triump of the Persian bow: critical voices on the Mamluk monopoly on weaponary”, in Philipp, Thomas and Ulrich Haarmann (ed): The Mamluks in Egyptian Politics and Society (Cambridge, Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1998), p. 178.

[5] Kurtulus Oztopcu, A 14th Century Mamluk-Kipchak Military Treatise : Munyatu’I-Guzat (Los Angeles: University of California, 1986) p. 147

[6] Kjersti Enger Jensen, the Mamluk Lancer A philological study of Nihayat al-su’l wa-‘l-‘umniya fi ta ‘lim ‘a’mal al-furusiya (Oslo, University of Oslo, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, 2013) p. 77

[7] Ibid, p. 81

[8]  p.91

[9] P. 83

[10] P. 85

[11] Kurtulus Oztopcu, p. 154

[12] Ibid, p. 161

[13] p. 161

[14] P. 156

[15] P. 161

[16] Pp. 156-157

[17] P. 172

[18] Pp. 172-173

[19]Kjersti Enger, p. 89

[20] Kurtulus Oztopcu, p. 155

[21] Luis Pacheco de Narvaex section, Against the Alfanje, trans by Xose Nieto, ed by Ton Puery and Rob Runcares. p. 2

[22]Ibid p. 2

[23] p. 9

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