Guy Windsor's Swordschool

Strategic Optimism, and Really Big Knives

Published 22 days ago • 2 min read


I have been getting stuff off my plate lately, in preparation for jetting off to Singapore on Wednesday. This included finally finishing the complete transcription and translation of the Getty MS version of Il Fior di Battaglia. I will be publishing it eventually, but for now I’ve shared it just with my Patrons on Patreon.

It’s a relief, and also a necessary step on the way to completing my From Medieval Manuscript to Modern Practice series. So having got the wrestling section out of the way, I’ll be moving on to the dagger material next.

It’s quite a responsibility filling in this space in your inbox: I don’t take your attention lightly. So I thought I’d take a moment to share the best idea I’ve had for ages. It’s a mindset frame.

Be tactically pessimistic, and strategically optimistic.

Strategy is your overall approach to a goal. Tactics are the specific actions you take to follow your strategy.

Going into a fencing match, you should believe you can win. Now, you may need to frame winning in such a way that the belief is credible. For instance, I might “win” if I don’t let so-and-so hit me with his favourite arm shot. Or if I don’t lose 5-0 to her this time, but get to actually score a point. Or I actually win! But given that the goal is credible, you then create a strategy to accomplish that goal. For example, control the weapon and strike.

One tactic you may use could be to feint, to draw their weapon into a predictable path, so you can avoid it and strike on the other side.

I do expect my strategy to work. I do not necessarily expect my tactics to. So I am not surprised when you manage to parry my real attack after I elegantly avoided your parry.

I find this applies to all areas of life. For instance, on the business side of things, I do expect sword people to want to buy sword books. So producing historical martial arts books is a good strategy. But I don’t expect any specific book to do well or badly. Nor am I surprised when a marketing tactic doesn’t perform well, but having a mailing list of the kind of people who are likely to want to read my books is a solid component of my overall strategy for making a living.

Sharing a link to my shop is probably a good tactic though: go to for all your sword-book needs!

But I won’t be surprised if this specific instance of it doesn’t yield any sales.

The same is true for any kind of activity. Remain pessimistic about specific tactics. But believe wholeheartedly in your strategy.

Eat right and move a lot is a great overall strategy for physical health. But a specific diet, or foodstuff, or supplement, or exercise program, or push-up or weight lift may or may not work for you. Believe in the strategy: be optimistic. Do not put your faith in a specific tactic: be pessimistic.

As you can tell I haven’t fully formulated this idea yet, but it’s already useful in its current state, so have a play with it and let me know what you think!

This week on The Sword Guy: Messers and More, with Bob Brooks

Robert (Bob) Brooks is one of the original generation of historical fencers, who began training with me in the Dawn Duellists’ Society in the early 90s. He founded the Hotspur School of Defence in 2003. So it's turning 20 this year. He has been teaching primarily German historical martial arts and he has taught in over 30 countries on five continents.

Bob is the author of the new book At Your Mercy: The Foundational Guide to the Messer. We talk about why it was needed and what the book covers. We also talk about a fascinating academic study into Bronze age weapons, which Bob and his school were involved in.

You can find the episode here:



Guy Windsor's Swordschool

Dr. Guy Windsor is a world-renowned instructor and a pioneering researcher of medieval and renaissance martial arts. He has been teaching the Art of Arms full-time since founding The School of European Swordsmanship in Helsinki, Finland, in 2001. His day job is finding and analysing historical swordsmanship treatises, figuring out the systems they represent, creating a syllabus from the treatises for his students to train with, and teaching the system to his students all over the world. Guy is the author of numerous classic books about the art of swordsmanship and has consulted on swordfighting game design and stage combat. He developed the card game, Audatia, based on Fiore dei Liberi's Art of Arms, his primary field of study. In 2018 Edinburgh University awarded him a PhD by Research Publications for his work recreating historical combat systems. When not studying medieval and renaissance swordsmanship or writing books Guy can be found in his shed woodworking or spending time with his family.

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