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Knights of Veritas

This FAQ pertains mostly to questions about our presentations and educational services.
For a FAQ that addresses our training, please visit
Veritas Swordplay Academy.

• What is "Veritas?" What is the significance of the name?

Veritas is Latin for truth, and that is what we bring to our presentations. We present the facts, to the best of our current understanding, about arms, armour, culture, knighthood and chivalry of the medieval period with an emphasis on accurate and current scholarship, archaeology and interpretation.

• Are you affiliated with any other organizations?

No. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, intentionally independent of other groups or societies. We are professional living historians, speaking in a factual but modern manner on the subject of medieval arms, armour, culture, knighthood and chivalry. We are not reenactors in a member-based group presenting an idealized medieval fantasy nor interpreting historical topics as seen through the modern requirements of reenactment societies. By not having to adhere to the rules and regulations of another organization, we have the ability to present material that other groups cannot or will not cover. This allows us to stick as closely as possible to the facts, with clients frequently expressing relief that we are not hindered by the anachronistic practices of other organizations.

• What are your presentations like?

Our presentations are geared towards offering factual information about medieval arms, armour, culture, knighthood and chivalry in an engaging and entertaining way. Rather than by putting on plays or assuming fictitious identities, we do this by demonstrating historically correct techniques with the sword, both in and out of armour; calling on audience members for select hands-on experiences; allowing the audience the chance to hold the weaponry and try on armour; offering informative question/answer and discussion infused with facts and humor; free handouts and even a display of genuine medieval antiquities. We disspell myths, encourage critical thinking and literacy, and compel the audience to reconsider their beliefs on the topics we cover. We have many testimonials from happy clients and will gladly give references upon request. A sampling can be found on our Gallery page.

• Are you a religious organization or do you talk about religious subjects?

No, we are a secular non-profit educational organization. It is against our organizational bylaws to talk about religion outside the context of medieval history.

• Do you do any customizations to your programs?

Given sufficient notice, yes, we can research and incorporate specific topics into our standard programs.

• What ages are appropriate for your presentations?

Our presentations appeal to a wide range of ages. For the younger set, school-age children enjoy the exciting swordplay and interactivity, colorful clothing and of course the shining armour; older kids get more out of the technical detail and enjoy the chance to ask thoughtful questions; and even adults are fascinated, as many of them have grown up believing many of the long-held misconceptions. We've presented for many successful children, teen and family programs.

• Were there any women knights? How appropriate is your program for girls?

Indeed there were women knights, but the historical record is often unclear as to what roles they had in society. In some cases, such as the Order of the Hatchet, the knighthood was earned for the defense of their town, but likely honorary only; in others, such as the Order of the Garter, women could be inducted without being married to a male knight, but it is still unclear as to if this was a status symbol or something more. Contrary to popular belief, Joan of Arc was never knighted, but she is still one of numerous examples of women taking part in combat. Many young girls are fascinated with knights, swords, armour and combat, and we certainly encourage their questions and participation in our presentations!

• How does the Code of Chivalry play into this?

We believe that people today can still be inspired by the knight and learn from the Code of Chivalry, which was the rules a knight swore to live by. It is true that knights in history were known to have fallen short of achieving these virtues, but it was understood that it was something to strive for. By practicing the timeless values of chivalry, a person may not only improve themselves, but improve the lives of others and connect to that which is noble within all people. The Code of Chivalry as we advocate it is secular and neither religious nor denominational, and is accessible to all people of all creeds. In context to our presentations, the historical Code of Chivalry is important in understanding the social climate knights experienced in the middle ages, and this allows us to discuss the Code of Chivalry as it may be practiced today. What makes a knight a knight? It was their character, not their armour or sword.

• Do you do birthday parties and special events?

Generally speaking, no. Our format is ideal for educational environments such as schools, libraries, homeschool assemblies etc., rather than entertainment venues. We will consider birthday parties and other special events provided the client is absolutely clear about what we do.

• Do you bring horses to presentations and perform jousts? How many knights do you have?

In order to remain both cost-effective and versatile enough to present indoors or outdoors in a variety of venues, our presentations feature well-documented techniques of swordplay on foot only. Our standard school and library team is comprised of one knight and a stage manager; for larger events, we are capable of bringing additional armoured knights and incorporating live combat and other elements, such as our Family Engagement Activities.

Knights of Veritas sounds perfect for my event, but I can't afford the fee. What can we do to make it happen?

There are several ways to make a presentation more affordable. We can cut travel costs if we're able to arrange an additional booking at another location while we're in the area for your presentation. We can arrange a longsword or dagger mini-workshop and offset some of the presentation costs by selling workshop registrations (see Workshops under Booking). Finally, we can work together to find donors or sponsors in your area to help defray the costs of a presentation. Contact us for more information.

• How do I join?

We are not a member-based reenactment organization, but rather a professional organization of educators. We occasionally have volunteer positions available, and very seldom have paid positions available. If you are interested in learning historical swordsmanship, Veritas Swordplay Academy is open to those who are interested in studying with us.

• Do you use real swords?

Absolutely. The swords we use in our presentations are the same in design, weight and function as the historical originals. That being said, we do not bring sharp swords to our presentations, for obvious reasons. Even with dull edges, they remain quite potent and are not toys. It is our training which makes them safe for us to use in our presentations. For more details of our training, please visit Veritas Swordplay Academy.

• Do you make your own swords?

No. Our swords are made in the US by Albion Swords. Properly building a sword is a demanding art, involving not only making sure the weapon looks like an historical original, but also making sure it's weight, balance, center of percussion and performance are correct as well. Medieval knights didn't make their own swords, either. They, too, purchased them from experts who knew their craft very well.

• Weren't medieval swords heavy and awkward to use?

Not in the way that television and movies would have you believe. A longsword, which is approximately 48" in overall length, had a weight range of about 2.5 to 3.5 lbs. An average single-handed sword, with an overall length of about 38", weighed in at about 2 to 3 lbs. Even the largest two-handed swords ever meant for battlefield use in the renaissance period, sometimes at a towering 72", averaged only 6 lbs., with 8 lbs. being considered the very top end of acceptable weight for that type. Swords could get bigger and heavier, but such items were called bearing swords, and were meant for use only for display, such as in parades. As with any tool, to appreciate the characteristics of a weapon, one must train with it to learn how to effectively use it. The result is that the weapon becomes an extension of your body, facilitating deliberate and efficient movements, rather than brutish chopping as most people are accustomed to thinking. The best online source for sword measurements and weights is the Wallace Collection Online.

• Why don't you use shields?

Knights did use shields for a very large portion of the middle ages. However, by the late 1300s, which is the time period represented by Knights of Veritas, the protective quality of the armour itself had developed to the point that, aside from tournaments, the shield was no longer as necessary for the knight. This freed up the left hand to use two-handed weapons like the longsword, which is featured in our presentations. Additionally, there is abundant documentation for the usage of the longsword from the 1300s and on, while there is no known period documentation for the older form of knightly combat with large shields. Demonstrating large shield techniques for our time period would therefore be, at best, speculation.

• Is your armour real?

Absolutely. Our replica armour is really made of steel, and is similar in design, weight and function to the historical iron and steel originals. The main difference is that our armour is made of stainless steel, for ease of maintenance.

• What style is your armour?

Our armour is typical of that seen on knights in the late 1300s based on period illustrations, sculpture and surviving artifacts. During this time, mail armour was still used extensively, but was increasingly being supplemented by armour made of thin iron or steel plates. The mail-clad shield-carrying crusader of earlier times was now in the past, but the true "knight in shining armour," completely encased in plate armour, was still a few decades off as well. Hence, this phase of armour development is often referred to as the "transitional" period. Regionally, we are representative of knights as seen in central Europe, specifically German territories, though during our time period the style was broadly international in nature.

• Do you make your own armour?

Some of the armour we use was made by Knights of Veritas Director Eric Slyter, who was a professional full-time armourer for several years. Other parts were crafted by talented craftsmen from the world over, such as Poland and Ukraine. Crafting armour is a very specific sort of trade, and medieval knights didn't make their own armour. Usually, they sought the most "name brand" armourer they could, and would spend great sums of money to make sure that the armour not only fit correctly and functioned properly, but showed off their wealth and status as well.

• How much does a full suit of armour weigh?

Approximately 60 lbs., historically, for a suit of armour intended to be worn on the battlefield. The weight is well distributed across the body, and is far easier to wear on the body than carrying the same weight around in a sack. Some armour made for tournament jousting was built heavier and was more restrictive to movement, because it was essentially safety equipment only designed to protect the wearer while engaged in a specific, regulated, friendly activity. Battlefield armours required versatility, and could not be so heavy and restrictive or they would endanger the wearer. (armour weights: Heavy Metal: Focus on European Armour, Smith, 2004; among many others.)

• What if you fall down in the armour? Can you get back up?

Yes. Getting back up in full armour is not difficult. If wearing the armour actually endangered the wearer in the course of normal activities, it would not have seen such extensive use. The real question is if you can get up quickly enough when the person who knocked you down is still attacking you!

• Isn't the armour hot?

Yes, with layers of clothing worn underneath the armour and the armour itself, the heat is the worst thing about wearing the armour. As you move in the armour, your body temperature rises and the heat has nowhere to go. For this reason, and for the weight, the historical combat masters warned armoured combatants to keep their movement minimal so as to not tire out in their armour. Keep in mind, regarding comfort, that medieval Europe was several degrees cooler than today, and our representation is that of knights from central Europe, which would arguably have been cooler still.

• What sword style do you practice?

We study and demonstrate the techniques attributed to Johannes Liechtenauer, who was a German sword master. It is believed that he lived in the 1300s, and synthesized his distinctive fighting art after traveling extensively and studying with other masters. His original cryptic verses were elaborated upon by his successors in a tradition which saw dozens of manuscripts dated between 1389 and 1612. Knights of Veritas works primarily from manuscripts from the 1300s and 1400s, which was when the tradition was still intended for earnest combat rather than the sport-like forms it assumed in the 1500s and later. Liechtenauer's tradition is one of the major disciplines in the Historical European Martial Arts movement.

• What is Historical European Martial Arts?

Historical European Martial Arts, or HEMA for short, are the historical combat traditions of Western cultures, namely Europe. This is a matter of distinction from Eastern Martial Arts, popularly known in the form of such traditions as Karate, Kung Fu, etc., originating from Eastern cultures. Unfortunately, when people think "martial arts," the tendency is to immediately think of Eastern forms to the exclusion of all else. The fact is that there are dozens of surviving manuals from the middle ages and renaissance which include illustrations and detailed descriptions of the combat forms popular in their day. Despite the abundance of such documentation, it is only since the late 1990s or so that Historical European Martial Arts have begun experiencing a renaissance of their own, with avid historians and practical-minded fighters attempting to re-create the historical combat arts of Europe.

• Are Historical European Martial Arts similar to Eastern Martial Arts?

In many ways, yes. The end result of any martial art grounded in effectiveness is to dispatch a foe quickly and simply, and those Eastern Martial Arts that retain these traits also share them with Historical European Martial Arts. The human body only has so many ways it can move, and those who were determined to hurt one another were very skilled at finding the very best ways of doing so, no matter what continent they came from. Possibly the largest difference may be that, since some Eastern Martial Arts have been passed down orally over so many generations, in some cases they have become a sport or fitness activity rather than a way of actually fighting. Since Historical European Martial Arts has no living tradition and is based on the interpretation of period manuscripts, those involved in interpreting them have the benefit of learning second-hand from those who literally lived and died by practicing these fighting arts in their original forms. Ultimately, what has been revealed is that the combat traditions of the European medieval and renaissance periods is easily on par with those of any other culture. Effective fighting is universal.

• Are Historical European Martial Arts similar to the fencing I've seen on the Olympics?

Only in a very limited way. Olympic style fencing is a modern sport that came about as a result of 19th Century duellists needing a safe way to train for duels. At that time, known as the "Classical" era of fencing, it was still about actually using the weapon for one's defense in a real encounter, and for that reason Classical fencing is considered a genuine martial art. Since modern fencing derived from Classical fencing, it has inherited a connection to an actual practical combat art. However, like some Eastern Martial Arts, modern fencing is not driven by defending one's life in a real fight with a real sword like a martial art would be, but rather a sport concerned with technical form and scoring points during a match. It's connection to an actual martial art isn't all that far back in it's past, but modern fencing does not resemble medieval combat.

• Are Historical European Martial Arts similar to what we see in movies?

Very little of what is seen in movies bears any resemblance to actual historical combat. It must be remembered at all times that movies, television, games, and other forms of entertainment are just that- entertainment. Most moves seen in stage or theatrical combat would get a person injured (or worse!) quickly if defending their life against someone skilled in historical combat arts. This is a distinction that we emphasize to our students at Veritas Swordplay Academy.

• What kind of horses did the knights ride for combat?

Contrary to popular belief, knights in history neither preferred nor required large, heavy horses that would be comparable to modern draft breeds like Clydesdales. Typically, the horses were 13.5-15 hands high (54" - 60" at the shoulder) and built solid with dense bone structure, more like today's Andalusian or Lipizzaner horses. Historically, however, horses were bred for type and traits, not specific breeds at that time. Among the traits that were specifically called out as desirable by the masters of the time were speed and agility, which were traits that could get the knight in and out of a tight situation quickly and safely. Most prized of all, though, was gait, or the smoothness with which the horse moved. When we consider that fully armoured knights were killed on the battlefield with very precise injuries such as a lance to the well-protected throat or eyes, we realize just how important a smooth gait is to the knight's ability to hit his target accurately. Although there are individual exceptions, draft breeds generally possess a rough, jarring gait that would be unsuitable for such precise combat. (The Medieval Warhorse and Its Equipment, Museum of London, 1995; The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, Anglo, 2000.)

• Isn't it true that a knight had to be put on horseback with a crane?

No, this is a myth. It originated with Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, wherein one of the illustrations of that book showed a knight being winched onto his horse. There is no documentation from any period source that indicates that this was necessary or ever done, and we know both from period accounts and modern experimentation that battlefield armour was not so heavy and restrictive as to require this.

• Wasn't everyone short back then?

Just as today, there were short, tall, and in-between people back then. Skeletal evidence of commoners in the 15th Century place the average male at about 5' 8" and the average female at about 5' 2". There are examples, of course, of people from that era that were shorter than average as well as those taller than average, just like today. (The Cemetery of St Nicholas Shambles, White, 1988, pgs 30-31.)

Knights of Veritas
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