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Circle of Steel
Medieval Close Combat

A Documented Tradition Over 600 Years Old!

During the Middle Ages, the warriors of Europe developed a powerful style of combat that was equally victorious on the battlefield in times of war, on the street for suppressing riots or in personal defense, and in a personal or judicial duel to the death. As the wars raged across Europe, fighting techniques were tempered in the forge of battle, and the swordsmen of each country perfected the techniques which they would pass on to the next generation.

Though the techniques of killing in any country are inherently part of an oral folk tradition, passed on from one warrior to another, starting in the mid 1300's we find books teaching fighting techniques were being made in small numbers, each one carefully reproduced by hand.  Some of these books contained only a few dozen illustrated techniques, but others, such the works by Fiori Dei Liberi and Hans Talhoffer, catalog literally hundreds of individual techniques and counters.

By the 1400's these manuscripts were produced in an ever increasing number, with some authors writing multiple books in their lifetime. This continued throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with books being written in many countries, though the vast majority came from Germany and Italy.  If the 1400’s were the heyday of Medieval close combat, then this was also the golden era of the “Fechtbuch” (fight-book).

In the surviving combat manuals, most contain long sections on unarmed striking and grappling, unarmed defense against the dagger, and dagger fighting. They show systematic joint locks, breaks, throws, disarms, counters, ground grappling, strikes, clinches, holds and more. The unarmed system is also fully integrated into the sword and spear work, with the majority of the techniques shown involving some degree of "close work”.  You will see identical techniques (particularly throws and arm locks) done with all the different weapon forms, showing the integrated nature of this system.

The Alliance Circle of Steel program focuses primarily on the Medieval dagger and unarmed combat methods as described in the German fighting manuals. The skills of masters such as Liechtenauer, Lignitzer, Huntfeltz, Talhoffer, and others are presented clearly and accurately. Many of these skills in dagger fighting and unarmed combat are as relevant today as they were in the 1400's, when they were in active use.

The German spear, longsword, messer (short-sword) and buckler are also taught as part of the integrated curriculum. COS uses metal blunts, wooden wasters and padded contact weapons in this capacity. The COS program does not include armored fighting, equestrian, or tournament considerations (there are other fine organizations teaching these skills).

Circle of Steel Articles
Etiquette, Swordsmanship is not just fencing
By Frank Docherty of
New Albion

Fiore DeiLiberi's 7 Rules of Wrestling: Attributes Training from the Master

Five Techniques from the Masters of Medieval Combat

History of the Medieval Dagger

History of the Renaissance Dagger

Injury and Safety in Training - Lessons from the Past Year
By Greg Mele of the
Chicago Swordplay Guild

Solthurner Fechtbuch Dagger Fighting Techniques

Spada & Daga - The Real Italian Fencing Art
By Graziano Galvani of Nova Scrimia

Tournament Invasion Party 2001

Pictures and Reports from Circle of Steel Seminars
Chicago, IL, 1999
Western Martial Arts Workshop

Chicago, IL, February 2000
Medieval Dagger and Grappling Seminar

Oxford, England, April 2000
Medieval Dagger and Grappling Seminar

Lansing, MI, May 2000
Art of Combat International Seminar

Toronto, Canada, October 2000
Medeival Dagger and Grappling Seminar

Des Moines IA, September 2001
USA Knife Combatives Camp

Canadian Historical Martial Arts Workshop

May 11, 2002 in Toronto, Canada

2nd Annual Medieval Swordsmanship Symposium & Pas d'Armes

June 7th - 9th, 2002 in Livermore, CA

Evolution of the Blade
Western Knife Arts from Medieval to Modern

June 21-23, 2002 in London, England

Learn How YOUR Group can Host a
Circle of Steel Seminar with Alliance!

Medieval Combat Links
Renaissance Combat Links

Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts

Chicago Swordplay Guild

Company of Masters

Dawn Duelists Society


The Exiles

Die Freifechter

Historical European Martial Arts

Purpleheart Armories

School of Two Swords

St. Martin's Academy of Medieval Arms

Sword Forum

Tournament Productions
Association for Historical Fencing

International Masters at Arms Federation

London Masters of Defense

Martinez Academy of Arms

Nova Scrimia

Prima Spada School of Fence

Secret History of the Sword

Stoccata School of Defense

Swordplay Symposium International

William Wilson's Fencing Pages

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