It took some time for Gregory Mele to get round to watching The Witcher on Netflix. That’s as a result of, because the founding father of Chicago’s solely full-time European martial arts college, he spends lots of time hitting folks with heavy steel objects.

Now that he’s lastly made it to the top of season 1, Polygon requested the founding father of the Chicago Swordplay Guild — an skilled on medieval- and Renaissance-era close-quarters fight — to weigh in on Henry Cavill’s skill with the blade. Seems that Superman did a reasonably good job.

“It’s plausible that he’s a fighter,” Mele informed Polygon through electronic mail, earlier than launching into a wonderful dissection of a few of The Witcher’s greatest battle scenes.

Netflix recently published a YouTube video by which Cavill discusses his time combating as Geralt of Rivia. Within the video, which has been considered almost 900,000 occasions, he talks in regards to the totally different swords he used whereas filming the present, and the way he wanted them to be modified to go well with his wants. To Mele, the outcomes are spectacular.

“Geralt (within the present) is armed with a reasonably quick longsword, a fantasy equal to a type of the sword which may have existed round 1400 A.D.,” Mele stated, “two-handed hilt on a blade not, or not for much longer, than a one-handed sword, making a weapon that’s suited to make use of in a single or two fingers, which suggests you may as well use in on horseback, or, in case you should, with a protect. I believe the blade remains to be a contact quick, however as fantasy swords go, it’s fairly life like.”

Additionally life like is Cavill’s stagecraft — and, actually, the work of the complete fight arts crew on this system, in keeping with Mele.

“The battle scenes are fast-paced, dynamic and Henry Cavill has confirmed in Superman, Immortals, Justice League, and many others, that he has lots of physicality and may deal with battle choreography,” Mele stated. “They’ve designed a ‘type’ for Geralt: highly effective slashes, normally made after he parries (what is named a dangling parry), straight thrusts after which fast transitions to a reverse grip, usually holding the sword by the forte (base of the blade), together with his hand wrapped across the guard. From right here, he makes use of thrusts and in shut slashes. He normally strikes from one grip to the opposite at the side of pirouettes.”

What was notably fascinating to Mele was how Cavill positions his fingers. Two battle scenes specifically caught the eye of followers, and each occur within the very first episode. One sees Geralt go up towards Renfri’s troopers within the streets, whereas the second pits the Witcher towards Renfri herself, as performed by Emma Appleton (Traitors). In each, you possibly can see Cavill utilizing a reverse grip — that’s, holding his fingers together with his thumbs pointing away from the blade.

From the Kunsthistorisches Museum manuscript KK5012. It was written by Peter Falkner, licensed Grasp of the Lengthy Sword and three-time Hauptmann of the Marxbrüder fencing guild, in 1495 and illustrated by an unknown artist.
Picture: Kunsthistorisches Museum

It’s that grip, partly, that offers Mele pause. Although it seems to be good on display screen, that’s not essentially how swords have been used again within the day.

“There IS some documentation for utilizing a longsword in a reverse grip,” Mele stated. “Extra usually this was accomplished on horseback, the place the sword was drawn when the lance broke after which simply thrust into somebody (and forgotten) like an enormous dagger. However there are a number of methods the place the longsword is definitely utilized in a reverse grip — discovered primarily in 15th century German sources.”

Mele stated that the historic reverse grip was used primarily as a transition to a powerful parry or a thrust, not essentially for stabbing somebody within the mouth and chopping their head in half down the center as if it have been a ripe cantaloupe.

“Geralt periodically makes use of the sword in a reverse grip to slash slightly than thrust, a way that may be largely ineffective towards the pretty heavy clothes of medieval Japanese Europe (or proven within the present),” Mele stated. “Medieval swords are sharp, however not razor sharp, nor does holding the blade in such a trend actually use the leverage of a protracted blade correctly to chop. So, I’m afraid {that a} central a part of Geralt’s combating type owes extra to Ninja and Zatoichi films from the 1980s than it does historic swordsmanship.”

In fact, Mele admits that it’s not a battle choreographer’s job to be traditionally correct. However Polygon requested, and so he was well mannered sufficient to weigh in. Personally, he stated he actually loved this system.

A group of students in Chicago under Gregory Mele hold wooden swords as they stand in a circle.

Gregory Mele throughout an introductory class on Italian longsword in 2015.
Picture: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

“Total the fights are quick and livid with some fundamental components of stable fencing, some showy, much less probably ones, a determined over-reliance and misuse of the reverse grip and a few out and out stupidity,” Mele concluded. “I think 15-year-old Greg would have beloved it! 40-something Greg … I can respect what they’re attempting to do — make Geralt’s combating uncommon and dynamic — and at the least the fights are fast-paced and competent. Which is greater than I may be stated for Recreation of Thrones, which, for as slick as its battle scenes might be, managed to provide a number of the worst dueling scenes I believe I’ve ever seen.”

For those who’re all in favour of a extra historic tackle a duel just like the one between Geralt and Renfri in The Witcher, try Andorea Olomouc on YouTube. Mele says the Czech martial artists know a factor or two, and bundle it properly for public consumption.