Ten Years Later…
In late 1998, Curtis Wong’s Multi-Media Publishing published the third and expanded edition of The Secret History of the Sword: Adventures in Ancient Martial Arts, first published by the now-defunct Hammerterz Verlag.
The book has been in print for over 12 years, in 4 printings.
It is still widely considered a cornerstone of the modern Historical Martial Arts movement and has been quoted in several dozen books, articles, and dissertations.
The title is now out of print and no longer actively marketed by the publisher (or, better, the company who acquired the business that absorbed our original publisher.) Remnant copies of the last print-run can be bought here.
Here’s what people have said about it:
“It contains something for practically anyone with a remote interest in any facet of western swordplay.” Stoccata (Australia)
“This book is not so much an alternative history — although it does deviate provocatively from standard fare at times — as it is a grand collection of the bits and pieces of fencing lore that have fallen between the cracks of time, and have been otherwise forgotten or ignored. (…) Unless your brain is set in concrete, you won’t be disappointed.” Fencers Quarterly
“The author never fails, even for a moment, to entertain and enlighten.” Ken Mondschein
“Simply the liveliest book about fencing I have ever read. (Aldo Nadi’s autobiography comes close, but it is mainly about him, not the sport!)” Richard Cohen, author of By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions
“The Japanese don’t hold a monopoly on fascinating swordhistory and evolving combat methods. Europe has equally venerablesword traditions, ably revealed and chronicled in J. Christoph Amberger’s The Secret History of the Sword: Adventures in Ancient Martial Arts. Evidently, your average Western sports fencer has as little idea of the ‘true’ history of the art as does your average Japanese sports kendoka. Misinformation and myths abound (sound familiar?).
“In The Secret History of the Sword, Amberger does a remarkable job of laying many of these to rest, correcting prevailing misconceptions with numerous primary accounts of sword combat throughout European history from medieval trial by combat to modern German student dueling fraternities.
“Amberger uncovers many of the realities of both battle and personal combat with blades–and he knows whereof he speaks: as a member of a German student dueling fraternity he participated in seven Mensuren, armed with a live blade. His story and the others he presents are loaded with useful information. (…)
“The chapter ‘Men of Iron’ covers a topic relevant to all involved in the pursuit and study of combat systems, ancient or modern, Eastern or Western–the fact of fear and its effects on even the most well-trained combatants. (…)
“The entire volume is simply fascinating reading; my sole complaint is that for someone not up on the details of Western fencing terminology, it can get a little confusing at first. I found that Part Two cleared up a lot of those details for me, so you might want to consider reading it first, then going back to the beginning.
“All in all, I recommend this book highly to anyone with an interest in swords!” — Dianne Skoss, koryubooks.com
“One of the very best sword works I’ve seen, as interesting and sounder than Burton and Nadi — though the latter had more women in it. (…) I (…) enjoyed the book enormously.” — Robert W. Smith, a.k.a. “John Gilbey” (author of The Secret Fighting Arts of the World), in a personal letter to the author
“Occasionally, a fencing book comes along that challenges the way the art of the sword is perceived. The Secret History of the Sword, by J. Christoph Amberger (Multi-Media Books, 1999) is one such book. It is, simply put, a fascinating read. (…) The Secret History of the Sword is in a category all its own. It covers a lot of uncharted territory. (…)
“Amberger’s writing adds a new dimension to fencing’s perceived character. It reminds us that the history of the sword is not merely the accounts and teachings of the Marozzos, Labats and Angelos, but that there is a wealth of information beneath an often explored surface. (…)
“There are many curious facets, some opinion, and much entertaining to be had in this book. By all means, buy it and read it from cover to cover. Savor it. J. Christoph Amberger is a talented writer. Unless your brain is set in concrete, you won’t be disappointed by The Secret History of the Sword. — American Fencing, Summer 1999
“Well researched and interesting compendium of little known or appreciated realities of European swordsmanship.” — Hop-Lite, No. 7, Spring 1999
“The Secret History will entertain you more than a little…and teach you a lot. (…) Amberger provides his readers with an amazing amount of information without being too academic. He approaches his subject with an obvious love for it and with a lot of humor. I’m not famous, not a guy, and don’t have a similar special knowledge, but I, too, recommend The Secret History of the Sword.” — Annie Morris, Veteran Fencers Quarterly, June 1999