Daniel Jaquet exercises a very serious profession. For several years, this medievalist is interested in the art of fighting in the Middle Ages to which he has just devoted a book (Combat in the Middle Ages, a history of martial arts in the West XIV-XVI century Arkhé editions). But what particularly characterizes this historian associated with the Center for Higher Studies of the Renaissance in Tours, is his taste for experimentation!
This enthusiast has indeed gone from the theoretical study of manuscripts and treatises on the martial arts of the fourteenth century … to the practice of these fights … moreover in armor! To do this, Daniel Jaquet has designed an armor sufficiently authentic to be used as part of an experimental Archeology approach. And since then he has not hesitated to use it in everyday life! So Daniel Jaquet has already tested his equipment at the supermarket, jogged in a park, climbed a climbing wall, used the Paris metro … and even flew between Paris and New York in September 2017!
„I had to go to the Metropolitan Museum in New York where I was officially invited to give a lecture,“ he explains with a smile, „for weight, clutter, and cost, the solution to wear armor to me was considered the best „. Equipped with duly stamped authorizations, Daniel Jaquet was able to board the plane, before however before undressing his armor at each passage of airport portals. „However, I admit that I did not make the US customs officers laugh …“, visibly less receptive despite all the passes.
It is thanks to the financial support of a foundation that Daniel Jaquet acceded several years ago to the very closed market of armor manufacturers and came into contact at the time with one of the best specialists in the Czech Republic to manufacture a copy. „We had to make compromises in the copying process, of course, because what interested me was above all to be able to do a behavioral study, to see how we moved with this equipment on the back rather than to attach myself to the number exact rivets,“ says Daniel Jaquet. The resulting model is based on an armor kept in Vienna (Austria) and on the results of metallurgical work carried out on this equipment of the fifteenth century by Alan Williams, the specialist of the Wallace Collection in London. „Thanks to that, we knew the composition and the hardness of the pieces that could be confronted with our replica“, continues the expert.
The shaping of the armor and the thirty pieces that compose it was made from an industrial steel sheet, in a body oven. „In the Middle Ages, we did not buy full armor, but different pieces to make assemblies,“ says the expert. Similarly, the weight was variable depending on the activity.“ For chivalrous games in tournaments, the helmet could weigh up to 6 kg, but to go to war, only helmets or 2kg salads were worn,“ says the historian for whom the armor must be used primarily to study the „normed“ fights, the coded and ritual combats that appear in the manuscripts.
These tests carried out in the laboratory with motion capture 3D have already made it possible to understand what were the limitations imposed on the mechanics of the body to better understand the way in which the movement was codified „and thus to be able to better interpret the texts“. Another discovery: the natural movements had no limitation. A walk with or without armor has only a tiny difference in terms of mobility. „The flexion-extension of the ankle is even greater in armor because of the weight worn!“ Says the historian. Tests performed on all joints in the three directions of movement have, however, revealed limitations of the order of 20%. „In fact, for tactical and protective reasons, certain arm movements were voluntarily restricted so as not to expose the weaknesses of the armor, which could have been exploited by the adversary“.