Book Review: The Forgotten Art of Fighting Against Multiple Opponents by Luis Preto


Most manuscripts that have survived to present day that instruct in how to fight with the long sword teach a martial art designed primarily for one against one dueling situations, such as a judicial duel or other kinds of duels of honor. Few manuscripts provide instruction for how to fight against multiple opponents. This leaves a gap in the historical record which must be filled in other ways by those seeking to reconstruct a complete combat system of long sword fencing.

This void in the historical record is where books such as The Forgotten Art of Fighting Against Multiple Opponents by Luis Preto play a role. Preto’s book is one of the more unique HEMA focused books as it provides some insights from the lesser known Portuguese stick fighting martial art, Jogo do Pau. According to the oral history of its practitioners, Jogo do Pau descends from medieval techniques of combat used by peasants that worked as foot soldiers and which over time become incorporated into a system designed for settling disputes between families in the rural mountainous areas of continental Portugal.

In his book Luis Preto has adapted many of the principles of Jogo do Pau that are applicable to fighting with a long sword or a montante (great sword) in an effort to reconstruct a system for fighting against multiple opponents as a solo swordsman.

Preto’s book discusses tactical concepts for facing up to four opponents as well as strategies for making an engagement with these opponents, with advice for crowd control techniques. The instruction includes advice on having solid body mechanics. managing range and timing when in a situation facing multiple opponents.

Preto’s book features numerous photographs providing step by step instruction in how to perform drills against multiple opponents.

The Forgotten Art of Fighting Against Multiple Opponents is broken down into a number of chapters focused on particular aspects of training. The first section focuses on Theoretical Principles and applying these principles during freestyle sparring against multiple opponents; the second section provides instruction on specific drills to perform against multiple opponents which is primarily focused on using several kinds of ‘sweeps’ such as a sweep from the dominant side, the non-dominant side, from the above and the backward sweep. The third section provides advice for employing these sweeps against three opponents. Instruction is provided when using a two-handed staff and a one-handed baton, with the techniques designed to be applicable to swordsmen using a two handed longsword or a single handed arming sword.

The photographs of the book are taken from multiple angles, helping to provide good instruction for readers seeking to replicate these drills in their own schools.

At 213 pages, the book provides a solid structure for HEMA practitioners seeking to incorporate drills against multiple opponents into their historical sword fighting practices, although the drills can also be used with other weapons such as polearms and staffs as depicted in this book.

Overall, The Forgotten Art of Fighting Against Multiple Opponents by Luis Preto is one of the few HEMA focused books that seeks to provide a foundation for developing a curriculum for training to sword fight against several opponents at once and adopting the principles of a historical European stick fighting art to integrate with the principles of historical European swordsmanship. The book is useful for anyone seeking to incorporate this lesser studied and researched aspect of historical European swordsmanship.


If you’d like to learn more information about historical fencing practices please check out our Learn HEMA page for a guide to learning about the historical weapon that interests you. You can also find more guides we’ve written about other topics at our Helpful Guides page. You can also join the conversation at our forums or our Facebook Group community.

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