On Sword Fighting

An excellent overview of a lost art, comes to us via Instapundit. It would seem so much of what we know today is wrong, including this absurd notion by the proponents of gun control that man doesn’t know or shouldn’t be concerned with the concept of violence outside the realm of firearms. From the article:

Only recently in the last decade or so has this extraordinary and all but forgotten material finally come to be properly examined and studied. Reconstruction of these remarkable teachings offers an unparalleled view into how fighting men prepared and trained themselves for duels, street-fights, and battlefield encounters. Their manner of fighting with swords is not the classical Western style we see today, which is largely a contrived 19th-century gentleman’s version of a narrow, aristocratic Baroque style. What the surviving sources show us is wholly different from the familiar pop-culture version, as well as being dramatically distinct from what has gone on for years in assorted reenactments and contrived living-history efforts. Rather, Medieval and Renaissance sword fighting was a hell of a lot more violent, brutal, ferocious, and astonishingly effective. The way in which these swords were held, the way they can be maneuvered, and the postures and motions involved, differ substantially from common presumptions and modern-era fencing styles.

Read the whole thing. Maybe, much like 80s movies featuring gunplay look silly and ridiculous to modern, trained eyes, that movies featuring swordplay will get better, and find better ways to realistically portray it.

UPDATE: Some video from the author:

14 thoughts on “On Sword Fighting”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, I always loved swords and old fighting methods.

    That would be pretty scary to have a guy lunging at you like that with a real blade, any of those hits they did across the body would likely be fatal.

    1. Especially when you consider they would have been sewn up with an unsterilized needle and thread, and that there were no antibiotics.

      1. Interesting. saving that to watch/read later.

        As a tid bit, The ‘Game of Thrones’ series has had some rather brutal and realistic sword action (for a fantasy series) but then again what would one expect from a writer who wanted to write a non-fantasy historical fantasy. Also the 2010 film ‘Black Death’. Brutal, exhausting, painful. It’s a bit of an underrated film due to it’s pace.

    1. Interesting. I don’t doubt it, but where would you learn proper knife fighting methods? I mean is there a formal way to do that? I would presume that unlike swordfighting, knife fighting throughout most of history was illicit, practiced by the bottom rung of society, and is probably experience (scar) based. I could well be wrong on that…

      1. I was taught in the Marines. You keep that blade close to your arm backhanded and grapple. You don’t stick it out in front of yourself – it will be taken away and your arm broken.

        When the opportunity presents itself, you slash at the vulnerable spots such as the eyes. Once your grappling or slashing gets you into an advantageous position, then you stab.

  2. Boy, that guy sure does like to repeat himself and not tell you anything.

    1. Yup. Clements is certainly an authority on swordplay. He’s also nright that the state of sword scholarship has improved immensely in the last decade. He neglects to mention that it has largely left him behind. His books lead the charge in the late 90s, but nobody seems to read or recommend them anymore.

      1. Well, where should we go today?

        I’d love to learn how to fight with a European style sword.

        1. Jeff, yup. Of course he apparently drives people who disagree with him out of ARMA leadership positions so that at least has led to a lot of growth.

          Spade, go onto the various sword forums and look for Salle d’Armes near your home.

          use google as well, they are out there.

        2. Go to Swordforum and try to find someone local. If you want something less formal, Sword Buyers Guide has more of a backyard sword culture.

          There are also a number of good books, but I’m not sure which are currently the pick of the crop. It largely depends upon what school you wish to follow. Silver has been popular online because he’s English and so somewhat understandable even in the original texts. I also have one of Mark Rector’s books on Highland Broadsword which are largely taken from British Colonial and Napoleonic period military manuals.

      2. Got it in one. John occupies an interesting place in the western martial arts community as one of the most polarizing and widely disliked individuals you’ll ever find.

  3. Much like people for so long believed swords were heavy; real fighting swords are light, 2-3 pounds in the medieval period.

  4. At the risk of sounding “unmanly”….”squeeee” in a baritone.

    There’s a salle near me that teaches historical swordplay.

    While I’m probably too old, fat, and broken to develop much skill, I have a 12 year old that likes swords.

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