Comparing how swords were used – the importance of the hilt

It has been on my mind for a while that in the study of medieval and renaissance longsword fencing, the length of the grip is the greatest characteristic when determining how a specific sword can (or should) be used. Many people look at the blade length or the blade profile when thinking about how a sword should be used, but I think this method is misleading to some extent. It is not my intention to say that the blade length and profile have no bearing at all on the handling of the weapon – this would be a wrong statement to make – but rather to suggest that the length of the hilt is the most important factor in choosing a style for using a longsword.

The swords that will be used for reference in this article are as follows:

1) a Hanwei practical hand-and-a-half sword;

2) an Albion Meyer;

3) a standard federschwert made by Peter Regenyei.

Top to bottom: Hanwei practical hand-and-a-half, Albion Meyer, standard federschwert by Peter Regenyei.

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One Art of the Sword

One theory that has frequently argued about is the One Art of the Sword theory. In the off chance that you’ve not heard this theory before, it is drawn from the following quote in the Ms.3227a:
And before other things you should notice and know that there is only one art of the sword, and it was invented and put together many hundreds of years before, and it is a basis and a core of all the arts of fighting. Master Liechtenauer learnt and mastered this art in a thorough and rightful way, but he did not invent and put together this art, as it is stated before. Instead, he travelled and searched many countries with the will of learning and mastering this rightful and true art.”
Ms.3227a, folio 13v, translation by Zabinski
Depending on how the theory is stated it can either mean that different arts use the same principles, even if the methods used differ (which is the point of view advanced by Christian Tobler and Greg Mele in their handout There is but One Art of the Sword,, or it can be used to mean that different traditions are highly inter-related and should be combined and practiced at the same time (such a point of view has been held by ARMA for example). For more information please see the afore-mentioned handout by Tobler and Mele and The Pan-European Art by Brandon Heslop and Casper Bradak (
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Sparring Games

Alex preparing for the games

Alex preparing for the games

This week I am stepping in to cover Alex who will be posting next week. I decided since it is the end of our semester here in the AHA and many of our combat programme clubs are running sparring evenings and other fun nights that I would post up a few of my favourite sparring games. I have collected these over the last two decades from various combat activities and I am even proud to have created a few myself. Some of you will recognise a few of the games but hopefully there is at least one new game for everyone in here. I have left out specifics of kit requirements as that is up to you based on your own health and safety requirements, the same with general safety. I have tried to note specific safety issues related to the game in question.

As I believe strongly that activities we do in class should always be advancing our students in some way I have given a list of proposed outcomes with each game, this list is incomplete but I hope it will get you thinking about what you hope to get out of the games.

Read on for details and be sure to comment with some of your favourite games as well, I would love to hear your ideas and to try them out some time with my classes.

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