I have recently had the opportunity to do some work with the Black Fencer montante V4, which is a synthetic training sword of suitable dimensions and balance to practise systems written for the Iberian montante, but also the Italian spadone and the German zweihander. I think it is an excellent training tool, not only for learning these systems, but also for training and improving body mechanics for fencing with the longsword.
This review: motivation and transparency
I bought this sword for my own use in 2017. I have been using it for solo drills and general montante training since then. I want to share my thoughts about a training sword that has served me well for a couple of years.
When I bought this montante for myself, the Academy of Historical Arts online shop had been distributing Black Fencer synthetics in the UK for a while. Although I could have been influenced by the desire to sell more, I only try to stock items in our shop that I’m willing to use myself for sparring and training. Our shop doesn’t usually keep these tools in stock any more due to the fluctuations of currency and supply and demand, although we do sometimes receive requests to order them in.
(Edit: this “motivation” section was added on the 9th of March 2019, as part of an effort to improve the transparency of the various reviews on this website.)
The dimensions are as follows (taken from the Black Fencer website):
– total length: 158 cm
– blade length: 116 cm
– weight: Around 2 kg
The dimensions (other than weight) are broadly in line with the shape and size of two-handed swords in museums.
The weight is significantly less than that of original two-handed swords, of course, because plastic is a lighter material than steel. However, the balance and handling is very reasonable. The feeling of mass in the blade is preserved, so although the montante is not so much heavier than some modern feders (such as the Trnava, which weighs around 1.8 kg), more effort is required to get the sword into motion and to stop it at the end of a strike.
Since working with a montante requires much better body mechanics than most people learn for the longsword, it can be quite a shock to the system when beginning to study this kind of system. Therefore, having a slightly lighter training sword will put the body under less stress while learning the right mechanics, and this will help practitioners to avoid injury. For this reason it is an excellent stepping stone between fencing with a longsword and working with a steel montante, and I would recommend it highly to anyone looking to make this jump.
The blade is rather large and thick, and so there is not much flexibility, meaning that thrusts are likely to be very painful. However, users must keep in mind that it is a montante, not just a longsword, and so anything you do with it will probably hurt your training partner! So play gently, or gear up with lots of protective equipment; but don’t expect it to hit lightly just because it is made from plastic.
Crossguard and siderings
The crossguard and siderings are made from steel, of roughly the same thickness as the Black Fencer longsword crossguards. The side rings are not particularly obtrusive. There are no sharp points, and all edges are smooth. The terminals of the crossguard are rounded and enlarged a little, making them a little safer, without requiring rubber tips to be added.
I feel that the price is very fair. It is perhaps 30-40% of the cost of a steel montante, making it relatively accessible to those on a budget. However, it does not feel like a “cheap” item, as the finish and quality is up to the usual standard you would expect from Black Fencer.
This is an excellent training tool, with the correct kind of dimensions and a good balance. The weight is a little less than it would be for a steel montante, but this serves to make it an excellent stepping stone for people who would like to begin practising with montante, until their muscles develop and their mechanics improve. I enjoy working with this tool and recommend it highly.
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.