I recently realised that there are certain longswords that I like borrowing at events. When I travel for teaching, I often ask the organisers if I can borrow a sword, since this makes my travelling easier and usually makes the cost of travelling cheaper for the organisers – so this is usually how it goes!
I am always grateful when I can borrow a sword for an event, because it does make my life easier. However, sometimes I am able to borrow a longsword that lets me showcase my art better than when I borrow other swords. I can tell almost immediately upon picking up a sword just how well I will be able to show my art with it. There are certain models of sword that always delight me when I learn that I will be able to borrow them for the event, because of how they handle and how they let me fence, and I realised that this makes for quite a good basis for deciding which swords to recommend to other people.
In this article, I will discuss quite briefly the specific models of longsword that always make me happy when I can borrow them, and this will lead to some discussion and conclusion about what makes a good training sword in general.
The Albion Liechtenauer is a lovely longsword. It handles nicely and is very pretty! It also performs in a way that is very appropriate for the 15th century Liechtenauer method. It also has appropriate dimensions for this period and system.
Being a longsword blunt rather than a feder, it can hit pretty hard if you swing at someone and leave it up to their protective gear to keep them safe. If you pay attention to what you are doing and take responsibility for the safety of everyone involved in the training drill or sparring bout, then it is entirely possible to fence fast and with intensity, without breaking anyone or causing harm.
I feel that with this sword, I can give an excellent representation of Liechtenauer’s art, and in fact I can probably achieve better results in sparring than when I have a long and light feder with a ridiculously long handle.
The Albion Meyer is a bit lighter than the Albion Liechtenauer, so it is perhaps a little more forgiving on the receiving end of blows, and is also an excellent tool for people who a bit shorter (since it is not too long) or a bit weaker (because it is well balanced and not heavy). It has a schilt, which my thumb often appreciates!
Again, it has appropriate dimensions for a good demonstration of the 15th century Liechtenauer method. It is not too long, and it has enough presence in the blade to allow many of the techniques from the sources to be implemented successfully.
The Ensifer Light is quite a nice sword. It handles well and the aesthetics are very pleasing.
The dimensions of the light version of the sword are quite appropriate for 15th century fencing according to Liechtenauer, and it is light enough to handle quickly without hitting hard. It also has plenty of presence in the blade, allowing techniques to work properly when you are patient.
There are longer and heavier versions of the Ensifer feder, but I don’t particularly like them. They might be better for someone significantly bigger and stronger than me, but the Ensifer Light is (I think) the best version of this sword.
Regenyei Museum Replica Feder
The Museum Replica feder by Regenyei Armory is a tool that is modelled after measurements of an original feder in the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. It handles nicely in the hand and is perfect for demonstrating 16th century fencing according to Mair, Meyer, Paurenfeindt, the Kolner Fechtbuch, or really any of the “common fencing” material.
It has relatively little presence in the blade, and coupled with having a very long handle, I don’t think it performs particularly well for the 15th century Liechtenauer method. But this is certainly not a problem, because that is not the only game I play! It is ideal for the 16th century Germanic methods.
One of the other reasons I like this feder is because it is a close replica of precisely the kind of sword that was used for training fencing in the 16th century. It seems only appropriate to use the correct training tool for the job when it is available!
Finally, the spatulated shape of the point, coupled with the flexibility, mean that thrusts are relatively gentle and are less likely to damage my training partners.
Regenyei Standard Feder
I must qualify this by saying that there are some elements of the standard feder that make me happy, and some that do not. The Regenyei standard feder is also one of the swords that I often dislike using if some of the elements are not so great. Because there are so many variations of this sword available, it is always somewhat pot-luck whether it will be a good item or not.
I have written previously with advice about buying your first Regenyei feder and I think the advice still holds true. A medium blade is much safer than a heavy blade, because it allows me to perform thrusts without worrying about the safety of my training partner. A broad schilt is better than any other wacky design because it makes the blade appropriately broad at the base, like a real sword should be. A handle that is about three hands in length is ideal; too short and I can’t get my Sparring Gloves on it; too long and the hilt starts getting in the way. The grip and the pommel should probably be simple, rounded, and generally comfortable – because otherwise it is uncomfortable.
Any other configuration might “look cool” or be entirely down to personal preference, but this is the configuration that I think works best for the majority of people and allows for best demonstration of the art.
The standard feder by Regenyei is not something that makes me particularly excited. However, it can be a solid and reliable training tool that does let me demonstrate my art reasonably effectively and safely, and so I definitely appreciate it for that reason.
Regenyei Trnava Light
The Trnava Light feder by Regenyei Armory is an excellent training tool. The standard Tnava model is a bit too heavy for many practitioners, and perhaps hits a bit harder than I like, but the Light version is excellent.
It has plenty of blade presence, allowing for solid binds, while also having a large surface area on the point combined with plenty of flex in the final third of the blade, making the receipt of thrusts much less painful or dangerous than it can be with other swords.
This model handles nicely and allows me to demonstrate either my 15th century Liechtenauer fencing or my 16th century common fencing, without any problems.
I always appreciate it when people lend me a sword at an event, regardless of what the sword is. However, some swords inspire significantly more joy than others, and allow me to express my art to a much greater degree than when I use other tools.
When thinking about swords from this perspective, this does seem to produce a reasonable list of reliable (and helpful) training swords for people who might be considering what sword to acquire.
If anyone at my club bought a sword from this list, I would be delighted, and would expect that the choice should both help my student improve at fencing and allow for a greater expression of their art as their skills improve.
What swords have you used where you have experienced a genuine joy at how the sword lets (or helps) you express your art?
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.