Fencing with mixed weapons

Keith Farrell and Yvain Rit fencing with longswords at TaurHEMAchia 2017. Photo by Andrea Boschetti, 2017.

An idea that seems to be enduringly popular is to see what happens when fencing with mixed weapons; if one person as a longsword and the other a messer, or sabre against rapier, or spear against sword and buckler, for example. Some combinations are of course quite far-fetched, but others are quire reasonable, and there are even some sources that discuss fencing with one weapon against a different type of weapon.

So why don’t we see people fencing with mixed weapons more often? This article will attempt to answer the question from my point of view.

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What is HEMA to me?

Codex icon. 394a, folio 113v. Image from the Wiktenauer website.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 10th June 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

We all have different motivations behind our practice of HEMA, and we also tend to have slightly different understandings of what HEMA is exactly, what all it covers and describes, and what it excludes. Rather than try to answer the question of “what is HEMA?”, this article will look at what I personally understand to be HEMA, and where I draw my lines.

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Curved Swords and “Polish Sabre”

Keith Farrell with a Polish sabre. Photo by Miri Zaruba, 2013.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 24th June 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

I have a curved sword. When I fence with it, am I practising Polish sabre?

The reconstruction of 17th century Polish fencing with the sabre has been gaining in popularity for a few years now, with various researchers and interpreters working to improve their own understanding of the issue, and teaching their ideas at events and gatherings. Several items of research have been produced and published, including translations, articles, books, and sword typologies.

However, along with the surge of interest among scholars and the publication of research, it is becoming more common to hear people state that they “do Polish sabre”, or to make assertions that this or that kind of guard or technique “can be found in Polish sabre”. In fact, it is quite possible to see some people “doing Polish sabre” and for the resulting fencing to look no different from how they “do British sabre” or indeed how they “do messer”. There are of course people who put incredible amounts of time and effort into training a fencing system that could well be an excellent reconstruction of 17th century Polish fencing with the sabre, but there are also people who dabble, and so “doing Polish sabre” has become a relatively common refrain.

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Ethical considerations with antique swords, part 2: cutting

A 1796 pattern British light cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 12th February 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

This is going to be a short article, presenting an ethical consideration. The previous article in this series discussed the problem of people sparring with antique swords; in this article, the focus will be on using antique swords for test cutting.

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Ethical considerations with antique swords, part 1: sparring

An 1885 pattern British cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 29th January 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

This is going to be a short article, presenting an ethical consideration. Some HEMA groups who study sabre have collected antique sabres, filed them down and blunted them for safety, and then have used these antiques for their training and sparring activities. Perhaps this was more common a decade ago than it is now, but every so often I come across references to the idea when people are discussing where to buy a good training sabre.

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Preservation, cleaning, and restoration of blades – historical and otherwise

Albion Talhoffer in a DOHEMA sheath. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2017.

This is a guest article by Adam Severa. Originally, Adam posted this to Facebook, and I asked if I could host it on my blog to help preserve the article for posterity and for more easy reference and access in the future. He kindly agreed, and gave the article a little editing before sending it over to me for hosting on the blog.

I’m going to preface this article with a disclaimer: I’ve restored and repaired a fair number of vintage and modern knives and blades over the years, but I make no claims to be a restoration professional by any means. What follows is based upon my personal experiences and observations – you should always consult an actual professional if there is a chance your blade has historical or personal significance.

Now that that’s out of the way, chances are you have a blade in front of you. Maybe it’s a sword, feder, knife, or some other previously pristine sharp object that isn’t so pristine anymore. You want to do something with it, but you’re not sure what. The purpose of this article is to explain what comes next and the differences between preservation, cleaning and restoration.

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