Arms & Armor Spada da Zogho Sword
A hands-on review by Pamela Muir

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The study of western martial arts (WMA) encompasses many fighting forms, and among some of the more popular styles are the sword arts. Historical swordsmanship is an art of reconstruction—practitioners must interpret original fencing treatises by period masters such as Hans Talhoffer, Sigmund Ringeck and Fiore di Liberi. Western martial arts practitioners utilize a variety of weapons for training, such as padded swords, shinai, wooden and aluminum wasters, and of course, steel swords. Of all the training weapons, steel swords are the ones with the most potential for danger if not created correctly. Since itís never a good idea to seriously injure your training partner or yourself, the steel sword used for drilling or sparring practice should be designed differently than a sword that would be used for cutting practice. For instance, it should have a wider edge and some flexibility, and yet retain the balance and handling of a sword intended for battle.

Arms & Armor of Minnesota currently meets the unique needs of the WMA community with three training swords—the Fechtbuch, the Fechterspiel, and, most recently, the Spada da Zogho, which takes its name from the Italian term for "practice sword". Each sword is available with a training grade finish, but the sword reviewed here features the more polished standard-grade finish.

One of my sparring partners owns and enjoys using the Fechterspiel; consequently I have sparred many times against the Fechterspiel sword. I discovered that using one of my practice swords with a thinner edge against the Fechterspiel was extremely damaging to my sword. I needed a sword that could hold up against it. This gave me an excellent excuse to order an Arms & Armor practice sword for myself; I ordered the Spada da Zogho.
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Measurements and Specifications:
Weight:3 pounds, 4 ounces
Overall length:46 3/8 inches
Blade length:35 7/8 inches
Edge width:1 1/8 inches at base, tapering to 5/8 inch
Edge thickness:1/4 inch at base tapering to 1/8 inch
Grip length:7 3/8 inches
Guard width:8 7/8 inches
Point of Balance:4 inches from guard
Center of Percussion:~23 inches from guard
Oakeshott typology:Type T pommel, Style 1a guard

Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.

Handling Characteristics
My first impression was that the sword was a little blade-heavy. It initially felt somewhat awkward doing solo drills, such as practicing the master strikes and transitioning from guard to guard. However, it really comes alive during sparring. Often times I start out slow with my sparring partner, though the sword moves so quickly and smoothly that it almost wants to speed up on its own. Winding and other soft at the sword techniques feel very fluid. In general, it handles nearly as well as my blunted practice swords that have more conventionally shaped blades.

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Blade Tip

Since the sword was designed to be used by WMA practitioners for sparring practice, safety is something to be closely examined. The most obvious safety feature is the wide edge and rectangular cross-section of the blade. Another safety feature is the slight flexibility of the blade. The thrust is a common technique in the Liechtenauer system, which I use this sword for (despite its name). The blade on the Spada da Zogho has just enough flex to it to make the thrust safer than one made with another practice tool such as a waster or unmodified shinai, yet it is stiff enough that other techniques are not compromised. It is a stiffer sword than the Fechterspiel. The tip is squared off instead of coming to a point, although I took the extra safety precaution of adding a rubber archery blunt to it. Keep in mind that although there is flex, thrusts must still be performed with control. Even with the wide edge and slightly flexible blade, the sword can still easily injure your partner.

As mentioned above, one of my main motivations for purchasing this sword was to have a sword that could stand up to the punishment and abuse of sparring against the Arms & Armor Fechterspiel or Fechtbuch swords. Both of those swords also have a rectangular cross-section with a very wide edge. That edge had inflicted serious damage to a couple of my other practice swords. The Spada da Zogho has shown very little wear and tear after a few sparring matches against a Fechterspiel. There are some extremely small nicks along the edge and superficial scratches on the blade.

Fit and Finish
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Pommel Detail

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This sword is all about crisp, clean lines and is beautiful in its simplicity. The faceting on the pommel is sharp and even. The hexagonally-shaped pommel nut is a nice little touch. The basic hexagonal shape of the pommel continues slightly down the length of the grip before the grip tapers into a more conventional oval shape.

The guard cross-section echoes the hexagonal theme. This time the sides of the hexagon are not all of equal length. The top and bottom sides are slightly longer than the other four which gives the cross-section a slightly more rectangular appearance. The guard has a well-defined central ridge which gives the guard itself the appearance of an elongated hexagon as you look down at it from the pommel towards the blade. The pommel and guard have a nice satin finish, while the blade is more highly polished.

The grip is wrapped in dark green leather and is sewn up the side with evenly spaced tiny stitches. There is a very slight ridge where the edges of the leather come together. The most outstanding feature of the grip is the depth of color. Craig Johnson, of Arms & Armor, had warned me that the darker colors can come out mottled in appearance. Upon close inspection of the grip, the color is not perfectly even, however the slight shading of darker and lighter areas adds depth and beauty.

The Arms & Armor Spada da Zogho is a refined and elegant practice sword. I recommend it as a practice tool for WMA enthusiasts with two caveats. The first is that, even though the sword is designed specifically for practice, proper safety gear and handling are important. At a minimum, the fencer should wear a heavy fencing jacket such as a gambeson, a gorget, a fencing mask and heavy gloves or gauntlets. Proper control should be exercised at all times as well. Secondly, I do not recommend using the sword against one that has a significantly thinner edge. Your sparring partner would not appreciate it if you were to tear up the edge of his sword. With those conditions in mind, the Spada da Zogho is an excellent practice tool and well worth the price.

About the Author
Pamela Muir is a suburban homemaker from Virginia with a small, but growing, sword collection. She studies and practices historical European swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing.

Special thanks to Bill Grandy for his comments and suggestions and to Eric Wargo for pitting his sword against mine.
Photographer: Bill Grandy

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