Albion Armorers Maestro Line Liechtenauer Sword
A hands-on review by Pamela Muir
While many eastern sword arts have traditional practice weapons, western martial arts practitioners are on a constant quest for the ideal weapon for training. A sharp sword might have the best handling characteristics but is unsuitable for partner drills and sparring. Wooden and aluminum wasters are safer and retain some of the handling characteristics but still require a certain amount of control. Other simulators such as bamboo shinai or padded weapons are commonly used for more full speed bouting and drills, however a great deal of sacrifice is made in terms of handling characteristics. The ideal training weapon should handle like a sharp sword yet be safe to use for partner drills and sparring sessions. Durability is also important. For many western martial arts practitioners, tradition and a tie to the past is important as well.
Albion Armorers is known for their historical reproduction swords. In response to the needs of the community of western martial arts practitioners and reenactors, Albion has introduced a line of sparring swords. The Maestro Line is intended for use in the study and practice of historical swordsmanship and for stage combat. The design goal was to produce swords that are sturdy, safe, and attractive.
The Liechtenauer is the first model in the Maestro Line to be produced. The sword was named after Johannes Liechtenauer, a 14th century German fencing master. According to the Albion Armorers Web site, the sword is designed to reproduce the handling characteristics of swords used in a German medieval fencing manuscript from 1452, often referred to as the "von Danzig" fechtbuch. It was named after one of the several authors who contributed to the compendium which followed the teachings of Master Johannes Liechtenauer. It should also be appropriate for the study of techniques in the fencing treatises by Fiore di Liberi, an Italian medieval fencing master. Since medieval German longsword is my primary focus in my study of historical swordsmanship, the Liechtenauer seemed designed for my needs and I took a chance and ordered it when the Maestro Line of swords was first announced.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Albion Armorers of Wisconsin.
Since this sword is designed to be used for practice and sparring, safety features are especially important. The blade has just enough flex to it to make it safe for thrusting, always assuming that both partners are wearing proper safety equipment and are controlled, yet stiff enough that the tip is easily controlled.
The edges are rounded for safety, however they are thinner than I would prefer. A wider edge would distribute more of the force from a blow. Some of our group wear lacrosse gloves for hand protection and the blade is thin enough that during a sparring match it slid right through the gap at a finger joint in my partner's glove. Even though the tip of the blade is quite wide, because of the narrow edge I took the precaution of adding a rubber archery blunt to it.
Fit and Finish
The grip is finished with a cord wrap in a natural shade of brown. The wrapping is tight and even. The cord feels rough to the hands and I imagine it would be uncomfortable to use for extended periods with bare hands. Since I almost always use gloves during practice, the roughness of the grip is not a concern for me.
The sword is designed to be durable in use. The fittings are stainless steel with a satin finish. Steel reinforcements attached to the guard and the tang peek out from under the cord wrap. After drilling and sparring against a sword with wider edges, the Liechtenauer shows very little wear and tear. There are some superficial scratches on the blade. The edge has no obvious nicks, but only feels sandpaper rough in spots. The fittings are quite solid, it feels as tight as when I first pulled it from the box.
The Albion Armorers Maestro Line Liechtenauer sword has beauty: it is attractive and visually recalls a historically-styled sword. It has brains: it handles smoothly and feels like a sharp sword in the hand. But it is slightly lacking in brawn: the edges are narrower than some practitioners might prefer for sparring. As a practice weapon, it has the handling characteristics of a sharp sword and safety features that make it suitable for partner drills and controlled sparring. Keep in mind that proper safety equipment is a must when practicing with a partner. A heavy fencing jacket or gambeson, head protection such as a fencing mask and hand protection such as gauntlets or padded gloves should be worn.
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.
Photographer: Bill Grandy