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Jeff Brownridge

Location: Oromocto, NB
Joined: 17 Oct 2010

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon 25 Oct, 2010 5:27 pm    Post subject: Where to start?         Reply with quote

Greetings all,

I've been lurking around here for awhile now and have had an interest in learning more about swords and western martial arts for several years. Due to a variety of factors, I haven't taken the leap though. I've done a search but can't find anything that specifically answers my questions here it goes.

A little bit about myself and what I'm looking for before my questions.... I'm a professional soldier in New Brunswick, Canada. I have a keen interest in military history and studied history at university. I've studied some "modern" martial arts through my time in the military but I'd like to broaden my horizon while connecting with my academic interests. Hence, why I'm here.

Also, I have 4 limbs, 10 fingers and would like to keep them if possible. Happy

And now for the questions:

1) How do I even approach getting a first sword? Do I go for a waster (aluminum or wood), a blunt or a something with a sharp edge? Beyond that, what criteria should I use to decide what style of sword I should steer towards? I'm aesthetically drawn towards something more like a bastard sword but that seems like a silly way to pick what best suits me.

2) What's the must have for kit as a starter?

3) Without access to an instructor, is it a bad idea to even try getting into this?

If someone could either point me towards an article that I've missed or help me out, it would be most appreciated.
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Chad Arnow
myArmoury Team

myArmoury Team

PostPosted: Mon 25 Oct, 2010 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello and welcome to Happy Your questions are big and complex and I'm sure you'll get a lot of answers. If you haven't already, check out the Call to Arms series on our Features page. They outline martial arts techniques as well discuss appropriate gear. Hopefully they'll be a good start.


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Sam Gordon Campbell

Location: Australia.
Joined: 16 Nov 2008

Posts: 678

PostPosted: Mon 25 Oct, 2010 6:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jeff and welcome!

Basicaly what Chad reccomended, however I'll give an example of how I've gone about it.
1) Believe it or not you don't need to have 4 limbs and 10 fingers!
2) Go with a waster first (Wood, Synthetic [my personal choice]) before you purchase anything in steel, that way you can find what you like (and many people do like longsword [Except me, I.33 all the way!]) without spending to much... At the moment anyway.
3) Must have starter kit is a three weapons fencing mask, a 'box', some tough gloves, a vambrace (elbow protection optional), and a thick jacket or jumper. None of it has to be historical (yet), but again this I find is a good set up to start out until you know what you'd like to focus on for a while.
4) My good sir that is what the internet and liabarys are for! Google, YouTube, myArmoury any number of places are there. One has to do a bit of digging but once you make contact, it kind of snowballs from there! Laughing Out Loud

Hope this helps, and again, this is what I've done and has worked for me.



Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
Founder of The Van Dieman's Land Stage Gladiators.
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Jean Thibodeau

Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Mon 25 Oct, 2010 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well sharps are for collecting and maybe test cutting but certainly not for training with a partner and can be dangerous in solo training if one isn't careful of one's body parts or anything or anyone that might come close to you by surprise from a blind spot: Just think of a sharp sword like an always loaded firearm and treat it with the same respect.

Nothing to be overly afraid of but one does have to avoid being careless with sharps.

For training:

A) Wooden waster(s) well two is nice if you have to loan one to someone else if you have a friend to train with who isn't the owner of his/her own kit. ( Synthetics also and option ).

B) Steel blunt can wait until you are familiar with technique and wish to get the feel of steel on steel which is different than wood.

C) Minimum protective equipment is a 1000 Newton proof fencing mask ( Good quality ) with throat protection. Gloves with some protective qualities but this can vary from light to steel gauntlet and the style of training makes a difference.

Style of training can go from a non-touch style using lots of control to stop blows just before they hit or at worse very light hits/touching with pulled blows to more heavy contact styles of training using more padded clothing and up to steel plate armour for close to full contact.

It would certainly help a great deal to find a local group near you to train and they would have their criteria for equipment and their established training style and safety rules. Improvising training by yourself or with training partners who also are beginners is difficult and at the very least you should buy some good books on longsword.

Hope this helps. Wink Big Grin Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Mon 25 Oct, 2010 9:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would suggest purchasing a few books to begin with... The books will help outline Western Martial Arts, as well as provide information on equipment to get, etc.
The number one book I would suggest in this regard, as it contains a lot about beginning in Western Martial Arts, is The Swordsman's Companion by Guy Windsor. It focuses on Fiore's longsword... but the information is really applicable to any Western Martial Art (especially the beginning).

Personally I suggest starting with a proper steel blunt... but that is an opinion not held by many. I would suggest Arms&Armor, Albion, Pavel Moc, or Ollin Sword Design


Historia magistra vitae est
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Emil Andersson

Location: Sweden
Joined: 17 Oct 2010

Posts: 136

PostPosted: Tue 26 Oct, 2010 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
...check out the Call to Arms series on our Features page.

Chad, thank you for pointing out those articles. I can't believe how I've missed them up until now. They're quite interesting to read through and ponder over. Happy
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Alen L

Location: Ljubljana, SLovenia
Joined: 20 May 2010

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Tue 26 Oct, 2010 12:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing; WMA don't have an uninterrupted line of masters, which means someone had to start from scratch; so no, starting alone isn't all that bad of an idea. Of course, if you have folks who've already done some WMA, you wanna join them.

Second, a choice based on aesthetics isn't as silly as you might think; as long as you realize that there is a huge variety of aesthetics in the same type of swords. ^^

Third, since you're a soldier, you've probably done some hand-to-hand and knife fighting. Take the knowledge, take some books, and compare. Choose a school (italian / german) Do a few techniques, so you get the feel of the principles in WMA, they aren't much different from other martial arts, really. I seriously do recommend starting with ringen or abrazzare (hand-to-hand), and daggers at least for a month or two.

Then, move to the weapon of choice. As many have said, longsword seems to be a favourite. But you also have the single handed sword (possibly with buckler), sidesword (possibly with buckler/dagger/cape), messer, dussack (these are actually wooden in most medieval illustrations)... If you aren't decided yet, take a look at a few videos on youtube, see how they move with different swords and what you like best; if you wish you can PM me and i'll send a few to you

For starters, a waster is ok, personally, I advise moving onto steel ASAP, especially when it comes to contact. There are quite a few swords that have a very nice price/value ratio (in canada, Heimrick has very nice, reasonably priced swords, i hear). for the protective gear, when you have a partner to train with, definitely a mask, without it, you can't train with a partner; other than that, everything is optional, though gloves at least are highly recommended.

Good luck!
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Paul Hansen

Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Oct, 2010 12:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Where to start?         Reply with quote

Jeff Brownridge wrote:
an interest in learning more about swords and western martial arts for several years.

I'd say that these two may coincide, but are not the same. A lot of people collect swords without practicing swordsmanship. Other people practice swordsmanship without owning any sharp swords.

Personally I feel that a "real" sword, as in an antique or a good reproduction, must be sharp. A blunt sword or a waster will have different handling characteristics. And in the end, a sword was/is a weapon and a blunt sword does not make a very effective weapon.

You should know that swords which are designed for training / reenactment have different cross-section, weight and handling characteristics. They may look like swords and are fine for what they are designed, but they do not behave the same as an original sword would.

Like Jean said, a sharp sword is inherently dangerous. On the other hand, I have several sharps and have never seriously hurt myself or someone else.

As for your questions:

1) Two answers: what do you like best and what in which weapons can you train? If, for instance, there is a group who's doing rapier, or even modern fencing, close to where you live, then you might consider that. Otherwise, longswords are probably the swords for which there is the most self-study material available. But if a rapier does not appeal to you at all, then by all means get a longsword. I mean, there is no point in doing something that does not appeal to you.

2) A waster first, mask second, gambeson third, I guess. But it depends on your style of training. Logically, you can't do much without a waster or something that resembles a waster. But like I said at the beginning, I feel that a real sword is sharp, so by all means, get a good quality sharp too.

3) If there is no other option, then there is no other option, eh? Of course, joining a group is a good idea. Otherwise, there are quite a few groups who frequently organise seminars.
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Sean Flynt
myArmoury Team

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Oct, 2010 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now blessed with 20/20 hindsight, I'd approach things in a way some folks would consider illogical, starting with a good quality sharp reproduction. The advantage is that if you get your hands on a good sword to begin with you won't waste time with lesser items that can give a false impression of what these weapons were like, historically. You can pick up some great bargains in the Marketplace here--I'd look for a used A&A if you don't have the budget for new. If you can buy new, check out A&A's "In Stock" page and help them out during tough economic times.

If you're handy, Windlass has some great bargains. Pretty much every Windlass should be improved with a rebuild and new grip. Here, again, this work is much easier and more satisfying if you know how a good sword is made and how it should feel.

Another advantage of getting a sharp before a waster is that once you do start training with a waster you'll always be aware of how the waster is NOT like a sharp. That might help you adjust your training so that you're learning to use a sword rather than a waster, if you know what I mean. Also, you'll want a waster to match your sharp in length/proportion, so if you get the waster first you'll be spending $400-$800 to try and match $80 worth of wood or plastic. Much better, I think to spend $80 to match your $400-$800 sharp investment. Check out the synthetic wasters now offered by Museum Replicas. Inexpensive but very cool. I'd certainly pick up a couple of those if I trained.

I'd check the forum at and see if there are any Canadian members looking to form an official study group.

Most importantly, don't get any training kit--including wasters or blunts--until you decide on a course of study. If you join any group, that group will have specific recommendations that could undermine your investment. Better to follow their suggestions.


"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Hadrian Coffin
Industry Professional

Location: Oxford, England
Joined: 03 Apr 2008

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PostPosted: Tue 26 Oct, 2010 2:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For safety's sake I feel I must disagree with this point:
a sword was/is a weapon and a blunt sword does not make a very effective weapon.

A blunt is still a deadly weapon, I know people who have been seriously maimed/injured by blunts while wearing protective fencing gear. The attitude that a blunt is not dangerous... is quite dangerous. A blunt swung with sufficient force will break bones, crack skulls, and kill people. Control is what makes a blunt a safe training tool. With sufficient control it is common place to practice drills in T-shirts...

Hadrian Happy

Historia magistra vitae est
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Craig Shackleton

Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Oct, 2010 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm going to go a slightly different route than the others, although of course you should do what feels right for you.

I started with blunt steel and I start all of my adult students with blunt steel. I don't really like wooden or synthetic wasters at all, and I feel that they are generally more dangerous than steel blunts, while giving an impression of safety that causes students to not respect the danger they present. Steel behaves so differently from wasters in terms of bouncing and flex etc. that I have never liked to use them.

That said, most of the blunts I use have a good deal of flex, which is a further safety concern, and depending on how narrow it is, I'll usually put a plastic blunt on the tip. I personally use more rigid swords and really like my A+A scholar sword and Albion I.33 sword, but I'd never let a novice use one against me if there's any chance of contact.

I'm sure I still encounter a lot of difference from a sharp sword, but I believe that I am closer to that reality. More importantly, I truly believe that what I am using is safer.

For safety equipment we use good gloves, fencing masks and additional throat and collar protection, plus whatever else makes you feel safe. If my lesson requires my students to strike my wrist repeatedly, I pad it up in advance. Some of my students wear more stuff, and we tend to up our gear depending on how hard we are going. Our main safety system though is training and control.

The rest of my advice is more like everyone else's

As far as what system to do and how to go about it, choose what appeals to you for whatever reason, and get something to work for you before branching out. As others have said, get an instructor if you can, but if not, you can blaze the trail yourself. Get a dedicated training partner if you can, read various interpretations of whatever source material you can find, watch videos, use whatever resources you can, and then always go back to the source and see if it matches.

There are a few tricks to teaching yourself that are really handy.

One is, if what you are doing doesn't work, don't blame the source. It might be you, or it might be that what you are doing doesn't work against the thing your partner is doing.

Two is, economy of motion is pretty universal. However you interpret the order in which actions should occur, or exactly how your hand should be, or whatever, The most efficient motion that works is probably right.

Three is, teach some people, and try and analyze what they need to correct, or how they can make the techniques work for them. This is IMO one of the best ways to learn yourself, and often leads to a better understanding of the source. And it's usually easier to see why something isn't working for someone else than to see why it isn't working for you.

Go for it and good luck! You've already crossed what for some is the biggest hurdle; you've asked for and been open to help and advice. There's tons of folks out there who will give it.

Edit: Hadrian's post came in while I was typing. I just want to mention that while it may seem contradictory to what I said above, I agree with him. A blunt steel sword is dangerous. One thing that makes it safe is that most people who hold one recognize and respect that danger. My point is that all of the wasters I have ever tried are as dangerous or more dangerous than the blunts I use, but a lot of students assume they are safe and use them even more dangerously.[/b]

Ottawa Swordplay
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Jeff Brownridge

Location: Oromocto, NB
Joined: 17 Oct 2010

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed 27 Oct, 2010 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you everyone for your advice!
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F. Carl Holz

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PostPosted: Thu 28 Oct, 2010 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i would suggest having some form of hand protection even if you are using wasters. these have worked well for me:

and these are also good (though you may want to order a size up for comfort):

additionally the synthetics by Rawlings is supposed to be decent, though i think that somebody already mentioned them.

31. And there are some whom everyone should consider to be wise...
-Le Livre de Chevalerie, Geffroi Charny-
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