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Kevin T




Location: United States
Joined: 12 Dec 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Mon 12 Dec, 2016 8:02 pm    Post subject: Practice Tips and Sword Advice         Reply with quote

I would like to learn more about swords and swordsmanship but I live in the middle of nowhere so taking classes in person isn't a viable option. The course I've resolved to follow is to read a bunch of books on the topic but I know that will carry me only so far. I'd like to get a practice blade and am uncertain where to start. I've thought about this topic on and off for a few years now but could never justify the expense before. I'm currently blessed with more funds than sense and doing more than thinking is an option for the first time.

I'm currently torn between two swords, both of them are offerings from Arms & Armor:

The Town Guard Sword: http://arms-n-armor.com/sword192.html

and The Dürer Bastard Sword: http://arms-n-armor.com/sword195.html

These are two fairly different blades. The Town Guard Sword is basically a modified rapier. One which as I understand it, would be able to penetrate armor without snapping as an actual rapier might. I was first drawn to this because having additional protection against hand and finger damage in a fight seems fairly advantageous to me.

The Dürer Bastard Sword on the other hand is appealing to me because it can be used as either a one or two handed sword. It seems like it would lend itself to more control if used with two hands, and might be applicable in a variety of training situations and techniques where the Town Guard Sword would not.

Getting the sharp and pointy versions sounds fun, but knowing as little as I do about swords it also seems foolish. So I had thought to instead get a blunted training version. I still find myself at war with the two blades. Getting both IS actually a completely reasonable option financially. But again, as I know little about swords and swordsmanship it seems foolish to get two when I don't know my a** from my elbow.

Any thoughts that anyone has on this topic or would care to share no matter how far a field those thoughts might drift, would be appreciated. Is it a mistake to get a blunt training blade? Is one or the other sword more or less advantageous? If so why? Or am I missing the boat all together and there is a much better path I could be taking? Is trying to practice on my own and learn from books daft and a waste of time?
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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
Joined: 29 Apr 2004
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Posts: 616

PostPosted: Mon 12 Dec, 2016 10:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would first be very clear what you wish to study, and then find the resources and tools for that thing. And be aware that, while certain principles may be shared between different fencing styles, how these principles are expressed can vary widely between different weapons and fencing masters, and understanding the intended context of each is important.

Your money is your own, and I can think of far worse places to send it than A&A, but I'm not sure I would start with the sword if I were you. I suggest building up your knowledge first. The "features" section on this site has a lot of excellent information to start with, and will point you towards the other resources you'll need, like books. A basic understanding of the types of weapons there were and styles of fencing in which those weapons were used will go a long way when it comes time to invest money. And when you're ready to do that, I'd resist the urge to buy an expensive sharp sword right away (not easy, I know). For example, if you decide to study a style suited to a type XVIIIb like the Dürer, I'd get a waster first for a small fraction of the price. Even a steel trainer is not really necessary for a while, especially if you don't have people to train with, though A&A has some excellent ones if you can't resist.

Speaking of training, I believe ARMA has a search engine to find groups and practice partners. You might be less isolated than you think, and there is really no substitute to training with other people. I'd go so far as to suggest that, if you have modern fencing in your area, that might be a better place to start than alone with something more historical. You'd have to unlearn some things when you did find a serious historical fencing group, but it would let you start working on the athletic side of things, getting the hang of distance, timing, etc.

Good luck, and have fun. Welcome to one of the most addictive pastimes you're ever likely to find. Happy

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Kevin T




Location: United States
Joined: 12 Dec 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue 13 Dec, 2016 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The urge to resist buying a sword is indeed difficult. But your advice is well founded. The first and most glaring problem I need to address is my own ignorance. I will check out the features section, thank you for the tip.

What you are saying are things that I was thinking, and they sound true to me. I like both of those swords, but that inclination isn't based on anything substantive. And I have a very poor conception of the other options available to me both in terms of sword types and styles. I do think, at least for now, knowledge is where I need to start.

As far as training partners go, I do know a few people who practice, but I wouldn't necessarily say its historical. They tend to used the foam swords. Perhaps I am being too picky, but I always wanted to use actual steel instead of foam, plastic, or wood. Using a substitute for training I think would be fine. But it just wouldn't bend and bind the same way. Wood for example is much more rigid than steel isn't it? And if you used a foam sword in a fight I think the air resistance would be very different.

Thank you for the warm welcome and for taking time to reply to a new thread.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Dec, 2016 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Every time I see the words 'foam sword' I feel sick to my stomach. Under no circumstance should anyone ever, in this universe or any other, use a 'larp' sword for ANY type of training. If you don't know...'larp' stands for 'live-action role-playing'. There are some neat looking designs, but they are about as far from realistic as you can get...especially in handling. There are some good training sword out there...wooden, synthetic, and steel. I won't suggest any...that's for you to decide. I'd say the main thing is to learn all you can and have clean, safe fun while you do it. Wink .........McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
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PostPosted: Wed 14 Dec, 2016 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin T wrote:
As far as training partners go, I do know a few people who practice, but I wouldn't necessarily say its historical. They tend to used the foam swords. Perhaps I am being too picky, but I always wanted to use actual steel instead of foam, plastic, or wood. Using a substitute for training I think would be fine. But it just wouldn't bend and bind the same way. Wood for example is much more rigid than steel isn't it? And if you used a foam sword in a fight I think the air resistance would be very different.


Foam/LARP swords are usually much, much lighter than steel. It's the light weight that makes it unrealistic rather than air resistance. That, and the attitude people usually have when fighting with them.

Mark Moore wrote:
Every time I see the words 'foam sword' I feel sick to my stomach. Under no circumstance should anyone ever, in this universe or any other, use a 'larp' sword for ANY type of training.


They do have the advantage of allowing full-speed, full-contact without major protective equipment. People don't usually try to fight realistically with them, i.e., like you would with steel - they usually just play tag while ignoring defence - but that doesn't mean that you can't do it.

Given a good foundation of working with weapons of realistic weight and balance (e.g., solo drills, cutting, partner drills, perhaps less-than-full-speed sparring), some full-speed full-contact training with foam/LARP can be a useful addition. As the main training tool, they're just too light.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 172

PostPosted: Wed 14 Dec, 2016 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, welcome to the wonderful world of HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts)!

The advice about trying to find a training group is well worthwhile. The HEMA Alliance have just updated their club finder, and it's probably the best choice for most parts of the world now. They also have some excellent advice for beginning HEMA students, and run an active Facebook page which can be a useful way to find events and get questions answered.

The other vital resource is historical fencing manuals. Helpfully, the Wiktenauer is an online compilation of a huge number of these, often with English translations, high resolution scans of the originals, and so on.

There's a reasonably healthy secondary literature about many HEMA systems as well. Once you've made a decision about what to focus on, you might be able to find books, blogs, and Youtube videos to help you work out the details. However, there's so much material out there, that specialisation is very useful for getting started. I've given some further suggestions below, but you can also just take a look through what's out there and pick something that looks fun.

A reasonable place to start might be the 1570 treatise of Joachim Meyer. It's readily available in a high-quality modern translation, and presents a unified system of fighting with the sword, rapier, and dussack, along with other weapons (staff, pike, dagger, etc). This would cover sensible ways to use both of the weapons you've expressed an interest in - first starting with the longsword (as in the Durer). Meyer is also particularly useful compared to some of the earlier sources because he provides more explicit instructions. Less details are assumed to already be known by the reader. This can make it easier to figure out, as you spend far less time puzzling over cryptic German puns.

Speaking of which, if you have even one friend locally who's also interested in this sort of stuff, don't underestimate the value of buying a couple of training swords and fencing masks and just working through the manual yourselves. It will be difficult, but with a few hours a week of diligent practice, you'll learn an awful lot - and it's far easier to study with someone to try things with. Purpleheart sell a selection of very useful equipment: a pair of Pentii synthetic longswords and a pair of fencing masks will serve you well for a long time.

If you do go down this path - and I highly recommend you do - it can be very worthwhile to try and find other HEMA events and travel out to them occasionally. Once you have even a few months of experience, you can benefit hugely from spending a weekend hanging out with other practitioners, crossing swords and getting tips and advice. Many areas of the US now have fairly regular regional events, so you probably won't need to travel for days or shell out absurd quantities of money. They're easiest to find on Facebook, but the HEMA Alliance are in the progress of releasing an events calendar which should make it much easier to keep track of things.

Cross-training is also very beneficial if you don't have a local club to train with. Modern sports fencing is extremely useful for distance, timing and athleticism, and a surprising amount of technique also translates - although many fine details do not. Another excellent pursuit is studying wrestling. This was a foundational skill for fighting in medieval Europe, and having reasonable experience in a standing wresting art (such as Judo) can teach you a lot.

Personally, I wouldn't buy both sharp swords straight away. If following the advice above, I'd probably think about buying the Durer - it'll be nice on the wall, work for cutting practice and some (careful!) solo handling practice. That leaves plenty of spare cash to get some protective equipment and training swords for working with a partner, along with funds to go to the occasional event and learn more things from the wider HEMA community

Good luck!

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Michael Beeching





Joined: 22 Jan 2014
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 158

PostPosted: Wed 14 Dec, 2016 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First off, I have no qualms about someone buying an actual sword to learn with. Perhaps it goes along the lines of "train for how you intend to fight." The caveat here is that there's no reason for you to buy a waster - in your case, you do not have a study group or a practice partner, which also means you're not going to attempt to spar with someone using a sharp (which is a dumb idea). The only thing I can say is to be careful - if you never handle or use knives of any kind at all, then getting a blunt is a better idea than a sharp. Albion makes some nice models in the Squire line which come blunt but will easily take an edge should you choose to do so.

Next, I don't have qualms about buying a high-quality weapon to learn with - the caveat in this case being that you should also make plans to buy something you don't mind abusing. I can commend those who put their pricey arms to the test, but I can also refuse to be surprised when they fail due to misuse. If you buy a weapon to abuse, make sure it can teach you something relevant to using your weapon of choice, and also make sure that losing it won't be a significant loss in investment. I learned a lot from my little Windlass qama, and I really grew to love that sword as well. For only $40.00 at the time!

As per costing in general, I have to say this - funds may come and go, but they're more likely to go than come. If you want something and it is relevant to your interests without being out of your means, perhaps you should make that investment. I am glad I did not start a collection of cheap swords with the hope of buying up to something better in the future - I had a clear idea of what I wanted/needed, and I got something good. Space is generally a dwindling resource over time, so quality always trumps quantity in that sense. Furthermore, should your interests ever change, you won't need to bother yourself over how to get rid of a mountain of stuff - besides, something personal to you won't be something you want to get rid of anyway. Happy

LAST, if you're in the States, particularly in Indiana, I want you to send me a PM! I've tried posting practice partner threads both here and the HEMA Alliance forums with absolutely no success!!! When you say there's only so much you can learn from books, the same is true of swords. You really need someone or a group you can learn with, even if the most experienced proctor of said group had a book as their master.
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Greg Ballantyne




Location: Maryland USA
Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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Posts: 233

PostPosted: Thu 15 Dec, 2016 8:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Advice to learn more is well founded, but don't shy away from providing yourself some eye and hand candy motivation. Even a sorry first purchase can be motivating. I should know..... if you're considering A&A you'll end up with something nice.
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Kevin T




Location: United States
Joined: 12 Dec 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Fri 16 Dec, 2016 8:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What a wonderful torrent of helpful advice. Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. For now, I have to say I probably am leaning more towards the Dürer Bastard Sword. I've been reading some of the articles on the features section here and I am confused about the Oakeshott type of this blade. Its listed as a Type XIIIb, but the article about Type XIII's has all the Type XIIIb's with very short handles their defining characteristic being that they are all dedicated one handed blades. The Dürer Bastard Sword is most certainly not just a one handed blade as it has an ample handle for one or two hands. I've found a blade that looks very like this from Albion's offerings, The Munich, and IT is listed as a Type XIIIb too, so I've GOT to be missing something.

The Club Finder was very useful. Nothing near me, but there are some clubs close enough to reach on my weekend off, I work every other weekend.

The links are much appreciated as well, I'm cataloging them and combing through the massive stores of information in preparation for making a decision on what to get.

I'm sure the sword will take some wear, but I want something that is as close to a real blade as I can get. I have no qualms about sharp things and although I have no experience with swords, I have a great deal of experience with knives. Handling, carrying daily, and sharpening with a stone.

The problem I have with getting a sharp sword is more one of practicality then fear of dismemberment. I can get a blunted training version of the Dürer Bastard Sword from Arms and Armor which would be suitable for training alone or with a group. I think for a beginner like myself, this would probably be close enough to the real thing to not make me hopelessly useless when picking up a sharp version of that same sword. But short of flailing around with it in my apartment, I can't imagine any scenario where I might actually USE the sharp version. Perhaps I will get the blunt one and train with it, then acquire the sharp version when I decide I'm not a danger to myself and others and leave it on the wall as a decoration.

I think the Dürer will probably lend itself to more training partners, more books, more training scenarios and just more use in general.

Oh yes, if I go for the Dürer training version any thoughts on whether I should get a scabbard for it or not?
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 172

PostPosted: Sat 17 Dec, 2016 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin T wrote:
What a wonderful torrent of helpful advice. Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. For now, I have to say I probably am leaning more towards the Dürer Bastard Sword. I've been reading some of the articles on the features section here and I am confused about the Oakeshott type of this blade. Its listed as a Type XIIIb, but the article about Type XIII's has all the Type XIIIb's with very short handles their defining characteristic being that they are all dedicated one handed blades. The Dürer Bastard Sword is most certainly not just a one handed blade as it has an ample handle for one or two hands. I've found a blade that looks very like this from Albion's offerings, The Munich, and IT is listed as a Type XIIIb too, so I've GOT to be missing something.


I think you're missing the 'V' - both the Durer and the Munich are type XVIIIb.

Kevin T wrote:
The Club Finder was very useful. Nothing near me, but there are some clubs close enough to reach on my weekend off, I work every other weekend.


Excellent to hear.

One thing which is worth noting - take a look at what they do, and consider choosing to study that. So if you have a club that you can reach even occasionally which does e.g. Fiore's longsword, then study that (it'll work just fine with the Durer). Having some people you can ask for guidance in person is extremely valuable.

Kevin T wrote:
The links are much appreciated as well, I'm cataloging them and combing through the massive stores of information in preparation for making a decision on what to get.

I'm sure the sword will take some wear, but I want something that is as close to a real blade as I can get. I have no qualms about sharp things and although I have no experience with swords, I have a great deal of experience with knives. Handling, carrying daily, and sharpening with a stone.

The problem I have with getting a sharp sword is more one of practicality then fear of dismemberment. I can get a blunted training version of the Dürer Bastard Sword from Arms and Armor which would be suitable for training alone or with a group. I think for a beginner like myself, this would probably be close enough to the real thing to not make me hopelessly useless when picking up a sharp version of that same sword. But short of flailing around with it in my apartment, I can't imagine any scenario where I might actually USE the sharp version. Perhaps I will get the blunt one and train with it, then acquire the sharp version when I decide I'm not a danger to myself and others and leave it on the wall as a decoration.

I think the Dürer will probably lend itself to more training partners, more books, more training scenarios and just more use in general.

Oh yes, if I go for the Dürer training version any thoughts on whether I should get a scabbard for it or not?


Sharp swords have several uses in training: the most obvious is that one can use them for cutting practice, which is extremely valuable as a way to test how you are using the sword. In solo practice, they're often more 'realistic' than some blunts etc. Finally, in some groups they train with sharp swords in controlled partner drills, because blunt swords don't quite work the same way when in contact - but this is normally something not worth worrying about until you have plenty of experience.

A quick word of warning also. Blunted swords for partnered training can be an issue. If they're the same design as a sharp, they can be quite stiff and pointy, and still prone to causing injuries. For training with partners, this is why there are either dedicated blunt designs (see the Albion Liechtenauer), synthetic trainers (such as those sold by Purpleheart), and what are known as 'federschwert' (see the A&A Fechterspiel). These are designed to be a bit safer when striking people.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Kevin T




Location: United States
Joined: 12 Dec 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sat 17 Dec, 2016 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahhh, well don't I feel foolish! That is good to see though because it didn't fit that classification model at all...

I think meeting with a group will be an outright necessity. Likely I'll need to meet many times. There may come a time when I feel comfortable enough with what I know to continue to train on my own, but that would only be after I've built a foundation.

I'll definitely look at the Albion Liechtenauer. It seems to have almost exactly the same specifications as the Dürer.

As far as looking at the styles they offer, I'm still trying to get a grasp on all the options out there for sword type as well as school type. Every now and then I feel like just ordering the Dürer, but every time I uncover more information I still feel like it would be premature before getting an accurate picture of all the options available.

Okay, for now I've pulled the trigger on a Purpleheart synthetic:
http://www.woodenswords.com/product_p/type-iii-47.5f.disc.htm

Seems like it is allowed in most classes and competitions. Very, very cheap. Appears to have a good reputation for withstanding a lot of abuse. Should be a good introduction...hopefully.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Dec, 2016 1:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You can (and probably should) start doing some basic solo practice even before you go to visit a nearby group. Of course there will be some pretty hard limits on how far you'll be able to progress without other people to practice with, but there'd be no harm in just trying out some basic exercises to keep your interest alive until you can go and hang out with more established practitioners.

You might also want to consider asking the nearby groups or clubs for help and and advice for setting up your own study group, whether independently or as a satellite group of their organisation. If you can't visit the nearby groups very often, it'd still be very useful to have other beginners to practice with, and you can take pictures of videos of your practice session and bring them to the older/more established groups for critiques when you visit them.

Check out this page for some other useful resources: http://historicalfightingguide.tumblr.com/beginnerresource
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Kevin T




Location: United States
Joined: 12 Dec 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue 20 Dec, 2016 9:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the advice and the link. I'm starting to slowly get a feel for how dense this culture is. And so far, I'm glad that I've held off buying any steel. I don't regret the practice blade, I think it will be useful. But there are a lot of good blades out there and a lot of subtle differences between them. Rather than limiting myself to the one blade I'm interested in from Arms and Armor I have also been checking out Albion lately too. I've found myself interested in three from their line: The Constable, The Sempach, and The Talhoffer. They seem very similar at first glance, but reading reviews for them and watching videos of their use, it seems like there are differences in their handling. I simply don't know enough to know what I would like. Everything I have at this point is a guess. What I'm hoping is that reading some of the manuals, watching some of the videos you guys have linked, and doing some practice with the purple heart waster will give me a better idea of what I'm wanting out of a blade.

I think doing some practice alone before finding a group would be a good idea. It sort of reminds me of showing up to a study group without having looked at any of the preparation material. You are, in that instance, completely useless. Because you don't even know enough to know what you don't know. That pretty accurately describes where I'm at right now. And I need to gain a better understanding of my own ignorance.
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Kevin T




Location: United States
Joined: 12 Dec 2016

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Wed 21 Dec, 2016 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Double posting is normally bad form, but I just couldn't help this time. I somewhat impulsively ordered a sword today. Albion Constable. I have it coming with a black tapered grip and a black scabbard. 6 to 9 months and counting!

After reading a bunch of articles on here and following a lot of the links you guys sent me, I spent a lot of time looking through A&A and Albion's websites at their swords. I wanted a blade that would be flexible in terms of its style and handling so I looked at the weights of a lot of the one handed swords, and while The Constable is a bit heavy as a one handed blade, as a two handed blade it should be fairly nimble. I don't think its weight will be prohibitive to experiment with it one handed however. So it should be fairly versatile.
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