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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Dec, 2006 5:07 pm    Post subject: Safe blades for rapier practice, sources?         Reply with quote

Hello,

I only have experience with two "safe" blades for rapier practice, the double-wide epee and, the schlager.

What are the other types of practice rapier blades available? What do they look like? Who sells/makes them? What are their strengths and, weaknesses compared with the two I've mentioned?
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Dec, 2006 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Del Tin practice blades and rebated blades are an inexpensive but decent choice. Darkwood Armory's line of practice blades are very good. Arms and Armor can make any of their current line up have a practice blade instead of a sharp, and those are also very good. All of those choices will serve you fine.

I don't mean this to sound harsh, but you absolutely do not want to be fencing rapier with either the schlager or the epee blade. Neither replicates a rapier. The epee blade is intended to simulate, unsurprisingly, a duelling epee of the 19th century, though it also works quite well for smallsword (which often have very similar blades). The schlager is meant for German duelling swords. If they're all you have, they'll do to start with (you can learn rapier with a stick, after all) but in the long run, if you're serious about learning, you will really need to get proper rapier simulators.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Dec, 2006 4:03 pm    Post subject: Thanks, but...         Reply with quote

In Vol. 7, #2, Issue #26 of Renaissance magazine, Ramon Martinez was interviewed and said that he used 40" double wided epee blades for rapier practice. He said that this style of weapon was a close approximate of those that were used in the mid-17th century. Perhaps, though (and especially after reading the recent Tom Leoni article) the type of weapon used in the mid-17th century was different from that used previously?

The double-wide epee is also very safe and, let's one practice in an alive manner with an opponent, without worry about injury. Of course, one cannot just rely on that. They should use everything available to help them to understand rapier fighting. The foil was, after all, used as a training weapon for a smallsword, wasn't it? I think it has it's place.

Do you know of, or have any close-up pictures of the Del Tin blades? How about the Darkwood blades?

Thanks.

Mike West


Last edited by Mike West on Tue 19 Dec, 2006 4:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mat Billings




Location: Kelowna, BC
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Dec, 2006 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A double wide epee might work good for smallsword practice, but wouldn't make a very good rapier simulator.


Two more alternatives you might look into are,

Angus Trim. His WMA rapier blades are mint, and from what I can tell through personal experience, are well made and built to last. The blunted edges of the blade havn't acquired any burs through use either, so that's a plus in my books.

If you're looking for a starter blade, you might check out the Hanwei "practical" line. I used one for almost 3 years before upgrading. Happy
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Dec, 2006 10:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good advice on ATrim and Hanwei, Mat. I've never used the ATrim blades myself, but I've heard a lot of good things, and I know Scott Wilson at Darkwood does hilts for them at a slightly higher price than his own blades. The Hanwei ones are definately servicable for those on a budget, but there are some quality control issues with those, unfortunately.

The 40" epee blades are much better than the standard blades for typical rapier work, though I find those to be much more in line with the very late rapiers (the ones that are essentially long smallswords). I very much disagree that double wide epee blades are safer than most practice rapier blades. In fact, it really is just the opposite: Double wide epee blades are very stiff. Almost all practice rapier blades are significantly more flexible. Some people prefer the stiffness, but I've never seen any need for it, so long as your blade isn't TOO whippy.

The foil (in the modern sense of the term) was not actually used for smallsword. It was actually used to teach 19th century duelling swords. There is definately a lot of overlap in style, so it wouldn't be out of the question to use a foil for smallsword practice, though.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Dec, 2006 10:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a nice overview of some things to consider when choosing a blade written by Steve Reich:

http://www.salvatorfabris.com/StartingInItalianRapier.shtml

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 3:12 pm    Post subject: Thanks.         Reply with quote

I've never handled a Del Tin practice rapier, but would like to. I just noticed that Arms and Armor are now selling a flexible blade called a "nail" for the tip. I wonder if that's anything like the D.T.P.R?

I currently use a 36" d.w.e. I have also used a modified d.w.e. that was 43" long. The worst injury I've ever had was a bruise right under my right pectorial. I was wearing my 2 layer Triplette tunic.
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Stephen Hand




Location: Hobart, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mike,

I apologise in advance if this sounds offensive, but I see no point in not cutting to the chase.

If you cannot fence safely at full speed with an accurate replica rapier blade then you have no business fencing. All my rapier blades are accurate replicas of surviving originals and I won't accept anything different in my salle. In my opinion all of the "safe" practice blades on the market are rubbish (with the exception of the Arms and Armour one) and are completely unnecessary if you demand a modicum of control from your students. Isn't control of the weapon what makes a good fencer?

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

Stoccata School of Defence
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Mike West




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 4:03 pm    Post subject: Thanks, but.....         Reply with quote

Thank you and, I'm not offended.

I'm not sure I could explain my point fully, or fully understand your point without fencing with you in person.

I would then be able to see what you meant by "full speed" and, "control."

I would also be able to see what you meant by an accurate rapier blade. I would not want to fence with any of my reproduction medieval swords, even those that weren't sharp. Still, I would have to see what you do in person before I would make a final judgement.

When I saw the Arms and Armor "nail" I was impressed as that's the only close-up I've seen of a practice rapier.
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J. Bedell




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 4:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You make a good point Stephen, but for beginners wouldn't it be better to give them a practice blade rather than a true reproduction? I would think that it would be beneficial to use a practice rapier to learn the technique and proper control. Once you know the technique and proper control, I agree, you should be able to safelly use a true reproduction to fence with.I'm just curious as to how you view this, because I know you have a lot of experience with it.

What do you mean by an accurate rapier blade? Wouldn't the A&A nail blade be appropriate, or do you mean a true replica blade?

Sorry for all of the questions, I'm just a little confused and am looking for some clarification from someone more knowledgable in the subject than myself.

Thanks,
-James

The pen may be mighter, but the sword is much more fun.
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Mat Billings




Location: Kelowna, BC
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Hand wrote:
Dear Mike,
. In my opinion all of the "safe" practice blades on the market are rubbish (with the exception of the Arms and Armour one) and are completely unnecessary if you demand a modicum of control from your students.


Define "safe" and "rubbish." Confused

While you're at it, which blade makes are you referring too and why, through personal experience, excluding foils, epee's or double wide epee's and olympic saber blades, do you believe the above statement to be true? It's true that not all are made the same, but it was left open too interpretation...

I remember when I started, I gradually moved through various loaner "schlager" rapier's, up through hanwei's and unto my current kit. As the years progressed, I moved through different blade makes that gradually got more accurate, but the same fundamentals were easily practiced through the different blades. Upon picking up one of the old blades, my reaction was "Man, this thing is light; I remember when I could barely use it!"

Basically, if you start with a lighter blade that you can practice with for a longer period of time without tiring, and gradually move through to the more accurate weaponry, it'll be benificial in both strengthening one's sword arm and the techniques involved in the long run. Most new fighters, when given an accurate repro, can't use it for more than 10 minutes. Just my two cents. Big Grin
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 10:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Thanks, but.....         Reply with quote

Dear Mike,

By full speed I mean as fast as I can go. By control I mean always being able to put your sword where you want it when you want it as hard or soft as you want it. By accurate rapier blade I mean a perfect, but blunt copy of a surviving original piece, same length, same weight, same flex.

I routinely fence with blunt reproduction medieval swords and think that far too much rot is talked about how you supposedly can't.

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

Stoccata School of Defence
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Stephen Hand




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Posts: 226

PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 10:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Bedell wrote:
You make a good point Stephen, but for beginners wouldn't it be better to give them a practice blade rather than a true reproduction?


Dear James,

In my experience it's quite the opposite. If you give someone a weapon that's lighter and doesn't hit as hard then they will tailor their level of control to that weapon and have trouble moving to a real weapon. If you give someone a real weapon straight off then they will respect it and develop a much better level of control. In my country our culture was that you do swordfighting with accurate replicas of real swords and there's never really been an issue with this. In the US someone decided that real swords were too dangerous to fight with and this decision (almost certainly not based on any direct experience) has been passed down as gospel for decades. It's simply not true. You can fight with real swords quite safely. You just need to practice more and develop better control before you start bouting - and in my opinion anything that makes you do that is a good thing too.

I use practice weapons for rank beginners but that's primarily because I don't have enough swords and rapiers to go around and you can't expect people to buy a sword or rapier for the first lesson. My practice rapiers are a stick with a nail in it that you can hook the finger over. It's enough trouble getting people to buy good quality weapons without asking them to buy cheaper practice weapons beforehand.

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

Stoccata School of Defence
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 10:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mat,

By "safe" I was referring to the horribly bendy un-rapierlike things that people who have never fenced with an accurate replica falsely deem necessary to avoid any injury when fencing.

By rubbish I mean blades that don't handle at all like real rapier blades and which therefore distort the art.

I have occasionally handled and many times fenced with people using various inaccurate rapier simulators. I've not paid too much attention to make etc. Once I realise that they don't handle like a real rapier and they distort technique (try doing any sort of blade action on one of these horrible bendy things that many people use) I don't pay any more attention to them.

If you have trouble using a 2.5-3lb sword, go to the gym. I have petite 50 year old women who have no trouble and have never learned on light simulators.

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

Stoccata School of Defence
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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 2:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Thanks, but.....         Reply with quote

Stephen Hand wrote:
Dear Mike,

By full speed I mean as fast as I can go. By control I mean always being able to put your sword where you want it when you want it as hard or soft as you want it. By accurate rapier blade I mean a perfect, but blunt copy of a surviving original piece, same length, same weight, same flex.

I routinely fence with blunt reproduction medieval swords and think that far too much rot is talked about how you supposedly can't.

Cheers
Stephen


Hello,

What type of protective equipment do you wear? You look to be wearing an ECW buff coat in your avatar picture.
Do you usually wear that while fencing? How about a gorget? Mask? Do you, or member of your group have any movies online where I could watch your style of fencing?

Thank you.

Mike West
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Mat Billings




Location: Kelowna, BC
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 6:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most people around here wear a 3 weapon fencing mask, or full steel helms with perf visors.

I suppose in terms of protection, modern olympic vests are pretty common and easy to come by.

Neck protection is a must. You can buy steel or hardened leather gorgets from various armories.


Leather gloves are easy to come by as well. If you're starting out, tig gloves (not the big blue gloves, but the more fitted welding gloves) make for a good starter pair, but will wear out quickly.

Revival clothing has some nice gloves amung other products that are worth checking out. Big Grin
http://www.revivalclothing.com/catpages/cat_gamb_linen.htm

I'd also suggest a cup of some sort, should you plan too breed in the near future... Fluke shots happen, and when they do, you'll be EXTREMELY glad to have one of these. Wink
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 7:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Thanks, but.....         Reply with quote

Dear Mike,

I typically fence in a reinforced fencing instructors jacket, mask, box, right vambrace and gloves. I ditch the vambrace for rapier. There is some video of a great bout between me and Maestro Sean Hayes on his site. This was the first time we had fenced with sword and buckler, though I had fenced Sean a couple of times previously at other weapons. Go to http://www.northwestacademyofarms.com/ , click on the seminars page - the video is on the right hand side near the top. I wish it were a lot larger and clearer...but it isn't. We are both using accurate replica arming swords. The sword I am using is the one illustrated in my book Medieval Sword and Shield and weighs 2lb 10oz.

I once did a full speed fight with steel swords with one of my fellow Stoccata Instructors with no protective equipment at all (though I wouldn't recommend this). It was at a University clubs recruiting day and the spokesman for a certain organisation that doesn't fight with steel sword, and which shall remain nameless, got up on stage and with a distinct sneer in our direction said that you can fight for real with fake weapons or fight fake with real weapons. So, once he'd finished his spiel my friend and I walked up and without any announcement put on a very fast and furious bout with no protective gear (we actually hadn't brought all our kit). At the end of it the chap who'd been having a go at us slunk off like a dog.

Control is central to all fighting. You need to know where your sword is at all times and be able to pull the force out of it at a moment's notice. Swing hard and fast and stop on the proverbial dime. You need to be able to do this BEFORE you start fighting.

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

Stoccata School of Defence
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Mike West




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:10 pm    Post subject: I think I see.         Reply with quote

So while you are using a real rapier, with bated blade, and are acting as if you're fighting for real, you pull the rapier out of the thrust at the last moment, before you strike, or without that much force that their protective gear cannot defend against?

The speed of the thrust may be a full speed, but the attack ends before you make serious contact?

Thank you.

Mike West
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 10:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For protective gear in rapier I wear a mask, a pair of slightly padded gloves, and a fencing jacket. If I'm fencing against someone I'm not familiar with, I also add throat protection in the form of a gorget.

As for videos, I believe someone hosted a video of John O'Meara and myself fencing at this last year's WMAW rapier tournament. I think it's hosted on Google somewhere, I'll see if I can find it, and I'll post a link later.

I also recently did this video using a medieval single hander with rapier techniques to show that the techniques of rapier are not so specialized as to only work with one weapon only. It may not be exactly what you're looking for, but you can at least see the protective equipment.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8428781260330923822

Now, about the rapier blade itself. First off, I completely agree with everything Stephen has said about bouting and control. I think, though, that people might be getting the wrong implication on what Stephen is saying about rapier blades. Antique rapiers DO flex. Some quite a bit. If you took an antique blade and filed the edge and tip off, and did something to further rebate the tip (e.g. a rubber blunt), you have yourself a practice sword. In some cases they'll be a little stiffer, in some cases they'll be as flexible as a modern fencing foil. So if you have a good rapier simulator, it won't be very different than an unsharpened real rapier blade.

Now, there are many who believe that a rapier blade should be a rigid steel rod, and I think that's silly. First off, there's the fact that I mentioned most period rapier blades have a great amount of flex. But there's also the fact that a real thrust with a real sharpened sword would penetrate the person. If I thrust with something rigid, that shock goes back into my arm, causing me to naturally "pull" the blow more than necessary. Without even worrying about safety, I'm actually practicing incorrectly if I do this. Having flex in the blade allows you to complete a proper lunge, although there are many techniques where we have to accept that bouting won't allow us to do. (e.g. There are techniques where Salvator Fabris's manual instruct us to lunge at the person, having the blade go through the chest and striking the person with the hilt behind that blade.)

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
As for videos, I believe someone hosted a video of John O'Meara and myself fencing at this last year's WMAW rapier tournament. I think it's hosted on Google somewhere, I'll see if I can find it, and I'll post a link later.


Found it.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=791650491147036812

This was the rapier tournament held at the most recent Western Martial Arts Workshop. I am the one in the black, John O'Meara is the one in period clothing. As you can see, different people wear different things, depending on their group requirements. My group wears modern fencing jackets (mine is black because I'm an instructor, but the rest of my students wear the standard white ones).

In the video you can't see any of the subtle actions of blade angle or measure, but this was my absolute favorite bout out of the entire competition. I know it's a little boring to watch, and very quick, but John was one of the most technically correct fencers there, and it was a pleasure to fence him.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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