SWORD AND BUCKLER
The sword and buckler (small shield) is currently the oldest European system that has a manual. The manual known as I.33 depicts two priests demonstrating a series of guards and attacks with a small, single-handed sword and a small shield. I.33 is dated to around 1300. However, many later masters continued to use the sword and buckler and developed their own systems, such as Antonio Manciolino's 'Opera Nova' of 1531 and Achille Marazzo's 'Opera Nova' of 1536.
Fiore de Liberi's 'Flower of Battle' was a combat manual that covered wrestling, dagger combat, sword in one hand, sword in two hand, spear, pole-axe, mounted combat and more. Fiore's work was useable in and out of armor- making his manual a complete study of Western Martial arts. Fiore's work was published in 1410 for a powerful miltary leader by the name of D'Este and has four versions, the most popular being the Getty. His works were later expanded upon by Phillip Vadi in 1450 and later Italian masters were influenced by him in the use of the larger two-handed swords. We focus on the sword in two hands and some use of the pole-axe following the plates of Fiore.
Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies is the treatise of Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, a master swordsman who participated in more than fifty duels, fought under twelve flags, battled gangsters, and was constantly involved in the great conflicts and upheavals of his time. In his book he shows the force and technique of boxing and taught a special system of bare-knuckle self-defense that integrated punching, grappling, and kicking techniques, designed to be effective against a wide range of fighting styles.
From the late 1500's through the 1600's the rapier was a popular civillian weapon, used for defense and duels. The Italians developed a series of manuals on the use of the rapier. We focus on the work of Nicoletto Giganti who wrote 'The School'in 1606. Giganti's methodology is designed for students learning from the ground up and is written in an easy to understand style. For advanced work we focus on Salvator Fabris' epic 1606 manual, 'The Science of Arms', something Giganti may have plagarized and simplified- making the pair a wonderful match to study. A basic 'how to' for Italian rapier can be found here.
During the late 1600's the lengths of rapiers made them prohibitive to wear. Rules at the French court altered what was acceptable and the small sword was created. These blades, like a rapier, were designed for thrusting, but were much smaller in size and easily worn at the side. They remained popular throuhgout the 1700's and can be seen at the hip of famous people such as George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. Many manuals on the use of the small sword were created including Monsieur L'abbat's 'The Art of Fencing' which was translated from French into English in 1734.
The saber is a very old weapon, but was still popular in the 1800 and 1900's as both a military weapon, but also as a sport or dueling weapon as well. Useful for cutting and to some extent thrusts, the weapon was popular on foot and horseback. Alfred Hutton created a society dedicated to reviving lost, European swordsmanship and also developed his own ideas on the use of the saber. Hutton has his own manual, 'Cold Steel', published in 1889 and his own custom designed saber created. Hutton is asociated with the Bartitsu Club where his fencing organization was based for a time.
The dussack is a simple, short cutting weapon of which there are not many surviving examples. As such, it is unknown if dusacks were common weapons of the 1500's, or if they were geared toward training purposes. Dusacks were made of wood, leather and metal and resemble a scythe blade, or a large knife. Joachim Meyer's manual 'Thorough Description of the Art of Fencing', was published in 1570, and covered not only the use of the dusack, but other weapons as well such as the longsword, dagger, and polearms.
From the late 1500's until 1800 the rapier remained an acceptable weapon in Spain. Spanish techniques were different than the Italian being more ellusive in nature and with a focus on keeping the body and arm at a perfect 90 degrees. Spanish fencers used a circle as a means of relating themselves to their opponent, unlike the Italians who used a line. Jeronimo de Carranza's 1582, 'The Philosophy of Arms, of its Arts and Christian Offense and Defense', detailed the system known as Destreza and later Spanish masters furthered his works followed by masters from outside of Spain, such as Gerard Thibault. A basic 'how to' for Spanish rapier can be found here.
Wooden rods of about thirty-five inches in length, equipped with rigid guards which completely enclose the fencer's hand - were the 18th and 19th century descendants of Medieval wasters, wooden facsimile weapons popularly used for weapon training. During the Georgian and Victorian eras, Singlestick play was popularly employed in prize-fights and tournament competitions, for which purposes it was sometimes also known as cudgelling or backswording. The weapon was also used as a substitute for the Naval cutlass and cavalry sabre during training exercises.
Singlestick fencing was widely practised throughout England, the British Commonwealth, and the U.S.A. until the early part of the 20th century.