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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When is it Too Much: Over-Training


The following subject is one which I personally know a lot about as I have been there quite a few times. This is about pushing yourself hard for a long time, or indeed just pushing yourself too hard. We all push ourselves for our own reasons, but there is a breaking point and we need to be aware of it as it can lead to a real problem if we don't notice it.


There are at least two different names for this condition, one is Over-Training the other, more common name is Burn-Out. This is when your mind and often the body have had enough. You feel lethargic about going to training, and will make any excuse in the world to skip it. If you find yourself making excuses more than a couple of times a month for not going to training, put yourself on a "watch list" for this condition.

Who is Susceptible?

We are all susceptible to it, indeed all athletes are susceptible to it. The older ones of us are more susceptible to the condition because they feel that they have to push harder to keep up with the younger members of our clubs. This pushing harder, if not maintained by ourselves and our friends can lead to Burn-Out and some real negative effects.

Warning Signs

The warning signs for Over-Training are sometimes subtle and sometimes a little more overt. One of the warning signs has already been described above.

1. Giving excuses for not going to training. This has to happen more than a couple of times a month for it to be a worry. These excuses come in the form of, "I don't feel like it." or "I am not in the mood." or "I would rather do [something else].". These kind of excuses show a problem forming.

2. There are constant clashes between your personal and training schedules, which are stressful.

3. The thought of going to training does not interest you, or fill you at least with a level of interest.

4. At training the drills are not interesting for you or your attention regularly slips.

5. You feel there is no improvement in your level of skill.

If Warning Signs are Ignored...

If you ignore the warning signs and continue to train at the same rate and allow these warning signs to go unheeded you can find yourself in real trouble. Here are some of the results which can happen if you ignore the warning signs.

1. Your excuses take priority over finding reasons to go to training, so you miss more and more. This means you fall further and further behind in your class.

2. The clashes between your training and personal schedules will increase which will only increase your level of stress which will only distract you more at training. This will result in a poor performance at training leading to a feeling of lack of skill.

3. Your lack of interest and attention slips will result in a poor performance at training which will result in you missing vital information about skills. It will also result in a poor performance in drills which will mean people will be less likely to partner with you to train with meaning it is harder to find people to train with.

5. The feeling of a lack of improvement in your skill will affect your performance, which will lead to a plateau and a decrease in skill and then more negativity resulting in a downward spiral of effects.

What should be noted here is there is a distinct downward spiral to the effects of ignoring the warning signs. So in short, don't. Take note of these warning signs as there is something that you can do about it.

What to do?

1. Prevention. Prevention is the best way to deal with this. Recognise the warning signs early and think about what you can do to change what's happening. Change your perspective.
2. Talk to someone. In your class the best person to talk to is your instructor. They should be able to help you with what's going on with you. Even just talking about what's going on will help you. Your instructor should have some good advice as to how to combat your problem, or even prevent it from getting any worse.

3. Find activities outside the interest of a physical kind to relax. Find cross-training activities that will still assist you but are not directly related. Walking is a good example of one of these.

4. Rather than focussing on the physical aspects, change focus and explore other facets. The martial arts regardless of what form always has a wide mind game. Read books about the subject. Investigate the social background to the martial art.

5. Find the social experience behind the physical one. Engage with your classmates on a social level, broaden your knowledge of them and you will find that there are many interesting people out there.

Burn-Out can be more dangerous to a person and their martial arts career and their health than people often give it credit. Through this condition a person can push themselves in to severe bouts of depression and also take a severe toll on their bodies in physical ways as well. Through Over-Training people have destroyed their own martial arts careers simply because they did not know when to step back and have a break, or take a breath. Watch for the signs, get help, take care of yourself.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Armour" in HEMA


The following discussion will be about armour and "armour" as it stands within the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) community. The thing is that there seems to be some funny ideas floating around about what armour is and what it does and how it relates to what we do. Hopefully this discussion will clear up some of these issues and clear up some of the confusing terms which have been used.

The image to the left is the full Titan range which is made by Leon Paul in London (Yes, I have noted the lack of shoes on this model). It is designed for the protection of various parts of the body for people who participate in HEMA. This is not armour.

The image to the right is an armour of 1585 for Lord Clifford. This suit is ostensibly for the sport of tilting due to the helm which is fitted to it, and the decoration which is on it, but it could have also seen battle and protected its owner very well. This is armour.

There are differences which need to be pointed out between the two. Firstly, the one on the left is made for a sport in which blunt weapons are used and the opponent has no desire to actually do the wearer of the armour harm, whereas the one on the right is made for battle in which the opponent wanted to either kill or at least maim the individual wearing it. Secondly, the style of combat used when fighting in the one on the left is different to that which would be used to that which would be used to that when fighting in the one on the right. Finally, while the one on the left has some rigid plates in its construction, the one on the right is primarily made of rigid plates. This results in a different style of combat, but not necessarily movement (a question for a different author).

Most of the combat which is being reconstructed by the HEMA community is based upon combat which is focused on unarmoured combat, thus not dealing with armour. When a person discusses "armour" on a forum when discussing their protective equipment, implications in the word can be made. Implications that they are taking their equipment to being like the picture on the right, which it is not. Does this mean that they are also assuming the same of others? This brings up the question of what level of strikes should be accepted.

The idea of unarmoured combat means that a much lower level should be accepted while "armour" gives the automatic idea of a much higher level of strike. The question of calibration or what level of striking has already been brought up in a previous post. This idea of the use of the word "armour" puts an idea in people's heads about what they are using and what they are using it against, even if it is not true. Somewhere in the back-brain "armour" gives automatic idea a harder hit is required. Simply put armour is not being worn.

If armour is not being worn then the name should change when discussing the subject. Some expression to cause less confusion and to prevent the idea that the harder strike is required so that the opponent can feel it through the "armour". A suggestion is that the name be changed from "armour" to "protective equipment" as this is a description of what it is.

The extra padding and certain rigid materials are designed to protect the individual from damage, not to prevent them from feeling the blow. Examine where the heaviest armour is placed in HEMA protective equipment and you will find that it is designed to prevent the wearer from getting permanently injured. Sundry areas are protected by padding.

A change from the use of the word "armour" to the more accurate "protective equipment" will be better in the long-run as it more accurately reflects the state of play, and will be a reminder as to what the equipment is for.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

What is a Feder?


What follows is a small portion of a paper I have written on the subject. There is a link after this portion if you are interested in reading the rest of the paper. I investigated it to find out more about this particular weapon, which I initially did not know very much about. This way I could better approach the subject of this weapon with a more open mind.



The Short Answer

            While a long answer will be forth-coming about the federschwert detailing various arguments about the weapon and discussing what was used for and its history there is also the short answer to consider as well. The short answers cover such things as literal translations of the name of the sword from German to English. The slightly more in-depth discussions of the weapon lead to further investigations which will be presented further along.

The “Feather-sword”

            The first place people go for an interpretation of what a foreign thing is will be to translate the name of the object from the native language into English and interpret this into some idea of what this means thus, "federschwert - a lightweight sword. "Feder" is German for "feather," and "schwert" is German for "sword."" (Shackleford, 2010). This would seem to be a logical progression and explanation of the weapon, but leaves the reader with no real explanation of what the weapon is for.
This is where an explanation from a more use-approach comes in handy, “A Federschwert ("Feather swords") is a foiled practice blade with a large flanged ricasso and a thick but narrow blade used for longsword training.” (Wassom, 2016).

A School Longsword

            Wassom’s (2016) explanation of what a feder is begins to explain not only what a federschwert is but also what it is used for. There is also a physical description which is most useful. Further explanation of the form of the weapon is possible and even a hint as to its use,

“special fencing school longswords called federschwert, with a narrow rapier-like blade and more mass close to the cross, in the area called the schilt or the ricasso.” (Norling, 2011)

            With all this in mind there is the image of a weapon which is relatively light, blunt because it is used for practice in a school-type setting, which has a wide ricasso called a schilt, which brings the mass of the weapon close to the hilt, and a narrow but thick blade. This would seem to cover a reasonably good explanation, but there would seem to be a problem.

What’s in a Name?

“In Sweden we have a saying; "A loved child has many names" and looking at what is today called a federschwert this seems to be true for this type of sword as well, at least if we think of it in general terms as a sword for training.” (Norling, 2013)

            There would seem to be a lack of agreement on what this weapon should be called. Again, much like the rapier, the weapon is trapped in a web of confusion as to some naming nomenclature. For some federschwert or feder, is not a suitable term for this weapon, and another needs to be sought. Other names will be discussed.

Not Historically Used

“we can feel quite safe in assuming that federschwert or feder was not a term historically used for training swords other than as a poetic choice of words.” (Norling, 2013)

            Not an historical term? Nope. This will also be revealed. The question is whether or not this even matters or not. Does the term as it has been implied and used by the community suit the weapon and thus, being informed of its lack of history, does this really impact its use? The lack of history of this term will also be discussed in more detail. Needless to say, there is no short answer.


Norling, R. (2011) “Sparring Swords – Introduction”, HROARR, http://hroarr.com/sparring-swords-introduction/

Norling, R. (2013) “The Whatchamacallit-schwert”, HROARR, http://hroarr.com/the-feder-whatchamacallit/

Shackleford, S. (2010) Spirit of the Sword: A Celebration of Artistry and Craftsmanship, Krause Publications, Iola, USA

Wassom, D. (2016) “Some Historical Swiss Swords Examined”, The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts, http://www.thearma.org/spotlight/swiss-swords.html#.WPge4PmGPIU

Links to complete document:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Being a Good Training Partner


Well this will seem a little ironic coming after my advice for the solo practitioner previously, but it is a subject which we all need to consider because sooner or later we will all be involved in a partnered drill, or in a partnered situation. This may be at our regular practice or at a convention or at some other sort of gathering. The partner may be someone who you have fenced with for years, or you may have literally just met them. All of the same stuff applies.

1. Don't Hurt Your Partner

Seems pretty obvious that we do not want to hurt the person that we are fencing with, right? Seems not to be the case with some. Some seem that they need to put a little bit more emphasis in on their strikes and other offensive actions. There is no need for it. If you continue to do this, you will simply run out of people who will be your partner and you will run out of people to train and spar with.

2. Follow the Drills

This means that if you are doing a parry and riposte drill and you are attacking, you are going to get hit. The only reason why you should not get hit is if your partner misses, and even then you should assist them so that you do. You need to do your part of the drill as faithfully as possible to ensure that the learning experience is fulfilling for your partner. You should be practicing your actions at the same time to make sure that they are correct. If you don't follow the drill you and your partner will not learn what is supposed to be learnt. If you continually not follow drills people will not want partner with you and you again will run out of people to train with.

3. No Additions

Even if you know what's coming next in the next drill don't make any additions to the drill. Wait until the trainer teaches the additional part of the drill. Your partner may not know about the new part and will be come confused, and will also want to focus on the current part. This also means that you should not really experiment with other options available as you may miss the point of the drill. If added defences so you don't get hit are not part of the drill, so don't add them. If you are supposed to get hit as part of the drill, you get hit. Additions to drills just show you as unwilling to follow instruction or arrogant, and not a good student.

4. Remain in Control

Some drills will be done at slow speed, some drills will be done at faster speeds. This will be determined by your instructor. It is up to you to remain in control of your actions. If you are supposed to be performing a drill at slow speed and your partner speeds up, do not follow them but remain at slow speed. You may even encourage them to slow down. Your instructor will have told you to do the drills at slow speed for a reason. Speeding up so that you can make a hit only cheats yourself.

5. Be Truthful

Cheating in drills and bouts only cheats yourself. Being truthful in drills gives a true evaluation of how your learning is going and whether or not you need more practice at the skills or not. Changing at the last minute or speeding up to hide a mistake that you have made is a cheat, and even if it allows you to strike your target you lose because you have cheated yourself. You have cheated yourself in training and therefore from learning a lesson. By making mistakes we learn. By cheating so mistakes are not made, you cheat yourself of that learning, and also your partner as well.

6. Remove the Ego

Some people feel that when they are struck it is a personal insult and their ego is somehow damaged. This is a very toxic attitude and you should avoid these people. Especially when training you need to remove the ego from the equation. Training is the best time to make mistakes as it is the best time to learn from them. Your instructors do not point out your mistakes to beat you down, but to help you learn. Your partners in learning are the same. If you get hit, ask how it happened so you can correct what you did wrong, not be insulted.

7. Respect for Your Partner

Finally, and this is most important, respect your partner. While a certain amount of training can be done alone and much more can be learnt by crossing swords with another. By respecting your partner you allow both of you to learn and thus both of you to grow as swordsmen. With respect for your partner much of what has already been said already will come into play. Regardless of your partner's skill level, ability, history, age or gender, all of them need to be respected. This is essential.

Being a good training partner is an ability which all swordsmen should train toward. This is something which will enhance your fencing career and also allow you to meet many interesting people in the process. It will also allow you to gain the most out of your learning experience. We have all experienced "that person" who deviates from the drills and will not follow instruction. This person is a nuisance and no one wants to partner them. The best thing is to not be "that person" and you will have a much finer experience.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Brutal Fencing II: A Question of Calibration


I wrote a previous entry on the subject of brutal fencing and its relation to aggression. This can be accessed here: http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/brutal-fencing-discussion-of-aggression.html. This post is aimed at one particular aspect of fencing and indeed brutal fencing and that is how hard one fencer strikes one another, this is sometimes referred to as calibration. Part of this entry goes to the reason why we actually engage in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA).

What is meant by calibration?

Calibration for the purposes of this post, and indeed in my opinion, is the amount of force sufficient required by one combatant for them to acknowledge a blow as good. This means that the blow would have done them some physical harm if the weapon was sharp, in the case of a sword. Of course this means both combatants have to agree on what one another is assumed to be wearing. The level of calibration will be different if the combatants are assumed to be wearing some sort of armour as compared to if they are assumed to be not.

For the most part, a lot of HEMA, the assumed armour is nil, the combatants are assumed to be wearing no armour at all. This means that they are wearing normal street clothes, no padding, maybe a pair of gloves. This means there is no armour to cut through, or padded jacket to pound through. A couple of layers of fabric and then flesh. The armour, or should it be said, protective gear that is worn is worn for protection against injury not for the simulation of any armour.

Why hit hard?

This is an important question which has not really been answered properly at all, and some of the answers which have come back are quite disturbing. Do you want to injure people? If the answer to this question is "Yes", then I hope that I do not meet you and I hope that you do not turn up to my practice because you re not the sort of student I am looking for. There is no reason to injure people at all. It does not show "martial effectiveness" or anything of this kind, in fact you are borderline from having someone call the police about assault and battery.

Armour and Calibration

Combatants wear extra protective gear to protect themselves where they require it, this should not be a surprise. For some out there, they see this as a challenge, "You wear more armour, I'll just hit harder." The first thing to note here is that the attitude is just wrong. If you find one of these people, report him to your instructor immediately, if he does nothing, leave the school or group.

The problem we face is that as people increase their calibration, so protective gear increases, so calibration increases, so protective gear increases, and so on. One has got to give, mostly it is the bodies under the protective gear, resulting in injuries and people out for months at a time, and people leaving in droves because they can't afford the protective gear and don't like being hit that hard. This is a problem which can be stopped at the beginning by controlling calibration.

"Martial Effectiveness"

Discussing  the question of "martial effectiveness". It does not take as much force to damage flesh as you think. With a thrust it is ridiculously easy. With a cut, it is not much farther off that. We have all seen videos loaded up on YouTube with this sword being applied to that target. The only way to prove this for yourself is to do it yourself.

Test-cutting has a high degree of relevance for HEMA. How can you know what is "martially effective" and how much calibration is required to damage a target in the real world unless you have tested it yourself? This means acquiring the appropriate weapons and the appropriate targets to do a proper simulation, something at least close to a scientific investigation.

Technique versus Strength

There is always the question of technique and strength. Where technique is used, strength is not required. The sword is a tool specifically designed to damage an opponent in a particular way and if the techniques are performed properly the sword will work in this way with very little to no strength required. One of the reasons why swordplay appeals to so many is that, for the most part, as long as you can hold the sword up and do the techniques, strength plays a very small factor in what happens.

When a technique is performed and the body is moved correctly with the feet and hands all in the correct time all the strength that is required is applied. Previously I wrote a post about "The Myth of Speed" (http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/the-myth-of-speed.html). Here, again, is a place where strength is not required it comes through the correct application of technique. So, once again, strength is put on the back-burner.


The question really goes, in your performance of HEMA are you using a sword or a long, thin club? A swordsman knows how to apply the correct amount of strength at the correct time to make a particular technique work, he does not simply bash his way through his opponent's defences. A swordsman knows that an excess of strength will actually reduce the amount of speed and precision in his techniques. A swordsman will earn respect from his opponents for striking true but also with an amount of force required to deliver the intent of the blow but with no excess.

The question of calibration is one of safety. It questions how hard we really need to hit one another. There is no real need to hit one another with any more force than is required for the opponent to feel the intent of the blow. The only reason we should have to wear protective gear is for accidental reasons, i.e. if our opponent or we make a mistake, which we can never protect against. What does this mean? This means that the community as a whole needs to look at just how hard we are hitting and ask, "Does this match with what we are re-creating?" and "Do we need to be hitting this hard?" Personally, I think the answer is no to both questions.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Changes Made


Yes, I have changed the colours and format of the blog. Hopefully this will make things a little more readable for you my readers. The old style has been the same one which I had been using since I started and I decided it was a time for a change, especially if it made the blog posts easier to read.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

A "Safe" Sword


The concept of a "safe" sword is one which is presented again and again to us when considering which weapons we should buy and which weapons should be allowed in tournaments and so forth. This is a concept which badly needs to be addressed and some of the basic notions which are attached to this also addressed. These are weapons which are being discussed, regardless if they have dull edges and blunt points, and they are being used as simulated weapons as well.

When a weapon is lying on the ground away from anyone touching it is safe. This is when a weapon is safe, as soon as a person is involved there is an element where safety is reduced. The safety is reduced both for the person who is picking up the weapon and also for anyone who is around the person wielding the weapon. This is regardless of whether it is a sword, an axe, a mace, an assault rifle, a handgun or even a missile launcher, the same applies.

The weapon may be dropped on the wielder's toe, or even on a by-stander's toe. The relative safety of a weapon has more to do with the person holding the weapon than the weapon itself. A person who is trained in the safe use of a weapon is generally safer than one who is not. A person who has had more experience with a weapon is generally safer than one who is not. It is the person who determines how safe a weapon is or is not.

The image which I have posted with this post, is one that I really like a lot, and it is very pertinent with regard to this discussion. A sword is a weapon therefore it is not designed to be safe. Its purpose is to strike another person with the intent to do damage (simulated or not) against them. The aspects of selection which are made for particular weapons due to temper, type of hilt arrangement, edge thickness, and point characteristics cannot change the fact that it is still a weapon, and therefore is still not safe. These points are merely risk mitigating factors.

The same can be said for any rules or regulations imposed by organisations and tournaments with regard to particular weapons which are or are not allowed to be used within the organisation or at the particular tournament. These are, again, risk mitigating factors. These are combined with an expected protective equipment standard and an expected standard of play to attempt to create an environment where catastrophic injury is less likely to occur.

What desperately needs to be noted is that with regard to weapons, and especially the weapons chosen by most practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), it is not the weapons which should be the focus of examination, but the individuals who are wielding the weapons. Sure, there may be some weapons which, due to their characteristics, they may be "safer" than other weapons, but it should be noted that this is risk mitigation. The notion of a "safe" sword is false and it is something that as a community we need to get away from and realise the situation for what it is.

Much of what has been said above comes down to respect for the sword as a weapon, regardless if it has a sharp edge or if it has dull edges and a rubber blunt on the end of it. Both need to be respected as both can cause injury if they are not used with care. Treat your weapons and your fellow practitioners with respect and they will do the same for you. Take care and be aware.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick


Time for another book review...

Farrell, Keith (2014) Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick, Fallen Rook Publishing, Glasgow

First thing that you will notice is that it is by Keith Farrell, an author whom I have reviewed before. Yes. What does this mean? It means that the style of writing is easy to read and ensures that the point which is being made is made in very good fashion without having to resort to overtly complex words.

The book itself presents a great reproduction of Roworth's Arte of Defence on Foot of 1804, this has been transcribed by the author rather than simply presenting a facsimile of the original or referring to it. By doing this he gives a clear print version of the original noting the original page numbers and using the original illustrations. This allows the reader to read what was written by the original author without having to muddle through all of the issues of the original text.

So, many people will just go straight into the treatise and start describing techniques and stances and so forth, this is not the case with this book. There is actually only a relatively small amount of the book which actually deals with "how to", just over a third, that being said, it is the perfect foundation for what is presented. This book is not just a "how to guide" but an educational guide about the weapon systems and this is more important.

What this means is that the book provides the background of the era in which they were set. This background explains how the systems of swordsmanship formed as they did. You will find that systems of fencing, especially modern sport fencing, developed out of the conditions that developed around them. If you understand the background of a weapon system and its background you can understand where this came from.

Further to this, after the treatise is presented, the author presents how the treatise should be studied. This means he gives points about how the lessons presented in the treatise can be used and what the modern swordsman should be considering when taking on this sort of study. These elements are important as the modern physiology is not typically prepared for this.

Needless to say that overall I am very impressed with this book. It is an excellent book for the beginning broadswordsman, and also of great interest to anyone who is interested in the history of Scotland especially in the 17th to 19th centuries. So needless to say, it got me twice.

You can purchase this book at the link below:



Monday, February 13, 2017

Relax and Fence


We all know that muscles need oxygen, so we need to breathe when we are exercising, so this would be the reason why some time ago I wrote a post about the necessity of standing up straight in the on guard position (http://afencersramblings.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/stand-up-straight-and-relax.html). What you will notice about this post is that there is an element of the relaxation point in here as well. This element will be the focus in this post.

First point, when you are tense, your muscles tense unconsciously. This burns energy, so you are burning fuel without even doing anything. Relaxing will increase your endurance when you fence. Further, when your muscles are tense before action they move slower, when they are relaxed before action they move faster.

When people tense up one of the first things they stop doing when they make an action in fencing is breathing. When you relax, you will breathe properly, this means that your muscles will become oxygenated properly this also means that you will have more endurance. When people tense up another thing they stop doing is thinking and this is never good. The physical elements lead to the psychological elements.

Relax, take a breath and just fence. "Well that's easy for you to say." Why? What is so important? Are you going to die if your opponent hits you? Most of the pressures that are built up, we build up ourselves and it is up to us to remove them. It is not easy and it will take time.

Practice is for practice. This means that you are supposed to try new things. This means that you are supposed to make mistakes. The most important thing is that you learn from those mistakes. If you are not getting hit while bouting at practice, then you are not learning, and you are not progressing. If you have just learnt a new action or skill in a lesson, you are supposed to be trying it out in bouting. Talk to your opponent and tell them what you want to practice; maybe they will want to practice something too and then you can help them.

Release the pressure. Find out what is causing the pressure in your fencing. Find a way to release it. Talk to your teacher. Talk to other fencers. Sometimes a little pressure to push us forward is good, but when it restricts what we are doing then it becomes a detriment to our fencing, and can even become a detriment to our character. It is great to be focused on a goal, but not to the exclusion of all of life that goes on around you.

Fencing will improve when you relax. Your actions will become smoother and more natural because you are not forcing them to happen. A relaxed attitude in your fencing relies on your confidence in your skills, this means that you also need to practice what you have learnt. This relaxed attitude and form of fencing can also be passed along to your partners and this will improve your experience.

There is a nice feeling between two fencers when they are both relaxed and are able to perform their skills. This can be seen by those watching. The bout can still be very technical and also very intense, but because the fencers are both relaxed with what they are doing it will also have a good feel to it. This will be different to two fencers who just go at one another, simply trying to be first to strike the other one. The bout will also be intense but for different reasons.

A relaxed attitude and relaxed nature and approach to fencing will lead to better and more comfortable fencing. This takes time. You need to be comfortable with what you are doing. You need too be comfortable with who you are fencing with. You even need to be comfortable with the equipment that you are using to a certain point. The most important part of this process is that it has to start with you. You need to relax and just fence.



Friday, January 13, 2017

The Broadsword: A Curatorial Discussion


So again, this is one of my more formal discussions on a subject. This means that it is long-ish. The subject of the broadsword is one which has been of interest to me for a while now, and was prodded along more recently by studying the smallsword, and also the workshops at Swordplay 2016 given by Keith Farrell. There are various arguments that you will find going through this post, some of which will be of interest and some, I hope, will clear some of the myths away. Thanks goes to Keith Farrell for his editorial assistance with this piece and correcting me on a few things.




          Most curatorial examinations of weapons are dry and give little detail as to their origins or development. What follows examines the origins and development of the broadsword along with some of the issues which have accompanied this weapon through history to this era. This examination is a close look at the broadsword to demonstrate that previous methods of classification need to be corrected and that the history of a weapon is important as is its development. Only through the assembly of all the data about a weapon can a person have any idea about how the weapon would handle.


          What follows is an examination of the broadsword. It is indicated by the title that this will be a curatorial examination, but this will be a little broader than most curatorial examinations as they are most often concerned with hilt construction. This has often led to this misclassification of weapons. Thus this investigation will concern itself with the entire weapon, but also more than that.
          To begin with there is the question of what is and is not a broadsword, to this point a definition will be examined and argued for and against, then another proposed. Following this will be a brief history of the development of the broadsword. The word “development” is used here and not “evolution” as it was a process which was affected by external and internal factors, and also had an effect upon other weapons of similar make. Next will be a discussion of the broadsword and the backsword, two weapons which are often confused, usually as a result of one or both not having a clear definition. Getting even more specific there is the question of the claymore and what is and is not one, a question which has been argued to and fro for many years.
After all these preliminary arguments have been established and some of the background has also been established. Then the weapon will be examined. The previous is necessary so that both writer and reader understand what is being discussed. The broadsword will be discussed in order of hilt, blade and then the weapon in general. This will give the differences in different nationalities of broadsword, specifically, English, German and Scottish and the differences between them.
There will be mentions of other weapons of similar classification. The backsword has already been mentioned above, and will feature in different placed in the investigation. The sabre will also be mentioned in the discussions, but more in passing rather than in any sort of detail. Finally, with regard to use considerations, this can only come from the knowledge of the weapon as a whole. This discussion will only barely scratch the surface of that and give some very vague indications. The focus of this investigation is more about the form, origins and development of the weapon. 


“a broad-bladed sword used for cutting rather than stabbing. Also called backsword” (Collins English Dictionary, 2016)

          The definition supplied by the Collins English Dictionary (2016) is rather broad and covers quite a few weapons, it could even cover some forms of medieval sword as well, especially as the definition above does not in any way take into account the form of the hilt. What this means is that the definition needs some refining. The broadsword is most easily defined as a straight-bladed, double-edged, relatively broad-bladed sword with a basket-hilt that protects the hand. What needs to be noted here is that the previous definition did not take into account the hilt of the weapon which is a mistake often made in the curatorship of swords in that often all the weapon is not taken into account.
          The change in hilt is significant where the cross-guard was changed to a basket-hilt and is similar to that which is found with regard to the development of the rapier, and for similar reasons. The civilian rapier’s hilt developed to protect the unarmoured hand of the civilian. The more military broadsword hilt developed as armour declined as a result of the introduction of effective firearms to the battlefield.

The Broadsword Story

“they [basket-hilted broadswords] are most closely associated with the 18th-century Scottish Highlander.” (Holmes, 2010:106)

          When the broadsword is thought of, it is the Scottish Highlander which is first thought of wielding the weapon. The history of the weapon will reveal that they were not the only people to use the weapon, and indeed it could be claimed that they were not even the first. The discussion which follows will follow the development of the broadsword, for the most part, in chronological order. It will start with a more general introduction to the history and then examine the three important centuries of development, the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While this is not really designed to be a curatorial discussion, there will be curatorial elements present.
          To begin there must be a brief examination of the weapon which came before, and to understand that this was primarily a military weapon, rather than a civilian one, even though it found its way into civilian hands. Its history starts with the knightly sword of war, as armour was lessened the hilt had to develop to protect the hand. These developments are primarily noted in England, the result being that the English hilt is the common ancestor of the basket-hilted claymore and English military pattern (Oakeshott, 2012:176). More of this much-argued weapon will be discussed later on.
          There is a lot of argument about the dating of weapons and where they came from. This is for a multitude of reasons firstly weapons are difficult to date due to similarity in design and references found for the pieces themselves (Oakeshott, 2012:177). To accurately date something a design needs to be in print in some form to compare to and when the designs are common across an expanse of time this makes the dating even more difficult. This situation can be complicated even further in the case of many swords not just the broadsword with regard to the idea of re-hilting. In the case of the broadsword re-hilting was common, an old blade would be placed in a new hilt, or rarer old hilt and new blade would be put together (Oakeshott, 2012:179). Needless to say, this results in a weapon, if it manages to date both parts with a date for one part and a date for the other.

Sixteenth Century

          Previously it was noted that the broadsword was primarily a military weapon. It was also noted that it was a modification of the knightly war sword, answering the need to protect the hand. After 1520 the knightly war sword acquires a more complex hilt, changes at end of the sixteenth century to the proto-typical forms of broadsword of 17th and 18th centuries (Oakeshott, 2012:126). These developments were in answer to a changing situation on the battlefield where armour was being reduced in answer to its lack of effect against firearms. The speed of which the development came is impressive.

One of the earliest basket-hilted swords was recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose, an English warship lost in 1545. Before the find, the earliest positive dating had been two swords from around the time of the English Civil War. At first the wire guard was a simple design but as time passed it became increasingly sculpted and ornate. (Wikipedia, 2016)

          In a relatively short amount of time, the hilt of the weapon became more and more complex resulting, by middle of century hand protected and surrounded by plates, bars lined with leather or fabric (Coe, 1996:73). This is not a simple operation as can be told by anyone who has assembled a sword of such complex parts. What needs to be noted here is that the earliest hilt here is not Scottish, but English.
          Rather than being nationalistic about where it was invented at this point in time, the important thing to note here is that, the ancestry of broadsword hilts found in those that evolved by 1570s and survived (Oakeshott, 2012:156). It was this pattern of basket-hilt which was spread around and resulted in developments in other places. It should be noted that the beginnings of broadswords of 18th and 19th centuries in German experiments of c.1600 can be seen (Oakeshott, 2012:156).
          What is most interesting is that the weapons which were developed by the English would have to wait until toward the end of the century to cross over the borders of the closest neighbours, and thus would gain a new name, and not the one expected. As in the last years of the sixteenth century basket hilts associated with Highland Scots, known as ‘Irish hilts’ in early seventeenth (Oakeshott, 2012:176). More to the point many of these would be sourced from Continental swordsmiths.

Seventeenth Century

          In a typical Victorian fashion many have attempted to classify the broadsword hilts of the seventeenth century to try and see if there are any patterns of development, but not with much success, “Any attempt to specify prototypical patterns for the broadsword hilts of the seventeenth century would be doomed to failure,” (Oakeshott, 2012:173). This is for two clear reasons the first of which is that the broadsword hilt spread to different nations and was thus changed and developed as according to their own requirements. The second is that, “Basket hilts underwent various changes during the course of the [17th] century.” (Coe, 1996:74), and when these two are combined, there are too many variables to be tracked.
          What is known is that, “Basket hilts continued to be used during the seventeenth century, especially in England and Scotland” (Coe, 1996:74), which is of little surprise due to the origins of the hilt itself in the sixteenth century as indicated above. More to the point it is also here where most of the fame for the broadsword is found. While the Scottish hilt seems to dominate in popularity and in form and construction, English hilts of same period are often of fine construction (Coe, 1996:74). The other thing that should be noted with regard to this is that with regard to the origins of this weapon, it has a distinctively English heritage.

“Scottish it was, even in the seventeenth century, and exclusively Scottish it became, but England has good a claim to it, for it originated in that country. However, since it is always called the ‘Scottish’ sword ... it is necessary to observe the distinctions.” (Oakeshott, 2012:170)

          One of the most useful things about the popularity of an item in the historical record is that sometimes it makes it easier to track through the historical record because it was more likely to be recorded, and also because it was more likely to be researched and thus the information brought to light. In the case of the Scottish broadsword both are the case.

“The 1881 Ancient Scottish Weapons had this to say: The broadsword first appears in formal record in Scotland in 1643, when, along with the Lochaber axe and the Jedburgh staff, it constitutes part of the equipment of the levies then called out by the Convention of Estates, From 1582 to 1649 a "ribbit gaird" often appears as the "essay" of the armourers of Edinburgh, but in 1649 it was changed to "ane mounted sword, with a new scabbard and an Highland guard."” (Scottish Tartans Authority, 2016)

          This clearly dates the first official record of the appearance of the “Highland guard”, clearly what was to be known as the Scottish hilt later on, and fills in another piece of the puzzle of the history of the broadsword which otherwise would have remained unfound. The seventeenth century served as a kind of formative years for the Scottish hilt in which it developed and took its shape. Needless to say that there were many variations of hilt through the period, as a curatorial discussion will find, but eventually will settle on a single one.

“The Scottish basket hilt, with its traditional heart-shaped piercings and large square plates, seems to have appeared in the second half of the century [17th] and remained in use for over a hundred years.” (Coe, 1996:74)

Eighteenth Century

"During the 18th century, the fashion of dueling in Europe focused on the lighter smallsword, and fencing with the broadsword came to be seen as a speciality of Scotland. A number of fencing manuals teaching fencing with the Scottish broadsword were published throughout the 18th century." (Wikipedia, 2016)

          While the Wikipedia (2016) is not the most reliable source the information presented above is accurate. Most of the Continent was focused on the use of the smallsword and thus most of use of the broadsword was left to military matters. Being a more “native” weapon to the Scots, manuals for the use of the broadsword were also published alongside those for the smallsword.
In the case of the broadsword, the stage of full development had arrived, “The basket-hilted sword, in which the entire hand was protected by a leather-lined cage of bars was made in many variations throughout the eighteenth century.” (Coe, 1996:85). The complete hand was protected and the weapon was established. In the end, the broadsword would serve more as a military sword rather than a civilian sword and, “The variety of basket hilts found on eighteenth-century military swords is enormous,” (Coe, 1996:86). One thing that can be said is that the Scottish type was the more dominant form later due to its developmental stages.

“As for the ‘Scottish’ sword, in its earliest forms it as uncompromisingly English, and remained a standard English pattern far into the eighteenth century; only very late in the century did it become exclusively Scottish.” (Oakeshott, 2012:170)

          The Scottish form of broadsword was to dominate in form and function and became the more dominant form of hilt for the military. Even in the backsword form, the “basket-hilted backsword of about 1766. Swords of this pattern were fashionable for officers in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.” (Coe, 1996:86). The effect of the popularity of this form of hilt type can be seen in popular culture as for the most part when a basket-hilt is seen it is compared to the Scottish form. Instantly the broadsword is associated with the eighteenth-century Scottish Highlander, and also the Highland Regiments of the British Empire which followed.

Broadsword or Backsword?

          To delve into the question of the broadsword is also to come up against all sorts of different questions and be confronted by different weapons which may claim to be the same thing when in fact they are not, and sometimes they are. One of the first stops along this path is the backsword. This is the first question that must be answered, what is the difference between the broadsword and the backsword, where is the line drawn between the two, or is there one to be drawn? The answer to this is actually relatively simple, but some other things have to be taken into account.

“The Basket hilted sword was also called the Scottish Broad Sword. There was also a version called the claidheamh cuil which means back sword. The back was blunt with just one sharp edge.” (Watterott, 2016)
What can be seen here is that the concept of the backsword is actually quite found quite far afield. In this case there is Scottish Gaelic for the term backsword meaning a weapon which has only one sharp edge, so in essence the idea stands on firm ground. When it comes to the broadsword it is the Scots who would seem to be the experts, as for questions about the “claymore”, they will be answered later on. In our contemporary society ideas of curatorial differences in weapons based on form rather than function still hold true, “Where the blade has only one cutting edge it is known as a backsword.” (Akehurst, 1969:8). This does not take into account the use of the weapon merely the form of the weapon.
          One of the more interesting discoveries which came out of this research is that the weapons, both the broadsword and backsword were claimed as cavalry weapons (Wagner, 2004:20). This is most interesting as it is the Scots Highland Regiments which were primarily infantry units where the broadsword is most known from, not to mention all of the evidence from manuals which points to using the weapon on foot. Further in the same discussion he claims that the weapon, “had a straight blade, originally two-edged, later only one sharp edge. These weapons were uniform in character,” (Wagner, 2004:20). What should be noted is that it is the two-edged broadsword, of the infantry version which will be the primary focus of this study and that in the sources which describe the use of the weapons both terms were used to describe the same weapon meaning the difference is more a question for curators, rather than those interested in its use.

What is a Claymore?

When the word “claymore” is said two weapons are immediately thought of, a two-handed weapon of medieval origin and also the basket-hilted broadsword more associated with a later period. The question remains as to which is the “claymore”. Of course it would be simple just to use a modern definition.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “claymore” as “a large 2-edged sword formerly used by Scottish Highlanders, also their basket-hilted broadsword” (Merriam-Webster, 2016). This is rather confusing as it actually indicates two weapons a large one and also the basket-hilted broadsword. What this means is that the common confusion as to what a claymore actually is continues. The aim of what follows is to bring some of this discussion out and find a solution to this question.

“Perhaps the most famous version of the broadsword is the Scottish claymore. Though claymores were originally two-handed swords usually with simple cruciform hilts, their most famous incarnations were fitted with basket hilts, these swords became iconic weapons of the Highland Regiments that fought for the British Empire.” (Soud, 2014:53)

          Soud (2014) would indicate that both were named “claymore”, both the two-handed version and also the basket-hilted version, and that the name was carried through from one weapon to another. Thus for this author it would seem that it is not a matter of naming convention which is the problem, merely that it is a problem with naming the correct era which is being spoken about. For him there would be a “medieval claymore” and a “basket-hilted claymore”. Unfortunately, this does not take into account the origins of the word or where the weapon came from.

“The long two hander was called a claidheamh dà làimh, translated it literally means two handed sword. … In the romanticised period after the Jacobites the term Claymore was then applied to the long medieval sword.” (Watterott, 2016)

          Watterott (2016) examines the native language from which the term “claymore” came from, Scottish Gaelic, presenting the name of the two-handed sword in the language and giving the reason that it was changed to the more familiar one in the later period. This would seem to give more evidence than the previous explanation of giving both weapons the same name. Further to this he explains why the basket-hilted weapon is correctly named “claymore” using similar evidence.

“The Scottish version [of the basket-hilted sword] was broader than similar swords of the time. This sword was called a claidheamh-mór. This is Gaelic and translates into Great Sword due to its larger size than its contemporaries. It is well accepted that Claymore is derived from the Gaelic claidheamh-mór.” (Watterott, 2016)

          Watterott (2016) uses the original language and demonstrates through history the naming conventions of why the basket-hilted weapon should be called “claymore” and the two-handed weapon should not. Oakeshott (2012) being a respectable historian and curator of weapons gives a much simpler reason and evidence for why the basket-hilted broadsword should be called a “claymore”. One based on the weight of history.

“the familiar basket-hilted broadsword was called a ‘claymore’ by the Scots from early in the sixteenth century, and with such respectable contemporary usage behind it, the name may well be allowed to stick.” (Oakeshott, 2012:175)


          The broadsword hilt was not first developed in Scotland, but England, in fact Scotland was last on the list of places for the broadsword to arrive. “The idea of a basket to protect the hand first came to England and then Scotland from Scandinavian and German sword makers.” (Scottish Tartans Authority, 2016). What this does is it explains the origins and spread of the broadsword around Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as has already been indicated previously, and will also explain the foreign blades found in many Scottish hilts.
          What should be noted in the hilts of the weapons are the similarities between those of the late sixteenth century and even those of much later periods, the ancestry of broadsword hilts are found in those which evolved by 1570s and survived (Oakeshott, 2012:156). This is because the foundations were laid by these early weapons and developed over time. One of the more important things about these broadswords is that they were made to last they were often japanned or oxidised to prevent rusting (Oakeshott, 2012:181). These are common methods so that the weapon can be passed down and thus have multiple owners.


          The German hilts are clearly influenced by the English hilts. In the experimental forms of basket hilt that were being tried around c.1600 and can be seen the beginnings of the broadswords of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Germany (Oakeshott, 2012:156). The most contention however comes from the discussion of the differences and similarities between the English and Scottish hilts.

English vs Scottish Hits

          There are differences between the English and Scottish hilts and enough that some time needs to be spent examining them. Oakeshott (2012) states that there are three features that differ between the Scottish and the English hilts in the sixteenth century, pommel shape, addition of pair of bars on rear of guards, small linking bar between third and fourth bars inside and outside (Oakeshott, 2012:177). What will be noted from below, as the hilts are examined separately that there are common areas and also some areas where they differ, along with these three which have been noted above.


          The history of the broadsword notes that the English hilt was in use by the mid-sixteenth century, and a curved quillon form as dated as early as the 1560s (Oakeshott, 2012:175). What this tells us is that the dating for the English form of the broadsword is very early and this needs to be compared to the Scottish form of the broadsword, which will be noted to be somewhat later in the history of the weapon. The fact that the Scottish claymore took over, and the military pattern was designed from the English hilt, or is at least a common ancestor (Oakeshott, 2012:176), places the English hilt as one of importance.


          Starting with the pommel, it is quite distinctive, it is described as, “a large rounded pommel” (Akehurst, 1969:8). This description of the pommel is not particularly descriptive. It implies that it would be spherical in shape. Luckily there is some more specific information which states that it is apple or bun-shaped (Oakeshott, 2012:177). This means that it is not quite spherical, but more of a slightly compressed sphere.


          With all the focus on the Scottish hilts, being the more famous, English hilts of same periods are often neglected, but are often of fine construction (Coe, 1996:74). This must be the case as has been noted that they formed the bases for many of the guards which followed them. To address the guard more directly, it had, three vertical bars either side, connected by diagonally crossing bar with small circular plate at the join (Oakeshott, 2012:177). This formed the basis of the basket toward the front of the weapon. To the rear there was also protection toward the wrist. This rearward protection consisted of bars which slope sharply from pommel to where rear quillon would be (Oakeshott, 2012:177), noting of course, that in some instances that quillons may still be present.


“By the mid 17th century, ribbon baskets were being made in large quantities and by the turn of the 18th century, the Highland basket was reaching its full pattern. With the addition of the final rear wrist guard at the time of Culloden, it had fully matured. All basket hilt swords after 1746 were of military pattern.” (Scottish Tartans Authority, 2016)

          What appears above is a quite truncated history of the Scottish hilt and broadsword. It does take into account some important parts of its development, which is true, but also leaves out its origins. What can be said is that there is a pattern for the broadsword’s development and, “The traditional hilt-pattern, so very well-known, seems to have developed during the late sixteenth century, from an English-designed ‘basket’ hilt” (Oakeshott, 2012:175). Of course, usually for nationalistic purposes, this inconvenient piece of the history of the hilt is often neglected. What cannot be denied is the link between the hilts.


          The Scottish hilt has a different pommel. The “Scottish basket hilt with its flattened conical pommel.” (Akehurst, 1969:8), is obviously different from the English hilt. This changes the profile of the weapon, even when it is slightly different and is formed as a double cone round (Oakeshott, 2012:177). The conical shape of the pommel remains the same.


          When examining that famous Scottish guard it is best to examine the basic elements and then the more specific ones. The differences between this and the English hilt will be clear. The Scottish guard is constructed of a rectangular plate at where the bars cross on the English hilt, these are decorated; further the rear bars are closer to vertical and an extra shorter one is added to the back of the hilt with an added linking bar (Oakeshott, 2012:177). It is the combination of all of these Elements which gives the Scottish guard all of its characteristics.
          The ‘beaknose’ in which the “basket is formed from a series of welded, flat, ribbon-like strips of metal and is drawn into a kind of beak in front.” and is one of earliest Scottish guards c.1600 – 1680 (Oakeshott, 2012:177). This element of the guard remained on the guard for most of the history of the hilt. It could be inferred that this is the remains of the protection for the finger which may be used on the ricasso of the weapon.
          The design of the rest of the hilt with regard to the plates on the sides and front of the hilt, were standardised in a fashion. There were exceptions to this, but the mass produced weapons did follow form. Coe (1996) places the appearance of the openwork of hearts and circles on Scottish hilts in late 1600 (Coe,1996:85) or then previously stated that they appeared somewhat later.

“The Scottish basket hilt, with its traditional heart-shaped piercings and large square plates, seems to have appeared in the second half of the century [17th] and remained in use for over a hundred years.” (Coe, 1996:74)

          What is known for certain is that he states that after 1710 the hilt changed to have rectangular linked bars, pierced and edges filed into serrations (Coe, 1996:85). This denotes a change in the decoration of the hilt. The change in decoration of the hilt can be useful in dating the weapon, at least to before or after 1710, if it follows the standard pattern.


          One thing that is known about the Scottish hilt is that they were lined. This was no doubt for comfort in the use of the weapon. The hilt was most often leather-lined, with thin chamois, covered with velvet or felt and edged with braid, and the base had a thick lining of deer skin (Oakeshott, 2012:181). Examples of these linings can be found on museum examples and good modern reproductions of the weapons.


“The chief modern varieties of the curved blade are the Broadsword, the Backsword, the Hanger, and Cutlass, the Scymitar and Düsack, the Yataghan and the Flissa.” (Burton, 1987:123)

          Burton (1987) classifies the broadsword under a large family of weapons. What is most interesting is that he says that they are curved which they is clearly not the case, however in comparison with the smallsword which would have been the basis of comparison for him at the time of his writing in 1884. There are further issues with the classification of the broadsword, some of which have already been noted. Oakeshott (2012) states that they were mostly double-edged, though back-edged blades were not uncommon (Oakeshott, 2012:178). Clearly there is confusion here between the blade of the broadsword and the backsword, however on the basis that they are both mentioned simultaneously in the manuals this is less of an issue. Similarly the cavalry weapon is similarly confused by Wagner (2004) “It had a straight blade, originally two-edged, later only one sharp edge. These weapons were uniform in character,” (Wagner, 2004:20). The cavalry weapon is for a different purpose, so is a different weapon, even if it has a similar hilt. This is the reason why it is important that the entire weapon needs to be taken into account rather than just hilt forms. A similar issue has often been found with the classification of the rapier and similar weapons.
          The blades themselves were carefully selected, “preference was given to blades of older origin from workshops of well known blade-makers.” (Wagner, 2004:20). Clearly when considering the weapon to be constructed the blade had to be trusted thus an older blade would have shown its worth previously, and well-known blade-makers likewise would have proven their worth. Occasionally the curatorial details will allude to the use of the weapon, and thus give descriptive ideas about the blade, “The blades of such swords were almost invariably for cutting rather than thrusting.” (Coe, 1996:74). This would imply a blade which is shorter rather than longer and broader rather than thinner. Soud (2014) gives some detail with regard to this, “Long hacking and slashing blade” (Soud, 2014:53), rather than being short it was long.
          With regard to particular nationalities or types of broadsword, Scots weapons have broad blades, often with three fullers (Oakeshott, 2012:178), thus a definitive statement of a broadsword. In comparison, “The British army and many other armies had similar hilted swords but the blades were more slender.” (Watterott, 2016). This is an important consideration when considering use characteristics and method of use. The Scottish weapon would have had a heavier cut, based on this description, and it must be remembered that these blades were of some quality, “The Scottish broadswords or backswords have fine springy steel blades, mostly imported from Germany and bearing the ‘trade mark’ Andrea Ferrara.” (Akehurst, 1969:43). This also supports the idea of the broadsword coming to Scotland after having been to the Continent.


          The following will discuss the weapons themselves, and examples of them. There are curatorial issues with regard to dating the weapons, due to similarity and references (Oakeshott, 2012:177). The weapons are often of similar construction and made over such a broad period that reference to a style of hilt or even maker is not necessarily helpful. Further to this, re-hilting was common, old blade with new hilts, and rarer old hilts and new blades (Oakeshott, 2012:179). This means that a blade from an older period can be placed in a newer hilt which means that there is actually two dates, one for the blade and one for the hilt. What can be said about the broadsword, and this often causes problems with dating them is that there was eventually a uniform shape and ornamentation for whole armies by mid-eighteenth century (Wagner, 2004:20). This is useful for general dating, but not specific.


          Two examples of broadswords will be presented the first a sixteenth-century basket-hilted sword, the second an eighteenth-century cavalry sword. The first weapon is English and dated to c.1540. It has a full-encompassing hilt which is older than the broad German blade, it weighs 1.36kg and is 1.04m long (Holmes, 2010:104). The second example is English and is dated to c.1750. It has a full- encompassing hilt, a straight broad single-edged blade. It weighs 1.36kg and is 1m long (Holmes, 2010:104). It is most interesting that the weight is consistent as is the length, for the most part, even over the broad expanse of time.


          This is a single example of a proto-basket hilt sword. What this means is that it is one which would have been copied from the English hilt design. This sword is dated c.1550 and is German. It weighs 1.59kg and is 0.96m long. The blade is double-edged, and the weapon has a simple guard design, which is a “significant improvement over earlier Swiss weapons.” (Holmes, 2010:105). Clearly by the weight and length comparison the Germans were in the early development stages.


          The Scottish hilt of the broadsword is the most well-known of all, and well-developed, “The characteristically Scottish basket-hilt guard was designed to protect the swordsman’s hand.” (Holmes, 2010:106). There is a single example from the same source which has been used for both the English examples and the German example above, of a Scottish weapon. This broadsword is Scottish and is dated c.1750. The basket is lined with felt-covered leather. It has a wide double-edged blade for cutting and thrusting and a basket-hilt for hand protection. The sword weighs 1.36kg, and is 0.91m long (Holmes, 2010:106).
If the weapons are compared, the Scottish weapon is the shortest of all the weapons which have been described. The Scottish and two English weapons are of equal weight. This would imply that there is more metal in the hilt of the Scottish weapon than the English. This is actually no surprise as in comparison the Scottish hilt would actually cover more of the swordsman’s hand and wrist.


          The broadsword is a weapon which is well-known by many, but often misrepresented or even presented as the wrong weapon. From medieval swords to swords which have similar characteristics but are not the same, each one has been called a “broadsword”. Often this is because of the definition given for the weapon. For convenience a definition has been derived as, a straight-bladed, double-edged, relatively broad-bladed sword with a basket-hilt that protects the hand. The definition needs to be specific enough to take into account all of the weapon and not just the hilt. This one is a beginning.
          After defining the weapon an examination of its history was made. For some it would sound quite familiar. Due to armour around the hand being reduced, and armour in general being reduced due to the presence of firearms, the hilt was increased. This is actually quite accurate for the broadsword as it was primarily a military weapon, unlike the rapier which was a civilian one in which case the hilt developed to defend the unarmoured hand of the civilian.
          More specifically, the English forms of hilt developed first, followed by the German and European, and then the Scottish. In the eighteenth century Scotland became the broadsword fencing centre of Europe, while most of the rest of the nations focussed on the use of the smallsword. Military weapons of the same and later eras were based on the Scottish and English hilt designs.
          In the case of the broadsword and the backsword and their differences, the broadsword has two edges, and the backsword has one edge. The mistake of classification of one as the other is usually a result of classification by hilt design. The backsword saw some service in the hands of the cavalry but this was a different weapon again, the problem again being classification by hilt design. For the most part manuals of the period did not discriminate between the broadsword and backsword in use, and it is here where the real definition of the weapon lies.
          Next is the question of the claymore and what it is. In Scots Gaelic, the two-handed weapon has a different name as was indicated, meaning that even in the native language of the origin of the weapon it does not mean the larger of the two weapons. More to the point in contemporary usage the Scots themselves were calling the basket-hilted broadsword a “claymore” from the sixteenth century and it results in there being little argument left. The other weapon was only referred to by this name as a result of some romanticised notion of revival after the Jacobite Rebellion.
          In the case of the actual curatorial notes which have been made, much of the foundation for the evidence has been laid in the history, with the English hilt influencing all which followed, but the English using the Scottish hilt for the military weapon. Notes about the blade demonstrate more errors of classification due to being based on hilt forms, but demonstrate that the Scottish weapon had the broader blade, and that all had quite long blades even though they were cutting weapons. The weapon examples are more there for interest as they provide not enough information for any real idea about the weapons, even with images if they had been added. It is most important to look at the entire weapon to get idea about it. To classify a weapon by its hilt only is erroneous.
          A weapon needs to have a lot of data given about it to give any idea of how the weapon would be used. This is an investigation into the development of the weapon. It is also designed to clear up exactly what weapon is being discussed and to clear up some historical issues with regard to it. The easiest method to do this was a curatorial examination, to look at the form and construct of the weapon.


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