Italian Longsword

So, in the last couple of weeks I’ve started trying to learn swordplay, fo’ realz. A more recent friend of mine has made this possible due to having some training equipment ready and having some knowledge of what manuscripts are out there to learn from. We’re basically two interested students with no teacher, so we’re having to teach ourselves. I can tell you that the guard positions have cool names (Half Iron Door and Boar’s Tooth Guard are two examples), and that the footwork is really important if you ever expect to dodge, or to land a meaningful hit; it also helps you to not get knocked over unexpectedly. It’s also good exercise: training drills are one thing, but open sparring? Fighting is exhausting work! I quickly learned that using the footwork properly can reduce my “fatigue expenditure” by easily stepping out of the way of a thrust or swing; also, switching to a defensive posture gives you a moment to catch your breath after pressing an offense. As a side note: longsword in this context means a sword used in two hands (D&D players out there might call it a “bastard sword” which is a modernized name; while it can be used in one hand for some maneuvers, it is intended for two hands primarily). The traditional measure for a longsword was where the pommel of the hilt was the height of the wielder’s armpit when the point was touching the ground; a decorative “claymore” sword that I own is the right height for me (I’m about 6’4″)! I use a sturdy plastic sword for practice at the moment, which isn’t nearly as long but also less exhausting to swing around.

I wish there were better options around Kentucky for learning proper swordplay; groups like the SCA and similar organizations mostly put a nix on learning thrust attacks, which is extremely unrealistic. I’m pretty sure I could beat someone who was only using swing attacks with a long thrust to the belly, neck or face, thrusts are about half of the attacks in Italian longsword style. Also, thrust attacks were used to pierce the weak points in heavy armor, which holds just as true today as it did then (Kevlar is weak against thrusts). I don’t want an artificial fighting experience, I want to learn the practical combat styles people used to defend and kill with in the late medieval period. Either way I would get exercise, but somewhere between the historical interest and my desire to learn “the real thing” I appreciate this more than the other possibilities. I have also seen that friends and acquaintances have had mixed or distant reception from local groups, and that those groups (that are difficult to join and/or elitist) also don’t really have any good sword experts among their number either. I am left to study with my friend John, which isn’t such a bad thing.

I guess the experience wouldn’t be too dissimilar from trying to learn an exotic martial art in an area with no instructor. You learn as best you can, and you know it’s mostly for fun. However, if my life was in danger from anything less than a firearm and there was any sort of stick-shaped object nearby, it could be a practical skill too. ^_~

Step step
don’t cross the feet
step step
and then retreat
step step
don’t get in close
step step
counter the blow
step step
thrust to the chest
step step
Window Guard that mess
step step
thrust to the face
step step
you’ve won this race.