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The swordsmanship discussed in this article mainly pertains to Medieval and Renaissance martial arts practised by the Germans, Italians, English, Spanish and French in particular. This article does not cover classical or Olympic fencing, which is a sport rather than a martial art.
In most media, swordsmanship as practised by Europeans before the Early Modern period is considered to be slow, pondering and lacking in finesse. This is not historical fact, although such depictions may be forgiven on the basis that what we do know has surfaced relatively recently. It can be thought that such depictions are based on "absence of evidence is evidence of absence", which is fallacious but not the point of this article. In stark contrast, Eastern swordsmanship -- especially Japanese -- is given deific significance and abilities, with many people unironically believing that a katana is capable of stopping a bullet or penetrating tank armour. While there is no doubt that such swords and their martial arts were and are formidable, their Western counterparts certainly match them in both potential and practise. Observant students of European and Japanese swordsmanship will also note a stunning amount of similarity in the techniques utilized in both styles.
To learn about the virtues of Japanese swordsmanship, see Kenjutsu.
Western swordsmanship is generally taught with one, some or all of the following armaments:
- The longsword, a two-handed weapon that measured roughly four feet long from pommel to tip, depending on geographical location.
- English longswords as depicted by George Silver have the same blade length as a normal one-handed sword -- they are exactly the same as one-handed sword except with a longer hilt.
- German and Italian longswords are depicted as having their pommels reaching one's armpit with their tip on the ground.
- Sword and shield. The sword was typically an "arming sword," a bit smaller than a longsword and with hilt space for only one hand, since the other was tied up with the shield. Contrary to media, the shield was frequently made of wood.
- Sword and buckler. A buckler is a small round shield, reserved solely for melee combat. This armament is the source of the word "swashbuckler".
- The messer, generally a family of similar-looking slightly curved, single-edged blades. The German names include varieties of "Messer" ("Grosses...", "Langes..."), or "Dussack". A simple weapon, it originally had a guard consisting of a nail sticking out of the handle.
- The backsword, a one-handed, basket-hilted sword with only one edge. Sometimes very slightly curved.
- The rapier, a long, one-handed sword with a very thin blade and an extremely keen point.
- The small sword, a descendant of the rapier which has an even narrower blade and is extremely light. The weapon equivalent of the modern fencing foil.
- Rapier and dagger.
- Rapier and buckler.
For further detail on sword types, see Swords.
While we use the word "swordsmanship" here, the martial art itself commonly concerned as well these:
- The dagger, which was commonly worn both on street and on battlefield.
- The spear, halberd, Luzerne hammer, and similar polearms a knight might use.
- Grappling, which actually wasn't as separate from swordfighting as one might think.
Pinning down common concepts in European swordsmanship is difficult, because at least one historical swordmaster will have a technique that contradicts the established concept. Time, geography and armament all influence what is considered "proper" fighting, so each individual type of fighting requires its own explanation.
Medieval and Renaissance Kunst des Fechtens (lit. "Art of Fighting"), German Longsword
The contributions of the German fightmasters ("fechtmeister") of the medieval era cannot be overstated. They provide the greatest volume of information and instruction of any other group of historical masters. One of the first of these men was Johannes Liechtenauer, who was born in the late 13th or early 14th century and whose teachings would go on to be the most influential in Central Europe. Until the release of these techniques by fechtmeister Sigmund Ringeck in the 15th century, only a select few picked by Liechtenauer or his students could learn this art. Note that Liechtenauer wrote his manual in merkverse, which is a coded poem. The function of this is twofold; firstly to prevent outsiders to the art from gleaning its secrets and secondly to provide a mnemonic device for Liechtenauer's students.
Blossfechten (Unarmoured Combat)
Most German masters reference Liechtenauer's Blossfechten at least, which is the most fundamental part of the martial art. It means "unarmoured fighting", being at its most effective when used against an adversary with light or no armour. The Bloßfechten is not quite that limited, however, as the techniques and concepts taught reappear throughout later sections and students are encouraged not to use just one part of the manual, but to use concepts from different parts together. Prime examples of masters who wrote based on Liechtenauer's merkverse are Dobringer, Ringeck and Talhoffer.
German manuals mostly deal with the longsword and messer, although sometimes sword and buckler techniques are also included. While they also include spear, dagger, wrestling and general unarmed techniques, they are directly related to the teachings on swordsmanship, working in unison to produce a holistic martial art for combat with any weapon or none at all. Note, however, that it is necessary to comprehend and practise the unarmed aspects of the martial art for true competence, as sword fights were often resolved with the assistance of wrestling and grappling.
The most important aspect of German swordsmanship is its baleful attitude towards defense. German masters always advocated offense as the best means of defense under the idea that an adversary too preoccupied with defending poses no threat to you. There are no techniques in the manuals that are purely defensive in nature, and the defensive techniques that do exist are entirely devoted to regaining initiative to prepare for delivering a killing blow or another strike. Ideally, one strikes before the adversary, takes initiative and presses that advantage to end the fight instantly. Obviously, this cannot be relied upon, so there are various techniques for binds, voids and other occurrences. In any sword fight, the most "perfect" action to the least "perfect" action is as follows:
- Strike in such a way that you make contact with your adversary while closing off their line of attack. In this case, your strike is both a deadly offense and indomitable defense.
- Strike in such a way that your strike defends from your adversary's strike while continuing to threaten them.
- Passively defend from an adversary's strike.
German swordsmanship also has a tendency to feature the false edge as an offensive tool more often than its foreign equivalents. Generally, the true edge is a superior offensive tool, but the false edge is marvelous for sneak attacks and other, more tactical applications. For instance, one may employ the false edge under the assumption that their strike will be parried. If this is the case, one's hand is held differently to when a true edge strike is made, allowing for different options when it comes to binds and redoubled strikes.
One core concept is that all practitioners should move from guard position to guard position. A guard position is not necessarily a defensive position, although some may act in this way. Instead, guard positions are stances from which one can begin techniques and thereby threaten an adversary. This way, Liechtenauer's art of swordsmanship begins and ends all techniques in guards; this ensures that all practitioners are ready to defend themselves at all times unless they are already attacking an adversary, in which case they are forcing said adversary to respond. Following are the four main guards:
- Vom Tag
- Middle: Held at the left or right side, at the chest or shoulder with the sword pointing directly upwards or at a small backwards angle. This is the most versatile guard from which to launch attacks, as any strike can come from this guard with near equal efficiency.
- High: Held above the head with the sword angled no more than forty-five degrees backwards. From this position, descending strikes are powerful and fast.
- Ochs: Held with the hilt at ear height or a little higher, blade pointing at one's adversary or hanging somewhat, and held on either the left or right side. This is a strong guard from which to thrust, launch descending strikes and defend from incoming descending strikes.
- Pflug: Held with the hilt at hip height, blade pointing at the adversary's head or torso, and held on either the left or right side. Much like Ochs, it is a strong position from which to thrust, but it is better at launching rising strikes and defending the lower openings.
- Alber: Held with the hilt at hip height, blade pointing down and forward at an even angle, and held in the middle of the body. A highly defensive guard, it invites attack while remaining in a strong position to defend from any strike which doesn't target the head from above.
There are five special strikes within the German school referred to as the Meisterhau, or "Master Strikes". These are designed to attack and defend in a single technique while displacing the most common and useful guards. The design of these strikes are such that, even if done imperfectly, they aim to lend you advantage for further techniques. Following are the five strikes:
- Zornhau: A descending diagonal strike favoured for its simplicity, ease of use and versatility.
- Zwerchhau: A horizontal strike with a hanging point, aimed at the adversary's neck or head. It displaces high strikes and guards, aiming to close off the high line of attack.
- Krumphau: A variable strike that attacks the hands or blade of one's adversary, forcing an opening for an additional technique.
- Schielhau: A descending strike with the false edge, used to break low pointing guards and defeat adversaries that rely on strength.
- Scheitelhau: A descending vertical strike performed with the arms outstretched using geometry to defeat low guards and strikes.
Except for Zornhau, these are all displacements, or techniques designed to defeat particular guards or strikes.
Harnischfechten (Armoured Combat)
What is known to an even lesser degree than Blossfechten is the fact that a fight against an armoured adversary was significantly different to a fight against a lightly armoured or unarmoured one. The reason for this is that a sword cut is a poor offense against an adversary in mail or plate, which provides complete protection against cutting. Thus comes the need for a separate set of techniques:
- Half-swording, where the off hand grips the blade at the middle of its length. Used this way, a sword becomes more akin to a short spear and lever, where the point seeks out weaknesses in armour;
- Blunt strikes, where the pommel is used to bludgeon the opponent. This can be done simply by striking with the pommel, if it's convenient at the moment (for example, when the pommel gets close to the opponent's face while you attempt a more complicated technique). The other way is the mordschlag technique, where the sword is gripped with both hands on the blade and swung so the pommel or crossguard (or both) strikes one's adversary. This way, the sword imitates a mace or warhammer. Furthermore, the crossguard can be used as a hook for controlling an adversary's neck or limbs;
- One may also, of course, wrestle the opponent to soften him up, then throw him to the ground, disarm, or finish off with a dagger.
Such techniques are also useful against unarmoured adversaries at short distances or in confined spaces where swinging a sword is impractical or impossible. There are also a variety of miscellaneous instances where such techniques may be useful, even in an area where regular sword technique is entirely applicable. For instance, a sword may imitate a staff with half-swording; by pulling on one's own blade with the off hand during a bind, they can make a second strike to the same side of their adversary, this time with the pommel. While risky, such a technique can also take one into a range where they're too close in for their adversary to effectively wield a sword. Manipulating range like this is also an important technique against polearms, which are generally better at defeating armour than swords.
By examining armoured an unarmoured techniques, it becomes apparent that the martial art is meant to be implemented as a whole rather than strictly following the headings set out in the historical combat manuals. As such, we may take the separation between techniques as recommendations. Even Blossfechten techniques, with the sword reversed so as to use mordschlag, become applicable to armoured combat. Conversely, the armoured half-swording techniques can find application outside armoured combat as discussed above.
Work in progress.
The wrestling element of the German system covers the whole spectrum of unarmed techniques, including strikes, grapples, throws and locks. Being predominantly a warlike martial art for the knightly class, however, most unarmed techniques are grapples that end in throws; these allow an unarmed combatant to floor an adversary in full plate armour if they can enter into extremely close range combat. Almost all offensive techniques aim to take hold of and manipulate the following points:
- The head.
- The shoulders.
- The elbows.
- The hips.
- The knees.
All the above locations are excellent points of control, as it is most difficult to resist and adversary's strength when manipulated. It is not, however, good enough to take control of an adversary's body; they must then be subject to a lock, break or throw. Given the difficulty of locking or breaking the limb of a fully-armoured adversary, most techniques opt for a throw, which in turn sets up a killing technique. To adequately throw an adversary, a combatant must take control of two of the above points, although three is preferable.
Once two or three points have been taken control of, a combatant may push one end of the body while pulling the other, turning their adversary's body into a natural fulcrum and throwing them via their own imbalance. This is easiest with three points of control, which one may take with only two hands. One example may be to place one's forearm against the collarbone of an adversary so that the elbow is near to one shoulder and the hand near the other. At the same time, the free hand takes control of a knee. Once both hands have taken points of control, the upper arm pushes while the lower hand pulls. With control of three points, it is possible to throw even a large adversary to the ground.
Roßfechten (Mounted Combat)
Work in progress.
Medieval and Renaissance English Fencing
While the German longsword is the most popular WMA being researched at the moment, the English style of fighting is getting a bit of a spotlight due to the sources in... well, English, and thus interpretations are a lot easier without the barrier of translation. Interestingly enough, there are quite a fair few common ground between the English style of fighting and the styles in mainland Europe, but there are some key differences.
One cannot talk about the English style of fighting without mentioning George Silver, who was an English gentleman living around the time of Elizabeth I. Little is known about the man himself, except that he seemed to be a Master of Defence, as people who taught such things were called in those days. His works are written in more modern English, and they gave us a glimpse of what the English fencing is like. His works are:
- Paradoxes of Defence (1599): this is more of a treatise rather than an actual manual for fighting. In this, Silver argues that the Italian rapier is a poor weapon of choice and the traditional English method of fencing is superior. Ironically, his methods of fencing share a lot of common ground with the Italians, and there's a theory that suggests that Silver's thinking comes from the fact that most "Italian masters" that he would have met would not be up to the standard, as otherwise they would have opened schools in Italy instead of England. His grievances against the rapier can be summed up as follows:
- Rapiers are too long: Silver believes that there is a "perfect length" for weapons, and for swords (one-handed or two) he thinks that the blade should be just short enough so that if you hold your dagger with your off-hand straight arm in front of you, the tip of your sword should be able to pass behind the said dagger. This is due to the fact that weapons that are too long are too hard to uncross when in close distance. This is actually his method of fighting against rapiers, for you make "narrow space" by putting the point aside and come straight to your opponent. Once you're passed your opponent's point he can't do much as it is too hard for him to uncross and realign the point. Silver also talks about quarterstaff as well.
- Rapiers have no protective hilt: In those days, swords in England are starting to have a basket hilt.
- Brief Instructions Upon my Paradoxes of Defence (written in cc 1600s, published in 1898): This is the actual book by Silver that talks about the methods of fighting using various weapons. It seems to be unfinished as there are some parts that are quite puzzling (or it might be that people haven't quite figured out what he meant). Interestingly, in this Silver doesn't go into the techniques much, unlike other manuals at the time (particularly Italian school) where there is a lot of "if your opponent do X, do Y". Instead, Silver's idea of fighting is based on principles. The four main principles are:
- Judgement. Exactly What It Says on the Tin. You use your judgement to figure out what to do.
- Distance. There are three distances: close, wide and far distance. Close distance is the distance where you can hit your opponent (or your opponent can hit you) by just moving the hand/hand with weapon, which Silver calls "attack in the time of the hand" (the concept of "time" in this will be discussed below), or where you can cross your sword touching your opponent's sword, which Silver calls "half sword" (contrast with the German definition of "half swording"). Wide distance is the slightly further distance where you have to make two steps, or have one foot passing over another, before you are able to hit your opponent. Far distance is any distance that is even further than this. In Silver's view, you should always fight in the wide distance, since the hand is too fast for you to react, and thus in close distance, "the hand of the agent being as swift as the hand of the patient, the hand of the agent being the first mover, must of necessity strike or thrust that part of the patient which shall be struck or thrust at because the time of the hand to the time of the hand, being of like swiftness the first mover has the advantage." In other words, in close fight, the one who moves first will probably hit or not, and the one who moves later may or may not defend himself. In wide distance, however, since your opponent needs to put a step in before he's close enough to hit, this takes a longer time than just moving the hand to defend, so you will always be able to do something before the blow lands.
- Time. "Time" is an interesting concept in Silver's methodology. "Time" here can refer to two things: one is the time it takes for the movement to finish (time of the hand, time of the body, time of the foot and time of the feet); the other is the order of things being done (eg: time of the hand and body). For the latter version of time, Silver has two classifications: true time and false time.
- True time refers to moving the hand, body and feet in that order when attacking, while false time is the other way around: feet, body and hand. This is due to the fact that in true time, you're putting forth your weapon before you put forth your target, ie your body. Thus your opponent will have to deal with the threat that is coming at him (assuming that, like most people, he's not a suicidal fighter) rather than your body. Whereas if you move your body or feet first (which brings forth your body), you put your target before you've made a threat, and you opponent (whether suicidal or not) will be able to hit you. Sounds a lot easier than practice, as, assuming that you're attacking in wide distance where you have to put a step in before you're able to reach your opponent, the hand moves faster than everything else it is too easy to swing your weapon through before getting into distance. Thus the trick is to slow down the movement of the hand so that your weapon hits your target (assuming it isn't defended against) the moment your foot lands onto the ground.
- Place. Silver has one very famous statement in 'Brief Instructions': "because through judgment, you keep your distance, through distance you take your time, through time you safely win or gain the place of your adversary, the place being won or gained you have time safely either to strike, thrust, ward, close, grip, slip or go back, in which time your enemy is disappointed to hurt you, or to defend himself, by reason that he has lost his place, the reason that he has lost his true place is by the length of time through the numbering of his feet, to which he is out of necessity driven to that will be agent." Basically, the true place is a situation in which you can do whatever it is you want without risk of being hit by your opponent.
- Aside from the four principles, Silver also talks about the four governors (actually three, but he counts the last one as two)
- Judgement: Same as above
- Measure: Knowing the distance when you can strike your opponent and when your opponent can strike you.
- Two-fold mind: Silver considers this to be two governors. A twofold mind in Silver refers to the idea that when you come forward to attack, "so must you have at that instant a mind to fly backward upon any action that shall be offered or done by your adversary". The idea is that when you attack, you have no idea whether that is enough to stop your opponent from riposting or not. Thus, once you've finished with the attack, you get out of distance in case your opponent attacks you back. Silver is very keen on defending, and he says "And here note that in all the course of my teaching of these my brief instructions if both the parties have the full perfection of the true fight then the one will not be able to hurt the other at what perfect weapon soever."
While Silver's work in more principle based, he does give us a glimpse of the techniques that he'd like us to do. According to Silver, there are three wards in one-handed swords (or shortswords as he calls them):
- Open Ward. Face your opponent with your sword foot back, raise your sword above your head as straight up as comfortable. This is the open ward. It is very similar to the high vom tag ward as depicted in the German longsword above except with a shortsword. This ward is "open" since all lines of attack are open (for your opponent, that is), but since you're in a charged position you can make very fast downward attacks.
- Guardant Ward. This is something more or less unique to Silver. The description given is "to carry your hand & hilt above your head with your point down towards your left knee, with your sword blade somewhat near your body, not bearing out your point but rather declining it a little towards your said knee, that your enemy cross not your point & so hurt you, stand bolt upright in his fight, & if he offers to press in then bear your head & body a little backward". This is a ward more or less a counter to the open ward, as your sword is covering the line of attack that your opponent is most likely to use, and Silver also gives details on how to deal with other lines of attack as well.
- Variable Ward. The "other" category basically. Anything that is not the open or guardant. However, Silver talks about the stoccata and passata ward under the variable ward:
- Stoccata: Hold your sword as normal with your sword foot forward. You're now in stoccata ward.
- Passata: Same as stoccata, but with sword foot back.
- There's also the imbrocata and mountanta, in which you hold your sword on either side of you head with your point at your opponent, much like the Ochs in German longsword. However, Silver doesn't like presenting the point to the opponent, as he thinks that it gives the opportunity for your opponent to do something with it (just an interesting note here: so far what we've been discussed are actually agreed by the Italians. However, Italians like to give point to their opponents and doesn't like the Guardant ward, and they give detailed instructions on how to deal with people doing something to the point).
- It's interesting to note that the names are actually Italian and they originally refer to the thrusts that can be done from those positions, which is ironic given the opposition against the Italian rapier that Silver has.
Little is known for sure about medieval English longsword. While Silver provides some commentary on the matter, he is largely concerned with Renaissance-era single swords, and therefore provides small illumination (his comment basically comes down to "[two handed swords] are to be used in the fight as the short staff."). Furthermore, English longsword does not have the wealth of manuscripts that German or Italian longsword do, and therefore those traditions must be taken as a template from which to interpret what English sources do exist. English longsword sources discovered so far are: Harleian MS 3542 (written around 1450), the Cotton Titus MS (late 15th century) and Additional MS. 39564, signed by “J. Ledall” (early 16th century).
In a tactical sense, English longsword is less forthright than its German brother. While the German style places emphasis on getting in distance and controlling the bind, English longsword sources instruct us to only be in distance for long enough to deliver a technique. It solves the problem of the bind by doing its best to avoid them. To this end, its sequence of striking is very kinetic, focusing on flowing combinations of techniques that keep an adversary at bay. For instance, where a German falling diagonal strike might end in a hip-height pointing guard, an English one ends with the sword pointing towards the ground, allowing energy to continue flowing so as to more easily continue into the next technique.
Within the English tradition, a falling strike is known as a "hawk" and a rising strike with the true edge is known as a "rake" (the rising strike with the false edge is called a "rabbit"). Few other techniques are elaborated on, as the sources concern themselves with using such hawks and rakes in sequence and with footwork. One technique named with very narrative intent is the "Dragon's Tail", which is a horizontal beat where the sword circles one's head again and connects with the enemy's temple.
The unfortunate truth about English longsword is that there are only a tiny amount of available and fragmented sources, and it's possible that there be may no more to be had. That said, by using the German and Italian texts as sources of core technique, reconstruction is still possible, especially with the aforementioned tactical approaches towards sparring.
Work in progress
Glossary of Terms
Components of a Sword
- Blade: The long, edged and usually pointed cutting part of the sword.
- Edge: The cutting portion of the blade.
- True Edge: The forward-facing edge, in line with one's knuckles.
- False Edge: The backwards-facing edge (if there is one), in line with one's wrist. This is appropriate terminology for single-edged swords; the term "false edge" simply refers to the blunt facing.
- Flat: The wide, flat surface of the blade.
- Point: The end of the blade. Not all swords actually have a point, such as some used in executions, although the vast majority do.
- Taper: A descriptor of the sword's narrowing towards the point. A strong taper denotes a fine point, whereas a weak taper suggests a more rounded or less pointed end to the blade. As a rule of thumb, more heavily tapered swords are designed with thrusting in mind.
- Forte: From the Italian word meaning "strong". This refers to the part of the blade closest to the hilt (how close depends on the manual) and is the part where you should use for parrying due to the leverage it gives.
- Foibe: From the Italian word meaning "weak". This refers to the part of the blade closest to the point and is the part when you should (aim to) use for hitting your opponent for two reasons: reach and being closer/right at the "sweet spot" where the blade doesn't vibrate.
- Edge: The cutting portion of the blade.
- Crossguard/Handguard: The mediating component between the blade and grip which protects the hand. Handguards will extend downwards and/or around.
- Cross-Section: A blade's shape when viewed from above, usually diamond or lenticular. Diamond variants are usually superior for thrusting, while lenticular cross-sections are usually superior for cutting. Hexagonal and "hollow" diamond are variations of the diamond cross-section with special properties. The hollow diamond in particular reclaims some of the cutting efficiency of a lenticular blade.
- Fuller: A groove which runs into the blade of the sword, reducing its weight and making it look pretty.
- Grip: The component between the guard and pommel which provides a surface for one's hands to wield the sword with. Usually wood or leather.
- Hilt: The grip, crossguard/handguard and pommel when considered as a single entity.
- Pommel: The component at the bottom of the hilt. Comes in various shapes, and is often built with the dual purposes of balance and weaponisation.
- Ricasso: A blunted portion of the blade near the hilt, usually for the purposes of wrapping one's hand or finger around for superior control.
- Blade Ring: A ring that extends from the ricasso to protect the finger gripping it.
- Parierhaken/Parrying Hooks: A pair of small flanges or hooks just above the ricasso on certain two-handed swords, used to protect the hand and potentially help catch or trap an opponent's blade when parrying.
- Tang: A part of the blade which extends downwards and is covered by the grip, lending strength and security to the overall structure of the sword. There are various methods of securing it to the sword.
- Attack! Attack! Attack!
- The German school of thought essentially runs this way.
- Completely averted with the English school of thought which is entirely the opposite.
- Also averted in the word fencing. It comes from defense, a word applied not so much from a high-minded declaration that swords are for self-defense, but from the practical point that it is harder to teach the parry then the thrust.
- Combat Pragmatist: Most historical European forms are this to an extreme degree.
- Dual-Wielding: X and dagger. And also case of rapiers in Italy.
- Duel to the Death: These martial arts saw application in judicial duels.
- Averted in the English and Scottish systems as one could be hung for murder if he killed someone in a duel in England, and the Scots avoid killing each other as it could ignite a clan war. Thus most duels in England/Scotland were to the first blood.
- Fantastic Fighting Style: What many people consider this to be before being made aware that these existed. Furthermore, due to the lack of martial lineage, all of these arts are interpretative; we cannot be entirely sure the way we do them is the way they were done historically. By that measure, some elements of their practise may be fictional.
- Improbable Use of a Weapon: Many reactions to half-swording are along these lines, along with techniques that employ the pommel and crossguard offensively.
- Improv Fu: Encouraged, given that these methods tend to use elaborated techniques to explain principles, to the extent that an incoming technique may have several correct counters.
- Invulnerable Attack: The aim of single-time combat; one strikes in such a way that their technique intercepts their adversary's technique. If taken to its ideal conclusion, this is performed in such a way that one's own attack makes contact while defending from the incoming attack.
- Knight in Shining Armour: The intended audience for the earlier works. However, the content of the manuals implies that back in the day people were a lot more pragmatic about the issue.
- Master Swordsman: The authors of the manuals and many of their students.
- Magic Knight: What the authors of the Codex Dobringer thought themselves to be, if the inclusion of magic spells is any indication.
- Multi Melee Master: The Liechtenauer system demands this, teaching effectiveness with the longsword, messer, spear, dagger and one's bare hands.
- A sword belt rarely only contains a sword; most have space for a dagger as well.
- National Weapon: Although subject to modern interpretation.
- Spanish Rapier
- German Longsword
- English Backsword
- English Longsword
- Scottish claymore (either the two handed version or the one with the basket hilt)
- One-Hit Kill: Each strike, done with technique and understanding, should aim to be this.
- Four of the five German Master Strikes can be this; three of them are explicitly designed this way.
- Again, averted in the English and Scottish system due to their laws and customs.
- Single-Stroke Battle: The historical reality in many cases.
- Special Attack: The Master Strikes of the Liechtenauer tradition of Germany.
- Swiss Army Weapon: The longsword, which can be used as a sword, spear, staff or war hammer.
- Sword Fight
- Sword Sparks: This can happen, even with blunted training swords.
- The Man Makes the Weapon: That said, there's such a thing as an uphill battle.
- Unblockable Attack: A decisive thrust, strike or cut from a bind should be this if done well.
- ↑ Whenever sword blades meet, be it for an instant or in the case of Blade Lock
- ↑ Dodges, essentially, although they can be as simple as stepping out rather than committing oneself to a hop
- ↑ On a double-edged sword, the false edge is the edge that faces yourself if held out in front of your body. The true edge is the one that faces the opponent. Sometimes, the "false" is called the "short" and the "true" is called the "long".