A New System of Broad and Small Sword Exercise
by Thomas Stephens A double guide on the techniques of sword fighting
This unique Leonaur volume brings together two excellent books about the techniques of fighting with hand held weapons with edge and point. This good value guide will interest weapons collectors, modellers, painters and illustrators, re-enactors, theatrical production companies and all those interested in swords and their use by the military particularly during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Warford’s well illustrated text is of wider interest than its title implies in that as well as providing an excellent fencing guide, it also enters into some detail about fighting with the broadsword and includes a chapter on archery. Stephens’ book is very much a military manual. It demonstrates the use of the broad and small swords. The striking illustrations show the correct use of the weapons in combat situations for both infantry and cavalry.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket; our hardbacks are cloth bound and feature gold foil lettering on their spines and fabric head and tail bands.
The exercise of the broad sword consists of seven cuts, or directions of the edge; the same number of guards, or defensive positions; three points, or thrusts, given with the edge up, and with two circular motions of the blade, termed parries; therefore, whatever may be the attack or defence, it can only be formed by having recourse to some of the above movements, or a combination of them.<br>
In “engaging” by which is meant the action of joining the sword of an opponent, either previous to his or your own attack, there should be only a slight pressure on his blade, so that the hand, or wrist, may be the more susceptible of any motion he may make; and though the position is termed “guard,” affords protection at the moment, it is merely considered as preparatory to an offensive or defensive movement, varying the latter according to the points liable to be attacked.<br>
In all attacks, whether cuts or thrusts, the motion ought to increase in speed, the impetus being at the last; the same rule should be observed in stepping out to the “second” and “third positions,” but in recovering, the reverse is to be followed, as the first part is to be the quickest; and nothing can be of more importance than that the eye should follow those of an opponent, and slightly glance at the part at which you intend to cut or thrust—taking care never to look at your own sword, which will invariably follow the eye wherever you direct it.<br>
It is merely drill practice, making the assault by numbers; and although each cut has its guard, according to the number, which answers for both, yet it does not follow that the file on the defensive is always to have recourse to it, as he may frequently be enabled to secure himself more effectively, and quicker, by forming another guard. If, for example, he makes the cut six at the body, and his opponent, after defending by the sixth guard, returns the cut one at the breast, then the fifth guard becomes the quickest movement of defence; but if the opponent has defined by the second guard, previous to his return of the cut one, then the first guard is the soonest formed; consequently, the first and fifth guards each defend the cuts one or five.<br>
The second and sixth guards each defend the cuts two or six, according as they may be high or low; and if the third or fourth guards are required for the defence of the leg, the arm must be extended, so that the force of the blade may receive the foible of the opponent’s weapon, bearing well in mind, however, that in all cuts at the leg, when at the proper distance, the shifting of your own leg and delivering a cut at the same moment, becomes the most effective and advantageous defence; and which is still more so to a tall man when engaged with another of lesser stature, or length of arm.<br>
The power of defence does not, in fact, consist so much in your own strength of position, as in effecting a decided quick movement in that direction in which your opponent has the least power of resistance, especially in defending against the point, when the first, third and fifth guards are the most effective against the first and third point; and the second, fourth and sixth guards against the second point: provided the wrist is previously so placed that the requisite guards may be quickly executed. The two last parries must also be regulated by the position of the opponent’s wrist, so that the bearing of your sword may tend to open his hand, and, if well judged and timely given, will disarm him, or so cripple his wrist, as to preclude even the capability of forming a defensive guard, or continuing the attack.<br>
If opposed to the small sword, have recourse to the cuts three and four, directing them at the arm, by which means there is every probability of the cuts taking effect, as in thrusting, the arm must always come in range of the edge, before the point can be sufficiently advanced to reach the body. If the above cuts are quickly given and continued, they will be found advantageous in advancing against the small sword, as they form an attack and defence at the same instant; but should the opponent be the most skilful and quickest, then it is best to retire while forming them, cautiously preserving the proper distance, so that each cut may just reach the fore-part of his arm.<br>
Thus far the observations are more particularly applicable to the first part of the instructions, or when practicing on foot, though they may generally answer for exercise also when mounted; and here the greatest attention should be paid to maintain the proper position and balance of the body, from which, by too great an exertion in delivering a cut or thrust, the horseman may suddenly be thrown, and thereby lose the advantage of his skill in the use of the sword, by the natural efforts which he must make to regain his seat; nor should he fail to have every confidence and dependence upon his guard, without trusting to his avoiding an attack of an opponent by turning or drawing back the body to escape from it.