The Smallsword was a thrusting-only weapon developed in France in the second half of the 17th century. The hilt consisted of a small shell- or disc-shaped guard much smaller than the hilt of the Renaissance rapier, and blade was relatively short and light, usually triangular or diamond-section, although double-edged flat “smallsword” blades continued to be popular well into the 18th century.

While the Broadsword was the archetypal weapon of the Highland clansman, the Smallsword quickly became the personal weapon of Scotland’s gentry during the 17th and 18th centuries. The art of the Smallsword was probably introduced to Scotland by the sons of Scottish nobility during their education in France, but there quickly developed a distinctly Scottish - or perhaps more properly pan-British - method of Smallsword, heavily influenced by Broadsword methods.

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The greatsword is a true two-handed sword that can trace it's develpment to the end of the 15th Century, and is typically in excess of 5 feet (150 cm). Called Greatsword or two-handed sword by the English, claymore by the Scots, zweihander by the Germans, montante by the Spanish & Portuguese and spadone by the Italians, this weapon rightly developed a fearsome reputation on the battlefields of Europe during the 16th & 17th Centuries. As an infantry weapon it was used to break up pike formations, as the honour guard defending the Unit's banner or as the preferred weapon of civilian bodyguards. This was due to it's excellent ability to confront multiple opponents, or as described by Giacomo di Grassi in his fencing manual "because one may with it (as a galleon, among many galleys) resist many swords, or other weapons."

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Despite Silver’s claims it was through “the strange vices and devices of Italian, French and Spanish Fencers” that the English learned the use of “these Apish toyes”, there is clear evidence the English has their own, long established style of rapier fencing. The first English master to write on the rapier was Joseph Swetnam in 1617, and his style was peculiarly English.

Swetnam's principles and language were quite similar to that of Silver, speaking of the “seven principall rules”, “the place”, the “time of offence”, “to keepe space”, to form a “true defence”, a “perfect guard” and a “cross”. This would indicate that both were branches of the same English tradition, and unlike Silver, Swetnam may well have been a member of the Masters of Defence.

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The Bolognese or Dardi School of swordsmanship comes to us from the early Renaissance. The name is taken from its association with the University of Bologna, and its first recorded master Lippo Bartolomeo Dardi. Dardi, who was Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Bologna, obtained a licence to open a school of fencing in 1413. His treatise showing the relationship between fencing and geometry is now lost; however the style was recorded by his successors in the early 16th Century. Antonio Manciolino's Opera Nova (1531) is the first published text, followed by Achille Marozzo's massive Opera Nova (1536), which remained in publication until the mid 17th Century. There is also an anonymous text The L'Arte della Spada ("Art of the Sword") from the mid 16th century, as well as one by Giovanno Dall' Aggochie, who published Dell'arte di Scrimia in 1572. Other authors proposing simplified methods such as Angelo Viggiani (Lo Schermo, 1575) and Giacomo di Grassi (Ragione di adoprar sicuramente l'arme, 1570) show the domination this style had over the Italian states.

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Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33 is an anonymous German manuscript now in the collection of the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It is extremely significant as the earliest known surviving fencing manual, having been dated to the late 13th century, and presents a unique window into to world of early medieval combat. I.33 deals exclusively with the use of the single handed sword and buckler, a small, round shield held by a “punch grip” in the left hand. It offers a sophisticated, and potent fighting style with a clear, aggressive tactical structure.

The rapier as a sidearm was a symbol of wealth, fashion and nobility during the 16th and 17th Centuries. This weapon was optimised for the use of the thrust, predominately for civilian self-defence. The works of Venetian masters dominates the surviving treatises for the Italian rapier fencing system, which went on to lay the foundation for modern fencing. The first true rapier text is that of Nicoletto Giganti (Scola overo Teatro, 1606), which was followed by other legendary authors such Salvator Fabris (De Lo Schermo Overo Scienza D'Arme, 1606), Ridolfo Capoferro (Gran Simulcro Dell'Arte e Dell'Uso Della Scherma, 1610), Francesco Alfieri (L'Arte di Ben Managgiare La Spada, 1663), Giseppe Moriscato Pallavicini (La Scherma, 1670), Francesco Antonio Marcelli (Regole della Scherma, 1686) and Bondi di Mazo (La Spada Maestra, 1696).

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The European two-handed sword was developed in responce to improvements in armour design in the 14th and 15th centuries. Although there are occasional examples of two-handed swords prior to this, during the late 13th century European armour began to incorporate steel plating for added protection, which in return resulted in the development of new weapons. The two-handed sword provided more power that the single handed, and was able to cut, thrust, pierce or bludgeon as the situation demanded, and soon became the standard weapon of the European knight.

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English Shortsword (basket hilted sword) according to George Silver

George Silver was an English gentleman who lived in the second half of the 16th century and into the 17th century. He wrote two works. Paradoxes of Defence was published in 1599. It is a diatribe against rapier fencing and an exhortation to Englishmen to return to the use of the traditional English shortsword. This weapon was a basket hilted sword that was actually quite long for a single handed sword. The name shortsword was to distinguish it from the longsword used in two hands. Alternate names for the weapon are backsword (for single edged weapon – i.e. those with a back) and from later in the 17th century, broadsword.  

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The English quarterstaff was a stout, wooden pole, usually of oak or ash, between 1¼ - 1½ inches thick and, according to various Masters, between 7 and 9 feet long. It was thus a solid and relatively heavy piece of wood, designed to disable an opponent with a single effective strike.

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The basket-hilted sword emerged in Britain in the 16th century, and came in two forms; the single-edge English backsword, and the double-edged broadsword, more typically associated with the Highland Scots. The protection the basket-hilt gave to the sword hand allowed the development of a new pan-British style of swrdsmanship, practiced in a recognisable form from the Jacobite Highlands to the Prize Fighting stages of London. Within the tradition, however, was a distinct “Highland method” that was recognisably different to English Backsword technique.

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