Thursday, 11 February 2010

Backsword, smallsword and singlestick

There was a seminar in Helsinki last weekend on backsword, which of course I missed. Anyhow, judging from the feedback from the chaps who went from Turku, they had a blast. So much so that Timo bought 5 or 6 singlestick simulators on the spot. These are made from rattan cane which have cut orange plastic buoys attached as the "basket". We got to play with these at training on Tuesday and I thought it was brilliant. I started to look up books and treatises on the subject and there is a wealth of information available, from treatises by the Hopes, William and Thomas, the gladiator pimp McBane, George Silver and Thomas Page, to books by Paul Wagner and Chris Thompson. There are even some quite good videos on youtube from The Cateran Society which show at least their interpretations of how Highlanders may have fought using the backsword.

The guys who went to the seminar said that they got a sort of generic introduction based on a general mix of treatises, as some guards were simply given numbers, one , two three, or tierce, quatre, etc, while others gave them names, i.e hanging guard, St. George's guard, inside high, outside low etc.

Now my interest has been piqued I have begun to wonder how to proceed. Obviously reading treatises is a good start, but perhaps this should also back up current interpretations by scholars of the weapon. Iirc Angelo is the main source for backsword in the swordschool, but this seems to be strongly based on smallsword, which for my taste looks a bit too fiddly and gentrified compared to the broader bladed basket-hilt swords. This is just my opinion though, which may yet change!

Whichever source, the idea of taking a sabbatical from Fiore just to concentrate on backsword seems very attractive!

En garde!


  1. It's odd how we're almost in sync...

    I've been pretty geeky over the single-hand sword, and trying to gain some insight into Fiore's one hand sword. this has pushed me to look outward into other traditions like the broadsword and singlestick. In fact, we're hosting Paul Wagner in August, and we're doing one day of english longsword with one day of broadsword/singlestick.

    Incidentally, do you have pictures of those simulators, and do you know where they got the buoys to make the guards? I ask since we're going to need to make some for August...


  2. Hi Jason. Parallel evolution indeed. I've been lucky enough to attend a seminar on English longsword a la Silver from Paul Wagner when he was invited to Helsinki by Guy. I'm sure you'll have a BLAST! Paul is a gentleman.
    I don't have photos but I can take some or at least describe the singlesticks for you. I'll get back to you on this.

  3. Well, I've known Paul for a while now, and he needed a place to crash while on Vacation, so he dropped me a line! It will be grand to have him around for his stay. I'm looking forward to it!