Historical Fencing

Try your hand at the art of medieval and Renaissance sword fighting with regular weekly training in Dublin’s city centre. Beginners are always welcome.

Historical Fencing is a form of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), where we recreate the Medieval and Renaissance art of fighting with swords, working from the actual fighting manuals of the period. It is the forerunner of the modern sport of fencing.

We train in historical combat techniques, and do free fencing wearing protective equipment, both at practice and also in tournaments, at SCA events and other HEMA events.

Rapier drills in action:

800px Rapier drills in action.

 

What weapons do we fence with?

We practice mostly with two weapons – the rapier, a long thrusting weapon fashionable in the time of Shakespeare, and the two-handed longsword of the knightly era. Rapier practice also involves a range of secondary weapons used in the off-hand – the dagger, buckler (small shield), cloak or even two swords!

An example of a rapier:


(Image from Wikipedia)

Our new training longswords, fresh from Regenyei Armoury in Hungary:

880px Our new training longswords, fresh from Regenyei Armoury in Hungary.

We also practice occasionally with the sixteenth century Italian Bolognese single handed sword and sword and buckler, as well as old Polish sabre fighting.

What historical sources do you work from?

For rapier, we mainly work from a translation of Nicoletto Giganti’s book (1606) [PDF Copy]
Longsword is based on Fiore dei Liberi’s ‘Flower of Battle’ (1410) [View Online]

Is it like modern sports fencing?

There are some similarities. We fence in similar fencing masks and protective clothing as modern sports fencers. We also use blunt swords which are flexible enough to thrust safely with. However we have also many differences from sports fencing. The swords we use for free play have the weight, balance and handling properties of historical examples, unlike the very light and whippy blades used in Olympic fencing. Also while sports fencers are restricted to a narrow strip or ‘piste’, and rules which limit target areas and ‘right-of-way’, in historical fencing you can move freely around your opponent, strike whenever or wherever you want to and use your off hand to grab their blade. We also do melees or group combat.

Another difference is one of attitude.We treat fencing as a Martial Art – we fence as if the swords were sharp, unlike the more abstract rules-based approach of sport fencing. For example, in sports fencing you are considered to ‘win’ if you strike your opponent a fraction of a second before they strike you, whereas we would treat this as a mutual loss. If you imagine this happening with real sharp blades, you can see this is far from a victory!

Overall, we aim to as close as we can to the medieval sword fighting experience, without the bloodshed!

A gleaming array of practice weapons at one of our weekend Revels:

800px An array of practice weapons at one of our revels.

What happens at a practice?

Longsword training in protective gear:
800px Longsword training in protective gear

A typical practice lasts 2 hours. We start with warm up exercises to limber up the body. Then we move to drills to learn techniques with the weapons. We start drills slowly, building up speed and intensity, to develop skills in historical swordsmanship over time. Then our fencers put their skills to the test in competitive free play with blunt swords and wearing full safety gear. Finally we do a quick cool-down with some yoga stretches. Then we pack our kit up and generally retire to the bar!

What to bring with you to practice?

Clothes and shoes you can move easily in – long sleeved and full legs. Long-cuffed gloves if you have them. (Fencing gear if you already have it too, of course!)

Practice Details

Time: 18:45- 21:00, Tuesdays

Cost:. €10/session (€6 student/unwaged). First visit is free!

Venue: Unit Q, Liffey Trust Studios www.liffeytruststudios.com/index.cfm?page=location

Some of our fencers engaged in melee at Raglan Castle in Wales:

800px Some of our fencers engaged in melee at Raglan Castle in Wales