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A Blow by Blow Guide to Sword-fighting


  This article was inspired and much of it's content taken from the video: THE BLOW BY BLOW GUIDE TO SWORDFIGHTING IN THE RENAISSANCE STYLE (VHS Colour 96 mins) Written and Presented by MIKE LOADES.  Available from Running Wolf Productions PO Box 916 London SEI6 IEH or Check it out at Amazon.com

Workshop Notes of Simon Tate                                                                                                    Workshop Course Conductor: Maître d'Armes Gary Worsfield 

“ When words fail in confrontation, our roles, relationships and situation are expressed through the dialogue of violent action. It is no less dynamic, articulated or clear in its intention than a verbal conversation.”

BALANCE -The ability to move either leg in any direction but without first having to move your weight. Over committing weight leads to opening for counter attack.

ATTACKS – lead with the sword then let the body follow. Your sword arm and leg should land simultaneously and you should land in balance.

THRUSTS – extend the sword to its full extent then follow with the body. As you step through pivot your back foot to a 90° angle. Stepping too early means you arm ends up bent and doesn’t show the full intention of the movement. Stepping too late leads to a jerky movement and an overbalanced distribution of weight.

CUTS initiated by raising the arm at the shoulder, directed by turning the wrist and delivered by straightening the arm at the elbow as you step forward. Don’t make your arc too wide as you are then vulnerable to counter-strike. You should however make them as large as possible to clearly show your intent.


CUTS: Have one person standing en garde, the other practicing maintaining eye contact and directing cuts to the 5 target areas.

THRUSTS: in pairs, one person holds the end of the sword taking a step back and pulling the sword and opponent forward after the arm has been extended.

LINE - The Line sets the intent of the action. Your sword arm and leg should follow through the same line of intent in any action – attack or defence. Line and balance are interdependent. Sword arm and leg should land together and in the same line of attack.

Align your body by straightening your pelvis and chest. Repeat the cutting exercise concentrating on maintaining line. Adjust when necessary after the movement has been completed so as not to break eye contact.

EYE CONTACT - When actors look at their swords, so do the audience and the focus of the attack is dissipated. When eye contact is maintained the audience’s focus is on the hub of the emotional conflict – the emotional interaction between the two characters. The tension doesn’t exist between the swords, it exists between the characters!

- Staring is one of the first dominance games children play. Some birds and butterflies use staring eye patterns to deter predators. Sustained eye contact is fundamentally aggressive. We generally seek to avoid it because it is central to the attack posture.

- Apart from being a realistic aspect of performance, it is also the best means of communication on stage.

- With 2 weapons, your eyes can’t see everything or move quick enough in focus. What you need is a fixed point of focus from where you can judge the periphery.  It is also critical in judging timing and distance.


There are 2 aspects of distance:

IN DISTANCE – where you can reach your opponent in one step provided they don’t step away.

OUT OF DISTANCE - where you can’t reach your opponent even though they don’t step away.

In distance fighting works well if the defender steps back in line with their attacker, making the parry a secondary defence and mainly for the reason of allowing the attackers sword to be engaged in preparation for the counter attack/parry riposte.

To defend a thrust we can step back to avoid, step in to grapple or traverse (side-step) to get around the thrust, which still reaches its original target. In all of these you are stepping out of the line of attack.

Cuts must be made in distance or it looks like slapping swords and the intent is lessened. In defence resist the temptation to go out to bat.

The step away from a cut is not as great as from a thrust to provide the defender with a strong balanced position to counter from. The other way of dispersing the shock is to parry with a slanting defence, which deflects the blow. In this defence judging the angle stepping through the attack is critical in determining right distance.

Remember defence is the opposite of attack – move your body first, then parry with the sword.

PRACTICE – In pairs, defender unarmed with hands on head, stepping away in line of attack, in time with the attack. Sense the threat! Step away as if you’re in danger.

- Same as above but with a slice at the stomach that the unarmed person jumps back from. 

- Have one person stand in a position 5 parry. The rest of the group is to run around the room in a spaced progression coming in with a cut at 5 at the defender after judging appropriate distance and line.

These are the four basic principles


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Date Last Modified: 03 Mar 2014