What is Rapier Combat?
Rapier combat is a martial art whose origins can
be traced to the Renaissance. It was developed to
provide training in an efficient and deadly form of
personal defense devised in Europe for the sword.
Rapier combat is the one of the final developments
of European swordsmanship. Its history extends from
the beginning of the 15th until the last half of the
17th centuries. It is the culmination of centuries
of theory and practice. In this kingdom it consists
of one primary weapon, the schlaeger bladed practice
rapier. There are many styles which make up rapier
combat. They differ in their mental approach, weapon
design, technique and form. Each school has a
pedagogy or teaching style that defines its
SCA Training in this martial art should be geared
to learning and practicing techniques for personal
combat. However, that is only one aspect of what the
practice of rapier combat encompasses. It also
teaches discipline, self control, physical, mental,
and spiritual awareness. Conducting yourself with
Honour, possessing perfect form, and proper
execution of technique are of paramount importance.
Egerton Castle, author of the 1892 "Schools and
Masters of Fence" (a survey of the development of
European swordsmanship), expresses it as "...the
courteous and academic 'assault' of modern days,
where elegance and precision of movements are more
highly considered--or ought to be than superiority
in the number of hits."
To learn to fight in the historical manner
requires the same amount of training and practice as
any other martial art. The techniques must be
learned, perfected, and mastered.
Rapier combat fosters self-reliance, confidence,
as well as courtesy, good manners, and a high level
of etiquette. It is also excellent for the
constructive release of the stress that is so
prevalent in society today. It trains both the mind
and the body, and when practiced consistently
provides a high degree of fitness and health for
The term "historical swordsmanship" is used within
these confines in reference to all methods and
techniques of European swordsmanship before they
finally evolved into rapier combat.
The methods and practices of ancient warriors to
the Medieval period are often obscure and open to
interpretation. Generally it is surmised that the
methods utilized evolved out of the personal
experiences of the veteran fighter who then passed
his favorite tricks on to those he taught. There was
no real system that can be documented with absolute
certainty. The few manuals that have survived from
the Medieval period must not be confused with
fencing treatises. Their focus is with military
weapons in the context of armored and unarmored
combat, as they pertain to battlefield encounters.
It was not until the end of the Medieval era and
the beginning of the Renaissance that the first
attempts at a systematized approach to civilian
swordsmanship took place, in Spain. This is known
through the writings of Pedro de la Torre and Jayme
Pons, whose treatises were published in 1474. These
works have since disappeared but are referred to in
the writings of Narvaez (1600), Pallavicini (1670),
and Marcelli (1686), all of whom were prominent
fencing masters of their times.
It is in this historical context that we see the
evolution of the sword along with technique. The
rapier is believed to have first developed in Spain.
One of the definitions for the term "rapier" is
derived from the Spanish term espada ropera,
which means dress or costume sword. At first the
rapier was a relatively heavy sword and the emphasis
was on cut-thrust technique. As the rapier and its
technique evolved the emphasis shifted from the use
of edge to that of the point. It became a weapon
that was used primarily for thrusting.
There were two schools or systems that developed
for the management of this weapon. The first was the
Spanish school. Its characteristics were the
emphasis on circular form, the upright posture of
the swordsman, and the singular guard position with
the arm held out horizontally, threatening the
adversary with the point. The school was structured,
formal, and uniformly systematized throughout its
The second was the Italian school. Its
characteristics were an early emphasis on circular
form which later changed into a linear form. The
postures were low, and the guard and arm positions
were varied. Within the school the systems taught
were varied according to the experience of each
Theatrical fencing should not be confused with
historical swordsmanship, rapier combat, or modern
competitive sport fencing. Theatrical fencing has
also evolved from historical roots. However,
although some of the techniques and methods have
some historical basis, it was never intended to be
taught as actual combat technique. It is an entirely
different discipline. Its sole purpose is to create
the illusion of swordplay in the mind of the
What is modern
competitive sport fencing?
The history of fencing as a modern sport is
approximately only 80 years old. Since the
foundation of the
Fédération Internationale d'Escrime in
1913, fencing has been constantly modified and
reformed. Since the introduction of the electrical
scoring apparatus fencing has undergone even more
drastic changes. Today fencing is dominated by
dynamic and explosive actions executed with athletic
power and speed.
What is a
A martial art is a systematized form of personal
combat for the purpose of self defense, physical
fitness, mental clarity, and spiritual awareness.
It must be clearly understood that the practice
of martial arts is not limited to the various styles
and systems of Asian origin. Different forms of
martial practices were engaged in by other countries
There is a vast difference between the practice
of a sport and a practice of a martial art. In the
practice of martial arts the training is primarily
geared to self-preservation in an actual combative
situation. Pedagogy has been formulated to ensure
that the most effective, logical, and economic
techniques are taught and learned. The secondary
aspects of this type of practice, the physical,
mental, and spiritual areas, are different levels
that arise from the training. These are then
interconnected with the practice, aiding and
complimenting the development of a complete martial
artist to a higher level of mastery in whatever
style or system.
When a martial art is turned into a sport it
loses its very essence. In a sport the goal is to
win at a game. The techniques that are taught and
learned are geared to win the game using prescribed
rules and regulations, which are subjective. The
participants in the sport develop a style which is
totally artificial, taking risks and attempting
techniques that would not be used in a serious
Questions About Rapier Combat
Is rapier combat
No. It is actual fencing. It is not staged in any
form or fashion.
How is rapier
combat different from modern fencing?
Rapier combat is a martial art and is taught in the
dueling combative tradition. Because the techniques
of rapier combat evolved from a fighting tradition,
the focus of the training is to enable the fencer to
survive in an actual combative situation. These
techniques were and have been utilized in armed
confrontations of this type well into the 17th-18th
Modern fencing is a sport and is taught in the
sporting tradition. Modern fencing evolved from the
martial art of rapier combat but it is not in fact a
martial art. The techniques of modern fencing have
evolved solely to enable the fencer to win at a game
and sport that has completely divorced itself from
its combative roots. The focus of the training is to
enable the modern fencer to win at a game.
Do you fight
Yes. We fight serious and deadly duels. The
challenge can come at any time from these our mortal
enemies: Ego! Falsehood! Prejudice! Compromise!
Vanity! Cowardice! and Ignorance!
Our weapons of defence against these are: Honor!
Self-control! Truthfulness! Understanding! Firmness!
Humility! Bravery! and Knowledge!
Rapier combat and historical swordsmanship are
practiced safely. Protective equipment is used, e.g.
masks, doublets, gloves, etc. The weapons have no
sharp edges or points. In addition, the safety is
further enhanced by the high level of supervision,
control, and manner in which fighting is conducted.