(Primarily of the Italian, Spanish, French and English
Masters & Schools)
*This list excludes terms of modern sport fencing either
not taken from historical manuals of the period, or not
directly related to the use of the rapier or of the
renaissance cut & thrust sword. They include only those
technical terms of modern sport fencing that are
relevant to describing and reconstructing the practice
of historical renaissance swordsmanship today. Thus,
much current French and Italian terminology used in or
developed for modern sport fencing has been excluded.
This list is by no means all-inclusive, nor is it
intended to be a sole lexicon for a rapier fighter,
rather a starting point from which to prosper.
in the Spanish schools, the idea of taking control of
the opponent’s blade, essentially a prise de fer
Bill of Challenge
A formal posted announcement of an English student's
public "Playing" of his "Prize".
(Attack in time) attack while the adversary's
preoccupied with a parry, bind, or feint.
A secret attack or special hidden technique of a school
A hand delivered written notice of challenge describing
the cause of the offence that provoked a duel of honor.
Retreating indefinitely (running away, sometimes called
the "ninth parry").
Corporation of the London Masters of Defence
The guild of English instructors of fighting and fence
in the 1500s, it had four levels of fighter: Scholar,
Free Scholar, Provost, and Master, as well as four
Coup de grace
The dagger stroke given to mercifully end the suffering
of a wounded duelist (originally used to execute a
defeated knight in heavy plate armor).
Coup de Jarnac
A Renaissance term for a crippling blow to the back of
the opponent's exposed knee or hamstring (so called due
to a famous judicial duel, it was not a new strike at
all, but did become well known and quite notorious).
Coup de main
A kill by a single, smooth, quick thrust or cut.
In later Spanish schools of fence the technique of
redirecting an attacking blow with a deflecting action
rather than a solid block
A slicing cut made when close in by placing the edge
against the target and quickly drawing it across or
down, typically applied with stepping back or a
Personal single combat, usually illicit and illegal,
sometimes of gentlemanly or even honorable character Due
(Sometimes called "Florentine" within the SCA) a
fighting style simultaneously using two rapiers (a "case
of rapiers " or "brace").
To come "on guard" (ready your weapon and self for the
Contacting or crossing (opposing) the adversary's blade.
French for fencing, or the art of fence.
Fence/Art of Fence
A word for swordsmanship derived from the Middle English
"defence", as distinguished from the modern sport of
"fencing" with its origins in the late 1700s and early
Italian for the sword's edge.
To wrap the lead (and sometime second finger and thumb)
around the quillons and ricasso for superior tip control
and grip, an innovative method of gripping known since
ancient times, it found greatest use with Renaissance
A duel that is fought only to the first sight of drawn
blood as opposed to "to the death" or to the opponent
One way of looking at the major factors in
swordsmanship: perception, distance, timing, and
Holding of the sword: cut & thrust swords and rapiers
were held in a 45 degree position, as opposed to the
"hammer" grip as with medieval swords, and also utilized
the concept of "fingering" the ricasso, both may be held
in a "normal" grip as that when "pointing" the index
finger, or in a pronated or supinated position.
Giving the lie
The name given to the act of offending the honor of
another gentleman or his lady through insult, innuendo,
or wit, it was cause for challenge to duel (e.g., "You
disagree, when I say you have offended me, Sir? Are you
then calling me a liar?").
Techniques for seizure (grabbing the adversary's blade,
hilt, or arm). Generally illegal in SCA Rapier.
(Italian: guardia, sing. guardie) - guard positions,
wards, fighting stances, ready postures, a position for
offense and/or defense (also the protective hilt of a
blade, as in compound guard, cross guard, back guard,
counter guard, ring guard. etc.).
A Hanging guard, similar to Prime, Silver also
distinguishes between True and Bastard Guardants.
A ward with point down and to the inside and the arm
The weapon is held centered over the head, Silver’s Open
ward (perhaps so called because you are open to making
any attack), roughly 45-degrees, identical to medieval
long-sword high postures.
Inside or Left Back Ward
Weapon held point back and down to the left, close to
the hip, Viggiani’s "fourth guard wide", identical to a
left Tail guard for medieval long-sword.
Sword fighting that is not linear as with the small
sword and modern sport fencing, but uses sidesteps and
diagonal movements (voids and traverses).
Positioning that intentionally exposes openings to
purposely draw attacks.
The distance ("measure") where if you are close enough
to hit your opponent, they are also close enough to hit
A Spanish term translating as dexterity, skill, ability,
(or) art and meaning "Philosophy of the Weapons" or "The
Art and Science" of fighting
Left Back Ward
Inside guard, Viggiani’s "fourth guard wide", like the
Tail guard in medieval methods.
Line (Line of Attack)
One of the four areas by which to attack: high outside (sixte
& tierce), high inside (quarte & prime), low outside
(octave & seconde), and low inside (septime & quinte).
These areas also correspond to types of parries.
With the weapon held point down and centered, Silver’s
Variable ward, identical to medieval long-sword low
Media Proporcional – in the later Spanish
schools, the key concept of achieving and maintaining
proper distance of weapon and body to the opponent’s
weapon and body
Middle (half) of the blade.
Silver’s Close ward (perhaps so called because the blade
closes nearer to the opponent), the weapon is held
centered aimed at the opponent over the head, identical
to medieval long-sword middle postures.
Master of Defence
A Renaissance instructor of swordsmanship or fence and
other fighting arts.
Judging of distance in fighting.
Measure or distance and range (close or short, wide or
tight, in or out).
Distance at which a strike can be made by a step, by a
pass, or by a lunge.
Distance at which a strike can be made by simply leaning
in with an extension.
To cut with a forward or outward step, a standard means
of forcefully striking or stabbing in cut & thrust
swordsmanship, often used with a traverse or void.
Outside-Ward (Low Outside-Ward)
With the sword held back and down to the right, like a
Back or Tail guard with a medieval long-sword.
Playing the Prize
The public testing of a student for advancement in the
English schools of Defence.
German term for using the dagger's quillons to trap a
Prima (Prima Gaurdia, or Reverse, or Guardant)
The high outside ward, pronated point-on assumed after
the natural position of drawing the weapon from the
Gripping the sword with knuckles up and palm down.
The third level of the four rankings in English schools
A slicing cut made when close in by placing the edge
against the target and quickly pushing it forwardinto
the opponent, typically applied when a thrust has
A swordsman bully who will provoke a duel on the
slightest pretext or cause.
Rapier & Cloak (Spada e Capa)
A method of fighting using a common cloak or robe for
Rapier & Dagger (Spada e Pugnale)
A method of fighting using the addition of a parrying
dagger in the other hand.
To grab the adversary's blade or hilt.
Italian for fencing.
In Renaissance schools of Defence, the exclusion of
attacks to the face during practice with novices.
(Second), broad or wide ward in di Grassi and others.
In a formal duel, the neutral party for each side that
stands in as witness and arbiter.
Gaining reach by sliding the hand down the grip to the
pommel when striking with a cutting blade (also throwing
out a one handed thrust with a pole arm).
Italian for single sword, usually use of the rapier
alone without a secondary weapon.
(Collegiate/Olympic modern fencing) a refined,
formalized sport based upon the movements of the small
sword of the 1700s and early 1800s which was descended
from the rapier.
A counter thrust attack into the opponent's forward
movement or oncoming attack.
Maintaining contact or opposition with the opponent's
blade so as to control it.
Gripping the sword with knuckles down and palm up
An Elizabethan youth or ruffian often predisposed to
street fight and duel, so called by the "swashing" sound
created by sword and buckler on the belt as the youth
swaggered about town. More likely derived from any
person who roved the town, usually in gangs, hitting his
sword against his buckler as a way of challenging
innocent passers-bye to a fight. The term "swash" also
has more than one meaning. In older English swish or
swishing, meant "to hit". There is also proof of the
term swash being used in the context of hitting with the
sword, e.g. delivering a ‘"swash blow", also expressions
such as, "swashing a drum" to describe its playing or
(Fighting stances) wards or guards: e.g., high, middle,
low, open, close, prime, seconda, terza, and
Sword & Buckler (Spada e brochiero)
A method of combat using a rapier and small shield
Time or moment/action with timing.
Low, back Inside (right) ward, for a cut & thrust sword.
Viggiani’s "Terza" or third, blade at a 45 degree angle
down, for a rapier it is the blade held back and lower,
closer to the hip, usually in a reverse stance.
Tutte botte principali
Principle cuts and thrusts.
Silver’s low guard (also a name for all other manner of
guards not Open, Close, or Guardant).
One of five to seven fighting postures, ready stances,
An extending step thrust (a form of lunge).
(Spanish) to cut with the whole arm (from the shoulder).
Avoiding blade contact on the attack and instead
thrusting by deceptive motion (may involve Troumpement -
avoiding a parry or the blade as you attack, or
Derobement - avoiding a beat or bind).
A kicking feint and hop lunge.
Battre de main
A hand parry.
The action of pressuring or enveloping the adversary's
blade/point in order to carry it off line and make an
Botta de tempo/In Tempo (attack-in-time)
Countering or attacking when the opponent is distracted
A straight attack (thrust).
Battuta (a beat)
A distracting smack to move the adversary's blade off
line or evoke a response.
A quick disengage over the top of the adversary's blade,
often after their parry, basically a cut-over.
Altering the line of the attack by passing the blade
over the adversary's point, basically a coupe'.
Deceptively altering the line of attack by passing the
blade under the adversary's point (said to have been
first devised from observing the bobbing motions of
Cuts with the true (right) edge.
French term for the Stromazone.
Subtly faking the intention or the line of an attack (a
form of feinting).
Cuts to the wrists with the false-edge.
Attacks with the false-edge or diagonal upward cuts
using the back of the sword.
Cuts to the knees with the false edge.
Vertical downwards cut (right or left of guard).
A false attack or action designed to elicit a response
and create an opening
Fleche' - ("arrow")
Passing the adversary on the attack, a form of running
A form of lunge in which the rear leg moves to the lead
with a thrust or cut.
"Giving the blade"
An intentional threatening extension of the arm and
weapon designed to provoke a response that can then be
Thrust over top of the adversary's blade or grip.
Lunga (Stocatta Lunga or Lunge)
A far-reaching thrusting attack using a forward step of
the lead leg with a push off the rear leg, it was used
in various forms during the Renaissance, (also a punta
A light slash of the point delivered by a flick of the
An attack cutting from the right to the left.
Cuts made from the "elbow" (faster than from the
shoulder but not as strong).
Montante (Montante Sotto Mano)
A straight upward cut with the false edge (right or left
of the adversary's guard).
To block, defense by the deliberate resistance of an
attack by imposing the blade before it, from 6 to 8 are
used to the inside/outside and high/low areas or lines.
Stepping the rear leg to the lead (or a reverse pass
where the lead leg falls back) as in a "cut made on the
pass", one major difference from the linear fencing of
the modern sport version.
Passatto Sotto/Batte de nuit
To duck under an attack with a drop onto the free hand
to deliver a counter thrust.
A quick forward step and lunge.
Prise de fer
To bind or take the blade.
Thrust to left/outside of the adversary's blade or grip.
Punta Sopramano (Lunge or Stocatta Lunga)
A straight thrust lunge.
A rear leg side step around to the outside made with a
Diagonal rising cuts (German Unterhau).
Quickly renewing the attack after a feint, beat, or
An attack cutting from left to right.
Renewing the attack after a quick return to guard.
A counter-attack immediately following a parry, usually
in one action, an idea that became more effective with
the rapier and perfected with the small-sword (common in
the modern sport).
Middle ward, with the blade up at a 45-degree angle (one
of the major cut & thrust stances or guards).
Probing actions (feints, beats, etc.) to test and
discover the opponent's nature.
To pull back some just prior to countering or
A diagonal cut down or up (mandritta squalembrato =
right-to-left, collar-to-waist cut).
A thrust low under the adversary's blade or grip.
Stocatta Lunga (Lunga or Punta Sopramano)
A lunge and low straight thrust.
A preemptive counter attack into the opponent's forward
A tearing tip-cut, usually to the face, used to harass
To parry and riposte in one action, often a deflecting
A horizontal cut (mandritti tonda = side cut
right-to-left, reversi tonda = side cut left-to-right).
A forward or backward diagonal side-stepping move
employed with a parry, void, or passing attack.
A rear leg side-step and void made with a thrust attack,
it allows the adversary's attack to slip past as a
counter-thrust angles in, it is a form of half Quartatta.
(voyd or voyded) To evade or avoid an attack rather than
directly parry, often by a simple side step or pass,
used preferably to parrying.