Historical Fencing - longsword

Beginning HEMA Classes

This six-week class will focus on the dueling saber, which serves as an excellent foundation for either modern sport saber fencing or HEMA military saber and cutlass. Using the simple tactical wheel as a basis, we will study the dueling saber as originally recorded by Giuseppe Radaelli and Alfred Hutton. Dueling sabers were used by military officers and some civilians as a means of settling scores in the mid to late 1800’s. The sabers were light, incredibly sharp, and meant to be used in duels to the first blood. Saber is the style most commonly used in fight choreography and “swashbuckling” especially in the golden age of cinema, it is fast and fun. The modern sport of saber fencing evolved from this form, and we will cover the modern sports rules. We will also spend a class discussing the history and evolution of the saber, as well as it’s alternative forms such as the cutlass, hanger, messer, and dussack.

Conditions for regular HEMA classes


Sign up for IFC HEMA Classes:

If you are not IFC member

  1. click “JOIN” in top menu

2. fill-up the personal information 

3.  pick the “Basic Membership”

  • choice 1 of 2 options:

HEMA – Longsword, Messer, Sword & Buckler, Rapier & Dagger

HEMA – One weapon of your choice

If you are IFC member please add one of 2 options:

HEMA – Longsword, Messer, Sword & Buckler, Rapier & Dagger

HEMA – One weapon of your choice


  • Longsword (synthetic or metal). Club can provide a spare longsword.
  • Short sword & buckler (wooden, synthetic or metal). Club can provide a spare weapons.
  • Spanish Rapier and Dagger. (synthetic or metal). Club can provide a spare weapons.
  • Messer (synthetic or metal). Club can provide a spare messer.


Protection gear:

– A pair of protective gloves (it can be lacrosse or ice hockey gloves)

– Fencing mask. If you don’t have any, it can be provided by the club

– Body protection gear (can be of lacrosse or ice hockey, but not required for beginning). Club can provide chest protectors. 

Historical Fencing - longsword

Longsword Study

Longword practice will be more focused on combat training, sparring skills and drills for tournament participation. 

We will learn:

Primary postures /guards: Tag, Ochs, Pflug & Olber and switching between them.

Secondary guards: Zornhut, Langort, Nebenhut, Wechsel, Schlüssel, Einhorn, Eisenport & Hengetort.

Basic attacks and defensive movements, disarming technics and sparring tactics. 

Sword and Buckler Study

We will learn to use a sword and buckler by following the teachings of “Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33”, also known as the “Tower Fechtbuch” or the “Walpurgis Manuscript.” It is the oldest known manual of swordsmanship in the Western canon. Dated to c. 1310, it so famous that it has become known simply by its shelf number: I.33.  It is an extremely sophisticated work even by later standards, with clear instructions.  Its complex strategic advice causes many to think it could have been written by a monk with combat experience, after returning from First Crusade. The most mysterious part of that sword play manuscript is that, at the end, it includes a woman by the name of Walpurgis as one of the sparring partners. Some think it depicts an English missionary in Germany who was a healer known as the “protectoress” against witchcraft and sorcery. Obviously, priests and missionaries, men or women, were not so feeble and frail as we might have thought during these times.

Also, we will study Bolognese system and Talhoffer version of sword and buckler later on.

It will be a challenging and very interesting path in learning sword play.

The Sword and Buckler program includes:

1.            The Custodia, or wards, which are starting positions for engaging your

enemy. There are 7 main wards in the I.33, with some secondary wards.

2.            Common attacks and combined counterattacks

3.            A shield-strike (schiltslac)

4.            A thrust-strike (stichslac)

5.            A step through (durchtritt)

6.            Seizing or wrestling your opponent.


Messer Study

The messer is a single handed, one edged sword, similar to an early saber or cutlass. Messer means knife in German, and the “langesmesser” was a large knife that was carried by all classes (rich and poor alike) as a self-defense and camp tool. We will be studying the unarmored use of the messer. It is advisable to have some basic knowledge of HEMA, possibly longsword or sword and buckler, before taking the course, but beginners are welcome as well. We will be studying the works of Johannes Lecküchner, Hans Talhoffer, as well as some of the basics from Meyer’s dussack, to inform the use the of the messer. The study of the messer will include basic footwork, standard cuts and hews, master strokes, timing, distance, trapping and disarms, and pairing with the off hand buckler. 

Spanish Rapier and Dagger Study

Spanish Espada is commonly known as a Rapier. The system we will learn is called “La Verdadera Destreza” or “true dexterity” – fencing for noble people.

We will learn rapier fencing presented by “king’s fencing masters” of the Spain from XVI to XVIII centuries: Luis Pacheco de Narváez, Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza, Don Francisco Antonio de Ettenhard and Francisco Lorenz de Rada. Main noble rule in Destreza was about controlling. According to those masters’ philosophy, killing the opponent wasn’t good for a noble soul. So, fencing was about domination or taking over the opponent forcing him/her to recognize defeat. In other words, fencing was viewed as a conversation between people with swords. Because of that concept, Destreza had become one of the most beautiful and esthetically pleasing martial arts of all times. 

We will learn the main systems of Destreza with various technics as circular movements, ways of handling the sword, evasive footwork, controlling distance, good timing, engaging, right angles, disengaging, thrusts, parries, and disarming. Classes will include old Spanish “carousel” systems of training, use of the non-armed hand or use of the dagger or cloak. 

On top of it all, we will touch styles of some Italian schools of the same time period because some of them, like Fabris, taught techniques to beat the Spanish espada fencers or so-called “Answers” to Spanish styles.