We were invited a little while ago to an event called ‘Sword Chase’, which is a mixed-styles sword fighting event. Yes, really. It caters for everything from sport fencers to kendoists, but mainly the European Sword Arts.
With the event in mind, we did some mixed-styles work of our own:
Sabre vs Rapier: These two weapons never met in reality; they’re 200 years apart. But one of the sabre’s predecessors is the backsword, which was used against rapiers quite a lot. A backsword is a bit like one of those Scottish basket-hilted broadswords, or claymores - there’s a claymore vs rapier duel in the film Rob Roy. More importantly, there’s a body of technique for dealing with a backswordist that works pretty well against a sabreur. I found this out the hard way – my trusty sabre was outreached by the rapier and I kept getting stabbed in the face when I tried to close in. ‘Just get past the point and move in close’ seemed to be the answer but strangely it’s not so easy when the opponent knows that’s what you want to do. On the plus side, when I did get in close my sabre had the advantage.
Sabre vs Longsword: That’s right, a 19th Century cavalry saber against a medieval longsword. Which is used in both hands, by the way. Well, as you’d expect the longsword has a power advantage but you can parry it if you get it right. The sabre is faster but the longsword isn’t slow so there’s a narrow window of opportunity. The sabre has the advantage at medium range but in close the longsword is actually handier – having both hands on the weapon really helps. Exchanges were short – either I got in and landed one, or I defeated an attack and landed one, or I died in a variety of inventive ways. There wasn’t much in between.
Sabre vs Kris: I tried taking on a Filipino Kris sword with my sabre. The Kris is shorter and has a straight (but wavy) blade; it’s like an overgrown knife. For once I had a reach advantage! The technique is quite similar in some ways as well; attacks come down the same lines so the defences are similar. We found that most exchanges consisted of some medium range fencing, with cuts, thrusts and parries, and then one of us would commit to a kill shot. If it landed, great. If not, we’d end up in a wrestling match with two swords involved. Because that always ends well….