Methods of Sparring Practiced at Sword Academy

If you haven't seen seen sparring before - it doesn't looks as pretty as drills

Sparring with steel weapons

With flexible steel blades of reasonably accurate weight, sparring with steel weapons is the closest we can get to real historical combat. Students quickly realize the power of the thrust and the necessity of proper footwork.

Longsword Sparring Longer exchange between the black and the white starting with the white's attack being pushed back and immediate counter attack. Black immediately frees the blade and tries again with no success. After short pause black carefully tries again and white defends and tries a measured response. After another quick exchange initiated by black and defended by white and counter attack black finally succedds in his thrust to the torso.
After separation new sequence starts. White again attacks first, while black steps away as the sign of the things to come. White's attack is avoided through use of footwork and immediately punished by black's cut to the head before white can recover.

Sword Sparring Short sequence starts by the combatant on the left. His attack is successfully parried and then right side uses a quick left hand grab to control the weapon while counter striking to the head. Nicely done demonstrating how little time it takes to get hit or to defend yourself.

Two on One Rapier Sparring Black initiates the combat with a quick thrust to the face of the nearest of his opponents. He then continues forward with his sword held high to defend himself and begins moving to left and out of range of his other opponent's thrust. Now that the fight is one on one, Black and White take a moment to prerare. White makes the first move with a thrust aimed at Black's chest which is turned aside allowing Black to close in and grab White's sword arm. White attempts to back away but he is held and Black is able to deliver a solid thrust.

Thrown Cloak Misses but Weapon Control Successful This video clip begins with the cloak throw aimed to cover the opponent’s rapier (and weight it down) and hands. Despite the failure of this preparatory action (notice the removal of the right hand holding the rapier in the background) attack follows it using the created opening. The buckler blocks this attack, which is quickly followed by yet another attack from the right - and is again neutralized using the buckler. At this time combatant on the right is already prepared to use the left hand (now free from the cloak) which becomes the target of the attack from the left - falling short. Action reverses the direction again, and another quick extension from the right is blocked by the buckler. As the opponent on the left extends his rapier is deflected and controlled by the hold on the blade. He tries to free his rapier in vain, while combatant on the right in obvious advantage is provoking him before the final thrust. After a second combatant on the left begins to close in as a final (resort) action, trying to pass the point as the video clip ends.
This clip emphasizes defensive value of the buckler and advantage it brings to an encounter. Cloak on the other hand, is not such a versatile accessory and is quite slow in comparison. Very important is the left stance used to bring the left hand forward (enhancing its defensive potential) and to effectively shorten the length of the rapier in the right hand - preparing it for close combat.

Case of Rapiers Against Rapier & Dagger Combatant using two rapiers (on the left) initiates the engagement by attack, which is neutralized using the distance. He renews his attack again using the rapier in his left hand first (and is subsequently parried low by the rapier) and continues by attacking using the rapier in his right hand. This offensive action is stopped by dagger parry and action reverses direction. Combatant using rapier and dagger (on the right) uses rapier to attack to mid targets. That attack is stopped by the rapier in the left hand, while the rapier in the right hand trusts and gets parried by the dagger. In the short disengagement that follows, combatant with the rapier and dagger uses the opportunity to seize the initiative and attack with rapier pulled back in the initial phase aiming high at the head. This attack results in almost frantic parry with the rapier in left hand that upsets the hand and removes the weapon offline*. Combatant on the left tries to recover the initiative by responding using the rapier in the right hand to trust, which in turn is met by the low parry with the rapier. Action reverses the direction as the combatant on the right responds with the rapier thrust to mid targets – and gets swept away by the left hand rapier, which finally comes back online but with too much energy (observe the left hand moving far to the right). Sensing that the distance is becoming too short combatant on the right jumps back while parrying the right hand rapier thrust using the dagger. Being close and his opponent almost out of balance (with the left hand rapier offline) - combatant on the right attacks decisively with his rapier. After securing the hit he uses his body and the rapier to block further hits and lodge the point deeper.
In this short, yet action filled video clip dynamic and fast nature of the rapier combat is visible. Noticeable also is the difference in the mode of usage of the case of the rapiers compared to the rapier and dagger. Final action is due to the nature of the damage caused by the rapier thrust, which suggests that even a mortally wounded opponent might complete final 'vengeful' stab.
*Weapon is offline as in ‘off the line to the target’ – basically it is not easy to use it.

Sparring with aluminum weapons

Aluminum sparring is a valuable tool that allows experienced Sword Academy students to put winding drills to use. The aluminum swords are safe enough that they permit controlled high speed actions, particularly winding. This form of sparring is one of the best ways to explore winding techniques with long sword.

Long sword - Sequence Showing High Speed Winding This clip shows two combatants engaged in winding with long swords. Notice how they are sliding their blades when they bind, each trying to gain the upper hand with regard to strength of the blade. When someone gains the advantage a quick strike follows; either a thrust or a cut to the head or arms.

Long Sword - Quick Exchange While Circling Black begins this clip with a thrust that is deflected by White. Black follows from the deflection with a falling cut from his weak side aiming at White's head. This blow is countered with a back edge deflection by White that turns into an overhead strike at Black. Black sidesteps the blow, redirecting White's blade with his own, and delivers a rising cut to White's hands and body. Black finishes with a decisive blow to White's head.

Padded Sparring

Padded sparring is reasonably safe way to spar with many of the weapons taught at Sword Academy. The most important things students learn from padded sparring are timing and distance. Padded weapons behave very differently than real steel weapons and many of the techniques learned in drills with steel swords or wooden wasters can be distorted when attempted with padded weapons.

Long Sword - Use of Voiding Rather than a Blade Parry This rather simple exchange starts with a horizontal cut from Black, which is quickly blocked. In a familiar manner, initiative now switches and White strikes vertical falling cut - but Black does not deflect or block. By maintaining the precise distance Black knows this cut will fall short. When Black responds with a cut of his own it comes before White's cut is quite finished, and because of this, prevents White from using his sword to defend. Black's cut hits White's shoulders and upper arms, before sliding down to his hands.
Effective use of distance is key to simple, yet effective actions like this one.

Long Sword - Energetic Exchange Begins with Attempted Thrust This engagement starts by quick changes of guard positions - employed to provoke by simulating the attacks. Change of the distance between the opponents is key in understanding the way that situation evolves. Real action begins after transitioning to middle guard and attempting to trust at the opponent's face by the combatant on the right. To facilitate the long reach, this thrust is executed by holding the sword with the right hand only - which proves decisive to the final outcome later. Stepping back and blade push to the side neutralizes this attack and gives opportunity for offensive action (this time from the left side). First cut coming from the left is neutralized by the deflection, and next one (still coming from the combatant on the left) narrowly misses weak hanging-like position. There is no time, as the conclusive cut into the waist area hits.
Important and interesting to observe is the initial phase (preparation and provocations) before the action starts. Noticeable is also lack of the strength and speed while using long sword in one hand (compared to normal two-hand hold).

Buckler - Fluid Combat Sequence Facing a Two-Handed Sword Black starts the action with his sword & buckler by provoking and trying to engage. This results in a point attack from White using his two-handed sword, which is in turn neutralized by Black's proper use of distance. While retreating, Black try's to deflect White's powerful two-handed sword by holding his sword & buckler together for strength. A momentary pause turns into a renewed attack by White; but both a thrust and a quick cut from the side are deflected by Black's buckler and he follows with a cut. Due to the short reach of the single-handed sword it just misses, but it still puts White on the defensive. White raises his sword into a high / hanging position and twists his body in a full turn to facilitate a quick retreat. But Black stays on his tail and gives chase, re-establishing combat distance. In the final action Black blocks another cut with his buckler, and quickly closes in with a cut, concluding the engagement.
Visible here is the power and deceptiveness of the two-handed sword which can quickly turn into a thrusting weapon and fully utilize its length to strike from far greater distance than the much shorter single-handed sword. Notice also, the hard work necessary to endure quick and repeated attacks by a two-handed sword and to successfully close in and finish the engagement.

Buckler - Short Sequence with a Thrusting Counter Attack Action starts with White cutting high. Black delivers a counter thrust while simultaneously blocking the cut with his buckler.
Observe the proper timing and execution of the thrust.

Buckler - Long Combat Sequence Through Several Exchanges Action starts from the right with the over-cut from the strong and is countered with another over-cut from the weak. Attack falls short while counter action (from left) is stopped with the buckler in high block. Actions pauses briefly while combatants switch into different guard positions. Quick provocation from the right aimed at the feet is successful as the cut comes from left and is blocked with buckler. In this flurry of activity combatants have switched positions and cut from left starting in high guard provokes another low cut from the right immediately followed by void and from left and vertical cut. Unfazed, combatant on the right presses his attack with the cut from which is neutralized by step back from the left (keeping the distance) followed with the horizontal cut from the strong as the other sword is still following the arc to the left. Combatant on the right still stops this cut with buckler and brings sword online and steps out of another powerful horizontal cut that falls short by only few centimeters in the pressing series of attacks from the left. Both combatants engage almost simultaneously as attack from the right is blocked high with buckler while low cut from left misses narrowly. Combatant on the left keeps the initiative quickly turning his sword into fast downwards arc that is blocked by the buckler in the retreat on the right. This attack from the left quickly continues (while combatant on the right tries to regain distance) with the attempted thrust to the face that is blocked with the buckler from right and taken high. At the same time combatant on the left cuts low at the feet but combatant on the right steps back in time. There is another pause as the combatants regroup for a very short moment and rush to close in. Both ready swords for the powerful cut from the strong at the same time, but from the left no cut follows as combatant shifts his sword into thrusting position - managing to stop the high cut from right with his buckler - and in the clash comes strong to the opponents face pushing him backwards and off balance.
This display shows experienced combatants attacking each other and simultaneously blocking and voiding incoming cuts. Also noticeable is hat combat styles in which both hands are used independently (like rapier) might prolong the combat and increase the number of exchanges before conclusion is reached.

Shield - Powerful Exchange Starting with a Low Cut At the beginning of the clip - Black cuts low with his long sword, below White's shield. White avoids this cut by removing his lead leg from the sword's path and quickly cutting back from above. This cut is stopped by Black's deflection from behind, which switches into an offensive cut. White blocks with his shield. Using the opportunity created when White raises his shield, Black strikes, snake quick underneath. This action is not undetected by White but by the time he lowers his shield it is too late to deflect or stop Black's thrust.
In this clip Black needs to switch between offensive cuts and defensive deflections very quickly. The key to this is fluid, uninterrupted motion and a good perception of the line of attack. Using the round shield provides a great deal of protection and significantly limits where Black can strike. Unprotected areas like the legs, become primary targets and openings created by forcing White to move his shield to defend himself, are quickly exploited.

Flail - Use of a Bastard Sword Against a Flail For the short moment combatant using flail with buckler, tries to entangle the bastard sword at the very beginning of the action. This is avoided by pulling the blade away and retreating out of the close range. Holding the weapon in one hand now - cut comes from the right aimed low at the legs. This is neutralized by pulling the target away as the flail comes ready to strike from above. Detecting that after the initial cut with the bastard sword combatant quickly steps away - flail strike is stopped (since such a miss could be exploited). There is a short pause here as opponents judge each other maintaining the distance, followed by yet another leg cut (this time knee-high). This cut is distance voided and the buckler blocks the quick cut on the blade’s path back. Finally the third cut coming to the knee area is successful - even bringing the opponent down to the ground.
Flail and bastard sword (hand-and-half grip) have their own unique features, which dictate their use. Flail’s ability to entangle (in this case the opponent’s weapon) and come around from unusual angles is its strength, but its recovery time is a weakness compared to quick and agile bastard sword (note the quick three cut sequence). Buckler is a very versatile and mobile defense ability to protect lower targets is even more reduced compared to the round shield.

Melee - Group Battle Ends with Two Combatants Sparring in group melees is a fun way for many students to participate at one time. In this case the field quickly clears, leaving only two combatants to conclude the engagement.

Melee - Two on One with Dissimilar Weapons This clip shows a two on one engagement. The two students are armed with a sword & buckler and a long sword against Milan wielding a sword & buckler.

Move mouse over thumbnails to see full size images