Classes & Instructors

Martin J Dougherty

Ye Cannae Gan Radgie Wi’ It!

The smallsword is absolutely intolerant of recklessness and stupidity. Fencing with it effectively requires the exercise of judgement and a willingness to err on the side of caution. Attempting to ‘gan radgie wi’ it’ will almost inevitably result in double hits or at best an inelegant jabbing match.

Training yourself or your students to exercise judgement is far more difficult than teaching technique or tactics. Many otherwise well trained fencers come out of a bout knowing what they should have done, and also that they did not do it when it was necessary. Others ‘go blank’ as soon as freeplay starts and either make elementary mistakes or become dominated by the opponent. The reasons for this are complex, but the lack of a habit of exercising good judgement is a factor.

I will be presenting a variety of exercises which can improve a fencer’s use of judgement in a bout and therefore their overall effectiveness as a swordsperson. The required level of technical skill is not high, but fencers will need to think about what they are doing and why – so a basic knowledge of terminology and technique will be useful.

Martin Dougherty’s fencing career began in 1987. He qualified as a coach in 1989, and trained fencers at the University of Sunderland for the next two decades before fully making the jump to Historical Fencing. During this time Martin engaged in what might be termed ‘trying to invent HEMA because we didn’t know it was already a thing’ and also gained black belts in four martial arts.

Martin makes stuff up for a living; that is, he is a professional author working mainly in non-fiction. His books cover topics from swording to space exploration, by way of Norse mythology and anti-submarine warfare.

Martin is currently President and also Chief Assessor with the BFHS, and holds an IL1 instructorship. He has served as head of coaching to a national multi-styles martial arts organisation but now focuses almost exclusively on historical European arts.

Neil Harrington

Introduction to the smallsword

This class will teach the essentials of French smallsword for those new to the weapon orsimply wanting a quick refresher. It will give you a flying start for the rest of the symposium, and enable you to fully participate in the other classes. It covers basic stance, movement, and guard positions, along with the key aspects of attack and defence, including the lunge, parry and riposte.

Neil has been a member of the Black Boar Fife Chapter for six years, where he gained hisBFHS IL1 instructors qualification. He became interested in historical fencing after having trained in sports fencing under Professor Pat Pearson in the 1960’s. He still competes regularly in national events in Epee and Foil, as well as assisting with Small Sword instruction at Black Boar.

In his spare time, away from fencing, Neil is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Dundee.

Greig Watson


 Italian Smallsword – “Gaining the Sword with Patience”

The concept of gaining, or finding, the sword is central to the Italian style of fencing. In keeping with this year’s Symposium theme of Calmness, Vigour, Judgement, the workshop will focus on the correct tactical use of this key Italianate concept, and the need to exercise patience and calmness at all times in order to successfully gain the opponent’s blade and hence set up a secure attack.

Greig Watson has been studying historical fencing since 2002, and first began teaching in 2006 at Edinburgh’s Dawn Duellists’ Society. Since that time he has increasingly focused on Italian styles of fencing, including several styles of rapier as well as greatsword, smallsword and polearms. He now runs his own school, Edinburgh Renaissance Fencing Academy (ERFA), teaching regular weekly Italian fencing classes in Edinburgh as well as occasional workshops elsewhere. Additionally he is a Free Scholar at Black Boar Swordsmanship School’s Edinburgh chapter.

Tobias Zimmerman

Courage, Moderation and Resolution – How to build calmness and judgement according to German sources

German smallsword following the Kreussler lineage teaches the retreat – but hates using it. In formal duels among academic fraternity members, duellists were even forbidden to retreat further than one small step, losing their honor if they did. This mindset also transferred to self-defence situations. In order to be able to work (almost) without the retreat and to keep up forward pressure on your opponent, the mental aspect is as important as the technical one. In this class, you´re going to learn traditional exercises for developing the unemotional presence of mind and faith in the techniques you´ve learnt necessary for this approach, including the “Stoßen an der Wand” as described by Kurt Weischner in 1764.

Tobias has been fencing for 15 years now. After some years of Olympic Fencing, he moved on to Italian knife and stick fighting “La Superba”, which led to him getting into contact with historical German sabre fencing. Starting from there, he also gained an interest in thrust fencing, which grew into a love for the direct and logical approach of the Kreussler tradition.He runs a school for mainly German historical martial arts focusing on the 19th century in Munich, where he teaches smallsword, sabre, Pallasch, bayonet and Tire Machèt (Haitian Machete Fencing). He is a full instructor of La Superba and Genoese Martial Arts, Europe Development Coordinator for Tire Machèt and member of the Akademie der Fechtkunst Deutschlands (German Academy of Fencing Arts). So far, he has given classes at events in Germany, the UK and Romania. He also builds affordable smallsword trainers best suited for German, Italian and French styles.

Victor Markland

They say size matters?

As the Smallsword and Rapier eras overlapped a knowledge of how to fight against Rapiers was generally a  part of the Smallsword curriculum.  We see evidence of this in period texts. That in itself is a good reason to study this scenario . Now days it is  unlikely that we will be confronted by Rapier wielding enemies in the street but there is still good reason to train in this and other mixed weapon scenarios.
Mixed weapons practice forces the Smallsword student to not so much learn a new discipline but to refine and perfect skills that they are already practicing such as sensing timing, and  distance plus tactical analysis.  Facing rapiers will make the Smallsworder’s use of Hope’s three virtues of Calmness, Judgment, and Vigor absolutely essential to survival.   As a happy result  your  Smallsword v Smallsword fight will also  be improved.
Just think, the next time you enter a Smallsword/Rapier engagment and those stuffy Rapier folks will not know what hit them. They say “Size matters”.  I say “Bollocks!”
Rapiers optional but please bring one if you can.

Victor Markland has been a student of WMA’s for over ten years, most of that time under the seductive spell of the smallsword.  He has presented educational and interpretative programs in the United States, Canada and the UK.  At home in Maryland he is an instructor with the Mid-Atlantic Society for Historic Swordsmanship (MASHS).  Founder of Mid-Atlantic Manly Arts (MAMA), he is proud of having organized an annual Manly Arts Day (MAD) at Hampton National Historic Site for nine consecutive years.  MAD was the only program devoted exclusively to martial arts in the entire U.S. National Park Service.
He is the founder and organizer of the American Smallsword Symposium, for the third year the largest Smallsword event in North America. Glad that he discovered smallsword, he is greatly relieved that years of his youth spent studying philosophy and ballet were not wasted and have finally found a constructive use.

Susan Kirk

The Offensive Defence

Bringing together an understanding of the manipulation of distance, timing and tactical opposition, this session will utilise techniques from Girard to highlight how deftly deployed ‘defensive’ moves can create perfect ‘offensive’ opportunities against an opponent.

To learn a move is one thing, to understand why and when to use it, and then be able to carry the move out in the heat of a smallsword exchange with calmness, judgement and vigour will be the challenge we will explore in this session.

Susan Kirk has been fencing and fighting in various forms since the late 1980’s, finding HEMA in 2000, and gaining an interest in multiple weapons as well as unarmed combat. Susan has been an instructor in smallsword for around 10 years and is a regular instructor at the Smallsword Symposium. Susan is a member of the Black Boar, runs a weekly smallsword class for the London Historical Fencing Club (LHFC), and is probably in part responsible for the recent proliferation of smallswords across a number of HEMA clubs in the London area.

Ralph Lovegrove

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Truly, True and Nice: Hope’s Vindication and Memorandum

Hope’s final book, the Vindication of the True Art of Defence is part moral philosophy, part an answer to his critics, and part a technical summary of his simple (tho’ not simplistic) New Method and earlier Vade Mecum. This class will consider Hope’s tactics upon a set-to with opponents of varying skill and temperament, viz. those who are Sword-Men, who are Truly Sword-Men, and True Sword-Men, using chiefly the Hanging-Guard in Seconde, and always with Calmness, Vigour and Judgement.

Ralph has been a member of the Linacre School of Defence since the start and an instructor from 2002. He has a few hobbies outside fencing including British hifi, building up his own bicycles and designing, playing and blogging about role-playing games. He also produces a podcast called Fictoplasm, drinks gin and insists on writing with a fountain pen. But the thing he likes best of all is his infant son who is just learning to kick him in the groin

Bruce Sielaff
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The French School faces the Spaniard: Textual and Tactical Considerations

For the practitioner of the French School of small-sword fencing, the prospect of facing a diestro (student of the Spanish School of La Verdadera Destreza) was real enough and worrying enough to warrant discussion in several of the period manuals, from Girard to Angelo.  This class will examine the recommendations of these authors, as well as some additional considerations based on theory and bouting experience.  It is intended to be more practice than lecture, with students developing techniques to employ in their own chance encounters with Spaniards.

Mr. Bruce Sielaff began the study of classical and historical fencing in January 2007 at the Salle Saint-George, under Maître Cecil Longino. Having previously studied sport fencing at university, Mr. Sielaff found that he was much more drawn to the classical forms of the art, in particular to the French Small-sword. He was impressed with the twin goals of conveying a martial skill, while simultaneously imparting noble form, bearing and temperament. While studying at the Salle Saint-George, Mr. Sielaff served as Chef de Salle from 2010 until 2013, when he was accepted into the Martinez Academy Instructor In-Training Program. He was certified as Instructor in both French foil and Small-sword on December 11th, 2015.

While Mr. Sielaff’s focus has been on the study of fencing weapons, he is more broadly interested in the western martial tradition. He has studied traditional pugilism for several years under Tim Ruzicki, and since 2010 has been actively training in La Boxe Francaise Savate.

Mr. Sielaff holds a Master Of Arts Degree in Philosophy from Indiana University. He currently lives and teaches privately near Southampton, UK.

Enrique Sanchez & John Cropper

The Spanish Cut: an overview of Spanish Smallsword as described by Don Manuel Antonio de Brea.

From the many existing schools of fencing, one of the most famous is the Spanish School. While several systems were created as a response to the development of new types of swords, la “Verdadera Destreza” followed a different approach: a common core system intended for all sword types with a clear emphasis in the circular movement and blade control. One of the most famous Destreza treatises is “Principios Universales y Reglas Generales de la Verdadera Destreza del Espadin” from Don Manuel Antonio de Brea and, in this class, John Cropper and I will provide a general review of the system, its principles and a comparison with other existing schools.


I have been a member of Black Boar Swordsmanship School since 2013, when I started to develop my current passion for historical fencing. Although my first steps were in relation to Hutton sabre system, soon I started to enjoy the sweet taste of holding a smallsword in my hands. Becoming a free scholar in 2014, I have continued training in the use of smallsword at Black Boar and rapier at Edinburgh Renaissance Fencing Academy (ERFA). Outside fencing, I compaginate my work as a researcher in Genetics and Animal Breeding with my other hobbies apart from fencing: role-games, war-games, miniature painting and collecting vintage fountain pens (and smallswords, of course).


John has been a member of the Linacre School of Defence for three years and so is relatively new to HEMA. He is an affcionado of the long eighteenth century and of Spain and when he discovered that there was a Spanish treatise and that it had not been translated, he decided to remedy this shocking state of affairs. Outside of fencing, John shoots competitively, plays chess and works for an international development charity.

Kévin Côté


The French School of Fencing: Principles behind the Technique.

The French School of Fencing emerged sometime in the earlier half of the 17th century; although weapons had not yet evolved completely from its contemporary rapier, solid principles were already established by the French Masters which would define this system for centuries to come. As Liancour clearly states in his 1686 treatise : “To use the Sword properly, one must consider structure of the Body upon his legs, being one of the principal necessary conditions (…)”

In this workshop; oriented both for the novice & seasoned fencer; we will be revisiting basic techniques of the Smallsword, applying fundamental mechanical, bio-mechanical & conceptual principles of the French School of Fencing, as outlined by early Masters like De la Touche & Liancour, and see how they are intricately related to this year’s theme of Calmness, Judgement & Vigour.

Kévin Côté runs the Historical Fencing program at the Montreal Fencing Club (Escrime Mont Royal) in Canada. Although purely raised under Quebec’s francophile culture, he is well versed in English as well. He has been involved in fencing for a bit more than a decade. Initially introduced to modern épée by an elder coach who was proponent of the French classical ways, Kévin then discovered his passion in the French School of fencing of the 17th & 18th Century about six years ago; & has since focused relentlessly to its study.

Kévin has travelled across Canada, to the United States, Scotland, France & Spain to pursue his research & understanding of the Art; and has been teaching at the American Smallsword Symposium since its inception three years ago. Kévin has also participated in a few translation projects; notably Philip T. Crawley’s edition of The Art of the Smallsword, a translation & expansion of P.J.F Girard Treatise of Arms.