Classes & Instructors

Grabbing the Blade

People are attracted to historical fencing for many reasons, one of which may be the desire to fence in a more “combative” manner, with the freedom to attack with vigour, throw punches and pommel strikes, or to wrestle their opponent to the ground. Others may be more concerned with elegant and controlled bladework, considering grappling, striking and all-out attack to be both ill-mannered and boring. The latter may even consider that the former lack art, although whether that is the case or not depends on what one understands by that term.
Encounters between these two sorts of fencers, which are likely to result in frustration for one or both parties, would seem to be nothing new, for historical texts make reference to “ramblers” and “stabbers” , and discuss various means of dealing with them, whilst sometimes acknowledging that such rough tactics need to be understood even by “elegant” fencers, due to their occasional use in a serious encounter with sharps.
This class will discuss various ruffianly techniques, primarily involving grabbing the blade, how to both use and avoid them, and whether or not they constitute “art”.

Milo Thurston
Milo has been fencing for around 30, running the LSD for 20, and waffling on at Smallsword Symposia to anyone wiling to listen since it started. His work primarily concentrates on the works of Sir William Hope, including the parts where SWH holds his smallsword more-or-less like everyone else, but also includes other swords, shooting, pugilism and that. However good they may be, selling books on SWH’s New Method is not enough to pay the mortgage, so he writes boring software as well.

Flanconnade or not?

“The flanconnade is a thrust of great reknown among those who have not studied fencing, less so among those experienced in this art”, Jean Jamain de Beaupré wrote in 1721. He still goes on to describe it, as do most smallsword manuals. German sources also use the term “Quart revers”, sometimes for the same, sometimes for a slightly different action. We will look into different ways of performing this technique and see for ourselves whether it is worth doing at all.

Tobais Zimmerman
Tobias has been fencing for 15 years now. After some years of Olympic Fencing, he moved on to Italian knife and stick fencing “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 small school for mainly German historical martial arts focusing on the 19th century in Munich. He is also a full instructor in La Superba as well as the Genoese Martial Arts (walking stick, two-handed stick, Savate Genovese, Gambetto) and one of the few people outside Haiti to train in Tire Machèt (Haitian Machete Fencing). He has given classes at fencing events in Germany and the UK.

When not fencing, Tobias works as a pharmacy technician, adores his fluffy master (cat) or carves things out of wood. 


A brief study on the dynamics of the controtempo, how to use your timing, sword placement and body movements to neutralise an attack while hitting your opponent.

Marco Danelli
Marco is best know for hitting bits of metal with other metal things so they become swords. Aside for his work as a swordmaker, he has been studying the rapier for more than a decade doubling with the smallsword in recent years, focusing on the Italian “spada da terreno”.
A recognised BFHS instructor, has fenced with Fisas and A.r.a. in Italy, Macdonald Accademy and Sussex Sword Academy in the UK. Has though at various international events and now runs his club in Bracciano, near Rome, within Res Martialis.

True or False?

 A ‘true’ action is one that is committed from the start; a ‘false’ action is one that is not intended to develop as it first appears to be. That much may seem obvious, but there is more to truth and lies than is at first apparent. We will be examining the use of true and false actions, and how to exploit the opponent’s habitual resort to them, before delving into the twilight world of half-truths. Our aim is to present the opponent with an irresolvable quandary… or maybe just stab him with the sharp end. That also works.

Martin J Dougherty
Martin J Dougherty makes stuff up for a living, though some people choose to describe him as an author. He has written books on topics as diverse as space exploration, Norse mythology and punching people in the face. Phil Crawley claims to have seen him on the TV once or twice.

Martin has been a martial artist and fencer since the Late Jurassic Period, serving as fencing coach to various species of theropod and later the University of Sunderland. He is currently an instructor with the Society for the Study of Swordsmanship and is the author of the BFHS IL2-3 coaching programme. He is occasionally accused of being President of the BFHS.

You’re Doing It Wrong

One of the hardest things to do in fencing is leave behind what you learn in other arts when you take up a new one.  This can often be seen in smallsword with people for whom it is not their main fencing art.   The consequences are often that some of the key tactical or technical aspects of smallsword are lost as people revert to habits learned in rapier, backsword or foil.

This class will look at some of these common errors and try to help you make the move to smallsword fencing in the classic French style.  Whilst this class is aimed at those of you who fence with other weapons the basic principles will be suitable for all.

Ian Macintyre
A guy called Kieran moved into Ian’s flat 22 years ago. He brought a sword with him and stories of this bunch of guys called The Dawn Duellists who were teaching him how to sword fight.  Now all these years later Ian has his own fencing school, Black Boar Swordsmanship, teaches smallsword and sabre and travels around teaching fencing.  Funny how things happen, I mean what if Kieran kept tropical fish?

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

The duel in 24 hours was not an unusual situation in late C19th France; as such, fencing masters developed techniques to help a person, ignorant of fencing, to survive a duel with minimal preparation. As a bonus this will also teach you how to manage a swordcane in an assault.
Participants will then put their new skills into practice against the duelling class running at the same time to see who will be victorious!

Phil Crawley
Phil has been involved with historic fencing since 1996 and has studied many weapons with several schools throughout the UK, finally dedicating his studies and teaching to the French school of smallsword as a full instructor with the Black Boar Swordsmanship School in Edinburgh. To increase interest in this much misunderstood weapon he also founded the Smallsword Symposium which has proven a success with ever increasing attendance and a sister event in the USA over the last ten years.

He also runs regular workshops in the self-defence weapons of 19th century France, as detailed in the many manuals and articles he has translated and published, is a BFHS IL1 Instructor and holds instructor certificates in Comtech Bowie knife and Drawpoint method. When not fencing he is a butler to an ever-increasing number of greyhounds and works in addiction and recovery for substance use.

Posture in the Guard “You can’t just stand there!”

When challenged to prepare a class for the 10th Anniversary Smallsword Symposium I asked what attendees would like to see.  Phil told me that they wanted “something from the front of the book.” That is to say something basic, foundational, and as near universal as possible.  Grab any of the classic texts and right after the obligatory “Chussing a Blade” comes “How to Stand the Student on Guard” or something similar.

Chances are that assuming the guard position was right there on the first day of class for you as it was for me.  Sadly  for most the guard  probably never received much detailed consideration then or most likely after that.  In this class we will give the guard the consideration that it deserves and answer some of the essential questions .  What is a guard in Smallsword?   Why do we stand like this and not that?  What should I do with my hands?  What qualities separate a good guard from a bad one?

To answer these questions we will perform an intense analysis of the recommendations from period fencing texts.  We will also use drills and exercises adapted from those texts to improve our understanding and ability to make better use of the foundation of all proper Smallsword technique, “a fencer active, and firm on his legs”.

Victor Markland
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 U.S. National Park Service. He Is the founder, sponsor and organizer of The Americam Smallsword Symposium now in its fifth year.  He is most proud of his contribution to smallsword in the form of graphics work on Phil Crawley’s translations of St. Martin’s The Art of Fencing Reduced to True Principles, and   Traité de l’art des armes by La Boëssière  He is greatly relieved that years of his youth spent studying philosophy and Ballet were not wasted and have finally found a constructive use.