Classes & Instructors

We have completed our line up of instructors and classes for 2018.  They are as follows.

 Control of the Point

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The French School of Fencing has always pressed the advantages of the Point over the cut; the proof of this, its emerging thrusting only Smallsword became the epitome of this concept: quick, precise & efficiently deadly.

But to do so, one must have control of it!

Simply put, the most distinctive & crucial part of the Smallsword is its tinniest bit: the Point. One can have the blingiest of hilts, a gold inlayed blade, the coolest of gloves or dashing fencing vest; but without a well put Point this Art & Science is not complete.

Obviously all of us see & understand its offensive application; but Point Control goes beyond this; its preparatory & defensive attributes are imperative to grasp to become a successful fencer. Every movement & action in Smallsword should include placement of the Point to its best advantageous position.

This workshop; using concepts of the earlier French canon of the 17th century;  will bring participants through a series of exercises involving Preparatory, Defensive & Offensive actions. Our first objective will be to create a better understanding of the biomechanics behind Point Control & secondly, to develop a mindset & tactical knowledge of its use & placement throughout a fight.

Kévin Côté is presently the Head Instructor of the Traditional Fencing Program at Escrime Mont Royal in Montreal, Canada.

Involved in fencing for over a decade, he has been focusing for the last 8 years in reconstructing the French School of Fencing of the 17th & 18th Centuries; primarily with regards to the early Smallsword. More recently Kévin has broaden his research into the French & Scottish Cut & Thrust systems (Contre Pointe & Shearing Sword) as used in Europe & within the colonies of North America for the same time period.

Kévin has already attended both the Smallsword Symposium in Edinburgh & the American Smallsword Symposium (Baltimore USA) as an instructor; & 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.

How to Hit without being Hit

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The essence of sword fighting can be distilled down to a single principle:

Put as much of your weapon as necessary in the opponent whilst keeping all of theirs out of you.’

The fencing systems taught by the historical masters were designed to enable their pupils to comply with both parts of this principle, yet it is far too common to see over-emphasis on the first part to the near-complete exclusion of the second. In this class I will be examining various means – some subtle, some less so – by which the whole principle can be applied and a favourable result obtained.

Some of the material I will present is explicitly stated in historical fencing manuals, though perhaps sometimes overlooked. In other cases the source material tells us what to do without explaining how to stay alive doing it. It may be that the original master thought this was obvious, or would have taught his students the missing material at his salle. Whatever the case, I will present my own answers to questions arising from the apparently simple principle of ‘stabbing without being stabbed’.

Martin J Dougherty has took up fencing in ’87 – though the 87th year of which century is open to some debate. He served as coach to the University of Sunderland 1989-2008, and has taught a variety of other fighting arts as well. Currently he is an instructor with the Society for the Study of Swordsmanship.

Martin has published a quite excessive number of books on subjects as diverse as Norse mythology, Native American military history and space exploration. There are even a few titles connected with swords and swordsmanship to be found among his inordinately large list of publication.

He has a silly hat.

The primacy of opposition

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Perhaps the defining characteristic of smallsword fencing in the late 17th and 18th century is the near ubiquity of opposition to the adversary’s blade in both attack and defence. Its importance as concept and as application is detailed by virtually all the authors of the period. Nonetheless, the concept is frequently misunderstood and often not applied in actual fencing.

This class will examine how opposition was historically used, drawing examples from Girard, Olivier, Angelo, Demeuse, and McArthur. We will look at different methods of opposing in the attack as well as parries, ripostes, and particularly in the prises de fer. We will also look at drills and exercises to refine our technique and sentiment de fer.

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.

Smallsword theory for Great War bayonet

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Smallsword practitioners may have had experience of their fine choice of weapon being compared unfavourably with the longsword. Those making such comparisons forget that an 18th century man on foot, intent upon deadly mischief on the battlefield, would find the musket with fixed bayonet the more appropriate weapon. Of the bayonet, Hutton had this to say in 1890:

“The bayonet, when regarded as a weapon pointed only, must be recognised as, as it were, a two-handed small sword, and thus it must be subject to rules of a somewhat similar description…”

The weapon of Hutton’s era, though vastly changed in matters of shooting, would be much the same in terms of the use of the cold steel to that which was available 200 years earlier. Captain Gordon’s treatise of 1805 is an excellent example of treating sword and bayonet in a similar manner, though it might be argued that the fencing method described is not one that would be appropriate for the rigours of serious combat.

A version of smallsword fencing clearly designed for such purposes can be found within the pages of Sir William Hope’s “Sword Man’s Vade Mecum” published in 1692, in which he endeavoured to distil the range of techniques for a thrusting sword down to the absolute minimum necessary to survive a combat with sharps. Such a method would also be applicable to the bayonet, and something like it is indeed found in the pages of French bayonet texts from the early 20th century.

This class will compare and contrast the treatises mentioned above in an attempt to demonstrate the ease with which a good smallsword man may apply his skills to the longer and heavier musket and bayonet, should he ever find himself in need of something a little less gentlemanly.

Milo has been fencing since 1989 and boycotting Facebook since before #deletefacebook was cool. He started with the modern sport, including some classical singlestick, before switching to historical fencing following some time with the DDS in Edinburgh. After founding the LSD in Oxford in 1999 he was able to blag a few trips teach primarily smallsword (and occasionally a bit of pugilism) in various countries. This eventually resulted in the writing of a book about Sir William Hope’s most awesome fencing system (available from all good booksellers). He pays the fencing, shooting and dressing up in uniform bills by writing incredibly dull, yet somehow useful, scientific software.

Lecture:  Duelling debates of the early C18th

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What Reason weaves, by Passion is undone: the temperate and intemperate fencer in the duelling debates of the early eighteenth century.

In his final work, The Vindication of the True Art of Self-Defence (1724), Sir William Hope (1660-1724) animadverts upon swordplay as it relates to duelling and self-defence – the two being entirely difference species of fence, the latter to be commended and the former utterly condemned.

The early eighteenth century saw a rise in censureof duelling, both from social and religious moralists, and in law;this censure was given particular impetus following the scandal of the Hamilton-Mohun duel in 1712, after which Queen Anne spoke out against
the practice. It might not be expected that a Master of Fence would be hostile to duelling, but Sir William avowed himself so, rejecting contemporary worldly notions of ‘honour’ in favour of a more Christian interpretation of living. In this his final work, he posits the final development of his holy trinity of fence – Calmness, Vigour, and Judgement – in using reason to avoid, but passion to aid, any rencounters with the sword.

This paper will explore some of the ways Hope’s writings on Fencing with the small-sword exist in dialogue with the sharp rise in anti-duelling tracts of his age, and seek to situate writing on the small-sword with the general discourse of the times.

Dr Bethan Jenkins is a Senior Library Assistant at the Bodleian History Faculty Library, and Librarian-in-Charge at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford. She is author of Between Wales and England: Anglophone Welsh Writing of the Eighteenth Century (UWP, 2017) which won the 2018 Jesus College Francis Jones Prize for recent work in Welsh history. She has been fencing with the Linacre School of Defence for over a decade.

Lecture: The life of Sir William Hope

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Not only did Sir William Hope write more smallsword manuals than anybody else but he found time to do a lot else besides. Knight of the realm, soldier, horseman, duellist, Member of Parliament, dancer, and quite possibly a bounder!

We are fortunate that Sir William pops up again and again in the historical records and we are therefore able to know quite a lot about him. Join me in exploring the life of a most singular fencing master.

Ian Macintyre started historical fencing in 1998 when his flatmate came home with a longsword.  Since then he has progressed to the more civilised arts of Sabre and Smallsword.  Initially in the Dawn Duellists Society, where is was at times secretary and president and now in Black Boar Swordsmanship which he founded to pursue his passion for smallsword in particular.

Now retired from active fencing due to a knee injury, Ian concentrates on teaching, running Black Boar, helping with the Symposium and generally being in charge which is really his main passion.

The Perfect Thrust

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The search for the ‘perfect thrust’ or botte secrète, the Philosopher’s Stone of the duellist, continues to haunt the imagination. Literary or historical, the idea of the invincible attack holds great appeal. In the age of duels, teaching such a move was an opportunity for the fencing master to sell last-minute hope: that the combatant could enter the duel armed with an ‘infallible move’ that would ensure victory over the opponent. In reality, of course, there can be no such thing as an invincible attack; yet the idea persisted. Why?
We can deduce key characteristics of the so-called ‘bottes secrètes’ of the old fencing masters:

they were personal and idiosyncratic ‘favourite moves’ developed by the master, and not part of a standard system
they were unexpected, unpredictable, and therefore difficult for the adversary to anticipate or parry
to perform them effectively would already require a degree of skill and knowledge on the part of the fencer

We can conclude that the odds would already be in the pupil’s favour if they were a skilled enough fencer to adopt and become adept in the move. Additionally, they would be at a psychological advantage if they thought they had a secret, infallible move that could not be countered, and their relative level of confidence would be apparent to the opponent. Given this edge, the likelihood was that the possessor of a botte secrete would actually win the bout, thus perpetuating the mystique.

In this workshop we will look at potential examples of such ‘perfect thrusts’ for the smallsword, exploring how effective they could be in a rencontre or freeplay.

Catrina began studying historical fencing over ten years ago with the Sussex Sword Academy, where her main focus was Italian rapier under instructor Andrew Feest. Becoming increasingly enamoured with French smallsword, she founded The Pierced Heart in 2017 to enable further study and practice of this most elegant and lethal of weapons with like-minded individuals in Brighton.  [She has assisted in teaching workshops on rapier and smallsword in the UK and Europe].

The Tactical Wheel

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Tactics are a fundamental part of any form of fencing. If we can harness a range of tactics then we can make the most of the techniques we spend our time learning.

This session will utilise the principle of the ‘tactical wheel’ to work through how and when particular tactics could be used – from simple attacks through to fathoming out and countering potential moves your opponent could use against you.

Susan has had a long standing interest in all things HEMA. She found her way to it 18 years ago following successful forays into sport fencing, stage fighting, reenactment and a career as an Officer in the British Army (yes, she really is Captain Kirk). Susan played a central part in the development of HEMA in the U.K. as a past President of the British Federation for Historical Swordplay (BFHS).

Susan has been an instructor for about 12 years now, and is currently the Smallsword Instructor for the London Historical Fencing Club.  She has been an instructor at the Smallsword Symposium for several years now.

Susan regularly instructs in a wide range of both armed and unarmed HEMA disciplines at events across the U.K and by invitation runs workshops for other groups.

Backsword principals applied to smallsword

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Sir William Hope stated:
“For without all doubt, the art of the back-sword, is the fountain and source of all true
defence; and that of the small, only a branch proceeding and separat from it.”
…and that
“the difference that are betwixt the Parrades and guards of the Small-sword, and Parrades and Guards of the Broad are so inconsiderable, that I am confident no Man who understandeth both, will say, that the teaching the Parrades and Guards of the one can be any wayes Prejudicial to the teaching the Parrads and Guards of the other at the same time.”

In this he was not alone; Zachary Wylde said:
“Whereas I have made it plainly appear, that Small-Sword and Broad-Sword, has such
a dependence one upon another, in sundry Respects ought to be linked together, for
…there is no difference in the least, as to the Ways of Parring and Guarding.”
…and Godfrey claimed that the Small and Back-Sword “are so closely connected, that
what will answer in the former, will rarely disappoint in the latter.”

These Authors all claim that the Smallsword and Backsword were what we would call
part of an “integrated system”, used in much the same manner but substituting cut for
thrust. In this they are following a long standing British tradition; but what does this
mean for our understanding of early native British Smallsword systems?
This class will explore how the principles and techniques of the well-documented
British Back/Broadsword tradition were applied to the Smallsword, concentrating
primarily on the early Scottish sources by Sir William Hope and Donald MacBane.

Paul Wagner is a founding member of the Stoccata School of Defence in Sydney,
Australia. Paul teaches courses in Highland Broadsword according to Thomas Page,
Single Sword, Bucler and Daggert according to George Silver, Rapier according to
Joseph Swetnam, English Quarterstaff and English Longsword. He is a regular instructor
at international conferences, including ISS, WMAW, VISS, the NZ Sword Symposium,
PNW HEMA Gatheirng, Swordsquatch, and the BFHS Gathering.

Paul has published an impressive number of books and articles on fencing and other matters of the years.

Introducing Monsieur La Boëssière

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Arguably Smallsword had reached its zenith by about 1800.  Most of the influential instruction manuals such as Angelo, Girard and others had been published years before.  By the time “Treatise on the Art of Arms” is published in 1818 daily carry for civilians was passing out of style.  However the memory of those we would think of as icons of the Golden Age of Smallsword lingered. Chief among these would be the legendary Chevalier Saint Georges.

We are fortunate to have in this text not only a detailed  account of his longtime friend but the full course of  training that Saint Georges undertook at the hands of the elder La Boëssière, the fencing master mostly remembered  only as  the inventor of the mesh fencing mask.  La Boëssière’s  method of teaching and the elegance and effectiveness they create has long deserved more attention.  He emphasizes adherence to principles, speed and precision, opposition, attacks from distance, and taking advantage of your opponents lost time.  It is that refined and demanding  style and the unique interactive method of the elder La Boëssière that we will explore in this class.  I can guarantee that by the end of the class you will know what it means to fence in the style of La Boëssière.

I just cannot guarantee you will fence as well as Saint Georges.

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, ours sister  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.