Axel is one of the leading instructors in Historical European Martial Arts, having taught in over 20 countries. He is also the most successful tournament fencer in the world, having won several international titles in several weapon categories in full contact steel weapon fights. He posts videos on workshops, lectures, individual coaching for technique and skill development.
My Sword & Buckler fights from Vasaslaget-18 - YouTube
Some of the exchanges from my bouts at Vasaslaget-18 in Gamla Uppsala, Sweden. Hosted by Uppsala Historical Fencing School.
The ruleset awarded bonus points for covering lines before and after attacking (with the sword or with sword and buckler together, but not with just the buckler) which changed the behaviour of the better, more adaptive fencers significantly. We were much more inclined to fence with sword and buckler together, “I.33” style, and the fencing lost some of the typical “cover high with buckler and strike low with the sword and then double” approach we often see in modern sword & buckler tournaments.
With that said, you see me go for low targets alot, however it is almost exclusively “after” I have first attacked the high line with sword & buckler together and the opponents defence collapse and “they” separate their weapons, opening up for me to go low, or when I do it together with a leap offline. I often also go for the low line while still keeping the weapons together.
The weapons used were rather heavy one handers from Kvetun Armouries in Russia. They were not feders, just blunts, and the weight and the broad blade really helped with focusing the fencing in the bind. They stung though…
I really enjoyed this setup. I have competed in sword and buckler on and off since 2013 and this was the first time I saw such a focus on fencing in the bind from so many fencers (not all..). There are obviously alot of things to improve and tune with this ruleset and judges need to get used to it, but it was a good step forward in the development of creating an i.33 focused competitive environment.
Oh yeah, as you can see I also tend to finger the ricasso even with the standard cruciform hilts. The control I get over the blade is in my opinion worth the added risk to getting hit on the finger (which hurts like hell and is a big injury risk no matter what gloves you use). For this ruleset and with these swords where big moulinettes were not really useful fingering the ricasso paid of. It also added more incentinve for me to cover my sword hand with my buckler..
Thanks to working with Kristine Konsmo (who took silver here) I am starting to pick up how to use the Obsessios to parry and wind, and my thrusts are easier to do with both weapons together. My distance management and ability to read opponents and set up situations help alot especially in allowing me to attack safely to my opponents lower openings (look for my short edge cut to the inside of my opponents forward leg, I am proud of that one) but I still separate my weapons too much, sometimes I leave the bind too soon and I still get tricked by Kristoffer Stansons fantastic distance games on a regular basis. The work to improve is never done.
Francesco Lodà and Ton Puey single rapier - YouTube
A rare treat; a competitive single rapier bout between Francesco Loda and Ton Puey, from Briscia Pro Challenge -17.
Ton rarely competes, but made an exception for this tournament. He took third place while Francesco took 1st, however Francesco thought Ton should have been in the final and asked him for a competitive bout immidiately after the tournament, which Ton accepted and also won.
Marxbrüder vs Freifechter in “Perspectarische Vorstellung einer Fechtschule” from the 1700s - YouTube
This is one of my favourite fencing images, a display of a Fechtschule event between Marxbruder and Freifecther.
Join me as we go through some of the many amazing details of this image, and relate them to our own times.
Courtesy of signore Roberto Gotti and, Gairthenix and MAM.
In 1582 Don Jerónimo de Carranza, a cultivated Andalusian noble, devoted
Christian and skilful swordsman, publishes in his book “De la
Philosphia de las Armas…” a new system for sword combat, developed by
himself. This system, completely novel, practical and efficient (as
would later on be proven by a large number of fencing masters), used
geometry and mathematics as a vehicle to explain fencing concepts with
impressive accuracy and precision, and claimed to be, because of its
rational nature, universal and absolute. From then on, slowly at the
beginning but faster and as time went on, this system that he named “La
Verdadera Destreza”, started to gain adepts and to spread widely all
over Spain, mainly due to the activity and skill of one of Carranza’s
students: Don Luis Pacheco de Narváez, probably the greatest Master of
”La Destreza”. Such was the impact the system made that at a certain
point in the other European countries the Spanish fencing School was
identified by many exclusively with La Destreza Verdadera.
But then, if Carranza had indeed developed his new system at about the
beginning of the second half of the 16th century, the logical question
is: what kind of fencing was in practice in Spain before the appearance
of La Verdadera Destreza?
We must look for the answer, among other places, in the texts of those
who wrote about La Verdadera Destreza, where they use to call it, with
intentional contempt, la Destreza Vulgar or Común (Vulgar or Common
Destreza). This is the name used by Carranza, Pacheco and their
followers to designate both the kind of fencing practised before the
rise of La Verdadera Destreza and the style practised by those
contemporary fencers of theirs that didn’t follow the principles of
This so-called, also, Esgrima Vulgar or Común (Vulgar or Common Fencing)
looks for its first written references to manuals from the end of the
15th century. Thus it is mentioned Jaime Pons, a Master from Majorca who
lived and published his treatise in Perpignan, by then under the
sovereignty of the Crown of Aragon, in the year of 1474. In the same
year, in Seville, appears the treatise of the Master Pedro de la Torre. A
few years later, in 1532, the Master Francisco Román, also in Seville,
published his treatise “Tratado de Esgrima con figuras”.
The next logical question, then, is: how the Destreza Vulgar was? Even
though the old Spanish treatises are indeed lost, the treatises of la
Destreza Verdadera describe with a good amount of detail the techniques
(called tretas, that could be literally translated as “ruses” or
“tricks”) of the Common Fencing School, and talk about it constantly as
that natural enemy that has to be defeated. The AEEA has devoted itself
to the study and understanding of these techniques with the purpose of
reconstructing, as far as possible, the Esgrima Común as it was
practised in Spain at the end of the 16th century and through all the
17th century. The conclusions reached so far by our study show that the
original Spanish fencing school was, in its core principles, the same
than the one practised all over Europe and, in its execution, very
similar to the Italian school of the same age (beginning of the 16th
century). It has, of course, its own characteristics, as well as a
different formal approach and attitude, specially in the tactical side,
plus a certain number of techniques we have not seen, so far, in the
treatises of the contemporary Italian school. But, as has been said, it
essentially follows the same core assumptions and principles. Does it,
then, come form the Italian school? No. The unquestionable existence of a
formal fencing tradition characteristically Spanish that reaches at
least as far back as the 15th c. rather points to both schools sharing a
common root and to a mutual influence along time, but they are
unmistakably independent from each other.
After the appearance of la Verdadera Destreza, the original Spanish
fencing school did not disappear but coexisted for a century and a half
with its antagonist, adapting itself not only to sharing the same
physical and social space with another school but also to the necessary
evolution of fencing dictated by the historical changes, evolving its
original techniques and accommodating them to the new circumstances
imposed by the passing of time, as might be for example the changes in
the morphology of the weapons.
So, as a characteristic element, the implementation of the principles of
the Spanish common fencing school for single sword is articulated
around the so-called 30 tretas (30 techniques.) These were general
techniques from which other, more particular, techniques could be
derived. The whole system respected, obviously, the basic fencing
principles of time, measure, placement, defence with the point etc.
The 30 Tretas of la Destreza Común for single sword:
1- La Estocada de Puño
4- La Zambullida
5- La Manotada
6- La Estocada a la Mano
7- La Enarcada
8- La Engavilanada
9- La Torneada
10- Remesón y
11- Golpe de Espada
13- El Quiebro (Desplante)
14- La Final
15- La Garatusa
16- La Ganancia y
17- La Reganancia
18- La tentada
19- El Arrebatar y Tajo
20- El Codazo
21- El Brazal
22- El Canillazo
23- La Treta Doble
24- Tajo Horizontal
25- Revés Horizontal
26- Tajo Ascendente
27- Revés Ascendente
28- La Escampavita
29- La Irremediable
30- La Defendida
For Armas Dobles (Spanish term for two weapons):
Tretas for sword and dagger:
1- La Encadenada
2- Empanada o Cobertera
Tretas for sword and cape
1- Encapar al Enemigo (to put the cape on the enemy)
2- Arrojar la Capa sobre la Espada (to throw the cape on the sword)
Summarising, we can say that:
a) In Spain there were two fencing schools:
- The original fencing school, later called Destreza Vulgar or Común, linked with the mainstream European tradition.
- La Destreza or Verdadera Destreza, that appears in the mid-sixteenth century.
b) The Common Fencing School coexisted with La Destreza Verdadera for
150 years, facing each other both in the practical and in the
theoretical fields. And is in the latter where La Verdadera Destreza
indisputably gains the upper hand, as is attested by the great number of
treatises about this school, among other things, while the Common
Fencing School presents only few literary references, and even these
mainly through those same Destreza treatises.
c) In spite of the continuous efforts of the Destreza Masters to
discredit the Common Fencing School in every possible way, truth is that
la Esgrima Común was not a street fighting system fit for the lower
social classes, but a complete fencing system with a corpus of well-
structured and codified principles and techniques, inheritor of a
tradition able to trace its roots back to the Middle Ages.
In short: practically speaking, la Destreza Común is a fully developed and extremely effective rapier combat system.
And is this system, with its principles, techniques, tactical approaches
and all the history that surrounds it, including the Masters that practiced it, taught it and made it evolve so it kept being alive and
useful at every moment, what AEEA is focusing its efforts in
reconstructing, to the best of our abilities.
Even though only few people are working with Spanish fencing I hope this may be of interest at least to some of you.
Published by Alberto Bomprezzi, Technical Director and Head Instructor of the Asociación Española de Esgrima Antigua in the SFI forum in 2005 (source thread)
My longsword fights from Brisia Pro Challenge-17 - YouTube
A compilation of most of my exchanges from Brescia Pro HEMA challenge in December-17, my first competition in one and a half years.
Being rusty I fall back to flinch responses alot; the left Zwerchau counter is great and all but I do it too often, and I should vary the target (elbows are often more difficult to defend than the head). I also use the upper Hengen too often, a Kron or lower Hengen parry leaves your sword on top of the opponent and defends better in general.
My footwork kept up pretty good though if a bit too linear. I pulled off two mutieren, one duplieren, a half sword entry, a nice krumphau-schielhau combo and some nice combinations and thrusts, and I have not lost my ability to read opponents and set up situations, but I should be more relaxed and not launch the counter as soon as I bind. You can see my shoulders being tense when I do the left cut counter, embarassing..
I do like my low line parries, they saved me alot of times against Moreno Ricci and Jacopo Penso. You will see who they are by their agile footwork, long sweeping attacks from the Bolognese Spadone sources and their use of the Guardia di Croce. I really had alot of difficulties dealing with those powerful cuts, they blew through my Hengen several times.
I really am a parry/riposte kind of fencer, to the detriment of all my years working with the Liechtenauer school of fencing.
Its a philosophical thing, I think, or maybe more accurately a reflection of character, the way we fence. I think more of keeping myself safe than hitting the opponent, more foil than epee. And with that said I am not virtue signaling here, the Liechtenauer school and epee both advocate an assertive tactical approach of taking initiative and with few parries, “offence is the best defence” is true in alot of martial practices, and I wish i was better at it.
I simply really love a good parry though, it is so artful. You never see a lion fig on Animal clean fencing is what gives me the absolute most joy, even though I might make it a bit difficult for myself by going on the defensive, “nach” more than I should.
But I am in a phase in my competitive career where I have nothing left to prove so screw it.
I do wish I was better at taking initiative and rely less on my parrying though, just to have the skillset.
Leopards kill a Roman criminal in a Tunisian mosaic dating from the 200s CE. Some criminals who were set against predators in the arena were given weapons and expected to fight; others were simply bound and put at the mercy of the animals. The most famous group of “criminals” to be subjected to this punishment was the early Christian church.
Kristine and Axel: Couple sword fighting - YouTube
Long swords with short blades, what?
The longswords you usually see at events and clubs around the world today are really on the long end of the historical spectrum, historically longswords were often shorter (though longer swords most definitely existed too). The trend with longer blades in modern practice started around 2010 when the Slovak fencers had longer blades made, at Swordfish we started to use longer blades as our competition standard in 2012 in order to encourage more blade contact and “Binden” techniques. Now it is standard in most places.
I still love playing with shorter blades though, the Albion Meyer sword which features a shorter blade is my all time favourite sparring weapon (except that sharp schilt). With short blades the action is quick, dynamic and high energy, I love it! Lucky for me the womens longsword division in the Nordic countries use shorter blades so I get the chance to train with them alot when working with Kristine.
Here are a few bouts with K and I from last weekend, note the short blades, light but well padded gloves (top secret St Mark project don’t tell anyone!) and unpadded or no jackets. Note: ALWAYS wear a throat guard or go sit in a corner.
Even if you are all about heavy competitive fencing, light or no gear training is invaluable to your skill development; you learn to place your sword exactly where you want it, exactly when you want to and with exactly the amount of force that you want to apply. You can also train longer and with less fatigue than with ful kit. Light gear or no gear training and sparring constitues a large part of my classes at GHFS.
Kristine finally has enough of my hand sniping and have at me (watch to the end), I deserved that one!
Context for the video: 1. I was going for alot of “cheap” and not so cheap hand hits in order to let K work on leading with a threat as well as her timing and distance management.
2. Between the Koning gloves and the Thomas Nyzell forearm and elbow guards Kristine is better protected there than on many other parts of her body, so stirking there means less pain on her part.
3. It was a funny moment we got to share together because we love eachother and we both love fencing. Being able to share the passion for fencing as K and I do is a real blessing to our relationship, and I see this with the many wonderful HEMA couples we meet on our travels across the world. There is nothing better than spending an entire weekend together fencing, lifting and talking about fencing and lifting.