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Thread: Smallsword/Spadroon

  1. #1

    Smallsword/Spadroon

    Should this be considered as part of "Scottish" Martial Arts practice? I ask your opinions because even though it is not "traditional" to Scotland, many of the sources we use for Scots swordsmanship include the Smallsword/Spadroon. McBane included Smallsword as early as 1728. MacGregor talks about Smallsword in 1791. William Hope features the Smallsword. John Taylor, even though his text refers to the broadsword, chose to feature a Spadroon in all the illustrations. So it would just seem logical to me that if we are going to use these sources for "Scottish Broadsword", we would also have to accept the Smallsword/Spadroon that these men practiced as part of the package.

    This also applies to a wider interest in British Martial Arts in general. Sources that are commonly referred to like Zach Wylde in 1711, Andrew Lonnergan in 1771, and Godfrey in 1797 all featured Smallsword before talking about backsword/broadsword and seemed to see the two as complimenting each other. Later authors like J.M. Waite in 1880 and Alfred Hutton in 1890 mention "foil" practice as being complementary to learning the Saber.

    Up until very recently, I have ignored the Smallsword since, following George Silver's advice, I didn't consider it a weapon for the battlefield. But if you look at the sources, it seems it was widely practiced in Great Britian as well as the rest of Europe all through the 1700's and 1800's. The Spadroon is just a more robust version of the Smallsword that was used by the military. John Taylor intended for his broadsword methods to be used with the Spadroon as well.

    Just wondering what the rest of you thought. Maybe most of you are already including Smallsword in your studies and I have been "missing the boat"?

    Keith

  2. #2
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    Of course it should. Two of the most famous treatise by Scots are about smallsword and it was taught in Scotland regularily. Its simply the old preconceptions that lead it to be ignored.

    We study it weekly at Black Boar.
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  3. #3
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    There is good evidence to say that small sword / spadroon can be considered in the Scottish martial arts section. Strangely when I was working on my thesis which was based on the work of McBane the Spadroon was one of the biggest problems for me as what McBane means by spadroon isn't clear. In a recent meeting though with Dr Moffat (curator of arms and armour for the Glasgow Museums) he was saying that there has been some work done by someone else to identify exactly what McBane was talking about, so as soon as I get more information I will let everyone know. For now though just be warned that it is unlikely to be what most of us think about when we hear the word spadroon

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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Macintyre View Post
    Of course it should. Two of the most famous treatise by Scots are about smallsword and it was taught in Scotland regularily. Its simply the old preconceptions that lead it to be ignored.

    We study it weekly at Black Boar.
    Thanks for the feedback Ian! Could it be it has been ignored because it was not a Highland weapon?

    Keith

  5. #5
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    Edinburgh is also home to the international "Smallsword Symposium"- now in its third year, attracting attendees from as far away as America, Finland and Russia to study the various smallsword styles and approaches.

    I suspect it is "forgotten" as it is a very much maligned and misunderstood weapon in general, often seen as a "effete" and has none of the glamour of longswords or broadswords and, as you say, since the smallsword is not associated with a Highland warrior culture, either historically or in modern romance, it loses out in many ways as not being as iconic as other tartanalia, yet was taught, carried and respected in Scotland.

    One also has the remember the massive influence France had/has on Scotland in terms of trade, culture, military exchange, fashion, politics, language, marriage &c for centuries. There is no more iconic weapon for France than the smallsword.
    "That's certainly the mark of a good duellist, your Majesty - to be living."

  6. The main argument for considering smallsword a viable Scottish art is that it was taught a bit differently in Scotland. Hope mentions a style of smallsword based on securing the opposing blade before delivering a thrust, and specifically refers to it as 'Scots Play.' Then, of course, there is his New Method, which is distinct from French smallsword. McBane teaches a "street-oriented" version of the French method. Since smallsword was taught with something of a "Scottish flavor" in Scotland, I would certainly say it qualifies.

    Personally, I just like cutting weapons better, so I prefer the broadsword. But we do play with spadroon and sometimes with Hope's New Method too. We would probably practice McBane's smallsword occasionally if we had more exposure to it, such as an intro seminar. As it is, I wouldn't feel qualified to do too much with it- my hands are used to making the larger movements needed for a broadsword, so I'd make a poor smallsword fencer without some corrective instruction!
    "Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid."

  7. #7
    I'd eventually like to try smallsword and spadroon as well, but there are a few projects I'm working on first and also I'd like to get (as Chris said) a little bit of formal training in before I go and try to figure out the manuals. I've done some Italian rapier, and one of my students is an experienced sport fencer so I'm sure we'd eventually figure it out, but not without a lot of work!

    But I think that you're right Keith, it's ideally part of the package

  8. #8
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    A branch of the Angelo dynasty also taught smallsword in Edinburgh, a city which built a salle, and riding school, from the public purse on what's now the site of the Surgeon's College.
    "That's certainly the mark of a good duellist, your Majesty - to be living."

  9. #9
    Hi Chris!

    But we do play with spadroon and sometimes with Hope's New Method too. We would probably practice McBane's smallsword occasionally if we had more exposure to it, such as an intro seminar.

    ---When I get to D.C., there seems to be some groups there working on Smallsword. I may try and gain some proficiency in the French method, and then take a close look at McBane and Hope. Maybe I can put something together for the Cateran Society.

    - my hands are used to making the larger movements needed for a broadsword, so I'd make a poor smallsword fencer without some corrective instruction!

    ---I think that's the reason most of the historical manuals that combine the two weapons recommend starting with the smallsword.

    Keith

  10. #10
    Hi Phil!

    Edinburgh is also home to the international "Smallsword Symposium"- now in its third year, attracting attendees from as far away as America, Finland and Russia to study the various smallsword styles and approaches.

    --That sounds pretty cool! Now I have multiple reasons why I need to organize a trip to Scotland at some point!


    I suspect it is "forgotten" as it is a very much maligned and misunderstood weapon in general, often seen as a "effete" and has none of the glamour of longswords or broadswords

    ---I will admit that until recently I have carried George Silver's prejudice against the rapier/smallsword. I'm sure I'm not the only one!


    Keith

  11. I initially had this prejudice too, but all it takes is one bout with a good smallsword or rapier fencer to dispel it. Silver gives some specific and highly effective advice for dealing with the rapier, but it's no cakewalk. And "effete" is not a word I would associate with McBane...
    "Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid."

  12. #12
    I think you´re right, the arguments for including the Smallsword, Spadroon (and even the Saber and Cutlass a bit, I think) to the tradition of the Broadsword and Backsword as a fencing-style alal over England, Ireland and Scotland seems to be logical. There are relationships between these weapons and the fencing, in my opinion the military fencing system of Broadsword, backsword, Saber, Cutlass and Spadroon are very similar and one family and there context to Smallsword-fencing is clear. I also see it logical to watch out for the Smallsword, because it could be a weapon, that the Highland Broadsword met a lot of times in its history on the Battlefield, because lot of officer were wearing them, also the Spadroon and Saber. Because the officer´s sword was his choice what he wanted to affort (after my informations, maybe that is incorrect) you can see also lot of Officers of Highland Regiments wearing a Spadroon, saber or even a Smallsword. So similar to the tradition of Pugilism and Cudgeling, Smallswords, Broadswords and so on count to a tradition used all over the British Isles and Ireland and Scottland for many years together with technical exchange and similarities. Another good example is the work of Thomas Mathewson, who refers to the Scottish Broadsword, but who shows different types of military swords in his pictures, Spadroon, Broadsword and Saber. So the relationship between all these weapons looks like was common to the old masters.

    We did not train really with the Smallsword, but I am watching the works of Angelo, Roux, Hope, McBane, this french master (I forgot is name, sorry, was it Lioncourt?) and also others and of course the reconstruction of modern historical fencing groups concerning it. This is for me the look at the “other weapon” for theoretical exchange with it and in some cases it explains the use of the Broadsword also or how it should be best used against the Smallsword. I hope to meet a experienced smallsword-fencer once to exchange practical.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heiko G. View Post
    I forgot is name, sorry, was it Lioncourt?
    It's Liancour.
    Alex Bourdas

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  14. #14
    I recently discovered that the Martinez Academy of Arms has a 3 DVD set on French Smallsword and I now have it on order. Has anyone seen it or worked with it? They also have a Smallsword Foil for sale that looks fairly nice.

    http://www.martinez-destreza.com/shop/shop.php

    Keith

  15. #15
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    The Martinez DVD boxset is well worth the money as it gives an excellent overview of the Angelo system (and a solid grounding for extrapolating earlier and later systems of smallsword too) and all the technical knowledge required.

    If you also get Pete kautz's "How to learn from a DVD" CD (from Alliance Martial Arts) you'll be able to get the best learning from it and it creates its own curriculum for independant study.

    I have one of the Martinez smallsword foils and it is lovely. Unfortunately VAT and postage to the UK puts it at the very top end of reasonable money to pay but if that's not a concern it is definitely worth buying.
    "That's certainly the mark of a good duellist, your Majesty - to be living."

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Crawley View Post
    The Martinez DVD boxset is well worth the money as it gives an excellent overview of the Angelo system (and a solid grounding for extrapolating earlier and later systems of smallsword too) and all the technical knowledge required.

    If you also get Pete kautz's "How to learn from a DVD" CD (from Alliance Martial Arts) you'll be able to get the best learning from it and it creates its own curriculum for independant study.

    I have one of the Martinez smallsword foils and it is lovely. Unfortunately VAT and postage to the UK puts it at the very top end of reasonable money to pay but if that's not a concern it is definitely worth buying.
    Thanks for the feedback Phil! Given the Martinez Academie's excellent reputation, I figured one couldn't go wrong with their products. It wasn't clear from the DVD description, but I am glad to hear that the material is based on Angelo. His book seems to be about the best out there as far as the historical manuals.....at least in English. I can't read French!

    Keith

  17. #17
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    You'll have to fix that- French has been the second language of Scotland for centuries, and all the best martial arts are French
    Last edited by Phil Crawley; 04-29-2011 at 10:25 AM.
    "That's certainly the mark of a good duellist, your Majesty - to be living."

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Crawley View Post
    You'll have to fix that- French has been the second language of Scotland for centuries, and all the best martial arts are French
    French is the easy part, what I'm having trouble with is Gaelic! I've been trying some computer lessons but I'm no good at it. But to be fair la conjugaison des verbes is no easy task.

  19. #19
    Hi Guys!

    After a, shall we say, diversion...I've come back to this project. I am actively working on developing 10 lessons in McBane's Smallsword Method. I have the first 7 worked out fairly well so far. Once I am comfortable with McBane's version of the "Common Method" I will go on to work out 10 lessons in Hope's "New Method." My training partner and I are enjoying it a lot. Bouting with the Smallsword is a lot of fun, and far fewer bruises than bouting with the Broadswords!

    Keith

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith P. Myers View Post
    Bouting with the Smallsword is a lot of fun,

    Keith
    Indeed it is Keith. There are a few opportunities to practice smallsword with some different folks and experience some different styles in the DC to lower PA area. Probably most convenient for you is MASHS in Annapolis on Sundays. I am sure that you are welcome. But that is by no means the only one.

    My project for this year is trying to get smallsword folks from the various groups in the area together on a regular basis. Perhaps we can add you and yours to the pool of interested duellists?

  21. #21
    Hi Victor!

    Yes, by all means please put us on the list! One of the requirements for awarding a rank of "Mentor" in any particular weapon within the Cateran Society is to show some capability with that weapon in bouting with people outside of your own group. So we would certianly welcome the opportunity to work with others. We train just outside of Olney MD, but would be willing to travel on occasion for group meetups. Thanks!

    Keith

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