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Linacre School of Defence
Fencing, smallsword, backsword, pugilism.
Fencing, smallsword, backsword, pugilism.


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Current training times and charges:

Mondays, 6-7pm, pugilism.
Thursdays, 8-10pm, fencing.

Please arrive at the class at least 5 minutes beforehand so that we may start promptly. 

The fee is £3 per hour (therefore £6 for a fencing session), paid in cash immediately after the class, with an additional £20 per year membership fee (this includes insurance from the BCA). Please bring pound coins to the weekly session!

Alternatively, instead of paying cash after the class members may pay £26 per month by standing order to have access to all sessions. 

If you're interested in a class then please email before coming along. The first two sessions are free.

The venue is The University Club, here:,+University+of+Oxford,+Oxford,+Oxfordshire+OX1+3TE/@51.7571395,-1.2513848,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4876c6abe9cc3d51:0x781c34d2e5dd6995

For your first session you'll need to bring this form along:

Exercise clothing such as tracksuit trousers and a T-shirt is required, as are clean shoes for indoor use only. Squash shoes would be a good and cheap choice. Other equipment will be provided for beginners.
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Following on from a previous post about tournament rules, here's a post with some thoughts about what may be considered "ruffianly" technique.

Imagine a bout with smallswords where both participants bounce upon the balls of their feet, just out of distance, with the points of their swords down and the hilts kept close to their bodies. Each endeavours to spring forwards to grappling distance, grabbing their opponent's blade and offering their own thrusts as they enclose, the intent being to "ground and pound" once they arrive. They may feint with their bodies or by darting their swords quickly forward and back to attempt to deceive the opponent's commanding of their blade.

The more classical smallsword fencer would probably look with horror upon this scenario, and state that it was "not art". But, on the contrary, there is art in the sense of "calmness, vigour and judgment" involved. Consider that each participant must control their aggression until the their judgement tells them to spring forwards with expert timing, using their full vigour to quickly close the distance after securing the opposing blade. This style of play could be improved upon by practice and one could learn some grappling techniques and tactics in order to improve the final phase of the action; with sufficient practice one could enclose almost as fast as lightning. The result might somewhat resemble modern sport épée with wrestling involved, or perhaps something like this:

One could, with considerable justification, claim that this is not historical. At best this, and the scenario described above, might resemble Renaud's advice for fencing with the sword-cane or Silver's for the dagger, the latter of which is available here:

But it is not what is described in smallsword texts from the 18th century. Even given the caveats above, most smallsword fencers find the thought of this sort of play becoming prevalent to be a little bit frightening, preferring instead to fence in the manner recorded in the treatises. Are they correct to condemn those would would prefer to "get it on"?

The answer to that question is one of context. To make an analogy - prescriptivists in grammar may believe that there is "correct" and "incorrect" English, and that regional dialects and slang fall into the latter category. A more reasonable position is that both standard English and dialectal variants are appropriate in their place, and one must pick the correct one for the situation at hand, i.e. one should be able to code-switch:

Some fencers are able to fence in both these ways. The writer of this article would consider themself as such a one, finding the greatest enjoyment in fencing as closely as possible to methods described in the treatises and endeavouring to prevail with subtlety and a great range of techniques. To fight someone reliant upon vigorous enclosing with the minimum of bladework is therefore rather boring. Of course, it must have happened historically - Liancour described some means of dealing with such people, and Sir William Hope commented upon Liancour's suggestions.

Sir William also pointed out that it is possible for an artist to "unart" himself if necessary, but it is not possible for someone who has not learned art to suddenly acquire it when it is needed; this also applies if one considers "art" to refer strictly to classical technique. Victory in the "combative épée" style of smallsword fencing may be exciting, and could attract interest from practitioners of other styles (e.g. longsword) who think classical technique effete or too difficult for them to concentrate on learning, but one wonders what will be come of such fencers in later years when their vigour is reduced.
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Apologies for lack of recent updates. This account is most likely to be used for the uploading of videos at the moment; other updates can be found on our Twitter account at
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During the week we held the annual prize playing which takes place at the LSD, loosely based upon the suggestions put forth by Sir William Hope himself in the New Method:

This is always run as a smallsword pool, although the rules are changed every year for fun and variety.

One factor which often crops up in HEMA rules is how to handle double hits, which are usually frowned upon as being inappropriate in an art which is supposed to represent the use of swords as if they were sharp. Too much attacking without concern for one's safety might even be considered to be too much like the dreaded "sport". As an example of thoughts on the topic, try these:

Our yearly changes in rules are often an attempt to deal with double hits. Usually, there is a significant minority of the class who, for various reasons, rely heavily upon attacking or counter-attacking in a manner that very much resembles what might be seen in sport fencing. Often, but not always, they have a background in the modern sport or in HEMA longsword. There's rarely sufficient time or space in the class to do a lot of individual coaching to try to correct these habits, and in any case once a bout starts it's very difficult for most people to get out of the mindset of being desperate to win above all else, which will cause them to fall into their usual habits rather than pushing themselves to try working on new things. If that bout is part of a tournament then the pressure to fall back to this base line is even worse. So, one way around this is to try to make the rules such that the incentive is to fence in a way of which Sir William would have approved, and to penalise those who don't.

This year, bouts were fought such that the first to score three hits would win. In the following cases no points would be scored, but a mark would be placed against both fencers' names indicating that they’d been involved in something other than a nice, clean hit.

- Exchanging hits by means of a contretemps or hit off the riposte (an 'afterblow'). If there was a long enough period, e.g. > 1 period of 'fencing time' between the hit and the riposte then it was awarded as a clean hit for the attacker.
- Any messy exchange where it appeared that both fencers might possibly have hit, but there was sufficient doubt amongst the judges and referee that no clear hit could be awarded.
- Any grappling(x) which did not conclude with a clear hit, disarm or takedown within an appropriate period of time.

Participants were warned that gaining a lot of these "contretemps points" would be bad, but the precise means whereby they would be employed to penalise fencers was not explained to them, this being left as an exciting surprise. The nature of their employment was as follows:

1. Fencers would be awarded one point per bout they had won.
2. The fencer(s) involved in the fewest contretemps would have their scores left unmodified.
3. The fencer(s) who had perpetrated the next largest number of them would have their score reduced by 1, the next by 2 and so on.
4. Ranking would be by those modified scores.

For example, the two best fencers had 5 victories apiece. However, the fencer who had delivered the most and received the fewest hits had been involved in more contretemps exchanges than the other, and so their score was reduced by one. One particular fencer, who would have rated in third place if it were only on victories, participated in the greatest number of such exchanges and was dropped down to 6th place.

The most-penalised fencer mentioned above resorted to much the same tactics in every bout; primarily rushing forward as quickly as possible to wrestling distance in an attempt to hold and stab, mixed with aggressive beats/battery and thrusting. This often resulted in self-impalement whilst enclosing or grapples which were halted before a clear thrust could be given due to time running out or for safety. In one case an official warning had to be given for a particularly aggressive enclosing which pushed the defender into a wall and knocked their mask off. It's arguable that tactics like these would have been very risky in a fight with sharps.

Clearly, then, if the intent of the rules was to penalise such forward and violent play then they were effective, though better suggestions are always welcome.

(x) Grappling footnote - the following are permitted:

- Controlled takedowns. A success counts as a hit.
- Disarms, a success counting as a hit.
- Striking with pommels, fists, knees, feet &c. Allowed, but does not score and is useful only as an adjunct to disarms/takedowns. Excessive violence will result in warnings.
- Grabbing near the tip of the blade is only allowed if a thrust takes place within one period of fencing time. Otherwise, it will be halted.
- Grabbing nearer the hilt is allowed and the referee will allow a longer period to deliver a thrust or disarm in such circumstances, the nearer the hilt the longer the period.

Therefore, under these rules, a "ground and pound" where both fall over and there's no clear throw or disarm would count as a double. It's possible to score by wrestling/blade grabbing but there's a great risk of being penalised if it goes wrong.
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There's an event coming up in June 2018 (8th-10th) which may be of some interest. In addition to some of our smallsword and pugilism there are a variety of other topics (including various historical weapon arts) which may well be of interest to you. The event's web page can be seen here:

HEMA Diversity Camp page
HEMA Diversity Camp page
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Hey! There's still time to get an early bird ticket for the Small Sword Symposium in Edinburgh, where I'll be giving a class:
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Another slow motion test cutting video.
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Slow motion test cutting footage.
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Yesterday one of us had had a chance to drop in on the London Historical Fencing Club, who were running an introductory session to encourage more women to take up HEMA. This included a chance to observe some smallsword assaulting at the end of the session.

Those in London interested in this most awesome weapon should definitely get in contact with them.
2 Photos - View album
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An event not to be missed!
October 7-8 will be the Smallsword Symposium. I'm giving a class on Hope's last book (the transcription of which plus annotations will be available soon). There's a lot of other stuff -- French, a new translation of a Spanish master (co-authored by one of our students), tactical advice on small sword against rapier, etc.

(unfortunately this clashes with the Furnace RPG con which is also pretty good. But this will be better)
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