Study Smallsword Treatises

Use the “Study” or the “Explore the Timeline” links in the menu bar above to read historic treatises or to learn about smallsword developments.


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Crawley’s Five A’s of French Fencing

Phil Crawley, Provost with the Black Boar Swordsmanship School and administrator with the Smallsword Symposium, has gleaned these 5 themes of French fencing from a number of 18th and 19th Century texts.  They are presented here with his permission, and with our thanks.

Aplomb: grounding and thus balance; not only physical balance but also symmetry of posture leading to adroit.

Adresse: skill; ability to do the basics and combine them into sophisticated actions

Apropros: wherewithal; knowing when and where to apply addresse to maximum effect at an innate level.

Adroit: dexterity; being aesthetically pleasing by doing nothing (aplomb) and being graceful when doing something (adresse), as dictated by apropos.

Avoir Main: fencing only with the sensitivity and actions of the hand to determine the intent of one’s adversary and to define one’s own actions.

fleur de lis


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It’s no longer illegal to challenge someone to a duel in Canada

George Washington’s 1767 Silver-Hilted Smallsword (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Gift of John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. 1909 Conservation courtesy of the Life Guard Society of Mount Vernon, W-84; Image: Stuart C. Mowbray)

“If you demand satisfaction and need to settle a score in the form of a good old-fashioned duel, a recent decision by the Canadian government may be of welcome news.”

You can read more from Eric Zimmer here.








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Opposing Smallsword with Saber

If opposed to the Small Sword, have recourse to the Cuts Three [ascending from inside low to outside high] and Four [ascending from outside low to inside high], directing them at the arm, by which means there is every probability of the Cuts taking effect, as it must always come within range of the edge, before the point can be sufficiently advanced to reach your body: [sic] if the above Cuts are quickly given and continued, they will always be found advantageous in advancing against the Small Sword, as they constitute an attack and form a defence at the same moment; but should the opponent be the most skilful and quickest in his movements, then it is best to retire whilst giving them, cautiously preserving the proper distance, so that each Cut may just reach the forepart of his arm.

-Henry Charles Angelo, Infantry Sword Exercises, 1845

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Diamond Rose Academie D’Armes

The Diamond Rose Academie D’Armes teaches swordsmanship rooted in the French tradition, using the transitional rapier and smallsword of the 17th and 18th centuries.  In Northern California, our academies can be found in the cities of Auburn, Marysville, and Nevada City, where they offer classes and demonstrations for schools, organizations and community events.
Links: Website, Social Media




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Solingen: City of Blades

Solingen has been the City of Blades since the late 15th Century.  This video gives a glimpse into modern production in Solingen. To learn about their involvement in a smallsword arms race, explore our timeline.

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Martinez Academy Hosting 2017 Small-Sword Academy

MArtinez Academy of ArmsThe Martinez Academy of Arms is hosting a Small-Sword Academy this summer  July 14 – July 16, 2017.
“This workshop will serve as an introduction to the art for those with no previous martial arts training. Experienced small-sword fencers will receive instruction that is designed to cover more technical refinements and advanced application of the art and science.”

For more information, visit the 2017 Small-Sword Academy social media page or visit Martinez Academy of Arms.



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Smallsword Fencing in Vienna

David Pascal fencing at the 2017 Dreynevent in Vienna. Original video footage courtesy of Predrag Agatonovic and posted to YouTube by Marcos Ariño.

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William H. Harrison’s Smallsword


Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of William H. Harrison originally showed him in civilian clothes as the congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory in 1800, but the uniform was added after he became famous in the War of 1812.

William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, served only 31 days before dying of pneumonia in 1841.  Harrison’s portrait, painted by Rembrandt Peale, originally depicted Harrison in civilian clothes (painted after 1800).  However, after Harrison’s success in the War of 1812 (the Seven Years War), Peale update the portrait by adding Harrison’s uniform, and presumably, his smallsword (ca. 1814) .

Detail of smallsword in Rembrandt Peale's portrait of William H. Harrison, ca.1814.

Detail of smallsword in Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of William H. Harrison, ca.1814.

An examination of the painting shows the hilt of smallsword with a boat-tail coquille, sturdy quillions and knucklebow, embellished pommel, and a grip with turkshead knots. Typically, officers purchased their own smallswords as a symbol of status and for defense.

A Very Brief Summary of Harrison’s Service
In what was then Indiana Territory, two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, were forming an inter-tribal Native American confederation in opposition to American settlements.  Increasing tensions involving the confederation and their British support led to American military action, and subsequently contributed to the development of the War of 1812, known as the Seven Years War in Great Britain.

In 1811, then Governor William H. Harrison led forces against Tecumseh’s Confederation at the battle of Tippecanoe.  Later, during the War of 1812, Brigadier General Harrison successfully recaptured Fort Detroit from the confederation and their British allies (after numerous prior failed attempts by others), and subsequently invaded present-day Ontario, Canada.  In the Fall of 1813, Harrison most famously defeated British forces at the Battle of the Thames, where Tecumseh was killed. This battle solidified Harrison’s reputation as a war hero and served as a basis for his support for the Presidency decades later.









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The Duke of Wellington on the Supremacy of the Smallsword


Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, is regarded as one of the great military leaders of the 19th Century.  Having served in Belgium and India, he rose to the rank of Major-General and was then appointed Field Marshal in the Peninsular Campaign during the Napoleonic Wars.  Sealing his status as Britain’s top military hero, he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, and was subsequently awarded a dukedom.


Henry Angelo by Mather Brown, Oil on Canvas, ca. 1790. Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, NPG 5310.

Two years following his momentous victory, he was reflecting on the nature of swordsmanship among British soldiers.  At the time, Henry Angelo, son of the famed and inimitable Domenico Angelo, had developed and codified the British military’s use of the Scottish back sword in 1798 in his Hungarian and Highland Broad Sword at the behest of his patron, Colonel Herries.  The Colonel had found the lack of sword training and overall fitness of his Light Horse Volunteers of London to be troubling.  What Angelo the Younger created was a somewhat derivative and amalgamated approach to broadsword integrating elements of continental sabre, Scottish basket-hilt, and single stick forms.  The following year Angelo released The Manual and the Ten Divisions of the Highland Broad Sword  — a broadside of his broad sword method illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson.  “Angelo’s easy-to-understand Lessons… became the standard sword drill for generations of English recruits for years to come” (Gordon, 2014).

Detail from broadsheet by Henry Angelo & illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson,"The Manual and the Ten Divisions of the Highland Broad Sword" (1799).

Detail from broadside by Henry Angelo & illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson,”The Manual and the Ten Divisions of the Highland Broad Sword” (1799). These historic images were edited by Nick Thomas, Instructor at the Academy of Historical Fencing, UK.

The Duke of Wellington was reflecting upon this state of swordsmanship, and the military’s broadsword training by Henry Angelo, when he noted the supremacy of the smallsword.  In particular, he drew a stark contrast between the efficacy of the smallsword over the broadsword in single-combat.  At that time, the study and use of the smallsword had been greatly diminished as its popularity waned with the Georgian era.  Within decades, smallswords evolved more into officers’ dress swords or court-swords, remaining largely as vestigial symbols of status and fashion, and less as weapons for single defense in which gentlemen trained. From Murray (1865: 141-142) we find the Duke’s remarks:

Cambrai, 25th Nov., 1817.

To Major-Gen. Sir Henry Torrens

My Dear Torrens,

I had intended to write you respecting the broadsword exercise taught by Major Angelo of the 21st, when I received a letter from the Adjutant-General, dated the 20th, desiring that I should report whether I consider it for the benefit of the service that Major Angelo should continue with the army in France.

I conceive that nothing can be more desirable than to teach officers and soldiers the use of the sword. The want of the knowledge of the use of the sword has, to my certain knowledge, more than once made our officers appear to disadvantage in the broils which are not unfrequent [sic] with the French and other officers on the Continent. They are obliged to defer the settlement of the dispute till a pistol can be got; and the acknowledgement of the ignorance of the use of the weapon which every officer carries, besides being in itself degrading, is generally considered and taken as proof that our officer wishes to avoid the contest by him who is probably himself the most desirous of avoiding it. I therefore think the knowledge of the use of the sword, or the science of fencing, is essentially necessary to every officer who is to wear one; but I confess that it is not that description of knowledge taught by Major Angelo which I mean. The knowledge gives suppleness and address to the body and limbs, and applies to the use of the broadsword; but everybody who knows what a sword is, is aware that a man with a broadsword has no chance with one who has a small sword. The very act of lifting up his arm to use the former, would give the opportunity to him who should know the use of the latter to run him through the body.

If, therefore, His Royal Highness would allow me to keep Major Angelo here to teach fencing with the small sword, I should think his presence with the army most desirable. His school, however, for the broadsword, I cannot consider in any other light than as another and very good drill to give ease and address to the body and limbs of the officers and soldiers; and that it is not necessary to detain him longer for that purpose.

Believe me, &c.,


As evidenced by one of the great military leaders of his century, the advantages of the smallsword, especially in single-combat, are numerous.  Owing to its size, geometry, lightness, and speed of attack, only the foolhardy would underestimate its efficacy — a trend that seems to be popular presently.

To learn more about Henry Angelo’s lessons on the broadsword and to view restored images of Rowlandson’s illustrations, visit Columbia Classical Fencing here.



Works Cited

Angelo, Henry & Son. (1798),  Hungarian and Highland Broad Sword. Thomas Rowlandson, Illustrator. Peter Valentine, Transcriptionist, 1999. Retrieved from Mirrored by Columbia Classical Fencing here.

Angelo, Henry & Rowlandson, Thomas. (1799),  The Manual and the Ten Divisions of the Highland Broad Sword: As Practiced by the Dismounted Troops of the Light Horse Volunteers of London and Westminster. London: Henry Angelo, 1799.

Angelo, Henry & Rowlandson, Thomas. (2016),  The Manual and the Ten Divisions of the Highland Broad Sword &C. Nick Thomas (Ed.) Academy of Historical Fencing, UK.

“Angelo Restored 2.” (n.d.). Retrieved from

Brown, Mather (ca. 1790). Henry Charles William Angelo. Oil on Canvas. National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved from

Gordon, Jonathan. (2014) Henry Angelo’s Ten Lessons of Highland Broadsword (Part 1). The HEMAists. World Wide Web: Retrieved from broadsword-part-1/

Murray, J. (1865). Supplementary Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda of Field Marshal, Arthur Duke of Wellington, K.G., Edited by His Son, The Duke of Wellington, K.G., Vol. 12. London: John Murray. Retrieved from here.








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