Evolution of Straight Form Swords

The fast and agile smallsword, also known as  the court sword, is the culmination of a long and rich history. To view the smallsword’s development in context, explore our timeline.

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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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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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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

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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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