I've done sabre fencing for about a year and a half, and have studied Renaissance Martial Arts for the last year. From what I've seen, what the SCA claims to be "rapier fighting" is basically just epee fencing with draw cuts included. Not quite the same, neither in philosophy nor execution.
The biggest difference I've noticed (Not saying much, coming from me) is that period rapiers were basically a very stiff spike with a hilt. As a result, the movements weren't nearly as large as seen in modern foyning fencing with blades that are very noodle-like by comparison for safety's sake. (Try fencing as tightly with a foil, and your opponent will most likely whip over and nail you anyway.)
Since there's still much for me to learn, I'm just going to stick with the good ol' "Each adapted under different conditions." line. Consider it musings from the POV of a perpetual student?
Just a quick reply.
First of all, don't confuse historical fencing, commonly called Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or Western Martial Arts (WMA), with larp, Reenactment and the SCA. The latter two sometimes study and practice some historical fencing manuals but much is self-invented or borrowed from other martial arts like Escrima.
In HEMA we aim to revive the historical martial arts of Europe and a basic requirement is that it is based on historical sources, ie fighting manuals. We test it in sparring in varying degrees of contact all the way up to full contact. There are also a few still living forms of European Martial Arts being practiced, like Jogo do Pau, Savate, Rangeln and Glima.
As with any martial arts/sports the quality and methods of the instructors, clubs and practitioners vary but there are some really good historical fencers now. It is hard to tell properly from video clips, especially if you do not practice that particular form, but here are two good longsword clips from the recent Swordfish event:
Most HEMA practitioners come from other forms of martial arts/sports and we get people from Kendo and sports fencing now and then. The transition to HEMA fencing can be a bit awkward for them, but they do certainly have good use of their earlier training. Sports fencers tend to be good at explosive lunges forward and of course thrusting. Also, they already have a mindset to look for openings and work with "binding" of the swords, at least to a certain extent.
Some forms of HEMA fencing has more in common with sports fencing. Rapier fencing of course, but more in stances and lunging than the actual fencing, I think. Early rapiers were basically regular swords with broad blades used for both cutting and thrusting. The styles varied quite broadly and were quite different from what we see in sports fencing today, if I understand it correctly (I practice the longsword and quarterstaff/halberd, but will start with early rappier soon.).
Certain fencing masters like Joachim Me˙er who taught longsword, dussack, rappier, dagger/unarmed, staff, halberd and pike, also have similarities in application to sports fencing, even if his material is intended for actual combat and the battle field. I am actually borrowing excercises from sports fencing to improve on my quarterstaff students' agility and leg strength.
My wife actually practiced sports fencing for 10 years or so and I am still very impressed by her agility and strength. I think it is an excellent sport and form of excercise. Personally I prefer Historical Fencing since it goes back to the roots and also includes a mental and intellectual challenge that I don't see to the same degree in other sports. And since it is damn fun. :)
Sorry for the rambling. I just love Historical Fencing but I am also very impressed with modern sports fencing and I think we can learn a lot from it, even if there are great differences between the two.
The biggest difference I've noticed (Not saying much, coming from me) is that period rapiers were basically a very stiff spike with a hilt.You mean "Smallsword" here, not "rapier," right?
Peace favor your sword,
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