A very brief description on training weapons in history, mostly based on a short email to a sports fencer who is researching the topic, although focusing on the "foil". Figured it might interest others too and maybe even inspire someone to write a proper article on the topic.

The currently earliest known European sword made specifically for training is the two-handed fechtschwert1 , although regular swords were likely blunted and used even earlier, not to mention sticks.

A longsword with flared "schildt" from the Gladiatoria Fechtbuch" Ms.Germ.Quart.16 of ca 1435

A longsword with flared "schildt" vs a likely metal reinforced leather "rain guard", from the "Gladiatoria Fechtbuch" Ms.Germ.Quart.16 of ca 1435

A longsword with flared "schildt" vs a likely metal reinforced leather rain guard, from the "Gladiatoria Fechtbuch" Ms.Germ.Quart.16 of ca 1435

A longsword with flared "schildt" vs a likely metal reinforced leather "rain guard", from the "Gladiatoria Fechtbuch" Ms.Germ.Quart.16 of ca 1435

The fechtschwert profile for swords was in use already around mid 1400s, probably earlier too, but provably so in one of the Gladiatoria Fechtbuch" Ms.Germ.Quart.16 2 and the the so-called "Von Danzig" manuscript of 14523.

The Coburg stained glass window from 1530

The Coburg stained glass window from 1530

After that, starting in the first decades of the 1500, we have the dusack, with Andre Paurñfeyndt 4 in 1516 and a stained glass window depicting dusack fencers in Coburg in 1530.

Various dusack designs in Meyer's treatise of 1570

Various dusack designs in Meyer's treatise of 1570

The dusack was a protosabre used for war5 but for training made out of wood or wood & leather. It also laid the foundation for the Rappier.

The fencing guilds of the Marxbrüder and the Freyfechter in the late 1700s, still using dusacker, fechtschwerter and halberds.

The fencing guilds of the Marxbrüder and the Freyfechter in the mid 1700s, still using dusacken, fechtschwerter and halberds.

These two weapons, alongside of the polearms remained in the fencing schools all the way up until the very late 1700s.

Stimmer-Christoffel-Hans-prep-work-in-ink-and-chalk-for-1570-01

Dusacker in the hands of the fencers, and capped rappier, halberds and fechtschwerter on the ground, by Christoph Stimmer

 

Same as above, by Jost Amman 1578. From his 'Enchiridion Artis'

Same as above, by Jost Amman 1578. From his 'Enchiridion Artis'

Training rappiers comes a bit later and mostly seem to have involved capping the point with a ball. This goes back to at least 1570 with an illustration by Jost Amman and Christoph Stimmer, probably even earlier around 1550, but they are not portrayed in Paul Hektor Mair's treatises around 1540. Note though that these swords were quite heavy and rigid, more so than many arming swords even, and used with cutting and thrusting both.

Interestingly though, in ca 1568-70 Joachim Meyer6 shows rappier with a flared schildt quite similar to the 2-hand fechtschwert.

 

 

 

meyer-1570-rappier-six-variations

From Joachim Meyer's fencing treatise of 1570

five-halberd-designs-Meyer-1570-01

From Joachim Meyer's fencing treatise of 1570

Ball points were in use for dagger & halberd too, both seemingly all wood, or possibly in the case of the halberd, with a leather halberd head.

Of course use of regular ash staves was common for training the basics of halberd, spear and pike fencing.

From Meyer's Von Solms-treatise. Note the flail on the right.

From Meyer's Von Solms-treatise. Note the flail on the right. Also wooden halberd, staves and dusacken.

Also flails with the smaller bit made out of a core covered with cloth appears to have been used.

lovino-1580

Thin rapiers in Lovino G.A. 1580

Very thin thrusting rapiers come about in the very late 1500s, first seen in Lovino in 15807. However, actual flexible foils of epee type, designed for training and thrusting only, we see in mid 1600s e.g. in Latouche's "L'art de l'Espée seule" of 1670 and in the fencing treatise illustrated by Marcellus Laroon in 1689.

Flexible foil from Latouche, 1670

Flexible foil from Latouche, 1670

British Navy Singlestick ca 1900

British Navy Singlestick ca 1900

American Officer's wooden sabres, 1700s.

American Officer's wooden sabre, knife and pistol, 1700s.

The singlestick 8, a weapon made with a basket out of leather or wicker and a stick made out ash9 was used for training sabre and before that the backsword training, possibly dating back to the 1500s, but very common on the 18th and 19th century and actually trained by military all the way up until the 1950s and revived in the 80's by the British Navy.

Also, although more unusual, wooden sabres, reminiscent of the Renaissance dusacken were also used, at least by some officers in the USA.

In the 19th cent, blunted steel sabres with folded points were of course also commonly used by the military as seen with the example below.

Swedish 19th cent fencing sabre

Swedish 19th cent fencing sabre

This was just a very brief description of the development of training weapons, not meant as any serious examination and I hope someone will write a proper article on the topic and share it. You are of course most welcome to do so here.

 

Further reading

Fechtschwert or a blunt longsword?
The WhatChaMaCallit-Schwert
A call to arms
The Dusack - A weapon of war

And a small gallery: Practice weapons in history

References

  1. See http://hroarr.com/the-feder-whatchamacallit []
  2. See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Gladiatoria_(MS_Germ.Quart.16 []
  3. See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Codex_Danzig_(Cod.44.A.8 []
  4. See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Andre_Paur%C3%B1feyndt []
  5. See http://hroarr.com/the-dussack []
  6. See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Meyer []
  7. See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/1580_-_Lovino_-_Traite_d%27Escrime []
  8. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singlestick []
  9. a strong and yet light wood used historically both for halberds, quarterstaves, spears and shields []
Roger Norling
Roger Norling is an instructor on Joachim Meÿer's Halben Stangen (Quarterstaff) with the Gothenburg Free Fencer's Guild (GFFG).

Starting with the Gothenburg Historical Fencing School in 2008, he is since 2015 a member of the GFFG. His main focus in his research is the "Kunst des Fechtens" and primarily the longsword, dussack and polearms. He has been focusing on the works of Joachim Meÿer since 2009. In this he has enjoyed collaborating with the Meyer Frei Fechter Guild and in May 2013 he became a Fechter of the MFFG.

Currently, he is writing on several books which will explore the teachings of Joachim Meyer, as well as on pedagogics for teaching martial arts.

He is the creator behind the three sister sites HROARR.com, Water on a Rock, an online journal on philosophical ponderings, and Northernbush.com and shares his experiences and knowledge in articles on both sites.

He regularly lectures on topics related to HEMA, and teaches workshops on Meÿer quarterstaff, dusack and longsword at various HEMA events around the world. For more about this, read his instructor's profile.