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.
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 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.
These two weapons, alongside of the polearms remained in the fencing schools all the way up until the very late 1700s.
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.
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.
Also flails with the smaller bit made out of a core covered with cloth appears to have been used.
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.
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.
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.
And a small gallery: Practice weapons in history
- See https://hroarr.com/article/the-feder-whatchamacallit [↩]
- See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Gladiatoria_(MS_Germ.Quart.16 [↩]
- See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Codex_Danzig_(Cod.44.A.8 [↩]
- See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Andre_Paur%C3%B1feyndt [↩]
- See https://hroarr.com/article/the-dussack [↩]
- See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Meyer [↩]
- See http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/1580_-_Lovino_-_Traite_d%27Escrime [↩]
- See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singlestick [↩]
- a strong and yet light wood used historically both for halberds, quarterstaves, spears and shields [↩]