There are several parts to the sword. It is important to understand these bits:
The left most part is the section you primarily grip while the right is the blade. Let’s zoom in a bit.
Top most is the pommel and button. In medieval times the fencer would use the button as a weapon to strike the opponent. In the SCA version of rapier, this is not permitted. The pommel counter balances the weight of the sword’s blade such that the balance point of the blade is just in front of the basket on the blade side.
Next is the grip, the bit that you hold. Inside the grip is a tang that connects the blade all of the way to the pommel and button. Ideally the tang should be part of the blade. The grip is what you put your hand on, generally with one or fingers curling around the ricasso. There are several ways of holding the sword and we’ll cover that a bit later in another post.
In many rapiers there is a basket that surrounds and protects your hand. Part of the point of this is hand protection, another part is to counter balancing the weight of the blade. In medieval times the basket would be something to attack your opponent with. In the SCA we don’t do this.
The quillion is a bar that acts as a barrier against your opponents sword sliding down your blade and into you. It is very important. In medieval times you could use the quillions to stab your opponent. In the SCA we don’t do this either.
The quillion and blade can be used to capture your opponents sword. In medieval times it was possible to capture and break your opponents sword, in the SCA we only capture and control.
The quillion intersects the quillion block. Inside the grip, the tang goes to a shoulder, which sits in the quillion block. The shoulder should fit snugly such that you don’t have rattling parts. Your finger(s) usually wrap around the quillion block and onto the ricasso.
From the tang, through the shoulder to the ricasso to the blade. These should all be one part of the device. The ricasso is an instrumental part of the method of holding your sword (more on that later in another post) and is protected by the blade side of the basket called the guard.
Last, but not least is the blade.
The blade extends from the guard to the tip and has several parts.
Above is an older style of blade. When you grip your sword, the quillions will be in line with your palm. Your fingers will curl around the base of the grip and your thumb will come around the other side. The blade with have a sharp edge on your thumb side and a sharp edge on your fingers side. The fingers side is known as the “True” or “Long” edge while the thumb side is known as the “False” or “Short” edge.
In SCA fencing, only the blade is allowed to attack your opponent.
The first third of the blade from the guard towards the centre of the sword is known as the “strong” part or “forte” and is primarily used for blocking. The last third is known as the “weak” part or “foible” and is used mostly for attacking. The middle section can be used as needed for both. The edge is for defending and slicing. It requires an arcing motion to use and is thus relatively slow.
Last of all is the point. The point is for thrusting into your opponent and is the fastest and most lethal attack. Generally you attack with the point in a straight line, shortcutting the arc of the edge.
The scabbard goes over the blade. This is rarely used in SCA fencing as we cover the tip with a safety stopper (see the rules linked under the “Resources” page). The scabbard can become an off hand device, often simulated via a stick of similar length. In medieval times, the scabbard is a device of last resort, since you really don’t want it hacked up or broken – they are expensive to replace. The scabbard can be hard (fight-able as a club) or soft (leather/cloth, can entrap).
Take Home Message
The point is for thrusting, the edge is for slicing, the balance point should be close to the basket and you hold the grip.
Only attack your opponent with the blade.