Martial styles – Broadsword
Period of use: The 16th to 18th centuries.
Main way of using: Single handed. The broadsword was primarily a cutting weapon, though it could be used for thrusts as well.
Used by: Scottish highlanders and then British soldiers. The broadsword was a military weapon often used in skirmish combat.
Popularised by: Rob Roy and Outlander.
Origins of the Highland Broadsword
Highland Broadsword or the Scottish Basket hilt or “claymore” (claidheamh mor/claiomh lietheadach) started as a simple basket design of bars similar to early English backwards but developed into a more complicated and ornate full basket providing protection to the whole hand. The Gaelic preference for elaborate and showy design probably influenced this as much as its functionality in combat. The hilts were produced in Scotland, mainly in Glasgow and Stirling. The blades, commonly of German origin, were broad in width, thin in section and normally between 31 – 34inches in length although longer ones exist 36-38 inches, maybe for taller people or chieftains who rode on horseback.
Training with singlesticks.
Primarily a cutting weapon, well balanced and fairly light (2-2.5lbs) this was a fast and formidable weapon in the hands of men trained from an early age in the highland Gaelic warrior tradition. So far, no written manuals exist of the use of this weapon by the clansmen, but early English backward treatises and a few contemporary witness accounts may give a slight insight on the form and methods of use.
The military broadsword
The Highland Broadsword was introduced into the British army by the formation of the highland regiments, the first being the ‘Blackwatch’ in 1739. The earliest written treatises date from 1746 and 1790 and may echo the earlier styles. These sword techniques were adapted and developed notably by Angelo into a series of military drills and exercises which became the standard training for the British army infantry, cavalry and Royal Navy (adapted for cutlass). The name Broadsword applied to all early military swords of the late 17th early 18th centuries before these developed into what we now recognise as “sabres”.
The Broadsword as carried by the Highland Regiments, in the Americas, European and Indian wars, retained its full basket hilt and was still issued and used, at least by officers, right up to the First World War.
Lyell Drummond, Senior Instructor, Master of Highland Broadsword
Lyell studied foil, epee and sabre under the Goodhalls (Angela Goodhall is one of only two women coaching in the UK to hold the ancient title of ‘Professor’, which is the highest level of coaching qualification available). He developed his system of SSA Highland Basket Hilted Broadsword based on his academic studies, 20+years of fencing experience and exposure to many instructors of note from home and abroad
Teaching classes in his preferred weapon of choice the Basket Hilted Broadsword, Broadsword and Dirk, Broadsword and Targe , singlestick and also classes in longsword, Lyell has been invited to teach by the British Federation of Historical Swordplay, in Italy by FISAS, in Spain by the AEEA and in Malta by the MHFA. He has also held workshops in Aberdeen Glasgow, Hamburg and Dublin.
Cameron Paine, Instructor in Highland Broadsword and SSA Secretary
Cameron has been a member of the SSA (formally the Sussex Rapier School) since 2004 and during his time there he has studied rapier, broadsword and longsword, becoming an assistant instructor in broadsword in 2013 and a full instructor in 2021. Whilst he has tried other self defence systems, it is in fencing that he found both understanding of martial arts and also a way to pursue them. Cameron has taught unarmed and broadsword techniques in Malta and assisted in teaching broadsword classes in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Malta.