Martial Styles – Rapier
Period of use: The 16th and 17th centuries.
Main way of using: One handed. The rapier was primarily a thrusting weapon, though it could be used for cuts as well.
Used by: Soldiers but mainly private citizens for protection and duelling.
Popularised by: The Three Musketeers, The Duellists and The Princess Bride.
The rapier is an elegant, robust single-handed sword, designed to protect you and remove the person opposite you from the fray with maximum efficiency. Used on the battlefield but being primarily a civilian defence and duelling weapon, it has a long thin blade ranging in length from approximately 33 inches (83.8cm) to 44 inches (112cm) and weighing from 1.8lb (0.82kg) to 3.3lb (1.48kg). However, although some weighed closer to 4lb the average was very much towards the lighter end of the spectrum.
The term rapier has historically been used by collectors and scholars to describe any weapon that had a long thin blade, but contemporary accounts simply refer to them as spada, espada, épée or sword.
The use of the early rapier, as personified by the teachings of Jacomo Di Grassi, True Arte of Defense (1570), Achille Morozzo Opera Nova (1536) and others combined methods used in side arms but new methods developed to take advantage of the lighter but still powerful rapier with its effective cutting edge and lethal point. Although it is impossible to dictate the exact moment of change, the writings of Salvator Fabris (1606) and Capo Ferro (1610), for example, offer an insight into their understanding of a sophisticated method of use, using longer finer blades with more protection to the hand allowing a longer game, with more controlled lines to target and tip engagement. They deal with exercising the body so that the movements they propose can be achieved with the correct timing enabling perfect measure to defend whilst dispatching the opponent.
The rapier was the founding weapon form of the SSA and we have been exploring and teaching its use along with those of its companion weapons, dagger, buckler and cloak since 1997.
Senior Instructor Duncan Fatz says he loves the rapier because it is the sword equivalent of the sniper’s rifle: “In the right hands it is a long range, highly accurate and unforgiving scientific instrument that has to be applied with reason and art.”
Duncan Fatz, President of the SSA, Senior Instructor and founder member
Duncan’s first experience of fencing was at the age of 15 when he undertook intense private tuition in sports epee, but his first involvement with European martial arts wasn’t until 1993 when he began medieval armoured tournament fighting and was in part taught by members of the serving military.
A founder member of the SSA (the SRS as was) in 1997, Duncan was accredited as an instructor of European martial arts in 2001 and has since taught extensively throughout the UK, on the continent and in the USA. He has also given talks and demonstrations at venues including the Leeds Armouries, The Wallace Collection, The National Army Museum and has appeared on stage, television and film in such productions as King Arthur and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.