Martial Styles – Side Sword (spada da lato)
Lessons: Wednesday’s, 7:30pm – 10pm except for the last Wednesday of every even month
Period of use: The 16th and 17th centuries.
Main way of using: One handed, often used with an off-hand defence. The side sword is both a cutting and thrusting weapon.
Used by: Soldiers and private citizens as a versatile tool of defence.
Popularised by: Shakespeare.
The side sword is a versatile single-handed weapon that epitomises most people’s view of what a single-handed sword should look like. Indeed it is thought to have inspired the term swash-buckler from the sound it made when worn at the side – clashing against the buckler, or small shield, that was frequently used alongside it. Other companion forms to the sword were dagger and cloak.
The sword evolved from the earlier medieval type of sword which had just a simple cross hilt and, as it developed, it gained extra protective elements such as additional side rings to defend the hand. In line with this development the techniques with which it was used also progressed with a changing emphasis from the cut toward the thrust, which would eventually lead to the development of the rapier. The development of the technique is illustrated through a number of period texts from its early beginnings in the Bolognese Dardi school through to Giacomo di Grassi.
Some might say that this was a mid-range weapon: good for cutting and thrusting and useful both on and off the battlefield, but this weapon is anything but beige. In the right hands it is agile and strong and therefore able to take on an infinite variety of other hand-held weapons. Indeed this is a sword that would have been very familiar to Shakespeare who, throughout a number of his plays, makes references to the terms used in Italian side-sword systems.
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.