Types of Sword Fighting Styles (with Video)

Fight of medieval knights

Prior to the invention of gunpowder, the sword was arguably the most commonly used weapon. Employed in warfare, for self-defense and also as a means to settling one-on-one duels, sword fighting was once a common and necessary martial art skill in many countries like Japan, Italy, and more. Now, with the proliferation of firearms, sword usage has been relegated to a popular form of sport and recreation. There are many types of recreational sword fighting styles which differ on fighting techniques, types of swords, and footwork.

What is fencing?

Modern Fencing is an Olympic sport involving three different types of nonlethal small swords -- the foil, epee and saber. The foil is a lightweight, flexible weapon that is based on the practice sword used by French duelists. The epee, stiffer than the foil, is a variation of a 16th century sword called a rapier. The saber, or sabre, resembles the sword used by cavalry soldiers and is both a stabbing and slashing weapon. Fencers wear protective clothing and masks to make their swordplay as safe as possible. They tend to specialize in one weapon, and the discipline involves a lot of defensive parrying.

What is Kendo?


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Kendo is a Japanese swordsmanship discipline that means “Way of the sword”. In place of traditional samurai swords like katanas, kendo martial artists use wooden swords known as bokken for performing practice routines called katas; or they use Japanese swords made of leather and bamboo called shinai for full-contact sparring. Kendo practitioners wear armor, padded gloves and helmets with a grilled faceplate for protection, as strikes, even with a bamboo sword, can be painful and could result in injury for beginners. Kendo is the more modern form of the ancient sword techniques of kenjutsu, which was founded in as a 4th Century Japanese martial art.

What are Historical European Martial Art?

St. Wendel Middle Ages Reenactment

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This discipline, known as HEMA, is an emerging sword-wielding sport where swordsmen dress in period-style armor and use the real swords of the middle age – with the broadsword being the primary weapon. While HEMA fighting is not an Olympic sport, there are national and international competitions and a world championship held every four years. In addition to sword fighting, participants can also compete in duels using maces, bludgeons, pikes and poleaxes. These competitions can be seen at renaissance fairs and at many specialized venues.

What is Theatrical Sword Fighting?

Uma Thurman

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TV shows, movies and stage plays sometimes involve sword fighting. This type of martial combat is choreographed and practiced in advance so that both actors know exactly who is doing what and when. The resulting swordsmanship looks exciting and realistic but is generally safe for all involved. In shows like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, the longsword is the primary two handed sword but different swords may be used based on the project.

Fights are normally orchestrated by expert choreographers who specialize in theatrical sword fighting and stage combat. Classic films featuring sword fighting include "Gladiator," "The Princess Bride," movies from the "Star Wars" franchise and the "Kill Bill" movies.