Ahead of the Historical Novel Society Conference this weekend, I thought I'd throw out some basic combat terms as a resource for participants. So here are a few essential definitions:
Baldric (Baldrick) – A belt or girdle usually of leather that supported the wearer’s sword and scabbard.
Bastard Sword (also Hand-and-a-Half Sword) – A contemporary term, now meaning a sword that can be used one or two handed.
Battement (Fr) – A beat attack, a controlled tap with the forte or middle part of the blade against the middle or foible of the opposing blade to remove the threat or provoke.
Bind – An attack on a parried blade, moving it two places, or 180 degrees.
Blade – The essential part of a cut and/or thrust weapon that covers its entire expanse. The basic blade is broken down into the following parts: tip, foible, middle, forte, shoulders, and tang. Many blades, like the rapier, have a ricasso between the forte and the tang. The cutting edge is divided into the true edge and the false edge.
Block – a) a defensive action used to stop or deflect an oncoming attack; b) a parry
Blood Groove (also Blood Gutter) – A complete misnomer created to explain the grooving and/or fluting of a blade, which falsely supposed these grooves were devised to allow the blood to flow from one’s opponent. See Fuller and Fluted Blade.
Breaking Ground – Any action of footwork that surrenders ground to the opponent.
Broadsword – a) a term now applied to almost all swords of the Medieval period; b) a 17th century term used to distinguish small swords (epées and foils) from cavalry or basket-hilted swords.
Buckler – A small round (sometimes square) shield generally used in conjunction with the broad bladed swords of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The buckler and short sword were the national weapon of England until the late 16th century.
Case of Rapiers – Twin rapiers. A slightly decadent style of rapier play involving the use of a rapier in each hand. Often designed to be carried in the same scabbard.
Changement – The practice of changing, joining, freeing, removing, and replacing the blades. Any action of the blade, from free or engaged guard position, that moves the blade to a new line of engagement. Each type has a different name and function.
Close Quarters – When two combatants are inside normal measure.
Cobb’s Traverse – Euphemism for running away from a fight, running backwards, or back-pedaling from an encounter. Named for an Elizabethan fencer and brawler.
Cold Steel – Slang for a cut and thrust weapon, now applied to any sharp sword.
Corps-à-Corps (Fr) – Literally ‘body-to-body’. An action in which there is body contact or where the blades are locked together and distance is closed.
Cut & Thrust – A weapon suitable for attacks with both the point and the edge
Cut – A stroke, blow, or attack made with the edge of the blade.
Cutting Edge – The sharp, true, or fore edge of any blade.
Dagger – a) a short, stout weapon like a little sword, with a blade designed to both cut and thrust, a Poniard; b) the offensive and defensive weapon used in the left hand (the ‘main-gauche’), along with a sword or rapier.
Draw – a) to remove one’s sword from its scabbard for the purpose of either offense or defense; b) a call or challenge to fight.
Duel – a) a formal fight between two persons – single combat. A private fight, prearranged and fought with deadly weapons, with the intent to wound or kill, usually in the presence of at least two witnesses, called seconds. B) a trial by wager of battle – judicial single combat.
Dueling Punctilio – The strict rules that governed all aspects of a duel from the issuing of the challenge to the fight and/or reconciliation.
Duello (It) – The established code and convention of duelists.
En Garde (Fr) – The basic position assumed by a combatant when fencing. Usually Terza (3).
Engage – a) to cross swords, interlock weapons; b) to entangle, involve, or commit to undertake a quarrel or fight.
Envelopment – An attack on the enemy blade which transverses a complete circle to return to its original position.
Epée Blade – A triangular blade, fluted on three sides for lightness, approximately 35 inches in length, tapering evenly from forte to tip. Developed from the 18th century small sword, becoming in the 19th century a weapon of sport. Originally called the ‘espée’.
Escrime (Fr) – The French word for fencing.
False Edge – The edge of the sword turned away from the knuckles of the sword hand.
Feint – A false attack, either cutting or thrusting, meant to deceive or humiliate the opponent.
Flat – The wide portion of the blade.
Flute (also Fuller) – The groove, channel, or furrow found in blades such as the small sword that removes precious ounces from the blade’s weight without jeopardizing its structural integrity.
Foible (Fr) – (17th century French for ‘weak’) – The uppermost, and weakest, third of the exposed blade closest to the tip.
Foil – a) a light weapon in modern fencing; b) Elizabethan for any bated, blunted, or dulled weapon.
Forte (Fr) – The widest and strongest third of the exposed blade closest to the hilt, the part used to block or parry.
Gauntlet – a) an iron glove to protect the weapon-bearing hand; b) leather fencing gloves
Grip – a) the manner in which the weapon is held; b) the part of the sword situated between the guard and the pommel.
Guard – a) the fundamental position of the combatant preparatory to action of an offensive and defensive nature (most commonly in the guard of Terza) b) the portion of the weapon that protect the fingers or hand. See also Quillon and Knuckle-Bow
Hilt – A portion of the weapon comprised of three parts – the guard, the grip, and the pommel. The haft or handle of any weapon.
Invitation – Any movement of the blade or arm intended to tempt the opponent to attack.
Knuckle Bow – Branch of the sword-guard that sweeps from the hilt to the pommel in a bow shape to protect the sword-hand.
Lag Foot – The foot in the rear or back position at any time in footwork.
Lead Foot – The foot in the forward position at any time during footwork.
Linea (It) – The lines of engagement: alta (high), bassa (low), esterna (outside), interna (inside).
Longsword – A sword with a simple cross-hilt and a long cutting blade.
Mollinello (also Moulinet, literally ‘like a windmill’) – The action of pivoting the blade from shoulder, elbow, or wrist in a circle, either in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion. Creates either a circle on one side of the body (or overhead), or else a figure-8 across the body.
Montante – (literally ‘rising’) An uppercut, a rising vertical cutting attack with the true edge. Usually to the groin.
Moulinet (also Mollinello, literally ‘like a windmill’) – The action of pivoting the blade from shoulder, elbow, or wrist in a circle, either in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion. Creates either a circle on one side of the body (or overhead), or else a figure-8 across the body.
Parry – a) defensive action of a bladed weapon where the forte opposes the foible of the attacking weapon, stopping the attacking blade at its weakest point with the strongest part of the defending blade; b) to ward off or turn aside an offensive blow or weapon by opposing one’s own weapon, hand, or other means of defense.
Passado – An English spelling of either Passada or Passata; a forward thrust with the rapier, accompanied by a pass.
Passata Sotto (It) – (literally ‘pass beneath’) – A thrust while either dropping the leg foot back or driving the lead foot forward, while the free hand is placed on the floor or ground, creating a tripod.
Pommel (from the French pomme, meaning ‘apple’) – a) the metal ficture that locks together the different parts of the weapon and acts as a counter-weight to the blade; b) to strike, beat, or attack with the pommel of the weapon instead of the blade.
Poniard (also Main Gauche Dagger) – Form of quillon dagger developed during the 16th century, designed to be held in the left hand with the point up, like a sword. These had guards with quillons and a side-ring, serving as protection for the knuckles.
Pronation – The position of the sword-hand where the palm is turned down, nails of the sword-hand facing the floor.
Punto (It) – Literally ‘point’ or ‘tip’. The point of the weapon.
Punto Reverso – An arcing attack to the opponent’s right buttock/hamstring.
Quillons (Fr) – One or both of the arms or branches forming the cross-guard of a sword, providing the sword-hand with a protective barrier and preventing the opposing sword from striking the hand.
Rapier and Dagger – the fashionable style of swordplay during the latter half of the 16th century and into the early part of the 17th. The rapier was the main attack weapon, used in the right hand, while the dagger was mostly defensive, used in the left.
Rapier – Long, thrusting sword developed in Italy in the 1480s. Originally used for both cut and thrust attacks (and poorly designed for both), it became a weapon chiefly used for thrusting. In an attempt to protect the sword-hand from injury, over a hundred distinct hilt configurations were developed.
Ricasso – An unsharpened length of blade just above the guard.
Sabre (Saber) – A heavy sword with a curved blade (very effective in cutting attacks), and a simple hilt configuration used by the cavalry of all European nations in the 18th and early 19th centuries. One who fights with a sabre is a sabreur.
Scabbard – Case or sheath which protects the blade of a weapon when not in use.
Single Sword – Any sword light enough to be used in one hand, for both offense and defense.
Supination – The position of the hand when the palm is turned upwards, with the nails of the sword hand pointing toward the ceiling.
Swash – To make the sound of clashing swords or sword and shield. Hence the origin of the phrase ‘swashbuckling’ – hitting one’s sword against one’s buckler. Came to mean a swaggering bully or ruffian.
Tang – (originally the ‘tongue’ of the blade) Portion of the blade that extends from the forte and shoulders, passes through the guard and grip, and fastens into the pommel.
True Edge – The cutting side of the sword, on the same side as one’s knuckles.
As promised, I will have a 200-page book with essays, diagrams, and a glossary for sale exclusively to conference-goers for $20, available directly from me. But it's hardly essential to taking the class. See you in Denver!