Sword Words

This post was originally published on Academie Duello‘s blog in March 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Green Spur, or first rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Swordplay Knowledge

In the Horsemanship portion of the Green Spur curriculum you needed to know the common vocabulary of the rider.  Similarly, for the Mounted Combat checklist, you will need to demonstrate a basic level of swordplay knowledge:

  • Describe the anatomy of the cut and thrust sword
  • Describe two different types of cavalry sword
  • Describe three alternate types of mounted weapons

Anatomy of the Sword

The cut and thrust sword is a fairly simple creature, and the parts you need to know are:

Pommel: The counterweight at the end of the handle.  It stops your hand from sliding off the end of the sword, balances the weapon’s weight, and can be used to strike in close quarters.

Grip or Handle: The length of the handle not only determines whether a sword can be used in one hand or two, but also provides extra counterweight and hooking power for disarms.

Cross-guard or Quillons: Often just referred to as ‘guard’, these stop the opponent’s sword from hitting your hands, and can be used like the pommel for striking.

Hilt: this refers to the the entire section of pommel, grip and guard.


Forte: literally the strong part of the sword, this is the half of the blade closest to the hand, used for parrying, collecting, and crossing the opponent’s sword.

Mezza-spada: the middle of the blade, where the forte and debole meet.  This is the harmonic ‘sweet-spot’ of the sword.

Debole: the ‘weak’ part of the blade, furthest from the hilt.  The weakness doesn’t refer to the actual strength of the steel, but the mechanical weakness of being far away from the hand.  The debole is used for deflections.

Point or tip: the sharp end of the sword, used for thrusts.

True edge: The edge of the sword that aligns with your knuckles and elbow.  If you were using your sword like a knife to chop veggies, it would be with the true edge.

False edge: The edge of the sword that aligns with your thumb and the inside of your arm, and is upward in the more natural hand positions.

To get a better look at sword anatomy drop into our museum sometime, where you can see a dissected longsword and rapier on display.

Next week: the mounted arsenal

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