Sword Fighting & Sword Training: a Beginner’s Guide

This is a beginner’s guide designed to give the participant a firm grounding in the basics of sword fighting. It is intended to be taken by someone who has never studied or trained with a sword before.

This guide is perfect for someone who has no background in sword fighting whatsoever.

It starts at the absolute basics and works its way up to a very advanced level. The student will learn the basic elements of sword fighting, how to safely handle and use a real sword, and how to apply all that new knowledge to actual combat situations.

What is Sword Fighting?

Simply put, it is the art of using a sword as an extension of your body. In other words, it is the art of using a sword as you would use your arms, legs, hands, or any other part of your body.

The first thing a student must learn is how to properly hold his sword. When you are holding a sword, it should feel like it is an extension of your arm. If it doesn’t, then you aren’t holding it properly.

To demonstrate, take your right hand and place it on your hip. Now imagine a vertical line extending from your fingertips all the way up to the hilt of your sword. The line should be as rigid as possible. The reason for this is so your sword will be as balanced as possible when you are fighting with it. If the line is not rigid, your sword will tend to want to fall over to one side or the other. Now, put your left hand on top of your right hand. Place the back of your left hand against your right wrist. Your left hand should fit perfectly into the curve made by your right hand and wrist.

For instance, if your hands are slightly larger than mine, your left hand should fit into the curve almost like a glove. The next thing you must learn is how to position your feet so you can attack and defend at the same time. In most cases, your feet should be shoulder-width apart. If they are too far apart, then you will have a difficult time keeping your balance. If they are too close together, then it will be very hard for you to deliver a strong thrust.

You see, to execute a thrust with any kind of power, you need both space and leverage. Space so you have room to move your sword, and leverage so the length of your sword is working for you instead of against you. Next, you must learn how to position your body so you can use the weight and momentum of your own body to add power to your attacks. Next, you must learn how to control your opponent’s sword.

This is where most people stop learning how to fight with a sword. They assume once they have learned how to control their own sword, then they will be able to defend themselves. This is not true. If you have ever watched an experienced sword fighter control another swordsman’s movements, you have seen something extremely important.

History Of Sword Training

Historically, wooden swords have been used by trainees and knights as low-cost and disposable training weapons. The cost of a good steel sword would have been prohibitive for the trainees to equip, therefore they were forced to use whatever weapons they could get their hands on or use improvised weapons such as wooden sword replicas. Constant training will wear out a real sword, and after enough training, the sword will become unreliable as a weapon. Traditional wooden practice weapons were invented so that trainees could practice their moves without dulling real weapons. That’s why they are often made from very hard woods like oak and hickory.

A wooden sword is an ideal training weapon for a medieval knight. It gives a less dangerous but equally effective alternative to sharpened steel or unsharpened steel. A wooden sword will not cut flesh, but it does have the advantage of being less expensive than a steel weapon of the same variety and thus makes it an affordable and disposable tool for training.

Some of these wooden, training swords are very accurate in their reproduction of the real thing. Among them are some that have integral functional parts. This feature makes them more like the steel version. It gives it a better feel and improves your grip when using it.

When using wooden training replica swords it is important to use rounded edge wooden weapons instead of sharpened edge wooden weapons. Rounded edged wooden weapons will impact harder but won’t cut. This means that during sparring, accidental hits or thrusts to unprotected body parts may not cause any cut, but can result in significant blunt force injuries.

Then, if you do accidentally get cut, the wound will close up quickly because the edges of the cut are not jagged and razor-like like a sharpened steel sword would leave. A cut from a wooden sword will bleed slightly but not long and will stop bleeding almost immediately. The wooden swords that have functional parts are especially useful for training in close combat as they make you feel what it is like using a real one. 

Ancient Books About Sword-Training

Unfortunately, there are no surviving manuals for sword fighting arts of the pre-medieval (ancient) period. It’s unlikely there were any existing works on the subject but if there were, they would have been destroyed. Unfortunately, a lot of ancient literature has been lost forever.

It’s not clear exactly how the battles between individual soldiers on the battlefields of ancient times were fought. But, we do know the formations they used, and how they fought on the large scale. And yet, individual methods of fighting with a single sword (techniques) have been lost.

Medieval Swordsmanship

One of the best examples of a sword training manual is The Art of Sword Combat from Joachim Mayer.

The manuscript offers lot of examples of training drills for both the dusack and the rapier, a feature largely lacking in books of the period as a whole but critical to modern reconstructions of the practice.

Medieval swordsmanship is considered the pinnacle of sword fighting skill and was the basis for all modern swordplay. It has been said that no one ever really learned how to fight with a sword until he was taught by a master swordsman. Master swordsmen were highly regarded and trained from an early age to become military officers, teachers, priests, and sometimes even nobility. They were considered the best of the best and were often referred to as “living legends”.

Medieval swordsmanship is based on the concepts of distance, speed, timing, leverage, footwork, feints, and defense. The goal of the swordsman was to strike an opponent while he was off-balance and vulnerable to attack. In a real fight, if possible, the swordsman would try to take his opponent by surprise or catch him when his guard was down. The medieval swordsman was trained to fight with a shield and a sword. His shield was used for defense against cuts and thrusts and to redirect blows from his opponent. He learned to use his shield as a natural extension of his arm and to move it with the same fluidity as his sword.

A study of sword masters from various historical periods shows that they all had certain common elements in their training methods.

Qualities Required To Be A Good Swordsman

The qualities required to be a good swordsman are very much the same today as they were thousands of years ago. These qualities include:

Physical Conditioning – Good physical conditioning is important for two reasons. The first is that it will help you avoid getting tired or exhausted faster than your opponent. The second reason is that it will improve your reaction time and focus. Physical conditioning also improves your mood and energy level. It also makes you less likely to get sick or injured.

Self-Discipline – Self-discipline is important for the same reasons it is important for a marathon runner to have self-discipline. It is vital for a swordsman to have the discipline to avoid doing anything stupid or dangerous when he is not in a fight. This includes not training when you are sick, not eating right, excessive alcohol, etc. Disciplined people tend to have an almost “can do” attitude and are less likely to give up easily.

Be Observant – An observant person notices things others do not. An observant swordsman notices his opponent’s moves and habits and is always one step ahead of him. An observant swordsman is also aware of his own habits and is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve his skills.

Intelligence – Intelligence is important for several reasons. First, it helps you learn faster. The second reason is that intelligence allows you to recognize patterns and recognize what is important. It gives you the ability to deduce facts about your opponent without having to wait for him to make a mistake. An intelligent person will not only see the obvious but will also see the potential for the unexpected.

Perseverance – Perseverance is important for the same reasons it is important for a person who runs a marathon. It takes a lot of determination and hard work to reach your goals. Without perseverance, you may get to the end of the race and decide it was not worth the effort. Perseverance is also important for those things in life which seem impossible to achieve. Most people give up when things get tough. A true champion never quits and never gives up.

Desire To Learn – The desire to learn is vital because it keeps you from becoming stagnant. If you are training only to “beat the guy across the hall” or “the world series of fighters” then you will become bored very quickly. Boredom leads to apathy and that can lead to quitting. However, if you are training with a single purpose of improving your skills and becoming a better swordsman then the boredom will not set in as fast and therefore you will improve faster. Learning is a never-ending process and there is always something new to learn.

The key is to find what you are good at and to do more of that and do less of what you are not good at.

What Qualities Will Improve When Sword Training?

The art of sword training develops various qualities in people. The following are the most important ones:

Increased Awareness

This is one of the main benefits of sword training. When you are aware of your surroundings, you are more alert and therefore you are less likely to be caught by surprise. You will notice things that others do not and will be one step ahead of your opponent. Increased awareness allows you to react more quickly and therefore to gain an edge over your opponent.

Improved Focus

Another benefit of sword training is that it will improve your focus. Good physical conditioning is important for two reasons. The first is that it will help you avoid getting tired or exhausted faster than your opponent. The second reason is that it will improve your reaction time and focus. Physical conditioning also improves your mood and energy level. It also makes you less likely to get sick or injured.

Improved Reaction Time

An important benefit of sword training is that it will improve your reaction time. This means you will be able to respond more quickly to sudden attacks or opportunities. This will give you a distinct advantage over your opponent.

Improved Coordination

Coordination is the ability to do things in unison. This includes things like hitting a moving target, drawing your sword in a smooth motion, and using the right muscles to block an attack. Improving your coordination will make you a better swordsman.

Increased Stamina

Another benefit of sword training is that it will increase your stamina. This means you will be less likely to get tired or exhausted during a fight. It also allows you to sustain a physical effort for a much longer period of time.

Now let’s answer some of the basic questions about sword fighting and training:

What Do You Call Someone Who Fights With a Sword?

A swordsman is one who has trained to fight with a sword.

To be a swordsman, you have to become a true student of the art of sword fighting. You have to study and practice until your body understands the moves and your instincts are so sharp that you can react without thinking. Only then will you be ready to take the next step and compete in a real fight.

But don’t get me wrong. Even if you never intend to fight with a sword, the skills you learn while training to become a swordsman will serve you well in any kind of confrontation with another human being. You will be able to think on your feet, avoid an attack, defend yourself and even counter-attack if necessary. 

How Long Does it Take to Train With a Sword?

Undeniably, it takes time.

On average it takes from 1 to 2 years of constant practice to become skilled in sword-fighting with a specific sword.

However, there are several shortcuts you can take which will speed up the process. One of the most important shortcuts is to NOT train with a sword if you have any type of injury or medical condition. If you have not been training regularly for a long period of time then you should start out slow.

You should only increase the intensity and duration of your sword training as your body gets used to it. Do not attempt to train with a sword when you are injured or fatigued. It will take you much longer to recover and therefore you will not achieve maximum results.

How Long Does It Take To Become A “Real” Swordsman?

There is no real answer to this question. Some people become “real” swordsmen in an instant while others spend their entire lives learning.

It takes a lifetime to master the art of swordsmanship and become a real swordsman.

However, if you put the time and effort into it then you will be a much better swordsman than 99% of all other people who have never trained with a sword.

Can You Practice Sword-fighting Alone?

You cant practice sword fighting alone in order to achieve the best results. Therefore, you should always practice sword fighting with a partner.

However, you should try to find a training partner who is at least as good as you are so you can learn from each other instead of getting frustrated with each other.

Or much better, try to get a master swordsman to teach you the fundamentals. 

Is Sword-training a Good Workout?

Sword training is a great exercise for the body because it combines the intense cardio of running with the muscular endurance of weight lifting. In other words, sword training is a great all-around workout that will leave you lean and mean.

Sword training is a fantastic, cardiovascular workout that will build muscle, burn fat, and pump up your heart. It’s also a great way to tone your arms, chest, glutes, and abs.

And you know what else? Because sword training is so much fun, you will find yourself wanting to do it even when you are not working out. This means you will be getting an extra benefit from sword training besides looking good and feeling strong. You will also develop an amazing sense of awareness and focus which will serve you well in all aspects of your life. 

Sword Training Basics: Types of Attacks

The first thing you do when you are about to make an attack is you draw your opponent’s attention to the area you want him to focus on. Next, you feint. You draw his attention to that area and then quickly move your sword to another area. Then, when he moves to that new area to block your attack, you reverse direction and attack from the other side.

What you are doing here is confusing your opponent. He will be watching your hands and arms, anticipating where you will move your sword, when you will move your sword and where you will stop moving your sword. What this does is force his mind to work in several different directions at once. This makes it very difficult for him to concentrate on anything but your hands, arms, and the area around them. It is like trying to solve a complicated math problem while having to watch a tennis match on TV. It is very hard to do.

Now, let’s say you have positioned yourself so you have a little room to maneuver, and you are just about to execute an attack. What you do next is you make a feint with your left hand (the one holding your opponent’s sword), and then you attack with your right hand. You don’t stop moving your sword until your arm is extended completely.

Starting Out Too Fast Can Be Dangerous 

There is a fine line between starting out too fast and the right amount of speed. If you start out too fast you may get hurt. If you take too long to get your timing down you may miss the window of opportunity.

Therefore, it is best to start out at a comfortable pace. Only after you are sure you are ready should you start speeding up the process.

Sword Training Basics: Defending Against Attacks

Now, let’s say one of your opponents tries to attack you by coming straight at you with his sword. In this case, you need to block his attack. To do this, you will first have to determine where his attack is going to be. Then, you will have to decide how to position your sword to block it. There are many different ways to do this. The first thing you should do is stop moving your own sword until your opponent has made a real or a feinted attack.

Now, let’s say you are being attacked by a group of five or six opponents. What you do is concentrate on the hands and arms of the first attacker. Next, you move your sword to defend against the next attacker. Concentrate on his hands and arms. Next, move to defend against the third attacker, and so on. This is what I call a “swipe defense.”

It is very important to remember that when you are doing a swipe defense, you are moving from one attacker to another while defending against each attack. What this does is keeps your mind focused on one thing at a time. It is like trying to solve a difficult math problem while watching the Superbowl. 

Basic Elements of Sword Fighting

There are five basic elements to sword fighting. They are:

1. Positioning yourself so you have room to maneuver

2. Making a real or a feinted attack (with your lead hand)

3. Determining where an attack is going to be made

4. Deciding how to position your sword to block the attack

5. Swipe defending against multiple attackers

Positioning Yourself So You Have Room To Maneuver – The first thing you should always do when you are about to engage in a fight with a sword is to make sure you are standing in such a way that you have enough room to maneuver. This means you should be standing with your feet shoulder width apart. It also means your knees should not be locked, and your body should be erect, but not stiff. It is important to remember that your arms should be down at your sides, and your hands should be in front of your belt or vest. What this all adds up to is that you should be standing with your feet slightly apart, your arms down at your sides, and your hands in front of your waist. Always position your body in this way when you are about to engage in a fight with a sword.

Making A Real Or A Feinted Attack (With Your Lead Hand) – Now that you are standing in the proper position, the next thing you must do is make a “real” or a “true” attack. To do this, raise your sword arm up over your head so it is parallel with the floor and then swing your blade down toward the ground. At the same time, bring your lead hand down to your side and make a fist. Next, thrust your sword forward with all your might. You should practice making these attacks until they become second nature to you.

Determining Where An Attack Is Going To Be Made – When you are just starting out, it will be difficult for you to determine exactly where an attack is going to be made. That’s OK. Just keep swinging your sword around in a circle as I described above, and soon enough, you will get a feel for the movements of the sword, and you will know instantly when an attack is coming. However, even though it may take some time, you should eventually be able to make this determination almost instantaneously. 

Deciding how to position your sword to block the attack – One of the most important things you must learn to do is parry or block an incoming attack. To do this, you must first determine where the attack is going to be made. Once you have done this, you must then position your sword in such a way as to block the attack. To help you with this, imagine that the attacker is a “wild dog” and he has a very sharp steel-sword in his hand. Next, you should position your sword so that it is directly across from his point of attack, and you should then bring your sword down and across in a block (a parry) movement. Your sword should come down and across in such a way that it intersects the line of attack of your opponent’s sword just above its tip. If you do this correctly, the point of the sword will be stopped dead in its tracks, and the “wild dog” will be unable to continue his attack. 

Swipe defending against multiple attackers – What if you are attacked by more than one opponent? Well, in this case, you must do a little more thinking. What you need to do is, first determine where each individual attack is going to be made. Then, you must decide which of those attacks you are going to try to stop with your parry. You must make this decision based on the following guidelines:

The first attack you make with your parry should be the one that is going to be made by your strongest attacker. By this, I mean the one who is most likely to win the fight. The reason for this is simple – you should always attempt to stop your opponent’s strongest attack. Also, it should be the one that is most likely to succeed. If it doesn’t, your other attacks (the ones that are weaker) will be nullified, and your opponent will be able to attack you freely. However, if your first parry does work, then you should make subsequent parries with your remaining attacks. These subsequent parries should be made against the other attackers. That way, if any of them do manage to get through your parry, they will still be met with another blade coming from a different direction.

How to Safely Handle and Use a Real Sword

Now, let’s discuss how all this translates to actually handling and using a real sword. What I am going to do here is give you a few tips that will make your training with a sword much more effective. I will begin by discussing how to hold the sword.

Next, I will discuss how to deliver a strong thrust with the intention of hitting your target. And finally, I will discuss how to safely handle and use the counterattack. 

When you are first learning how to hold a sword, you should learn how to do it in such a way as to be able to deliver a powerful thrust as soon as you are ready. When you are holding the sword in a correct manner, it should feel natural and easy to move your arm in a swift, smooth motion without any sort of unnecessary movement or “fumbling around.” If you are not already holding the sword correctly, you should start by learning how to properly hold a wooden training sword. This is the easiest way to learn how to hold a sword.

Once you have learned to hold a wooden sword correctly, you should then transfer your learning to holding a real sword. When you are holding a real sword, always remember that you should never want to force the sword into position.

In this situation, you should always strive to have the sword find its own natural position. When you are holding a wooden sword or a real sword, the hand that is holding the hilt should be relaxed and not tense in any way. It should be as though you were holding a large spoon or some other object that has no sharp edges.

The sword should feel comfortable in your hand. You should be able to easily move your hand up and down the length of the blade. If you find it difficult to hold the sword correctly, the best thing to do is simply stop trying to force it into position. Instead, simply relax your hand and allow the sword to find its own natural position.

This will take practice but, with a little patience, you will soon learn to naturally hold the sword in a correct manner. When you are holding the sword in a relaxed manner, your thumb should be on the bottom of the grip and your fingers should be wrapped around the top of the grip. Your index finger should be closest to the point of the blade.

Your middle finger should be directly above your index finger and your ring finger should be above your middle finger. Your pinky should be extended straight down the blade away from your body. Your hand should be slightly cupped around the hilt with your fingers curled around the sides of the grip.


Learning how to fight with a sword is not difficult. However, you must first learn the correct mental and physical techniques. Once you have learned these then you can begin to add intensity and speed to the process.

This will improve your reaction time, coordination, stamina, and conditioning. All of which will make you a better swordsman.

Jordan Rosolenne

Hi, I’m Jordan Rosolenne, the founder of Swordscorner.com. I’ve been a sword enthusiast all my life and I consider it a serious hobby of mine. I love everything about Swords, Katanas, Medieval Weapons, Anime, and much much more!

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