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Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simulator

PostPosted: 10 Mar 2015 15:19
by Hugh
Hi. I'm interested in beginning some basic rapier practice and I don't have any rapiers. What I DO have are several sports fencing epees (and assorted sabres and foils too).

Longsword fencing is my usual thing so I'm wondering if anyone could point me towards some very basic rapier training resources.

Also, does anyone have suggestions on what "style" of rapier fencing I should begin with or advice on adapting the epees with simple crossguards, which I'm sure will quickly become important?

Thanks :D

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 10 Mar 2015 18:22
by Glyn
To be perfectly honest, as soon as you say "I want to practice techniques for one weapon by using a different one" you should understand that this will probably not result in a particularly rewarding experience. That's not to say you can't gain some facility by carefully practising with epees (or pieces of dowel for that matter) but it will be increasingly hard as you speed up your techniques and the instinct to use the sword as it was designed - as an epee - will always be there. That's not to say "don't do it", but do keep your expectations appropriately low.

To compare an epee to a rapier it's important to understand that an epee is typically less than half the weight of a rapier (less than 0.5kg for most epees compared to 1.0 to 1.6kg for a rapier). Even with the modern preference for practice weapons that are on the lighter end of the scale, an epee's weight is still significantly lower than a modern practice rapier. Epees also tend to be somewhat on the shorter side of historical weapons though not completely beyond the realms of possibility.

A couple of historical examples that are particularly light and moderately short:
http://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=61148&viewType=detailView
http://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=61159&viewType=detailView

A513 is particularly interesting in completely abandoning the typical rapier hilt but retaining the characteristic blade - and it is very light. I would love to know how that one feels in the hand!
http://wallacelive.wallacecollection.org/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=61006&viewType=detailView

In looking for the least inappropriate period to study, it appears that in the time that the rapier was popular there was a noticeable trend away from the heavier weapons at the start of the period to lighter weapons at the end. Longer blades were more common in the middle period, with shorter ones found in both early and late use. There was, however, a significant influence of fashion which made for quite a mix throughout the period. It can also be difficult today to determine whether a particular historical sword was well suited for use in the manner described in a particular historical text (or, indeed, for use as a weapon at all) even if they are both dated to the same period.

Modern HEMA rapier practice tends to focus on sources across the span of about a hundred years from the latter half of the 1500s through to the middle of 1600s, but with your (very) light and (moderately) short epee, I would suggest that you look at sources from the periods slightly after that - 1650 onwards, perhaps. It should be noted that the period is one of transition, with some texts moving distinctly towards smallsword (a fine weapon in its own right), and others retaining and refining the rapier tradition (particularly in the Italian schools). Alternatively, accept that an epee isn't going to be a perfect facsimile anyway and just go with whatever appeals.

For books, Guy Windsor's The Duellist's Companion is the best generic rapier work that I'm aware of. Being a generic text it will obviously make no-one completely happy, but it's a good place for a begineer to start (I am little more than a beginner myself, so take that advice as you will). For period sources I am fond of Ken Mondschein's Agrippa translation - while from the earliest days of rapier the logic still holds true. The illustrations to be found in Capo Ferro's Gran Simulacro are superb, though the language can be a bit impenetrable at times even with the best efforts of the translators. Tom Leoni's Giganti translation is a clear and easy read. The only later period work I can think of off the top of my head is Reinier's Bruchius translation, which I confess I haven't actually read yet (though it is on the list): http://www.bruchius.com/Eng/bruchiuseng.html

Glyn

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 11 Mar 2015 09:27
by Phil C

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 11 Mar 2015 11:22
by admin
Welcome to the forum. Some renaissance schools used wooden practice rapiers - given the length and weight difference between an epee and a rapier, I wonder whether you might be better served starting with dowels rather than epees. Personally I find a dowel of around 45 inches more rapier-like than a sport epee, especially with a bit of weight added to the pommel end to bring the point of balance back. Though I depend it depends on the type/period of rapier - as you get closer to smallswords they get more epee-like.

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 11 Mar 2015 16:40
by Reinier
Back in 2010, to try out and see whether a mate and I liked rapier enough to start training it, we used foils. With pistol grips. It worked, but I would not like to do it again.
After deciding to continue we both quickly acquired a Hanwei Cuphilt, and a little later yet, I upgraded to a Darkwood. Once I started running a class, I often had to set people using wooden dowels. These were available in the hall I trained in, and for beginners they definitely work well enough - to explore the ideas etc.
Once people get a little more advanced, it would be better to have them use a steel rapier simulator, to better appreciate the way steel moves along steel (which is important in parries and binds, if you want to glide blades along each other to change the engagement or to attack, for instance).

I think you can use almost any simulator, so long as you keep in mind that it will influence and deform your training. At some point you will have to use something closer, though.

For getting started, based on the components you named, I would consider using a epee blade on a foil hilt to get a little more blade, and not such a weird oversized off-centre cup.
As for systems - later rapier (evolving towards smallsword) might be a better fit to the lighter weapon you are creating, so I would like to advice this book: http://www.corsairs-wares.com/martial-a ... ts_id=1972 ;)

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 11 Mar 2015 18:35
by Mink


Calling this rapier is a bit confusing though, since it is basically classical foil adapted to dual wielding with a dagger. I mean without the dagger you wouldn't call it rapier but foil fencing.

Regards,

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 12 Mar 2015 11:08
by Phil C
Mink wrote:Calling this rapier is a bit confusing though, since it is basically classical foil adapted to dual wielding with a dagger. I mean without the dagger you wouldn't call it rapier but foil fencing.


"Rapier" is a nebulous term and means different things over several hundred years but a dateline wasn't suggested- it does, however, meet the original request by being a rapier system that allows the use of epees.

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 12 Mar 2015 11:31
by Reinier
Phil C wrote:
Mink wrote:Calling this rapier is a bit confusing though, since it is basically classical foil adapted to dual wielding with a dagger. I mean without the dagger you wouldn't call it rapier but foil fencing.


"Rapier" is a nebulous term and means different things over several hundred years but a dateline wasn't suggested- it does, however, meet the original request by being a rapier system that allows the use of epees.


Well, by your own logic that depends on what the original poster meant by Rapier style then, doesn't it?

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 12 Mar 2015 11:41
by Phil C
Indeed- until they clarify their needs then it remains my suggestion.

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 12 Mar 2015 12:56
by Reinier
8)

Let us wait and see, then :)

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 15 Mar 2015 04:05
by Hugh
Thank you everyone for the advice. You've given me a lot to take in and I appreciate it.

Phil C wrote:Indeed- until they clarify their needs then it remains my suggestion.


I'm still not entirely clear on my needs so can't really clarify yet ;)
I'll have to look into rapier styles a bit more and see where it takes me.

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 16 Mar 2015 02:57
by David S
Really for me earlier rapier styles(circa Fabris era) seem to work two ways. Italian, moving more in straight lines to stab someone and keeping your body far back, and Spanish, moving in circles to stab someone and keeping your arm more like 90° to your body with your sword forward. Both are fun.

Re: Rapiers - Advice for beginner using epee as rapier simul

PostPosted: 16 Mar 2015 13:22
by Dave B
Or of course you could pick up something like Liancour and do early smallsword instead, For which an Epee blade works fairly well. An epee blade on a foil guard with a french hilt works pretty well for Liancour, and if you have some background in modern fencing then I suspect that early smallsword will come a lot more naturally than Rapier, whilst still being different enough from either Foil or Epee to be interesting.