When I develop a system of fighting for a weapon, my goal is to make it effective against any opponent, not only when that opponent is armed with the same weapon that I am using, but also when my opponent is using a different weapon. Since sword and shield is the predominate weapon style in the SCA, the system that I develop for any other weapon must allow me to match up with sword and shield on an even basis.
With the great weapons, when fighting against an opponent using sword and shield, the natural tendency is to avoid contact, and use the longer range of the weapons to advantage. The problem is that it is not always possible to do this, due to constraints imposed by the environment, or a personal lack of speed and agility.
When fighting other great weapons, most fighters still fight at a reasonably long range, since their weapon is long. Occasionally, a fighter will close in, and try to “choke up” on the weapon, or use a butt spike, but to my mind, this bypasses the advantage of leverage provided by a long weapon. In addition, the “range” game played against another great weapon is largely one of reflexes, and that is a game in which the odds are not that good, especially for someone with slow hands.
I prefer to fight my great weapon, either greatsword or naginata (like a Japanese glaive) as an “inside” weapon, and use the long defensive length of the blade or shaft, and the advantage of leverage supplied by the wide-spread, two-handed grip of these weapons. I will admit that this style particularly suits a person like myself, who has a lot of strength, while having poor foot speed, and only average agility. However, the necessity of having to fight at short range against a shield weapon will still occur for those who are faster and quicker than ever I could be, so I believe this method will provide them with a better chance of survival, escape, and even victory than would a style predicated purely on long-range techniques. The same is true when fighting another great weapon. In addition, it provides another option when faced by an opponent who is very good with the point of his or her weapon.
The greatsword that I use is about five feet long. I feel that this is long enough to provide me with about a half-step advantage against shield weapons, and will still match up well against the longer greatswords in single combat. In addition, I feel that the longer greatswords simply hit harder than I care to deal with. My greatswords are very tip heavy, because that aids in most of my blocking and striking techniques.
The naginata that I use is essentially an unpadded weapon that is 7.5 feet long. I use heavy rattan, and shape the handle into a rounded triangular or oval grip, but I leave the blade at its full size. I line the edges of the blade with a heavy leather strip. This provides a feel and balance that approximates what I believe would be the case for a real weapon. I don’t particularly care for a “whippy” weapon, but some whip is almost unavoidable for unpadded polearms under the current rules.
Many of the techniques and concepts in this document apply to both greatswords and pole weapons. In some cases, it was an arbitrary decision to use one or the other of the weapons to demonstrate a technique. When you try the techniques in practice, it will readily become apparent which techniques apply to only one of the two classes of weapons.
I welcome correspondence on most topics concerned with fighting. I can be reached through my website.
I would like to thank my lady wife, Baroness Susan, Duchess Bellatrix for doing all of the photographic work included in this document.
Further, I would like to show my appreciation to Viscount Sir Dmitriy Shelomin and Lord Martin of Rivenstar for acting as my partners in demonstrating the techniques.
I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Master Matsudaira Toshiyori for all of his work on the website and the on-line version of the manual.