Mounted Combat Fundamentals: What you need to know about swords before you introduce them to your horse.

Before we let you get on our horses and swing swords around we want to make sure you can use them competently from the ground.  Historically, a mounted knight also needed to know how to fight from the ground, since being unhorsed in battle was extremely common.  For these reasons a good portion of the Cavalier Program requires you to spend time working on swordplay on foot.   

Swordplay Skills from the Ground

To demonstrate basic competence with the single- and two-handed sword we ask our students to show:

  • Proper stance and posture
  • Methods of movement: advance, retreat, sideways step, passing step, triangle step
  • The three turns of the body: volta stabile, mezza volta, tutta volta
  • The eight cuts of the sword true and false
  • Cutting from the wrist, elbow, and shoulder
  • The four thrusts of the sword
  • Proper cutting mechanics and timing
  • Crossing the sword in front and behind
  • The three turnings of the sword: volta stabile, mezza volta, tutta volta

Swordplay Knowledge

In addition to swordplay skills, we ask members of the program to show a basic knowledge of weapon terminology and function, beyond which end to point at the enemy.  This includes:

  •  The anatomy of the cut and thrust sword
  • Two different types of cavalry sword
  • Three alternate types of mounted weapons
  • The mechanics and timing of throwing a sword blow from horseback
  • Which sword blows can and should be thrown from horseback to a mounted rider and a fighter on the ground
  • The mechanics required to keep your seat when striking from horseback.

Some of the skills listed above may seem irrelevant to mounted combat, particularly movement and stance on the ground. After all, when you’re on horseback your feet are doing something entirely different. However, the ability to use a sword properly from the ground — including moving in and out of measure, angulating your attacks, and gaining a sense of how movement affects timing, all teach you invaluable lessons about swordplay mechanics and tactics that you will carry with you to the saddle.

Finding Instruction

If you’re looking for an instructor to give you some historical martial arts training, show them the Swordplay Skills checklist and ask if they can coach you. A teacher who has been through Academie Duello’s Instructor program is probably your best choice, since the terminology will be closest to ours. However any instructor with a decent grounding in longsword or arming sword should be able to help you. If you don’t have any local instructors, online courses such as those on Duello.TV or our own online Mounted Combat Fundamentals can get you the grounding you need.

However you get there, it’s well worth spending the time to get comfortable with swordplay on the ground before you attempt to take it to horseback.

Enjoy the journey!