Book Review: The Beginner's Guide to the Longsword  

Title: "The Beginner's Guide to the Longsword"
Publisher: Black Belt Communications, May 1, 2009
Author: Steaphen Fick
ISBN-10: 0897501780

Reviewer: David M. Cvet

The book is appropriately titled and therefore, for those indivduals who have no experience in the world of historical fencing and historical martial arts, and who do not wish to delve into the extreme subtleties of any form of historical fighting arts - a "reader's digest" of the art of longsword fencing, this book is for you. For novice practitioners, the book is useful as a review of the fundamentals, important if one intends to "test" at their particular training school or academy. For instructors of historical fencing, this book may offer some new ideas in the approach to instructing their students and therefore, a useful resource in that regard.

The book does not focus on any one particular style of longsword fencing, but does cover the basics, with an excellent presentation on the longsword, its parts and its characteristics. Important information that all novices must internalize, regardless of fighting style studied. Steaphen then moves into combative foundations of posture and lines of attack. He also delves briefly into concepts of movement, measure, distance and tempo - concepts that both novice and experienced practitioners must know well. Steaphen also makes a point of ensuring the reader understands the importance of footwork, the very foundation of all fighting systems. This concept is explained with a series of intuitive images and illustrations aptly describing the basic of the foundations of footwork.

After detailing the basics, he begins the various guard positions, interestingly sourcing the names and the positions from the Italian style documented by the Italian swordsmaster Fiore dei Liberi in 1410. The treatise used as the source was entitled "Fiore di Battaglia". These guards or "poste" are described with plenty of text accompanied with black & white photos which clearly depict the guards described. This section of the book continues with a presentation on a number of simple drills, each drill focused on some specific attribute, such as a drill designed to highlight distance or tempo or parrying.

The book concludes with a good description of appropriate equipment to acquire should one decide to pursue longsword fencing, regardless of the style considered. Suggestions for hand protection include leather gauntlets or hockey gloves or lacrosse gloves, although, it is the opinion of the reviewer that hockey or lacrosses gloves are too bulky to train with, and may introduce training artifacts. The book closes with a basic glossary of terms, useful for the individual who may be considering beginning their journey into the study and training of historical fencing.

September 2009