What Historic Sword Fighting Actually Looked Like

Shaunacy Ferro

The sword fights you see in the movies probably aren’t all that true to the realities of medieval fighting, as you might imagine. Besides the fact that enemies likely didn’t pause to trade carefully worded insults, Hollywood fight choreography is much more elegant than a real fight to the death.

In his new documentary, UK-based photographer Cédric Hauteville dives into the world of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), a discipline that combines historic research and athletic technique to recreate medieval fighting methods. The full-length documentary, now on YouTube, was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign last year. 

Scholar/sportsmen study centuries-old texts and illustrations to try to figure out how, exactly, Europeans would have fought. While this sounds relatively straightforward, even instructive texts on sword fighting written hundreds of years ago might skip basic steps that aren’t obvious to contemporary fighters, meaning that HEMA participants must go through a process of trial and error trying to figure out what movements are effective. And this fencing is anything but cinematic—the ultimate goal is to figure out ways to stab your opponent with a blade as quickly as possible, leaving no time to get injured yourself.  

[h/t Kontaku]

Banner image screenshot via YouTube