Finding Swetnam’s True Guard


Swetnam’s true guard with rapier and dagger, according to Swetnam:

Keepe thy rapier hand so low as the pocket of thy hose at the armes end, without bowing the elbow joint, and keepe the hilt of thy dagger right with thy left cheeke, and the point something stooping towards the right shoulder, and beare him out stiff at the armes end, without bowing thine elbow joint likewise, and the point of thy Rapier two inches within the point of thy dagger, neither higher, not lower; but if the point of thy rapier be two or three inches short of touching thy dagger, it is not matter, but if they join it is good; likewise, keepe both your points so high as you may see your enemie clearly with both your eyes, betwixt your rapier and dagger, and bowing your head something toward the right shoulder, and your body bowing forwards, and both thy shoulders, the one so near thine enemie as the other, and the thombe of thy rapier hand, not upon thy rapier, according unto the usual fashion of the vulgar sort, but upon the naile of thy fore-finger, which will locke thine hand the stronger about the handle of thy rapier, and the heele of thy right foote should ioyne close to the middle ioynt of the great toe of thy left foote, according to this Picture, yet regard chiefly the words rather than the Picture.

Carrie the edge of thy rapier upward, and downward, for then thou shalt defend a blow upon the edge of thy rapier, by bearing thy rapier after the rule of the Backe-sword, for this is the strongest and surest carriage of him.

Now, a very helpful fellow published a “Bluffer’s Guide to Swetnam,” which I cannot cite because the site has gone missing. It is his attempt to transcribe Swetnam’s fencing instructions into modern English. This interpreted version of Swetnam’s true guard is as follows:

Keep the rapier hand low, below waist level, and the arm straight. Hold the dagger in line with your dagger-side cheek, the arm straight and the point close to the sword point, two to three inches apart.

Keep the points high, make sure you can see the opponent between them. Hold your head a bit to the swordside with your body forward. You should have your shoulders square on.

Don’t put the thumb of the rapier hand on the blade, but on the nail of the forefinger.

Your sword foot is forward, and the heel of it should be in line with the middle joint of the toe of the off foot.
Carry the sword with the edge up and down, you parry with the edge.

Images and further interpretation to follow….


Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 5:20 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “The Bluffer’s Guide to Swetnam” can be found online here:

    I love this blog. The only suggestion I’d like to share is that you put your name (or at least a pseudonym) somewhere on here – it’s not listed anywhere on here.

  2. Thanks Tyson!

    I had this:
    for the Bluffer’s guide, but it stopped working. I appreciate the working link.

    You’re right – I should definitely add an about me page 🙂 – I’ll get on that.

    By all means read through the other posts and shoot out your thoughts.

  3. I know almost nothing about Swetnam, so I’m mostly here to learn a little bit from you! (I am studying with Eric Myers, but we’re working on Bolognese material, not Swetnam.)

  4. Allen Reed, Paul Wagner, and Stephen Hand are all people who know quite a bit about Swetnam. I don’t suppose they have blogs on the subject, but good people to talk to :).

    I’ve had some interest in Bolognese for some time, but I really need somebody else in my vicinity to work with – there’s not a lot of English language material to work through solo.

    I’m hoping to go to Recreational Violence this year – if you’re there, I’d love to try a little Bolognese.

  5. I’m probably not going to make it to Recreational Violence this year. The only big conference I’m planning on for 2009 is WMAW.

    I’m working on putting together an index for the Bolognese material that’s available online, but it’s not up yet. In the meantime, check out The Order of the Seven Hearts fantastic Bolognese resources here:



  6. Oh, I’ve definitely taken a look at it – I just haven’t really DONE anything with it. 🙂 My fault, nobody else’s.

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