The Cateran Society

An Comunn Ceatharnach

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

Highland Singlestick


Readers of the HEMA Misfits blog will remember the strange “Guard of the Scottish Highlander” found in French fencing master Alexandre Valville’s 1817 manual for the Russian Imperial Guard.

Valville shows a kilted man standing with a basket-hilted cudgel in a version of the hanging guard. His left arm is held up over his head, protected by what seems to be a rectangular home-made targe. This video is our interpretation of what we think Valville was trying to show – a Highland version of the singlestick game based on the “broken head,” with the addition of a targe.

We also have another video of an informal bout with singlesticks.

We found both bouts so much fun that we’re going to start using singlesticks on a weekly basis again.

Both videos feature the new “Stryker” singlestick baskets from Purpleheart Armoury. These baskets are unusually large and robust, which gives them two advantages over the older baskets. Traditional leather singlestick baskets are often too small to allow the fencer to wear a padded glove, leaving the thumb at risk from the occasional hard strike coming down from above. Also, traditional baskets tends to get soft over time and to lose some of their ability to absorb the force of the opponent’s strikes. These new baskets are big enough to use with padded protective gloves, and hard enough to take a lot of punishment. We expect these baskets to last a long time.

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Peasant Rebellion!

This video explores the combative use of the sickle, an agricultural tool that could also be used as an improvised weapon. Some clips show the use of one sickle against the broadsword, and others show two sickles. The approach shown here is based on the Cateran System’s “MacGregor Method” rather than on any historical sickle training. We found the sickle to be one of the most interesting weapons we have ever played with. The curved blade of the sickle allows it to easily capture the opposing sword blade and whirl it off-line. Training weapons from Purpleheart Armoury, music by Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani.

Sword and Dagger

According to Scottish swordsman Donald McBane: “When you fight sword and dagger, you are to keep your sword as directed at a good outside guard, your dagger above your brow in order to defend your head, often having them across.”

McBane would have used this weapon combination during his career as a stage gladiator, after he had returned from the wars in Europe. The dagger he’s referring to is a basket-hilted parrying dagger, long enough to be considered a short sword. It is possible to extrapolate a surprisingly large number of techniques from McBane’s simple advice, many of which can be seen in this video. The techniques are presented in slow motion so you can see exactly how to do them.

For anyone who took the sword and dagger class at Iron Gate 2015, this is the same set of techniques plus a few extras we didn’t discuss. Enjoy!

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