The Cateran Society

An Comunn Ceatharnach

New Caterans in Canada

The Cateran Society is happy to announce that we have two new certifications as Caterans in Canada! Jacques Labrie and Wyatt Campbell have been promoted to become Caterans, both having earned their certifications with their dedication and hard work under the guidance of Cateran Jay Maas. They both have a deep understanding of the practical and theoretical fundamentals of our Martial art.

Congratulations, gentlemen, well done and well deserved.

The Angelo Broadsword by Balefire Blades

Finding a good training sword for your personal needs is one of the quests in HEMA. Not only to find a sword fitting the style you train, but also which represents the needs of you as an individual. Even harder to find a training sword, which you can introduce as your fencing group´s standard weapon.
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The Angelo (Photo copyrights by Balefire Blades)

That is why we were very happy, when my friend Chris Adams of Balefire Blades, with whom I fenced, feasted and talked in Malta back in 2015, approached us to create, design and test a Broadsword steel-trainer with him. That was the beginning of The Angelo. You can read all about Chris biography, his work and the prototype here.
Now it is time to talk about the final result 🙂 Spoiler alert: WE LOVE IT 🙂 If you want to see a quick first review as a video, please check out my youtube channel:

The prototype design was based on regimental broadswords of the 1750s-1770s and we already loved it. However there were some details needed to be changed to make it even better and Chris did a great job. We are using the Angelo Broadsword since November now and we are quite happy about the final design.
The blade was changed not too much, just the swollen point became less thicker. The prototype had a „mini-mace“-like effect when hitting a target and for our style of swordsmanship, which is more cutting than thrusting, a special thrust-safe point is not necessary so much like i.e. for Rapiers. The blade is still flexible enough for safe thrusting, but solid and sturdy for good parrys and cuts. Something that i.e. Armourclass Broadswords have as an issue is their quite great blade flexibility, which makes them light and safe, but very „wobbly“ sometimes. Also the tapering of the Angelo blade became bit flatter/slimmer and lighter towards the point, which makes the balance even better than that of the prototype. The minor troubles with the tang were solved with the heat-treating process.
The biggest changes were made in the Basket-Hilt design and I have to say, if I would have come across the original, which Chris used as inspiration, when we created the prototype, I would already have said to take that one. The new basket-hilt is designed nearly indestructable (when used properly). It is a tank, but this does not mean it is heavy or clumsy, no tanks are swift and still well protected.
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One of the historical inspirations for the Basket-Hilt design

The hardened steel basket offers a solid plate protection to the front and has durable bars on the rear. It is oil blackened to a matte finish. Also this darkened color makes its look quite elegant, but you can polish it to a matte silverish/steel color, which also looks very nice, if you prefer that. Chris also offers a simple, but comfortable felt liner. It is also easy to attach a leather liner into it, which I did basing on Chris´ felt. The basket-hilt is very robust and due to its greater weight, it makes the balance better, because now it is even a bit more back to the hilt, which is quite right for Highland Broadsword fencing.
The wooden grip kept its simple but comfortable design. It is wrapped with cord, which lies much better in the hand than many leather or fishskin grips I’ve tried, especially with gloves. Although custom grips may be available for those who want their weapons a bit more “shiny”, in my opinion this grip is just perfect. Not only the wrapping, but also its form. It is comfortable for all hand sizes our group members have, big or small.
Chris did a great job turning the Angelo prototype into the final product, a very robust, wieldy and good (meaning authentic) looking sword. The small changes improvised the original blade and the new Basket-Hilt design makes it just gorgeous. Of course Chris offers solutions for customized requests too, i.e. the blade length.
I can highly recommend the Angelo as well as Balefire Blades in general. The Broadsword is bit on the heavier end of training swords, but that comes with lots of benefits and advantages. It is excellent for the Regimental style of Broadsword fencing according to sources like Roworth/Taylor, Mathewson, Sinclair and of course its name-patron Angelo. For more informations check out Balefire Blades.
Here we go with our first sparring with The Angelo:

Specs:
Weight 1270 g
Total length 101 cm
Blade length 34 inch
Blade width at base 2,8 cm
Grip length 12,5 cm
Basket diameter 11 cm
Basket length 13 cm
Basket depth 12 cm
PoB 6 cm
 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

I wish all Caterans, Mentors and Apprentices, families and friends a Merry Christmas, God Jul, Frohe Weihnachten and a Happy New Year 🙂

The past year was again a great success for the Cateran Society and also for my branch group in Germany. We had a lot of certifications for several fencers in various levels of our Program. Also the number of people joining our Online Apprenticeship Program is growing. We have now certified instructors, members, groups and participants all over the world, in Scotland, Ireland, England, Malta, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Canada, USA and Indonesia. It is amazing how many people are working dedicated and motivated within our Program. Keep all up the good spirit and hard work.

For myself the year was less busy than the one before, but still I was invited to teach at many different events in the UK, Netherlands and Germany. Unfortunately due to work and some health issues I had to cancel three of these invitations. Especially sad, that I had to cancel my class at the Fight Camp 2019 and the chance to meet THE Matt Easton 🙂 But plans are already in working progress for 2020 🙂

Furthermore I had the chance to publish another article on Scottish Swordsmanship in German History Magazine Karfunkel. Another one for next March is in preperation as well as several book projects. I was also happy to make new contacts online, especially with my mate Tom from Fandabi Dozi in Scotland, who makes Bushcrafting videos about 17th/18th Century Highlander Survival skills. We made a team-up for a video on the history and use of the Highland Dirk, which was a major success. And more to come 🙂

I wish you all a good time and wonderfull Holidays! Enjoy!

The Highland Dirk – Bushcraft & Martial Arts

Our mate Tom from Fandabi Dozi Wilderness adventures did another video a while ago on the history, martial arts and bushcrafting with the Highland Dirk. This video was a cooperation work, where the Cateran Society supported Tom´s excellent work with the knowledge and some video drills on the Dirk as weapon. Tom even reenacted a famous fight description with the use of Cudgel and Dirk 🙂

Check it out!

From Saxons to Swashbucklers

One of our hard working and dedicated Broadsword Academy Online Program apprentices, Gabe Briney recently started an interesting HEMA Blog. He is covering various interesting articles on topics related to historical weapons and martial arts from “Saxons to Swashbucklers”.

Check it out here.

Level 4 Mentor in the USA

We are happy to  anounce that Joshua Campbell reached successfully the certification for Level 4: Auxiliary Arts.

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Joshua worked through the program dedicated and consequently. For Level 4 he focussed on his favourite weapon, the Scottish Twohanded Sword called claidheamh dà làimh. With this sword he already fought many sparring bouts and multiple SCA tournaments, where he also won 2nd place in the Sword Masters Tournament. One of his many bouts you can see here.

Already being an experienced swordsman with Twohanders, he nevertheless worked through the practical lessons on the CDL described in our book “Scorners of Death”. He successfully passed the requirements to master these drills and proofed his skills again in several bouts for certification. In addition he also worked a lot with the Dirk and adopted the skills required for the scottish dagger.

Congratulations to you!

Scottish Twohanders & Archery

Various sources describe Highland battles in the 16th century as a  frequent use of bow and arrows for skirmishing and when all arrows are  spent, the warriors attacking each other with twohanders, battle-axes etc.

About the way the Highland Greatsword was carried there is some  discussion. We know that sheats existed and that the sword could be  carried in a baldric on the side. Even though some texts mention the  twohander being “slung on the back” or “carried on the back” it is not  known if this was true or is a popular misconception. Maybe carried on the back in this context meant what Albrecht Dürer shows in his depiction of Galloglass and Kerns from 1521: The sword (with no sheat) rested on the shoulder, just like we see it on many paintings and sketches of Landksnechts and other warriors using twohanded greatswords.

It is also not clear if the lighter armed warriors were doing the  archery or if the heavier armed fighters were fighting with their bows  first and then used their swords and axes. The latter seems to have been  the common way, but also light armed archers existed too.  I.e. the  famous Dürer sketch shows Irish warriors and Galloglass, one of them in chainmail and helmet armed with a twohanded sword and bow and arrows. Also we need to keep in mind as my buddy Stephen Curtin pointed out correctly, that Highland Warriors and Galloglass had what was called an “harness bearer”, so similar to a squire, who would carry the equipment and provisions of the higher ranking, heavier armed warrior. This could be even two young warriors who would support their superior warrior in battle.

So I decided to do a little field test of how practical it is to carry  the twohander in a baldric on my side and doing archery with it. This  video shows my first experiment and my conclusions.

More to come in future 🙂

Glengarry Highland Games

The Glengarry Highland games in Maxville, Ontario are one of the largest outside of Scotland. Founded in 1948, the attendance over the weekend can draw up to 50,000. If there is a place more Scottish than Scotland, this might be it. This year, they added a new special event called An Cruinneachadn featuring seminars on Highland Broadsword, Smallsword and a Singlestick tournament. Without question, this has been one of the highlights of any fencing experience since I began my journey into the art of Highland Swordsmanship some 10 years ago.

Drummond Fraser, a retired Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, organised the event. He has his roots in Maxville, On, a place steeped in the traditions of the highlanders. His children are involved in highland dance, Olympic fencing, re-enactment and historical swordsmanship. He is a long time martial artist, judoka, boxer and like many of us has dabbled in many others. A perfect intersection of many of his interests (including history, his undergraduate major) is Highland Broadsword, especially Roworth. Drummond is opening up a school this fall in the Maxville area and will be teaching Broadsword and Smallsword. Drummond is an outstanding organiser and leader. He was able to get broadsword into the games, which are very prestigious and traditional. He assembled a great team of experts- with Kevin Cote leading the Smallsword classes, Philippe Gauthier and his crew from Companie Medievale staffing the tounrament, Abu-Isa Webb as head judge and leading the staff training, myself teaching a broadsword seminar to prepare participants, and Drummond leading the seminar for beginners and youth.

The seminars were excellent, participants were focused on learning and absorbing all that they could.

That night, Kevin, David (who now runs the smallsword program at Escrime Montreal) and myself did a steel demo at the gala of both broadsword and smallsword. I was shocked by how much honor we were given by the wealthy looking crowd in full formal attire while Drummond narrated for us. They were so clearly impressed by the sharp movements and disarms and the air was electric. The fights were crisp and clean, as you can expect from such skilled opponents. I think we did our old masters of long ago a real honor in presenting their knowledge, resurrected and I believe very close to how it was.

The tournament was amazing. Very rarely do you hear of judging in HEMA or fencing that is positive. There were no complaints, and only praises. The judging was decisive, clear and they also explained to the crowd as they went, making it a great spectator sport. The tournament rules were to 6 points, all targets being equal. Doubles were punished, 8 making the match a draw, and in case of a tie in ranking, the person with the lowest doubles would be chosen to continue forward.

The participants had among the best behaviour I’ve witnessed. They called blows against (although there are always ones you can’t feel due to protective gear). They maintained the utmost respect, we were even coaching each other between rounds, helping our opponents who had missed the workshop the day before on details like stance, guards and gripping the sword to better the performance.

I was honoured to have made it as the top competitor through the pools, having won all my matches and even more importantly having the least amount of double hits by a significant margin. The competitors were cared for by the staff and Drummond who brought us water constantly, performed thorough gear checks between each match, kept the matches flowing by having fighters prepared and waiting, and by switching off head judges and sticklers regularly so that their focus and attention was undivided and they didn’t get fatigued.

A crowd of maybe 100 people was watching us for the first portion, many have never seen broadsword fencing before, some were family members.

After eliminations we went to a much larger stage for the semi-finals and finals. The crowd was a couple to a few hundred. There was a buzz around it like I had never witnessed before in our art. They were enthusiastic, many kilted. Philippe and Abu-Isa as head judges now had a microphone and beautifully explained and announced who the fighters were, and each call that was made.

The ring was much larger now, so it changed the pace of the fight from quick exchanges in the pools and eliminations, to a careful pace with more distance being used. As I had been undefeated previously I had a by during the eliminations if my opponents agreed. They did not, a good decision, and I had to earn my place forward in combat in front of the crowd. We got many oooh’s and ahh’s for clean hits, and bad reactions for doubles. It was amazing to see the crowd understand the clear rule set and participate. This was amplified by the drone of the bagpipes in the background and the intense energy of the Games.

I was humbled to have won the first place medal representing Manitoba and the beautiful prize of a Castille Highland Broadsword . Second place going to Phil Charlebois from Quebec and Third to Callum Carmichael from Ontario.

The crowd cheered for us all and reacted to the human component as I kissed my wife and held my baby in arms with the prizes.

After the win, I was approached by many people who had witnessed the bouts. They said “Broadsword belongs at the Glengarry Highland Games”. And that they had never seen anything like this before. The energy was amazing. Not just in the fights, but also in participation from the crowd. It felt like a performance where I was getting to showcase my art. As historical fencers, we so very rarely get the recognition and legitimacy of other sports and martial arts. I can without question say this is where our art belongs, as it did historically at the Highland Games. It isn’t something new, but a return to the old ways. The martial culture is so alive and present, but it’s time to bring back the martial art that won the Highlander’s so much fame and glory.

As the broadsword master of the Black Watch Regiment said: ” My countrymen, the Highlanders, have, from time immemorial, evinced the utility of the Broad Sword; and, by their skillful management of it in the day of battle, have gained immortal honour. Such has been the effect of their dexterity and knowledge of this weapon, that undisciplined crowds have made a stand against, nay, and have defeated a regular army.”

There is nothing like the pride of having a kilt flowing, pipes droning, and broadswords clashing. This is the one event I want to be sure to attend each year as it grows, and it’s already motivated us to do something similar back home. It won’t have the glory or size of the Glengarry games, but we hope to contribute more fighters and participants next year.

Report by Jay Maas (BAM)

You can see the playlist with all of Jay´s bouts in the BAM channel.

Congratulations, Jay for this great success 🙂

More Mentor certifications in Siberia

The Cateran Society is very happy to announce a lot of new mentor certifications for the hard working and dedicated students of the Broadsword Academy Siberia (Russia). Katya Artemyeva, Lyubov Kornienko, Roman Sotnikov, Maksim Borzykh and Alexander Lichman have all passed the final certification bouts and required technical training with great success to reach Level II-mentorship (Old Style). Also of the BAS student Anna Karina (not in the photo) reached the rank of LevelI-mentor (Regimental Broadsword) successfully.

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All mentors train under the guidance of our Cateran Sergey Osipov, founder of the Broadsword Academy Siberia. His hard work and the discipline and dedication of his group are outstanding and set an example for all of us. Well done indeed.

Congratulations to all our Sisters and Brothers in Russia!

The Angelo Broadsword

 

Some years ago I met Chris Adams from UK at a HEMA event in Malta. He trained Highland Broadsword under the guidance of Lyell Drummend in Sussex and was an apprentice of famous sword-smith Marco Danelli. We not only had a great time together with fencing, feasting and a fortress (the event took place inside the Fort St. Angelo), but we also exchanged a lot about making swords. Back then I asked Chris if he could make me a solid, simple training Broadsword. He would have loved to, but still being an apprentice, he was not in the position to take any orders yet.

We kept in contact and in 2018 Chris asked me for support to create a design for a good training Broadsword. He now had his own workshop Balefire Blades and I was very happy and honored to help. We worked through various Regimental desings of historical Broadswords from the period between the 1750s and 1780s and came up with a result for a prototype sword, which was named “The Angelo”.

After finishing the prototype, Chris sent it to me for extensive testing in training and bouting and so me and the other members of the Broadsword Academy Germany did. The prototype was already excellent and we loved it. Some improvements were necessary, but overall it was already a solid, affordable, realistic and historical correct training Broadsword. I wrote a detailed review, which you can read here.

You can see the test videos in our channel:

Chris took our order for the final model and worked on the design more also with other Cateran Society members, who were interested to order the Angelo. The design changed a bit inspired by a Regimental Broadsword model with an even more massive Basket-Hilt and the final result is now available for order in Chris´workshop 🙂 It looks amazing 🙂

Check out Balefire Blades to see the Angelo and order yours!

Excellent work, Chris, well done, we can´t wait to hold them in our hands 🙂 More informations and another review will follow 🙂

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