The Cateran Society

An Comunn Ceatharnach

Cateran Society Fencer Wins HCL Tournament


Many Cateran Society members live far away from any of the major HEMA events and rarely have the opportunity to travel for tournament competition. In this situation, we encourage our members to look for other opportunities to test their skills.

In April 2016, the Historical Combat League  held a foam weapons tournament. Although these weapons are much lighter and faster than real broadswords, it is still possible to use them with historical broadsword techniques if you choose to.

Two of our members from Broadsword Academy Manitoba competed in the tournament, and Level IV Mentor J.Maas was the winner of the event. You can see both members fighting each other in this bout.

Thanks to both of them for representing the Cateran Society, and congratulations to J.Maas for the victory!




Highland Broadsword: A Historical Fencing Art

This video is an overview of the art we practice in the Cateran Society – the art of fencing with the Highland broadsword based on the writings of expert swordsmen such as Donald McBane, Captain Sinclair, Andrew Lonnergan, Archibald MacGregor, Henry Angelo and others.

Cateran Society Fencer Takes Second Place in Tournament

Congratulations to Cateran Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (also known as “Vitaliy”) for winning second place in Krasnodar HEMA Tournament in Krasnodar, Russia!

Here are the details:

“Krasnodar HEMA Tournament La Costa De Falcone.

Krasnodar, Russia. November, 29th, 2015.

In the Sabre Nomination there were 12 competitors representing 6 clubs from Krasnodar and Stavropol.

The results of my bouts:

– Round 1 Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar)- Denis Gerasimovich (Sokol Club, Krasnodar)- 2:0;

– Round 2 Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar)- Andrey Grachev (Unterwalden Club, Krasnodar)- 5:9;

Bout for the 2nd place – Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar)- Ivan Panchenko (Efes Club, Krasnodar)- 10:1

Final Standings: 1st place- Sophia Mihaylevich (Unterwalden Club, Krasnodar) 2nd place- Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar) 3rd place- Ivan Panchenko (Efes Club, Krasnodar)”


Flourishing with the Highland Broadsword

Flourishing with the Highland Broadsword

Flourishing,” known in the most ancient Gaelic sources as faobhar chleas or “the edge feat,” is the practice of solo fighting techniques as a display of skill. It is the equivalent of the solo forms practice found in Asian martial arts, although flourishing is generally not choreographed ahead of time.

Flourishing plays a major role in the Cateran System from Level IV onward, but students often seem uncertain as to how they should approach this exercise. To help apprentices learn how to flourish, Cateran Matt Park designed a five-stage process:

How to Flourish with the Highland Broadsword

1- Using only the lunge and the shift, attack and defend against an imaginary opponent. Make one cut every time you lunge and one parry every time you shift. Keep it simple and clear.

2- Add in the advance and retreat, but stick to simple attacks and parries.

3- Add in multiple opponents attacking you from all directions. Fight the opponent in front of you for a few moments, then turn suddenly to deal with an attacker to your right, left or rear.

4- Add broken rhythm- instead of only making simple cuts and parries, add feints and other off-rhythm movements. Your flourishing should now strongly resemble an actual fight.

5- Add “enclose and command” by acting out disarms and grappling maneuvers.

Flourishing videos are worth ten points toward Cateran rank, but only stage five flourishing will be counted for this purpose. A flourishing video should be a high-level display of skill with the broadsword, not just a rote performance of cuts and guards. Think of flourishing as a chance to display your art!

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.

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!

Cudgeling: Stick-Fighting in the MacGregor Method

Note: in this video, we use Action Flex foam weapons so we can hit each other without holding back. We usually train with actual sticks, but of course that requires much more restraint.

This video teaches the basic principles of cudgeling or stick-fighting in the Cateran Society’s MacGregor Method, a system for using all cold weapons according to the principles of the Highland broadsword.

One of the most famous manuals on the use of the Highland broadsword was written specifically to teach self-defense with the cudgel or stick, applying the principles of the broadsword to that weapon.

The author was Captain Sinclair, a retired officer of the Black Watch, and his manual was called Anti-Pugilism, referring to the superiority of the stick over the fist in a street fight.  According to Sinclair, training with the cudgel or broadsword is “well calculated for chance encounters in the street, as there is no show or preparation in it, and our adversary probably supposing you are totally unacquainted with the stick, will heedlessly attack you, when in all human probability you will settle the difference with the point of your stick, without any trouble, or receiving a single blow.”

Battlefield Broadsword

The Highland broadsword is a battlefield weapon, but the broadsword fencing system is designed for single combat. Considering the popular martial arts saying “you fight like you train,” why is this the case? This exercise should help clarify the issue.

A duel of skill with the Highland broadsword is a much more complex scenario than anything likely to occur in a melee fight. First-hand accounts of real broadsword combat suggest that battlefield swordfights were usually short and simple, often lasting no more than a second or two.

To simulate the conditions of the battlefield, designate one fighter as the antagonist and the other as the protagonist. The antagonist sees the protagonist, runs in and makes between one and four simple but powerful attacks. The protagonist must respond with an effective defense and end the encounter with a decisive technique.

Rather than starting from a guard position, the antagonist should simply raise the sword and cut as if charging at the enemy. The protagonist should start with the broadsword lowered, the safest and least fatiguing way to carry it on the field.

As you can see from this video, the battlefield use of the broadsword is much less sophisticated than a standard broadsword bout. Anyone trained in the art of broadsword fencing should find this type of encounter almost simplistic by comparison. The training is actually much harder and more complex than the scenario you’re training for, giving you a distinct advantage against an opponent without equivalent skills.

Presented in slow motion for clarity.

Birthday Bouts

Broadsword Academy Germany put together this video of their training as a birthday gift. Thanks guys!

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