Rapier is a form of fencing that uses one-handed swords. The rapier is a long, thin, pointed sword used primarily for thrusting attacks, and developed in Europe during the 16th century. The rapier was popular in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and is now considered a historical weapon. Rapiers are very popular swords to use in Historical European martial arts (HEMA) and many clubs exist around the world that teach how to fight with one.
If you’re going to be using a rapier in martial arts, you need to know how to handle it properly. Here are several ways to learn how to fight with a rapier sword and get started as a beginner.
Learning Rapier Fighting From Books
You may ask yourself if it is possible to self teach rapier fighting? The answer is yes. The most popular method of learning how to use a rapier sword to fight is by reading instructional books. This is how many people started their rapier training.
Here at HEMA Resources we have an entire page devoted to listing all of the manuscripts and modern published instructional books that teach how to fight with a rapier. Click here to visit our Rapier treatises page.
Learning Rapier Fencing at a Local HEMA Club
Our Club Finder app allows you to search HEMA clubs worldwide by type of weapons they teach. Simply use the drop-down menu ‘weapons’ category to search for schools that teach rapier fencing to locate one near you.
As an additional tip, when learning how to use a rapier, you should try to find a school that uses steel blades in order to get the full effect of what it’s like to use a sword. Synthetic rapier trainers are not very practical, as rapier fencing involves certain mechanics that are really only possible when using a steel blade.
Learning Rapier Fighting from an Online Video Course
If you cannot find a local HEMA club near you, there is the option of enrolling into an online e-learning course to study rapier fencing from the comfort of your own home. One of the best courses for learning rapier fencing is from Duello TV, that offers instruction in rapier in addition to long sword and side-sword, as well as other historical weapons. For as low as $29 a month you gain access to expert video tutorials and online feedback interactions, in addition to supplemental video material that helps you learn to master sword fighting.
Click here to visit the Duello TV website and learn more about their e-learning course for rapier fencing.
Necessary Equipment for Rapier Fencing as a Beginner
As a beginner you may not necessarily need a great deal of equipment to start learning rapier but you do need a practice rapier training weapon. This is because rapiers have very specific designs and points of balances, and must be gripped in certain ways that are hard to do with just a stick. Also despite common misconceptions, rapiers are not the same type of weapon as the popular fencing foil used in Modern Olympic style of fencing — foils are actually for simulating a small-sword (also known as a court sword). These are much lighter and smaller swords than a rapier.
We recommend purchasing the Hanwei Practical Rapier for beginners, which is the most economical rapier model available on the market. It is suitable for drilling and even light to medium intensities of free play / combat when you become more advanced in your rapier studies.
For more information on beginner rapier equipment please read our article on the topic.
Additional Advice for Learning Rapier Fencing
There are a couple of ways you can approach rapier. The first is to practice your footwork. If you’re struggling to make your rapier strikes as effective as possible, work on your footwork and try to move in a way that maximizes the power of your strikes. The second is to work on your angles.
Rapiers are commonly depicted in media such as movies and video games as being a lighter weapon than a long sword, but in reality rapiers take a good deal of upper body strength to use correctly. They are an excellent way to get into shape and build a nice physique in addition to greatly improving your fine motor control skills / hand-eye coordination.
While there are a lot of technical things to learn when it comes to using a rapier, the most important thing is to just have fun and keep practicing. Since rapier fencing involves many fairly linear movements, as a weapon it’s very easy to learn the basics of using it, but it takes a long time to master the weapon.
We hope this guide helps you start your journey into learning historical sword fighting. Please check out our Path of the Rapier page for more information about historical rapier fencing, including lists of source treatises that instruct in rapier fencing techniques.
If you’d like to learn more information about historical fencing practices please check out our Learn HEMA page for a guide to learning about the historical weapon that interests you. You can also find more guides we’ve written about other topics at our Helpful Guides page.