Let me talk to you about me… and my sword

André Hajjar Sesé (He/ him)

André always had a passion for martial arts; he did judo as a kid, and later on Kung-Fu Korean style. In 2008 he started doing Historical Fencing in “AEAS”, a club linked to the “AEEA”, the biggest Historical Fencing association of the world at that time. There, he learned the Verdadera Destreza Rapier Sword style from Aleix Basullas, a great sage master specialized in the treatise of Lorenz de Rada (1705). As well, André learnt from Sendo Espinalt, a free-styler Master who taught him the will of the warrior that cannot be learnt in any book. In 2015 André, with Aleix, co-founded the club AEACC and his fencing career started having his highlights in Europe. Later on, André moved from Spain to Canada where he joined several clubs and became rapier instructor at La Compagnie Médiévale, a club which he collaborated with to create the Montreal Sword Meisters, an ambitious project of tournaments and workshops with international reach.

               During the Pandemic Years, inspired by the ideology of Manuel de Brea (1805), André “coined” the concept of Destreza Nova. DN is an innovative and pragmatic view of Rapier fencing, based on concepts of Verdadera Destreza with the addition of many other historical fencing styles. Its goal is the teaching and divulgation of Historical Fencing knowledge in a functional and entertaining way, away from dogmas and toxic competitive movements.

               Along his career, André did in-person seminaries in US, Canada, Mexico, China… Moreover he participated in many tournaments and won several international competitions that put him, for some time, at the head of the rapier rankings in his country. Despite all, tournaments are something he does not like to brag about, André does not believe competitions to be a way of measuring Historical Fencing knowledge.

           

If you find me and want to cross steel, I will surely be glad to pick up your glove and… run away. They are so pricy!

André

The Rapier Sword

Destreza is mainly focused in the Rapier sword. The uniqueness and importance of this sword starts in the fact that it was the first military sword that became a civilian trend, an important item to carry on yourself in the 15th century and over. Of course, the message a person carrying was “I have this and I know how to use it”, that gave a major importance to Destreza or any swordsmanship knowledge. That being said, it does not mean that Destreza (Verdadera, Common or Nova) is only useful for rapier, on the contrary: its basis is so universal that it can be extrapolated to any martial art or self-defense maneuver. I use the same principles with spear and my footwork is the same when I use broadswords or sabers.

Is the Rapier the best sword in all history?

… yes

Well, that depends of what we understand as “better”, indeed we are joking here. However, let me tell you nice things about this fabulous tool. A rapier is a sword that has presumably taken the name from “ropa” in the Spanish word for “cloth” and shows the civilian implication in it. Along the centuries the rapier changed a lot in length, weight and design. The first ones described in Destreza are the ones that we categorize nowadays as early rapier or sideswords. The specificities as said vary along time, but we can easily talk about a meter of length in blade and around one kilogram of weight, very roughly. Indeed some Italian masters were talking about monstrous long blades almost the height of a common man, but I could not imagine how Ridolfo Capoferro would enter in a tavern with a blade in his belt without dropping all the tables and chairs around, in a comical scene worthy of Italian movies by Terence Hills & Bud Spencer.
As we see, in the picture the style of the first “rapiers” are pretty basic, involving sometimes a ring, always a cross or quillons and also a thick pommel to counter the balance of a wide blade.

Along time, swords gained popularity, as it did the trend of duels. Parallelly, the craftsman techniques improved with probably the demand of such product. Later in 16th century and 17th we find more complex swords, thinner with a better protection of the hand, starting with a shell-hilt protection and moving towards a cup hilted one that varied in design along time.

As we see in the model of de la Vega, the cup was not only an important protection item inside the rapier but also the cross guard had sometimes a characteristic shape, believed to be used to entangle the blade of the opponent when passing next to this mentioned parts of the sword.
Time goes by, swords became less trend, an item that was not well seen for a “civilized” society” when carried around. Paradoxically became only a tool for the high class, aristocracy or officials. The swords transitionally modified their shape towards the smallsword or courtsword, as we see in the anonymous treatise signed A.C.O.

Eventually, the swords we find the treatises for civilian use became subjected to the learning of the Art and in some sort “sport” oriented. Indeed, we saw past that time in history, even late 20th century, cases of sword duels, but those indeed were isolated cases and not the norm.

With all being said, we understand nowadays the rapier being a sword with:

  • A practical design of the blade in function, balance and movement, being fast and lethal in thrust and cut. Such beautiful balance between versatility and damage is not found in any other type of sword.
  • It offers the advantage of protecting the most exposed part of the body: the hand
  • The rapier is light weighted and short enough to be carried around
  • The elegant design tells a clear message to your opponents: If I die today maybe I am not the best, but at least I am the coolest one

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