The British Federation for Historical Swordplay

Society for the Study of Swordsmanship – Durham

Club Name
Society for the Study of Swordsmanship – Durham
Geographic Area
Durham, Sunderland, Newcastle
Group Contact
Julian Reynolds
BFHS (Instructor and Member)


The Society for the Study of Swordsmanship was founded in 1998 as a Western Martial Arts (WMA) group. At times we have had chapters in several areas including Durham, Leeds, Sheffield, and Whitby though some chapters have moved on to become independent.

We are part of the British Federation for Historical Swordplay (BFHS).

Let’s start with a few common questions…

What are Western Martial Arts?

Most people are at least vaguely familiar with Oriental (Or Eastern) Martial Arts, but Europe has an equally rich martial heritage. Western Martial Arts (WMA) include combat systems such as Boxe Francaise, Military Combatives, Catch Wrestling and Bartitsu as well as a great many styles of swordsmanship.

What does SSS Teach?

As our name suggests, we study and practice various forms of European swordsmanship including but not restricted to the Rapier and Sidesword, the Backsword, the Smallsword and the Military Sabre. We are fencers, not re-enactors or LARPers, though these activities are not mutually exclusive. That means that we are interested in the practical applications of traditional swordsmanship.

This Looks Different from Fencing at the Olympics…?

It is indeed different. Modern Olympic or ‘sport’ fencing is where swordsmanship has evolved to today. We are interested in everything that happened before that. Historically, there have been a great many different weapons and styles of swordsmanship. Sport fencers have a choice of three disciplines (foil, epee and sabre) with broadly similar physical requirements. We can choose to study any of dozens of different systems making it more likely that you’ll find one that suits you well.

Who is this Suitable For?

Anyone over 18 can learn historical fencing, though we do have some rules about safety and general conduct in the class. You don’t need to be fit and there is no requirement to compete. Some people want to win tournament medals, others are more interested in the history of swordplay. All of us like playing with swords. So long as that’s your thing, this is suitable for you.

Weapons and Systems Taught

  • Sabre
  • Smallsword
  • Rapier
  • Backsword
  • Sidesword

Training Location

Society for the Study of Swordsmanship – Durham

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