Joseph Swetnam: On Holding the Rapier

Swetnam suggests three ways that a fighter may hold the rapier. The first is called the Natural Fashion. This grip is formed by holding the rapier with the thumb forward or on the rapier blade. The second manner is formed with the whole hand held within the pommel of the rapier and the thumb locking the fore-finger in. You may also hold the rapier so that the thumb and fore-finger join at the smallest part of the grip. The third and final method is called the Stokata Fashion. This grip is formed by having only the forefinger and thumb within the pummel of the rapier. The rest of your fingers are held around the pommel and the button of the pommel is held against the inside of the little finger. 

These descriptions may seem vague and confusing at first but upon closer examination we can see that that is not necessarily the case. In the Natural Fashion the sword should be griped so that the palm and fingers of the hand wrap around the grip of the sword and the thumb is held so that it is touching the base of the sword. This adds extra stability and strength to the guard making it ideal for executing cuts. The second and unnamed guard is framed similarly to the Natural Fashion but rather holding the thumb so that it touches the base of the bade the thumb is also wrapped around the grip of the sword where it held so that it touches the first finger. Finally, in the Stokata Fashion the grip of the sword is only held with the thumb and first finger while the rest of the hand is held wrapped around the pommel of the sword. 

A fighter should spend time practicing these grips until he is skillful with all three. Now it’s true that a fighter will be likely to favor one grip over the others just as a personal preference but it’s very important that he still be skillful with all three. There will be times when one grip will be better for executing a particular attack or defense than the others and it may or may not be the same grip that the fighter generally prefers. For example, Swetnam prefers the natural fashion for executing wrist blows because this method of holding the sword adds more strength to the blow than the other two methods and allows a fighter to execute the attack more swiftly.

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