How dangerous is a sword? A medieval sword, such as a longsword, is a weapon and as is the case with all weapons it can be dangerous. Swords have been a weapon for both military and personal defense for many centuries up and up until the modern age, was widely studied for this reason. Yet, when swordsmanship is practiced responsibly and according to the best practices and safety tips used by Historical European martial artists, people generally experience injuries that are no more serious than one would receive in any other combat sport. So how dangerous is a sword in HEMA? Outside of test cutting practices almost no one in HEMA practices any kind of drilling with a sharp steel blade. So the danger of a real medieval sword is not a major problem within Historical fencing clubs, as instead specialty training weapons such as federschwert (commonly called ‘feders’ as a nickname) and weapons made from wood and synthetic materials are used instead. Yet it is still worthwhile to discuss about how dangerous a sharp steel sword can be so that people understand the seriousness of the safety recommendations we have made on our website, and strive to follow them. While swords are an obsolete weapon compared to a firearm, even in the modern world swords are sometimes used by criminals. Occasionally a sword is even used by people to defend themselves from attack by a criminal, such as a home invader. While we don’t encourage anyone to study HEMA to learn self-defense skills because the chances of you ever needing to use medieval sword fighting skills in a self-defense setting is extremely low, there have indeed been people reported in the news that have done so successfully. Here is a small sample of the hundreds of cases we located with a search engine query about crimes involving swords,
- Student uses sword to kill intruder – NBC News, 2009
- “I fought off a burglar with a sword” – The Guardian, 2016
- Indy woman uses medieval combat training, sword to stop intruder – IndyStar, 2015
- UConn student allegedly used samurai sword to kill man before leading police on manhunt – NBC News, 2020
- Man accused of using a sword to murder neighbor in Las Cruces – KFOX 14, 2020
- Jihadist who plotted terror attack on Pride in London jailed for life – The Guardian, 2020
- Queensland samurai sword bandit charged – Brisbane Times, 2020
- El Paso police searching for man accused of using a sword to rob a 7-11 store – KTSM 9 News, 2020
On that note, please don’t wave around a real sharp steel sword in your backyard like this. It is is not safe and can result in self-injury.
What about blunted swords, like a training feders? Are these dangerous?Although blunted swords like a federschwert (feders) are much less dangerous than a sharp bladed sword is, even so much as a wooden sword can seriously injure someone if used with that intention. Need some proof? Earlier in 2020 a clerk in New York City fought off a robber using a wooden sword. While the chance of maiming or killing someone with a blunt sword is a lot lower than with a sharp steel bladed one it is still entirely possible to do so. Be careful with your training partners and wear the appropriate protective gear for any partner drilling or free style fighting that you do.