How Dangerous is a Medieval Sword?

Knight holding sword on golden background.



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,


Again, we don’t encourage people to specifically study HEMA to learn self-defense. We’re just pointing out that even in our modernized societies people still get maimed and/or killed by people wielding swords, so it is extremely important that you handle one responsibly when engaged in any kind of sword training. This advice applies to any kind of weapon, too.

Studying swordsmanship can be a very fun martial art that does not require harming your training partners or other tournament participants. While it is a combat sport and involves the learning of martial techniques, this does not mean it is necessarily violent. Appropriate safety precautions will prevent the most serious kinds of injuries.


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.


Injuries that can happen with a sword

People typically injury themselves with swords by fooling around with them when they have no real idea how to use one.

While it may seem very obvious how to use a sword (“stick them with the pointy end”) there is in actuality a lot of technical aspects to handling a sword that are not readily apparent. When people are careless or intentionally stupid when using a sword injuries are inevitable.

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