The Linacre School of Defence

The Linacre School of Defence

Studying the historical British martial arts of smallsword, backsword and pugilism.

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The Linacre School of Defence teaches historical martial arts according to the writings of various authors of the 16th –19th-centuries. As our name implies, we teach the “Art of Defence.” After all, anyone without training would be capable of offending (attacking) with a sword, and the most difficult, and important, part of fencing is to defend oneself from the blows and thrusts of one's adversary. Self-preservation should always be the first concern of a fencer, for if he is killed then he has lost the fight, whether he harms his adversary or not, and if he receives a wound from a sword it could well prove fatal. It is worth noting the similarity between the various guards illustrated below; by concentrating our research and training upon those works that utilise similar principles, we teach what we believe can be considered an English system of defence. However, It is likely that similar systems were prevalent throughout Britain rather than restricted to England.

Core syllabus


Students are started on Sir William Hope's New Short and Easy Method of Fencing. They are introduced to the hanging guard in seconde (pictured here) and key concepts such as Time and Distance and the importance of footwork.

The smallsword is solely a civilian weapon, its lightness and lack of bulk making it convenient to carry as a weapon for personal self-defence or for the duel. The carrying of a smallsword was a mark of gentlemanly status in the 18th century, and the modern sport of fencing is derived from the training for this weapon. Being limited to thrusting, a student of the smallsword need only master a small number of defences before becoming proficient. By adhering to Hope’s New Method, we can teach a student the importance of the of the True Cross in defence, and in a short time prepare him for what the eighteenth-century gentleman would describe as a serious encounter – a duel with sharps.


Building on what they know of the smallsword, students are introduced to the art of the Backsword. The system used by the LSD is heavily influenced by the work of Terry Brown, whose system was based on Silver, Wylde and other English masters.

The basket-hilted backsword or broadsword is a much more complex weapon than the smallsword, being capable of blows on eight different lines, as well as the thrusts of the smallsword. With more elaborate hand protection than the smallsword, it is possible to offer the weapon hand further forward and still remain safe. The high outside ward is pictured here, the hilt protects the hand and forearm from hurt.

The true guardant ward (pictured) is often thought to offer a powerful defence, but it also provides the facility for rapid and versatile offence. A good understanding the true guardant ward is essential to becoming a well-rounded back-sword fencer.


Alongside the smallsword and backsword we teach the art of pugilism. Punches are delivered with the fist vertical, power is developed by applying the weight of one’s body down the extended arm. Daniel Mendoza’s lessons in pugilism are an excellent introduction to the art and science of the fist. Mendoza reached the height of his powers is the late 18th century, but was eventually defeated in a novel manner by Jackson. His system provides an simple and effective means of stopping and slipping blows. Background information on Mendoza may be found offsite.

Secondary Syllabus

Other areas that are touched upon include the following:

We are currently studying material related to late Victorian and early Edwardian defensive systems, primarily Défense dans la Rue. Some classes are available in this system but it should be considered more at the level of a “study group” rather than tuition from experts in the system.

An 18th century gentleman should also be familiar with the use of black powder firearms. We cannot provide tuition in the use of these weapons, so anyone interested in their use during this period would be advised to take the King’s shilling, this being the easiest way to gain flintlock training. Those interested in Victorian or Edwardian methods of defence should ideally be familiar with the revolver, but this weapon is no longer available to private citizens in the UK as it was in that era.

Training times

At present we are limited to one session per week at the University Club, from 8-10pm on Thursdays. These sessions are organised in the following order each month:

Longer Sunday afternoon sessions are organised monthly as time and availability permit. These are used to study the secondary syllabus or for in-depth study of a particular aspect of the primary. Details of these sessions are sent to all members via our private mailing list.

Secondary syllabus

A member of the British Federation for Historical Swordplay Copyright © 2004-2009: The Linacre School of Defence
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