Feder (fencing)

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The Feder (plural Federn; also Fechtfeder, plural Fechtfedern), is a type of training sword used in Fechtschulen (fencing schools) of the German Renaissance. The type has existed since at least the 15th century, but it came to be widely used as a standard training weapon only in the 16th century (when longsword fencing had ceased to have a serious aspect of duelling, as duels were now fought with the rapier), shown extensively in the fighting manuals of the time, particularly those of Paulus Hector Mair and Joachim Meyer, and it remained in use in such Fechtschulen well into the 17th, and in some cases for much of the 18th century.[1]

The origin of the term "Feder" for these swords is uncertain. The German word Feder means "feather" or "quill", but came to be used of metal springs in the 17th century (i.e. at about the same time as the name of the sparring weapon and possibly influenced by it). The term Fechtfeder itself seems to be connected to the name of the Federfechter, i.e. "feather fencers", a guild or brotherhood of fencers formed in 1570 in Prague. It is possible that the term Feder for the sparring sword arose in the late 16th century at first as a term of derision of the practice weapon used by the Federfechter (who were so called for unrelated reasons, because of a feather or quill used as their heraldic emblem) by their rivals, the Marx Brothers, who would tease the Federfechter as "fencing with quills" as opposed to with real weapons, or as scholars or academics supposedly better at "fighting with the quill" than at real fighting (reflecting the different professional backgrounds of the rival fencing guilds). Johann Fischart in his Gargantua (1575) already compares the fencing weapon to a "quill" writing in blood.[2] The recharacterized term Federschwert is modern.

Federschwerter as shown in Paulus Hector Mair's Vienna manuscript (1540s)

The sword consists of a very thin, rounded blade with a large ricasso and a heavy hilt and pommel. Because of this, it has the same weight and center of balance as a real sword, and handles identically. This odd construction also has the effect of moving the sword's center of percussion to a theoretical point beyond its tip. The tip of a Federschwert is spatulated and may have been covered with a leather sleeve to make thrusting safer, though no direct historical evidence exists of such use.

Modern production of Fechtfedern has been revived in the 21st century for use as sparring weapons and for competition in the context of the Historical European martial arts revival. [3]

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  1. ^ Roger Norling, A call to arms! 4 July 2012: "From at least as far back as the early to mid 15th century, all the way up until about the French Revolution in 1789, longsword fencers have been practicing with fechtschwerter, or what is today commonly called federschwert, a specific sword type with a flared schildt and blunt edges, used specifically for training and/or competing. However, only 15-18 are known to be preserved in various collections"
  2. ^ schreib mit dinten so sicht wie blut, die feder must ihm oben schweben und solt es kosten sein junges leben (188ab) "write with ink that looks like blood, the 'quill' must sway above him, even if it should cost his young life"
  3. ^ Martin Fabian, Hands-on Preview: Pavel Moc Fechtschwert, 21 February 2012: "HEMA has gone through a lot of progressive development in the last decade. The community is growing rapidly and bouts, tournaments and other forms of sportive sparring have become a standard part of practicing Kunst des Fechtens. The demand for weapons suitable both for practice and sparring is definitely as big as the demand for good protective gear. [...] Since our Society has cooperated intensively with Pavel Moc for a long time [...] we did not hesitate and started to work together to design an optimal and versatile sword called Fechtschwert (or Federschwert)." Roger Norling, Regenyei fechtschwert, 5 February 2013: "The swordsmiths around the world have seen some pretty fierce competition developing over the last few years [...] One such swordsmith that I have been fortunate enough to follow is the Hungarian swordsmith Péter Regenyei. This review will discuss his training swords of the so called “feder” type."

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