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International Journal of Martial Arts - Vol. 8

[ Article ]
International Journal of Martial Arts - Vol. 8, No. 0, pp. 66-79
Abbreviation: IJMA
ISSN: 2287-8599 (Online)
Print publication date 28 Feb 2023

Historical European Martial Arts in the spectrum of martial arts. part 3: Im Schwert, Im Messer. A comparison between the arming sword, the Messer and the falchion: A scoping review of literature
Sean Wauters ; Oskar ter Mors
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussel, Martial Arts Research and Studie, Beigemsesteenweg 304,1852,Beigem, Belguim
Independent researcher

Correspondence to :; +32 496 840 715


Introduction: During the Middle Ages, 3 specific one-handed bladed weapons. Nowadays they would be called the arming sword, the messer and the falchion. These 3 weapons are very much alike and very slightly in form. They and are used today in Historical European Martial Arts. Aim: To investigate the use of the arming sword, messer and falchion in historical and modern context. Methods: Scoping narrative review of medieval and the first period of the early modern age (renaissance) treatises in the “German” style of fencing, mainly Liechtenauer Tradition combining and reviewing different one-handed bladed weapon (arming sword, messer and falchion) sources. Results: Several manuscripts mention the use of one-handed blade weapons (sources). Most of them refer to it with the word “Messer” (sources) but sometimes the word “s(ch)wert” is used, although “s(ch)wert is mainly used for two-handed weapons. All 3 weapons can be used in combination with a buckler (sources). Conclusion: Several manuscripts mention the use of the one-handed sword and one-handed messer. The falchion is mainly depict in earlier sources and illuminated manuscripts where on other hand the use of the messer is more elaborate explained in later medieval and early modern period sources. All parts of the weapons are described in technical terms and use, although the advantaged and disadvantages of curvatures are explained in none of the sources. All 3 weapons can be used in single use or in combination with a buckler.

Keywords: Historical European Martial Arts, Historical Fencing, Arming sword, Messer, Falchion


The author would like to thank the creators, collaborators and contributors of both and for their years of work and research in the field. Without their work, this research would not be possible. Special thanks to mr Elmslie J. for his work and the development of the Messer/falchion typology.

This work was done in cooperation with the Martial Arts Research and Studies- project, Belguim.

Also, many thanks to L.C., V.L.W, and V.P.W for their support

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