Ranks in Swordsmanship?

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by thardey, Jul 17, 2007.

  1. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    A long time ago my instructor (Historical Western Fencing - 16th, 17th centuries) mentioned the idea of a ranking system in fencing. It was just in passing, and I didn't get a lot of details, but I'm wondering if there is still a similar ranking in place these days, or if anyone has heard of it.

    He basically said you started as a student, or apprentice, then after about 5 years you became a "Swordsman", then much later you became a "Sword Master". (In the book, The Princess Bride, Inigo achieves the mythical rank of "Sword Wizard".)

    Does anyone give these types of ranks (only the first two, obviously), or seen it legitimately done? Or is it an informal type of thing, subject to each individual's bragging needs?
     
  2. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Classical fencing gives the title of Maestro to those that pass the appropriate tests.

    HES schools generally use some modification of medieval and renaissance ranks: Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost, Master. The title of Master in HES is controversial, since there are no living lineages to give out the title of Master in longsword, for example. Schools are free to use the term, though. My own school has the rank of Master in its structure, but no one has achieved it yet. :) There are few that would claim the rank of Master in HES, regardless of skill level. Many (but not all) claim the word is too "loaded" to be used. :)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  3. Jeff Richardson

    Jeff Richardson Yellow Belt

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    Travis;

    The historical ranks are Schollar, Journeyman, Provost, and Master.
     
  4. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    IMS, Terry Brown's book, English Martial Arts, records the historical incarnation of Masters of Defense as using the term Free Scholar instead of Journeyman. I'll have to look it up tonight when I get home to be sure.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  5. nitflegal

    nitflegal Green Belt

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    Approaching these as an actual combat art, I'm not sure how you could characterize anyone as master. Until you've taken a skill and used it for real, I think the inference that you've mastered the skill is a bit dodgy. Considering how much of this is educated recreation of combat proven techniques in the hope that we're not missing something critical, it's a tough sell.

    Matt
     
  6. ArmorOfGod

    ArmorOfGod Senior Master

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  7. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Master Black Belt

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    Tough sell to consider someone a "master" in the sense that he's unbelievably awesome, yes. However, the principles of bladed combat aren't rocket science. After a good amount of time has passed, perhaps we can use the term in a more "loaded" sense.

    Now, if my Master you mean someone who has the equivalent of a "Master's Degree", or say the equivalent of a school "headmaster" then fine. That's up to each organization to do for themselves. We have the rank of "Master" in our school, but it's more hypothetical, since not even the founder has achieved it. He's perfectly satisfied with "Provost". :) Would I like to get the rank? Sure, why not. But I'd just rather be known as someone who can fight and happens to teach well than a "master" who can't do either. ;)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  8. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Wasn't it George Silver who complains about all the "Masters" who aren't?


    Regardless, there is a certain logic and appeal to letting you reputation speak for itself.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  9. Jeff Richardson

    Jeff Richardson Yellow Belt

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    The term "Master" or "Maestro" simply means highly qualified teacher. It's like having a doctorate degree in the art of fencing.

    Amongst the historical guild systems it meant you were qualified to run your own school by the fencing guild (essentially a union).
     
  10. MA-Caver

    MA-Caver Sr. Grandmaster

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    "You know how to use that thing?" ....
    "of course the pointed end goes into the other man!" ....
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