Prima Spada, School of Fence utilises a variety of weapons in its Historical Exhibition Combat Syllabus and Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA) Combat. All of these weapons are designed along period-accurate guidelines in order to provide students with the most realistic experience possible.
The primary weapon taught by Prima Spada is the 16th century rapier. Popular from around 1500 the 'espada ropera' ("dress sword"; literally "sword of the robe"), was a lighter and more ornate civilian adaptation of the renaissance "side-sword". The rapier was a significant fashion item worn not just by nobles but also by the emerging middle classes who were keen to assert their status and to display their new-found wealth. They were also keen to defend their honour against perceived slights and as a status symbol the rapier became the favoured weapon for such duels.
The rapier remained Europe's most popular civilian sidearm for over 150 years and over that period steadily developed into a lighter and shorter form. Eventually it evolved into the "smallsword", and finally the modern fencing foil.
Prima Spada utilises the early, heavier swept-hilt style rapier, rather than the lighter late-period forms. While light compared to other weapons of their time, these rapiers are still quite heavy by modern standards, weighing around 1 to 1.2 kg. The length of the blade is generally 100 cm with another 20 cm in the hilt, and is 10-15 mm wide near the hilt, with relatively little taper.
Prima Spada students commonly use the word "sword" to refer to a specific historical weapon, commonly referred to today as the "side sword" (from the period term "spado di lato") or as the "renaissance cut-and-thrust sword". This was the most common military weapon of the 16th and 17th centuries. While the civilian rapier was developed from this sword, it did not replace it, the two continuing in common use for much the same period.
The incorporation of a ring-guard and other features of the hilt especially informed rapier design subsequently. Unlike the rapier, the sword was a weapon made primarily for cutting with a significantly broader blade. These weapons are approximately 90 cm long and 1.5 kg.
The sword commonly referred to as a Renaissance Two-Handed sword is a type that came into use around 1500 and was popular throughout Europe both for dueling and in a variety of military contexts. The devastatingly effective German mercenaries of the time, the Landsknechts, used them to cut through enemy pikes.
Typically sized such that if the blade tip is on the ground, the pommel is level with the wielder's shoulder, these swords weighed 2-3 kgs, though ceremonial examples weighing up to 5 kg existed. The hilt makes up a considerable proportion of the length of the blade and there are guards on the ricasso (which itself might be bound in leather as a grip). The sword is substantial and long enough to be used as a polearm in its own right.
Prima Spada trains with companion weapons at the higher ranks. It was standard procedure to use the non-sword hand for defence, given the relative slowness of the heavier weapons. This might involve nothing more than the hand itself, suitably protected with a chainmail glove, but more commonly took the form of some sort of companion weapon.
The dagger in its various forms - including the "main gauche" which usually refers to the specifically Spanish style of dagger with the large, triangular guard, but which literally just means "left hand" - were mostly for parrying, but could be used offensively in their own right.
The buckler is a small shield used to deflect sword cuts. Not quite as useful for bashing as a big shield, the buckler offers a highly mobile and extremely sturdy defensive element against heavy sword strikes. The sound of a sword blade glancing off a buckler "swashes", hence the term that is synonymous with the swordplay of the era.
A gentleman called upon to combat without more conventional defensive weapons being available may well be forced to make do with his cloak or cape. The cloak is surprisingly useful when parrying most thrusts and even some cuts. The cloak can be used to blind one's opponent and may be used to entangle the blade of one's adversary, leaving him vulnerable to attack.