A little about me... My name is Mark Hollingshead, known in the SCA as Count Marc de Arundel, KSCA. I've been a martial artist for over twenty years, starting in Tae Kwon Do, then Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. I first picked up a sword ten years ago when I belonged to a renn faire company, and started training with a school called Knights Association of Arms. I got hooked into the emerging Western Martial Arts movement, and then SCA combat. I've fought exclusively Bastard sword throughout that time, and have had enough people ask me how to fight with one (and seen a lack of resources online) that I decided to share what I've learned so far.
This is intended to be a guide to fighting bastard sword in modern SCA combat, and is very much a "world according to Marc" kind of thing. I would like to take a moment to thank Those who have and continue to train me. My Knight, Colin Mclear, one the best bastard sword fighters in the history of the West; Duke Paul of Bellatrix (no introduction needed); Lord Kerris Shurtleff; Randy Carnahan (my very first teacher); Viscount Sir Zaid a falah Haji, and all the fighters of The Barony of Fettburg and the West kingdom in general, who are kind enough to hit me with sticks while I try to get better and refine my techniques. Anything useful you find is a reflection of the time I have spent with wonderful people. All mistakes are my own.
When I say "bastard sword" in an SCA context, I am referring to a weapon between sternum and armpit height from the ground. This is longer than period steel bastard swords, but much experimentation has shown me that this is an optimal length for bastard sword in the SCA. Much shorter, and one loses the reach needed against other great weapons and sword and shield fighters. Much longer, and it transitions into a true greatsword, which is enough of a different animal to warant its own guide.
I believe very firmly in thrusting tips. Their use is historically accurate, and both the thrust and the threat of a thrust increase the well roundedness of one's offense. I also encourage a thrusting tip on the pommel if your kingdom allows. They are very useful in close combat, especially against sword and shield. I choose to treat mine as a smashing pommel and only use it against the face. There is no historical precedent for actual spikes on the pommels of bastard swords, and I do not think a pommel strike to the chest of an opponent in a maille hauberk would be a telling blow. I do, however, think that a 1/2 pound ball of steel to an open face helmet would be a good fight ender. Use your own judgement.
I believe that a handle between 12"-15" is best. I see many fighters using the longest handles possible, but it seems to limit the flexibility and fluidity of their movement. Some of the guards and strikes discussed later in this guide are nearly impossible with one's hands spaced at a foot and a half!
Bastard sword fighting can and should be an art and a science. It should be fast, fluid, sophisticated and elegant. It does not need to be the brutish, hacking form so many seem to be thinking of when they first pick up the weapon.