Swordsmanship has been both a popular sport and means of defense for hundreds of years. Since the 19th century, good swordsmanship has mostly been achieved by practice with fencing, though there are many other different types of swordsmanship. Many different cultures also have their own practices when it comes to swordsmanship, including Chinese martial arts. Learning to be a good swordsman requires a dedication to safety, an understanding of the art form and much practice overall.
Determine whether you want to practice standard or historical swordsmanship. Historical swordsmanship is the specialized study of sword techniques used prior to the 19th century, when swords were still a common weapon used for defense, worn as part of costumes or used in duels. Standard swordsmanship refers to the technique and practices of contemporary fencing.
Determine if you want to learn swordsmanship through a culturally specialized school of dueling. For instance, kenjutsu is the ancient art of swordsmanship and has different techniques and practices than standard Western fencing and historical fencing. Additionally, historical swordsman can practice Roman, Greek, Renaissance and Italian swordsmanship, among others. Research these types of sword arts and determine which is best for you.
Purchase books that teach you the basic moves of the type of swordsmanship you are practicing. Historical, cultural and standard swordsmanship all can be taught using exercises that can be practiced on a wooden dummy to help you improve your form and quickness.
Register for a class in your preferred type of swordsmanship. Many cities have fencing, martial arts, historical swordsmanship and kenjutsu classes available for adults and children. Choose a class appropriate to your skill level or age group. Classes can be more beneficial than books because instructors can quickly correct you of bad swordsman habits. Additionally, classes allow you to fence with other students, which can also help make you a better swordsman.
Choose the right sword for your body and the type of swordsmanship that you want to practice. If the books you obtain or the classes you take don't provide you guidance on sword selection, consider the most common elements of the style of swordsmanship you are studying and purchase a sword that suits those elements. For instance, if you will be lunging, rapiers and two-edged swords suit these practices better than a single-edged sword. Additionally, consider the ability you have to lift the sword and perform proper movements. Children and those with less strength should select a more lightweight sword.
Practice the moves learned in class and through books both inside and outside of class. As with any skill, becoming good at swordsmanship requires many years of practice. Practice with and without a dummy or a partner. Only practice with a partner when you are wearing proper safety gear and you have both obtained the necessary training to prevent injury.