Scottish Quarterstaff

Both Donald McBane and Archibald MacGregor discuss the quarterstaff briefly in their works on swordsmanship. Based on MacGregor’s description the staff in Scotland was often used as a weapon of urban self defense, allowing the user to fight his way to safety in one of 18th century Edinburgh’s frequent riots. McBane also mentions its use by “rustic fellows” such as gamekeepers. As you can see, the staff has a huge advantage over the sword in single combat, although we had to keep it light and slow for safety reasons.

We’ve attempted a preliminary interpretation of McBane’s quarterstaff advice here:Donald McBane’s Quarterstaff Exercise

And of MacGregor’s advice on the staff here:

MacGregor’s Quarterstaff Exercise

If these look a little slow and awkward, it’s because we were working from written notes and don’t have these sequences memorized. However, they should be enough for you to get an idea of the Scottish approach to quarterstaff.

Cateran Society Fencer Wins Equestrian Broadsword Tournament


Equestrian broadsword competitions were a popular form of entertainment in the 19th century, but have not featured in the modern HEMA revival due to the rarity of competitors with skills in both riding and broadsword fencing.

Broadsword Academy Siberia, our branch school in Kemerovo, Russia, recently organized an experimental equestrian broadsword tournament featuring five competitors. Four of the five were professional riders. Daria Osipova, a Level I Mentor in the Cateran System, was victorious in the tournament using the mounted broadsword system of Henry Angelo as shown in his “Hungarian and Highland Broadsword.” Congratulations to Daria, Broadsword Academy Siberia and Daria’s instructor Sergey Osipov!

Cateran Society Tournament Rules

Cateran Society Tournament Rules

In “Broadsword Academy: Second Edition” we included a rule-set for historical swordsmanship tournaments. Most Cateran Society branch schools are fairly small, and few of them are located near other HEMA schools or study groups. For this reason, we aren’t known for hosting tournaments of our own. However, this rule-set works really well and results in fast-paced, interesting bouts that can change in an instant. Any Cateran Society branch planning a tournament should use this rule set:

1- The bout is to four points.

2- Limb hits are worth one point, torso hits are worth two, head hits are worth three and commands are worth four. A command is any technique that establishes control over the opponent, such as a grappling move or a bind with the targe.

3- Double hits count for both fighters, and we treat the afterblow as a double hit.

4- The score cannot go higher than 4 points. If a double would bring the score to 4-4, the higher-scoring hit wins the fight.

This video includes examples of all five levels of our Core Curriculum:

I- Regimental Highland broadsword.

II- Old Style broadsword.

III- Sword and Targe.

IV- The MacGregor Method (in this case, the Highland two-hander).

V- Cleasa

“Cleasa” refers to tricks hinted at in Gaelic folktales and legends. This material is speculative and experimental, and will look a bit strange to anyone who doesn’t practice it. The idea is to disrupt the opponent’s ability to fence effectively through manipulation. To give one example of many, the final touch in this bout is a technique I call “fast-slow.” I make a series of fast attacks until the opponent picks up what I’m doing and starts to fence the same way. Then I switch and make a huge, slow attack that would never work under normal circumstances. He can’t adjust to the change quickly enough and fails to defend himself even though the attack should have been easy to counter. It’s fun to work with and it can help against certain opponents, but it is not a substitute for regular fencing skills. For details on the Gaelic folklore that inspired this approach, see “Broadsword Academy” and “Highland Martial Culture.”

We teach the art of the Highland Broadsword, a reconstructed historical fencing style of 18th century Scotland. The core of our art is based on old fencing manuals and military drill books, while the more advanced aspects of our curriculum are inspired by hints in the lore and legends of the Gaelic people. In addition to the broadsword, we also teach the use of a number of other weapons such as the cudgel and the dirk. All of the skills and weapons we teach are based around the same underlying principles, which we refer to as the Cateran System in English, and Iomairt Airm in the Gaelic language.

Broadsword Academy (Second Edition)

Cateran Society Facebook Group

Contact Christopher Scott Thompson at for more information