All posts by Christopher Thompson

Heiko Große to Become President of Cateran Society


Ever since I founded the Cateran Society in 1998, it has been my intention to build it up to the point where it could continue as a thriving organization with or without me as the President and Headmaster. If the Cateran Society and the Broadsword Academy are to succeed in the long term, they cannot be led by the same person forever.

 Events in my life outside the fencing studio have begun to take up more and more of my time, making it difficult for me to devote the focus and effort needed to lead the Cateran Society effectively. It’s time for me to step aside as the President of the Cateran Society and the Headmaster of the Broadsword Academy and to hand these roles over to someone else.

Heiko Große of the Broadsword Academy Germany has represented the Society honorably at a number of major HEMA events in Europe. In addition, he has written and published his own manual on the Highland broadsword, and continues to pursue his own research projects. He is an excellent broadsword fencer with a deep understanding of the art we practice.

 Effective on May 1, 2017, Heiko Große will become the second President of the Cateran Society and Headmaster of the Broadsword Academy, with responsibility for the Online Apprenticeship Program. I ask all of you to give him your full support.

 I will continue to train and teach the Cateran System as a Cateran of the Society, and I will continue to write and research books on historical swordsmanship and the martial arts. I will also continue to be available for advice and input.

Am fear a thug buaidh air fhein, thug e buaidh air namhaid.

-Christopher Scott Thompson, 3/26/2017

Highland Broadsword Bout, Maas vs Wagner

Here Jay Maas, head instructor at Broadsword Academy Manitoba and Paul Wagner, head of Stoccata School of Defence in Sydney face off. Jay is using Sinclair’s regimental broadsword system against Paul’s Thomas Page & later on George Silver. While the earlier fencers say to play broadsword upon the traverse, which uses circular steps to gain an advantageous angle upon the opponent, later broadsword masters say to attack mostly in a linear fashion. The broadsword master Archibald MacGregor explains that traversing attacks can give an advantage but can also be cut off by a linear fencer. The traversing swordsman must make a wide circle to gain a good angle, and the linear fencer being at the centre of the circle needs to only make small adjustments to catch up. This can nullify the traverse. Paired with slipping footwork and a good control of distance, linear footwork is equal to circular footwork and requires very little time to become proficient. It is best to practice both!

The Four Temperaments of Broadsword Fencing

Long before the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, philosophers categorized human personality types into four broad categories: choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine.

These categories were based on the Galenic theory of the four bodily humours, which has obviously been left far behind by modern medicine. Although the humours have fallen out of favor, the four temperaments are still a handy way to quickly describe a personality type.

The four temperaments are as follows:

Choleric: aggressive, passionate and dominant.

Phlegmatic: stolid, unwavering and patient.

Melancholic: introverted, moody and depressive.

Sanguine: joyous, easygoing and social.

Educated fencing masters were well aware of the four temperaments and would sometimes use them to describe potential opponents and give advice on how to fight them. For instance, consider the following passage by Scottish fencer Sir William Hope:

“FIRST, they will either advance, and come on precipitantly, with an irregular, violent, and furious pursuit. Or,

SECONDLY, keep themselves almost fixt in one place, without either much advancing or retiring. Or,

THIRDLY, constantly retire, and give much back. Or,

FOURTHLY, have a mixture of all three, that is, sometimes stand fixt, and at other times advance and retire.”

As you can see, Hope’s four tempers match the traditional four temperaments.

In this series of videos, we have not used Hope’s four tempers exactly as given, because Hope was primarily a smallsword fencer and we are broadsword fencers. Instead we have selected the four most common types of opponent based on our experience in broadsword fencing, mapping them to the four temperaments as follows:

Choleric: an aggressive, violent opponent.

Phlegmatic: an opponent who doesn’t use much footwork.

Melancholic: an opponent who refuses to engage blades.

Sanguine: an opponent who moves and changes guards constantly.

In these videos, Chris (on the left) is the antagonist, acting out one of these four types. Matt (on the right), is the protagonist, trying to solve the problem presented by that type.

Don’t take the four temperaments too literally – they are not exactly scientific. On the other hand, modern systems like Myers-Briggs don’t actually have much empirical validation either, so take this for what it’s worth and it may prove useful!

Enclose and Command: How to Fight With Weapons


Enclose and Command: How to Fight With Weapons ($14)

This is the training manual for the MacGregor Method, our system for using any hand-to-hand weapon according to the principles of the Highland broadsword.

Members of the Cateran Society’s Online Apprenticeship Program can download a free PDF version of the same book. The picture quality is much better in the PDF version. Because the pictures didn’t print very well in the hard-copy version, I’m keeping the price as low as I can justify given the many hours of work that went into making this book. If you buy the book and are not a member of the apprenticeship program, send me an e-mail at and I’ll send you the free PDF. If you are a member, you get the free PDF anyway!

Cateran Society Mentor Wins Mounted Fencing Tournament


Tero Ulvinen on right. Photo: Sara Vertanen

On June 11, 2016, the Equestrian Martial Arts club held the Hakkaa Päälle 2016 mounted broadsword tournament in Finland. The winner of the tournament was Cateran Society Level I Mentor Tero Ulvinen of the West Finland Broadsword Academy.

“Hakkaa Päälle” (roughly: Hack them down!) was the traditional battle cry of Finnish cavalry soldiers. Congratulations to Tero Ulvinen for his victory in this tournament!

How to Build a Practical Fighting Targe

A guest post from “China Hand,” on an often-requested topic: how to build your own targe!

The PFT is cheap, easy to build from readily-available materials, and rugged enough for training and combat with wooden weapons. While not as lovely as some of the exquisite examples I have seen, the PFT is not unattractive in its utilitarian way. Materials should cost under $25 if you buy new. A clever scrounger could build one for virtually nothing.

These instructions are not intended to be a course in Carpentry 101. If you are not familiar with the use of basic tools and layout procedures, get someone to help you.

Some definitions for purposes of these instructions:

Body – the main part of the targe, i.e. the round plywood part

Edging – material that coves the perimeter of the body

Grip – the handle that you grasp with your hand

Strap – holds the forearm to the targe at your elbow

Padding – goes between the forearm and the targe to cushion the arm

Cover – covers the padding and holds it in place

Outside – the side of the targe away from you

Inside – the side of the targe against your arm

Materials needed:

Plywood,- ½ inch thick and 18 to 21 inches in diameter

Hose – about 6 feet of ¾ inch i.d. hose

Padding – about 4 inches by 10 inches of some kind of padding

Cover – cloth or leather to cover the padding

Strap – 16 to 20 inches of ¾ inch wide double –sided Velcro

Hardware – 2 @ ¼ inch Tee nuts; 2 @ ¾ inch by ¾ inch bolts to fit Tee nuts; 10 @ ½ inch, flat-head screws and finish washers to fit; 2 @ 5/8 inch, flat-head screws and finish washers to fit; 9 nylon cable ties.


The body – traditional targes were about 18 to 21 inches in diameter. Unless you have a very long forearm I would go with 18 inches. A targe gets heavy during long training sessions. A 21 inch diameter piece of plywood weights 36 % more than one 18 inches in diameter. Use ½ inch thick plywood.

Draw and cut the circle in the diameter of your choice. It does not have to be a perfect circle because the edging will cover any errors to a great extent. Clean up the cut with sandpaper.

Photo 1

You do not have to paint the plywood but it does look better. I use spray paint because it dries quickly. Any paint will do. You can be as plain or as decorative as you wish.

Photo 2

Edging – the edging protects the targe from the impact of other weapons and it also makes it easier on your training partner’s arms.

Most types of hose will work for the edging. I prefer reinforced PVC water hose as it is very tough. The hose must be sliced open as you would gut a fish so it will fit over the edge of the targe. Hose has a natural curl and you should cut the inside of the curve. It is easy to cut hose open in a spiral so you must make an effort to cut a straight line.

It takes just under 5 feet of hose to cover the edge of an 18-inch targe. Take 5 feet of hose and clamp each end so that it lies straight. Mark a straight line down the centerline and cut with a sharp knife.

Photo 3

Photo 4

The hose is held to the targe with nylon cable ties. Nine ties are enough. One tie is placed about ¾ inch in from each end of the hose and the other 7 evenly distributed around the perimeter i.e. one tie every 45 degrees. For ¾ inch hose drill each of the nine holes ½ in from the edge of the targe. Holes should be an appropriate size for the cable ties you use. Starting at one end of the hose, thread the cable tie through the hole from back to front and cinch it up tight around the hose. Cut off the excess end of the tie. Work your way around the edge until the second last hole. Trim the hose to fit and do the final hole. Note that the hose stands off the edge of the targe a bit; this provides a bit of a cushion.

Photo 5

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Photo 7

The Grip – your forearm should be centered along its length on the targe. Grasp a pencil in your fist and measure from the pencil to the crook of your elbow. Half this distance from the center of the targe is where the center of the grip will be.

The hose used to make the grip must be strong. I would use the reinforced hose here if nowhere else. You will need about a foot of hose. Clamp one end of the hose down and bend the hose in an arc like an inch worm. It is a good idea to wear padded gloves when using a targe to protect your fingers. Make sure your gloved hand, or bare hand if that is your choice, can grasp the grip comfortably.

Photo 8

Adjust the hose until it feels right and cut to length. Drill a ¼ inch hole in each end of the hose about ¾ inch in from the ends. See Photo 9 for hardware used to mount grip, pad, and cover.

Photo 9

Mark where the grip will be fastened on the plywood. Drill two 5/16 inches holes and hammer in the tee nuts from the outside.

Photo 10

Attach the grip using washers and bolts.

Photo 11

Padding and Cover – I use a piece of an old closed-cell foam camping pad but other materials would be suitable. The pad I used is about 4 inches by 10 inches; adjust yours to suit. The pad can be covered by leather or cloth. The cover needs to be larger than the pad. You can fasten the cover down with staples but I prefer to use ½ inch screws and finish washers.

Photo 12

Photo 13

The Strap – The Velcro straps have the advantage of being adjustable for different users and layers of clothing. Two 8-inch straps are long enough for me to wear a winter coat when using the targe, but you may need longer straps. Grasping the grip, locate where you want the straps to be near the crook of your elbow. Fasten the straps with two 5/8 inch screws and finish washers.

Photo 14

The ½ inch screws are not quite strong enough. If any screws poke through the front of the targe, file them flat.

You are done – happy fighting!

Photo 15

Photo 16


China Hand

Cateran Society Fencer Wins HCL Tournament


Many Cateran Society members live far away from any of the major HEMA events and rarely have the opportunity to travel for tournament competition. In this situation, we encourage our members to look for other opportunities to test their skills.

In April 2016, the Historical Combat League  held a foam weapons tournament. Although these weapons are much lighter and faster than real broadswords, it is still possible to use them with historical broadsword techniques if you choose to.

Two of our members from Broadsword Academy Manitoba competed in the tournament, and Level IV Mentor J.Maas was the winner of the event. You can see both members fighting each other in this bout.

Thanks to both of them for representing the Cateran Society, and congratulations to J.Maas for the victory!




Cateran Society Fencer Takes Second Place in Tournament

Congratulations to Cateran Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (also known as “Vitaliy”) for winning second place in Krasnodar HEMA Tournament in Krasnodar, Russia!

Here are the details:

“Krasnodar HEMA Tournament La Costa De Falcone.

Krasnodar, Russia. November, 29th, 2015.

In the Sabre Nomination there were 12 competitors representing 6 clubs from Krasnodar and Stavropol.

The results of my bouts:

– Round 1 Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar)- Denis Gerasimovich (Sokol Club, Krasnodar)- 2:0;

– Round 2 Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar)- Andrey Grachev (Unterwalden Club, Krasnodar)- 5:9;

Bout for the 2nd place – Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar)- Ivan Panchenko (Efes Club, Krasnodar)- 10:1

Final Standings: 1st place- Sophia Mihaylevich (Unterwalden Club, Krasnodar) 2nd place- Bhiatailidh Negoda MacDhùghaill (MacDougall Broadsword Academy, Krasnodar) 3rd place- Ivan Panchenko (Efes Club, Krasnodar)”


Flourishing with the Highland Broadsword

Flourishing with the Highland Broadsword

Flourishing,” known in the most ancient Gaelic sources as faobhar chleas or “the edge feat,” is the practice of solo fighting techniques as a display of skill. It is the equivalent of the solo forms practice found in Asian martial arts, although flourishing is generally not choreographed ahead of time.

Flourishing plays a major role in the Cateran System from Level IV onward, but students often seem uncertain as to how they should approach this exercise. To help apprentices learn how to flourish, Cateran Matt Park designed a five-stage process:

How to Flourish with the Highland Broadsword

1- Using only the lunge and the shift, attack and defend against an imaginary opponent. Make one cut every time you lunge and one parry every time you shift. Keep it simple and clear.

2- Add in the advance and retreat, but stick to simple attacks and parries.

3- Add in multiple opponents attacking you from all directions. Fight the opponent in front of you for a few moments, then turn suddenly to deal with an attacker to your right, left or rear.

4- Add broken rhythm- instead of only making simple cuts and parries, add feints and other off-rhythm movements. Your flourishing should now strongly resemble an actual fight.

5- Add “enclose and command” by acting out disarms and grappling maneuvers.

Flourishing videos are worth ten points toward Cateran rank, but only stage five flourishing will be counted for this purpose. A flourishing video should be a high-level display of skill with the broadsword, not just a rote performance of cuts and guards. Think of flourishing as a chance to display your art!