The Broad Swordsman’s Pocket Companion

This small booklet was published by Capt. Frederick Wroughton in 1830. With perhaps a few variations, it follows the method of Angelo which was largely taught in the British military of the time. The size probably explain the colored plates, which are rarely seen in martial arts manual of the 19th century.



  1. It is utterly bizarre that he is parrying right and left cheek with his body twisted with left leg leading when he is right handed! This puts the manual in the realm of a curiosity, but one has to wonder if he had read any fencing manual of the last 500 years! Are these plates – showing the right leg placed so far behind the left when making parries – supposed to represent deep slips?! I can’t begin to fathom where in the Military of the time this was taught as an official manual … very strange! And yet … fascinating ….

    1. This is a standard slip common in the British system of the time. You slip the lead leg on every parry to avoid a potential leg cut as well as put your self out of harm’s reach. Actually this deep slip is commonly found everywhere, even Angelo shows it from time to time and Valville also does a pretty deep slip himself. The earliest instance I can think of is Cappo Ferro.

      1. As stated, IF this is representing a ‘deep slip’ then fine – without reading the manual I could not know right away what the author was proposing. The images gave the impression that the right handed parrying actions were being made leading with the left leg forward – though once I noticed the right foot off the ground to the rear I twigged this may be the case. I don’t particularly like slips of this nature (For Broadsword) and I don’t quite agree that they were common practice – they are not overtly alluded to (By my recollection) in the manuals of Roworth/Taylor, Mathewson, Sinclair – Page – Silver – or many others practicing British Broadsword at any rate (Slips yes, but not so deep) – something I teach.

        The very deep slip seems to be a hang over from Rapier and aspects of Smallsword Fencing. A Rapiers length affords your planted left leg a little more safety than with a Broadsword, so …. parrying by distance I absolutely agree with but this is not one of my favourite actions for regulation Broadsword of the early modern period. A unique little manual however; Cheers!

  2. I should qualify … Slips are absolutely common to British broadsword Fencing – we are talking about sensible slips where the right leg is shifted back the place of the left – in line – and at right angles. Only very rarely is the lead right leg to be brought back so far as to completely assume the appearance of a linear kind of vault. There are very good reasons you don’t see this in Taylor or Page or many others of the 18th/19th Centuries and that is because slipping back so back defeats your own ability to riposte. If you slip so deep, yes,you will surely make a parry but very likely upon their weak, with little enough time or measure to make good your own riposte. With a Broadsword, which is a shorter weapon than a Rapier … this is not a great idea and that is why you don’t see it in the Regulation manuals such as that of Taylor – Roworth and Angelo. I refer here to the ‘deep slip’ which assumes a linear vault leaving the left leg essentially planted to the fore … the point of slipping in Highaland Broadsword of British Backsword is to slip only just out of distance so that you may take your time and riposte in good order. Slips so deep suit longer weapons, but even then I’m not a fan … of that planted left foot.

    1. There are many reasons to practice these deep slips other than using a longer weapon. If your opponent uses deeper lunges to attack you, or has a longer reach (I am not tall, so I tend to fence such opponents). You also get much more stability which is quite handy when you need to retract the lower body or if your opponent ever tries to rush you during a slip. You are right that it might slow down your riposte, but I would say only if you do not use the back leg as a pendulum. This technique is used with much effect in La canne tournaments and greatly accelerates your riposte.

      1. It is quite simple to elude by standard slip a deeper attack on the linear line without completely vaulting the lead leg backwards – planting the left leg to the fore and thereby exposing it as in a reverse lunge. This is in fact what Taylor and co want you do be able to do in using distance and measure – you simply perform a small rearward ballestra – hop the left foot back and slip the lead right leg back towards it – all while keeping balance. Balance should not be an issue with slipping in British Broadsword as you are supposed to keep some flex in both legs and not be standing bolt upright, in which case you would not be grounded and your center of gravity would above the waist rather than below. Just FYI …

      2. I think you need to try this deep slip a few times as I am not sure that the problems you are describing are really there, such as this planting of the left foot. Do you mean that all the weight would be on the left leg? This should not be so, and you should be able to retreat it very easily, if you have proper balance, which is going to be different from a narrow slip. Maybe that’s where the misunderstanding comes from. A deep slip should not be done with the same mechanics as a narrow one. Also I cannot agree that the balance is going to be as good for the simple fact that you are now balancing on a very small anchor point. I would not suggest trying to wrestle in that position. Personally I use both slips depending on the circumstance, but I tend to favor a deeper one when I need it.

      3. I primarily teach Taylor – Page period Highland Broadsword and English Backsword – you just don’t see these deep slips in the Regulation Broadsword manuals. If you like it and it works for you, all to the good – we could spend a very long time explaining ourselves in long winded posts, but the medium is not really good for this kind of discussion. Take a look at the Rowlandson posters, you won’t see any deep slips there among them – nor any in Mathewson or Sinclair. The point of the slip in British Broadsword is to not leave any leg leading or exposed … the deep slip does this (The left leg) and also defeats the speed of riposte in time. I’ll leave it there, thanks for the great articles – I always enjoy you work.

      4. I also practice Angelo’s 1796 manual on a weekly basis. You are right to say that British sources do not usually show (although this one is an exception of course) deep slips, although some do go a little bit pass the left leg. Again I’m not sure how the deep slip is supposed to expose the left leg if it is in the same exact spot as it would be with a narrow slip? And I would raise the point once more that by slipping the leg deeply you are allowing yourself to use your back leg dynamically, eliminating a lot of the issue of distance in regards to the riposte since the back leg acts as a pendulum and helps power up your recovery. La canne players usually use an exaggerated version of this, again with the aim of speeding up the recovery. There is more to speed of execution than distance.


  3. Actually, Matthewson and Sinclair do teach a “deep” slip. In lesson 13, Sinclair says specifically to shift back with the left foot in the place of the right for this lesson. If you look at the images of Matthewson doubling, he shows this too. Angelo and Taylor show the feet parallel or the right leg only very slightly behind the left. An advantage to a deeper slip is that you can also slip attacks which are not aimed higher than the leg, which Taylor/Roworth talks about as well. A deep shift is very normal for broadsword, and so is a more upright shallow shift.

  4. Actually, Matthewson and Sinclair do teach a “deep” slip. In lesson 13, Sinclair says specifically to shift back with the left foot in the place of the right for this lesson. If you look at the images of Matthewson doubling, he shows this too. Angelo and Taylor show the feet parallel or the right leg only very slightly behind the left. An advantage to a deeper slip is that you can also slip attacks which are not aimed higher than the leg, which Taylor/Roworth talks about as well. A deep shift is very normal for broadsword, and so is a more upright shallow shift.

    1. Mathewson does not show the ‘deep slip’ that I am refering to above … nor is it the same as that shown in the above booklet which leaves the left leg clearly to the fore. Mathewson is showing a very upright and shallow slip that I do not classify as ‘deep’ … the right leg is only very slightly pulled behind the left.

      1. Mathewson clearly shows the right leg going behind the left leg in his plates. Wroughton shows a deeper slip in his plates, as well as a shallow one in plate 6. All of these slips are part of the Highland Broadsword Tradition. The difference between Wroughton’s plates and Mathewson’s is likely only a few inches deeper in the former, not to mention different artists illustrating.

  5. Again I’m not sure I understand your point about exposing the left leg. In both types of slips the left leg stays at the same place. Am I missing something?

    1. You’re absolutely right Max, the left leg is anchored to the ground, and the distance of a lunge is determined by the position of the left leg. Additionally the leg is not exposed. Whether you do a shallow shift or a deeper one, the left leg remains anchored and is the same distance from the opponent and not exposed in any way. I believe The Tartan Trouvere is also seeing a bit of a backward lean above the waist in Wroughton’s plates detailing the slip. To me though, it seems like this is just the stylized shape of the soldier’s triangular torso, and that his torso is completely upright and squared to the opponent, which is totally normal for broadsword.

    2. Each of the broadsword masters are different from each other. Mathewson has different guard positions from Sinclair, as well as different positions for the left hand. Angelo is different from the rest, Thomas Page is unique as well. It should be expected that there be a bit of variety in Wroughton. Even if his leg slip is a few inches “deeper” than the other broadsword manuals, I have no idea why this is unusual or shocking. I talk about different slips a bit in an upcoming video documenting all of the lessons of Sinclair’s broadsword method. Sometimes you do them “shallow” and other times you slip “deeper”.

  6. “This is in fact what Taylor and co want you do be able to do in using distance and measure – you simply perform a small rearward ballestra – hop the left foot back and slip the lead right leg back towards it – all while keeping balance. ”

    The Tartan Trouvere- Your interpretation of the slip appears to be incorrect and may be why there is some confusion. In the slip you do not hop the left foot back and slip the lead right leg back towards it. It is a motion done only with the right leg. The left foot remains planted. This is why the weight must be over your left leg at all times, in order to be able to slip the right leg without requiring any other type of backwards motion. If you are doing the slip as you described, this is why a deeper slip would pull you out of distance- because you are moving the rear leg backwards when it should remain planted. You can riposte easily from a deep slip, but your version would bring you out too far.

  7. If you guys find me on Facebook, I can message you both links to videos describing the basics of Highland Broadsword Footwork, as I’ve uploaded those sections already. There is no Balestra when you slip the leg.

  8. Jay … I did not say the rearward ballestra is the normal means of slipping the right leg, I merely proposed that this is a higher level footwork expression that deals with some forms of accelerated deep attacks … such as Maxime had mentioned in his hypothetical. And in fact this an exemplar of the many problems of discussing fencing technique online … abstraction over very simple ideas all too frequently obscures the obvious. I have no problem understanding Taylor, Mathewson, Sinclair or Page for that matter … I teach these systems and have been fencing for many years. I’ll leave it there …

  9. Glad for the clarification. In any case the Balestra is not a part of Highland Broadsword footwork (Although Page mentions something similar as a retreat in his “spring off” after a successful attack lands). The deep shift clearly is part of this tradition, as mentioned by Sinclair, Wroughton and in my classification, Mathewson. While Max’s solution to the taller opponents is consistent with Broadsword Tradition, the Balestra-shift is not. I’m always willing to video reply to any discussion, and as I stated I already have a Highland Broadsword video detailing the basic footwork including various slips. If you check out my youtube channel, Broadsword Academy Mantioba, we have some sparring clips where we use shallow and deep shifts. Broadsword Academy Germany has lots of videos where they do this as well. I also have been practicing and teaching Broadsword for a long time, but because the system is interpreted from manuals and not a living lineage of teachers, it’s important to see what other clubs are doing and compare.

    1. Jay … The Ballestra is common to British fencing footwork and is as old as Ledall and Cotton Titus where it is identified as a ‘cock step’. Not everything is in a single treatise … I teach from a broad understanding of British Historical fencing principles. Silver doesn’t mention the specifics of footwork at all
      … does that mean we should assume there is none? The true skill of a good instructor is an ability to fully integrate and interpret a system, making it work based on the principles inherent to the art. Not everything is explicit but many treatises already assume the reader is skilled enough to complete the picture for themselves. A rearward Cock Step’ is NOT s departure from British fencing footwork tradition … it is ancient and common to it.

  10. “it’s important to see what other clubs are doing and compare.”

    This is only useful if you value and trust their interpretation … I contend that the ‘deep slip’ is not regular to the art of British Broadsword play but was tacked onto it as it journeyed through the period of Rapier and Smallsword Play. We could also argue that certain parries are not inherent to Highland Broadsword and yet Page explicitly informs us that he has added things (From Smallsword play) himself, to round the system out. This too is a form of interpretation and expansion of a system …

  11. This article and the previous discussion was specific to regimental highland broadsword. While there are similarities between fencing in the British Isles, George Silver’s Backsword is not Highland Broadsword, and 15th Century English Longsword is not Highland Broadsword. The principles are sometimes similar, but not the same. The footwork and strikes used in one system do not mean that it should be used in another system centuries later. While an overview of a broad spectrum of fencing manuals can certainly help with interpreting the techniques of a single manual, following the principles of one often violates the principles of another. For example, feints in Sinclair’s broadsword manual are done with a lunge, whereas in the other broadsword manuals, they are specifically done before lunging into distance. Sinclair’s feints violate the principles of the others. It is puzzling to me why one would choose to advocate for footwork (the Ballestra) that is not represented in regimental broadsword manuals, instead of a deep slip- which is represented in regimental broadsword. I would be really interested in seeing your interpretation of these manuals. My own interpretation of these manuals is certainly not above criticism either, which is why I openly share the work we do in our club. The big success of HEMA has always been due to the open sharing of information including manuals and interpretations. Unfortunately, broadsword arts are not quite caught up with the German or Italian traditions in this regard, but many people have been working hard to change that for quite some time.

  12. I’m sorry Jay … I can’t agree with you – footwork is footwork – how and when you use it will depend on the weapon and it’s length and the techniques you wish to apply to it – a cut one is the same as a downright blow etc. Passing footwork as well as linear footwork apply to all systems of British Backsword, Longsword and Broadsword play – Page uses “square” and “passing” footwork whereas only 50 years later the “pass” has been relegated to primarily “linear” footwork through Taylor and the Regimental Systems. Are we saying that Page’s footwork no longer works in 1804? A ‘Cock Step’ works in every system from Ledall right through to Modern Olympic Fencing and it is part of the mechanics inherent to Fencing.

    You are confusing the inherent ‘mechanics’ of movement with a violation of technique. If you can’t understand how to make basic footwork mechanics apply to a system, then perhaps it’s back to the drawing board. Once again – Silver makes no mention of footwork at all … do we assume there is none? Page adds “smallsword” play to Highland Broadsword as he coins it … is Page now in violation of the codified principles inherent to the art? No … it is clear that the footwork is part of the mechanics by which you drive techniques – but to ignore the greater body of fencing lore that all of these works derive from is to narrow yourself completely from the broader truth. All kinds of footwork may be applied and work … as they are part of a basic tradition of mechanics stretching back in time. I really will be leaving it there … good luck with it!

    And once again … thanks Maxime for your great articles!

    Best. TT …

  13. As a broadsword fencer, anyone’s interpretation of this style interests me and is of value. The only reason any of these manuals are known to us is because people make the sources available freely, like what Max has done with this awesome blog. Wroughton is another source on broadsword that has clearly challenged the views of some interpretations of slipping the leg. I respect anyone’s interpretation, although I do so with critical thinking based on my study of the manuals, my training, as well as from input from the people who have mentored me and the community as a whole. Even if someone’s interpretation was entirely wrong, I’d still be interested in it, because I care about the art and am happy to see it grow in popularity. In any case, it’s easiest to see what people mean via video. We use this kind of deep slip quite a bit, and it is useful. It doesn’t expose the leg or make a riposte difficult.

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