What is a Cut and Thrust Sword?

The terminology that we use to describe many types of swords has little to do with what swords might have been called in period, and these modern names can sometimes be rather misleading.  Today we take a look at the modern idea of the "Cut and thrust" sword.  This term is popularly used to describe something like a sidesword or rapier that has the capacity to both, as the name implies, deliver substantive cuts and thrusts when used in combat.  

Knights about to strike

The Cut

This is probably meant to differentiate these types of single-handed swords from earlier knightly arming swords and longswords, which are imagined to mostly be for cutting, and from later thrust-centric swords like smallswords and foils that often lack a substantial cutting edge. 

Thrusting Knights

The Thrust

This differentiation, whatever its merits, is misleading.  You can thrust with just about any sword, and most swords were used in such a way in period, and with proper technique and structure you can cut with even the lightest blade (though penetration will obviously be less than cutting with a wider and heavier blade).  We use our Town Guard Sword and our Black Prince Sword as two examples of pieces that confuse the boundaries of cut and thrust, and even do some cutting with a smallsword to demonstrate that cutting with a thrusting sword is perfectly feasible.  Finally, here is a video link to a friend doing some tatami cutting with one of our narrow-bladed rapiers. 

Town Guard sword



Black Prince Sword by Arms & Armor Inc.

Black Prince Sword



divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography.  He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.


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