Where to Begin?
Just start. Find you local group of folks fighting with swords. Find out when they are going to have a practice and go. Then start asking questions. Of everyone you can find that does it as well as asking the different groups. It doesn’t matter what type or group, just search and find them.
There are lots of options out there, which are not immediately apparent. Just as Eastern Martial arts has BJJ, Judo, Karate, Wing Chun, etc… they are different and serve different purposes. For sword fighting, in order from light to heavier style fighting, you have Classical sport fencing or perhaps HEMA (another sword sport), Foam fighting LARPs like Dagohir and Amtgarde, then SCA and EMP (Kendo too), which are baton style groups, then you move into areas, which are perhaps a bit more extreme, such as Mensur or HMB/IMCF rule sets.
Not to get too much into the details of each group (more info shown below), there is a basic set of expectations with each. Here is a brief overview:
- Classical Fencing – paying for lessons. need to purchase the protective coat and the fencing mask along with swords.
- HEMA – Fencing Mask, protective gloves, and a jacket to protect the body. Most training lessons will require some fees. Events have fees. Swords are slightly expensive (~$100, but last)
- Foam fighting – least expensive to get involved in. Not strikes to the head, basically gloves, and foam sword/shields need to purchase. No practice fees generally. Some weekend larps have event fees.
- SCA/EMP – annual fee to participate. Events have fees. Basic armor to protect elbows, knees and vital spots is needed and helmet. Swords are a frequent replacement cost.
- Mensur doesn’t cost except for a basic mask and sword. Of course the medical fees could be expensive.
- HMB/IMCF steel fighting will require the most expensive costs for armor as it gets damaged and needs to be built to last. It also needs to have light weight, except the helm, which you want to be heavy.
Use what is local to you, but just start! Here are a couple of images of armor as a starting point. For fighting in HMB/IMCF you basically need your legs covered, arms covered, hands covered, body protected (especially the back) your neck protected, a quality helm and shoulders. There are several variations over time and history, which solve this, but that is for another post.
Another great resource is this Getting Started with 14th Century Armor.