I founded the Cateran Society in 1998 in order to research the historical use of the Highland weapons such as the basket-hilted broadsword, targe, two-handed sword, dirk and Lochaber axe.

The Cateran Society was conceived of as both a research society and a loose network of study groups actively practicing the Highland Broadsword. Each individual study group was called a taigh suntais, from an old term in Scottish Gaelic for a school of fencing. The head of each taigh suntais was called a ceannard, while I was the ceann-suidhe or president of the Society and my brother Jason Thompson was the tanaiste or vice-president.

Because the posters of Henry Angelo were much easier to use as a source for beginner's exercises than some of the other manuals we had access to, we concentrated on the ten two-person exercises or Lessons taught by Angelo, with a few additional drills derived from Thomas Mathewson's Fencing Familiarized.

In 2001, I self-published Lannaireachd: Gaelic Swordsmanship as a study guide for our practice. Shortly afterward my brother Jason stopped practicing the broadsword, and Louie Pastore of Scotland became the second tanaiste of the Cateran Society. I also began offering lessons in the art of the broadsword on an informal basis.

For the first few years I taught and practiced primarily the Regimental styles of Highland Broadsword- the methods used in the famous Highland Regiments and in English regiments that had adopted the same method in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I continued to research the older methods of the Highland clansmen, but was unable to find much information other than period artwork such as the Penicuik Sketches. Then the Linacre School of Defence made Thomas Page's Use of the Broadsword available online. This 1746 manual purported to describe the methods of the Highland clan warriors, a claim that has proven to be rather controversial. Whether Page's claims were accurate or not, Page does provide us with a very interesting system for the use of the Highland weapon that is distinctly different from (although clearly related to) the Regimental methods taught fifty years later. Page also provides us with the only available system for the use of the Highland targe or small round shield. Page's broadsword and targe methods were soon incorporated into our curriculum.

Although the Cateran Society's online discussion group grew to more than 300 members and was at times very active, our loose structure also hampered us. Study groups would form and then drift away or dissolve without any consistent communication. Louie Pastore drifted away from active involvement in the Cateran Society while continuing to teach the Dirk Dance at his own school in Scotland. Many of those who joined the Society were looking for hands-on instruction, yet had no access to a qualified instructor.

In the spring of 2006, I spent six weeks traveling around the United States by Greyhound bus, teaching seminars on the art of the Highland Broadsword in Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New York, with the goal of establishing local study groups of the Cateran Society in multiple regions. When I returned to my home city of Portland, Maine, I rented space for a studio and formalized my own school as the Cateran Society Broadsword Academy.

At the Broadsword Academy in Portland, ME, we study the art of the Highland Broadsword, a historical Scottish style of swordsmanship. Fencers of the Broadsword Academy compete in the Broadsword League, an international competitive league of broadsword fencers. Dedicated students of the Academy have the opportunity to study a rich and multi-faceted martial art. Our system includes the broadsword method of the famous Highland regiments such as the Black Watch, the older methods of the Highland clansmen from the era of the Jacobite rebellions, the use of the small shield known as the targe, and other skills derived from Gaelic lore but not described in the surviving manuals.

Since the official founding of the Broadsword Academy, the Cateran Society has moved away from the loose structure we previously used, concentrating all of our efforts on the development of a new generation of instructors capable of preserving and passing on this reconstructed historical fencing art. This is done through direct one-on-one instruction at the Broadsword Academy, as well as through a combination of seminars, videos and written material through our Apprenticeship Program.

-Christopher Scott Thompson, June 2009

The Three Kingdoms Backsword Tradition and the Origins of the Highland Broadsword Manuals

“Lannaireachd: Gaelic Swordsmanship”?

Notes on the Lochaber Axe

Notes on Highland Archery

Notes on Scottish Bayonet Fencing

The Guards of the Broadsword Masters

The Grand Salute of the Highland Broadsword

The Scholar’s Defensive and Offensive