Rapier is a style of sword combat growing out of the Italian Spada dal Lato (or sidesword) tradition. It was popular from the late 16th Century until the mid 17th Century, when it began to transition to what today we call Small Sword. The weapon is a long single handed sword with complex hilt optimised for thrusting. Historically they were just called swords everywhere except England and Germany.
Fencing with a rapier is physically more demanding and more suitable for the duel than other styles of historical fencing. It is dominated by blade engagement and the lunge more familiar to students of modern fencing, while still including powerful cuts and wrestling grips common in HEMA.
The text we base our practice on is Ridolfo Capofero di Cagli’s book Gran Simulacro dell’Arte e dell’Uso della Scherma (Great Representation of the Art and Use of Fencing, which was published in 1610. Other important texts include Giganti, Alfieri, and Fabris.
Here’s a video showing some highlights from a rapier class.