According to the manuals, if you can take only one weapon, it should be the sword.
To get close to the skills of the old swordsmen we have to practice on two different ways. Theese are equally required.
First you must practice with a wooden, then a real, steel sabre to strengthen your wrist and arm, gradually increasing the weapon’s weight. The manuals mention four swords during a training, each is heavier than the previous one, and the last one is the actual battle weapon. I am happy to obtain one steel sabre, not four of them, so I used wooden weapons in such a row. Start swinging in the air and try not to hit yourself. When your arms are strong – practicing with both arms – a sabre with a fuller (or fullers) is very helpful. The sound of a cut will reveal that the blade was perfectly parallel with the direction of the cut, or not. If not, you will hear a sound like swinging a plank, but if you did it correctly, the blade will „scream” with a beautiful sound.
Then you have to strike on targets to get accustomed to the resistance of different materials, because it is totally different from swinging in the air. The clay on a table used by the Mamluks seems to be a good start (I haven’t tried it yet) but the best is to practice on animal bodies to feel the structure of them, how a bone surrounded by muscles reacts. For example big meals on reenactment festivals are excellent opportunities. A couple of cuts before processing won’t destroy the taste of the meal.:) You can put pieces of armour and armour padding on the body as well.
For thoose who think it is a savage, barbaric method, use ballistic material or other expensive substances which you cannot eat.
The other way of practicing is actual fencing with an opponent. Again it is totally different from hitting targets. Meeting an other sword while intensely moving and try to hit a moving man in weird positures is an other art.
In my opinion it makes sense only with full strength and speed. Therefore I always use wooden weapons and heavy protective equipments. At the Golden Sabre fencing school in Budapest I used a home-made helmet, like the one used in Kendo, a gambeson like garment and hockey-gloves. This way I could practice safely. I don’t like the methods of „half strength”, „half speed” with steel sabres, because it is far from real moving and timing, but still dangerous.
And of course never strike on your opponent with a sharpened steel weapon!