I came across their Facebook page entirely by chance. After years of living in rural Italy and after having resigned myself to the fact that all of the HEMA groups in the area were either not all that great or trained at times that were just impractical, and that Melissa (the wife) and I would be training alone. Now don’t get me wrong: Melissa is a fantastic training partner. But no matter how good your partner is, there is only so much you can learn from fighting one person. To really become a well-rounded fighter, facing off against people with a diverse set of skill and strengths that are different from yours is paramount.
After contacting La Compagnia della Rosa e della Spada and being invited to training session in Naples on Saturday, we set off not knowing what to expect. It was a bit of a long journey and as anyone who has been to Naples will know, the public transport there sucks! So it’s fair to say that I was stressed too.
When we got there, the Company was incredibly welcoming, even in the face of my butchering their beautiful language. There were eight of us in total, a good number for a first lesson as I was concerned a huge class might have been a little overwhelming considering the language barrier.
We started by warming up which involved jogging (much to Melissa’s dismay) and stretches. Next we moved onto practicing striking and moving from certain guards. The hardest thing for me, I think was the lunges, I’ve spent so long practicing certain footwork and trying not to overreach that this just felt, for lack of a better word, wrong.
I hadn’t practiced that style of fighting since I was about thirteen, so it definitely threw me. To say I made one or two school boy errors would be an outright lie. I was unused to swords of that length, at least for single-handed use, and my measure was always off, being a little too close to my sparring partner.
We practiced a couple of strikes, remedies and counter remedies which were really interesting, though. I’m sure I bollocksed up most of what I was doing, but my partner was patient enough with me.
After padding up, we started practicing strikes against an opponent who was backed into a wall. I was quite happy to do this as it meant that I could just fall back on reacting to strikes rather than thinking about a dozen new techniques and it meant that I could show them that I wasn’t a complete buffoon.
After that, we got down to free sparring. That was great. The company are a skilled bunch and everyone there knew their craft.
The instructor, Marco, couldn’t do enough for us. His knowledge of Renaissance Bolognese fencing was impressive and the disarm he used against me during our brief bout was both illuminating and painful (Still recovering from a broken wrist here. Give me a break. Pun intended).
All in all, I thought it was a great experience. Melissa and I have joined the Company so we can get some serious practice done. They have a great ethos, they work hard and it shows. I look forward to learning more about the club and the styles they practice.