Having watched the Schola Gladatoria YouTube Channel hosted by Matt Easton for a number of years and having heard so much about Fightcamp from a number of people, including my best friend, Osian, I was more than a little excited in the run up to the weekend.
The variety of workshops and competitions available over the three day event was staggering.
As my friend, Sam, and I travelled along the motorway, we discussed the classes we wanted to attend. Sam was a little more adventurous than myself deciding to attended lessons in Indian Weapons Training, various styles with the rapier and backsword and Edwardian Jujitsu. There were a number of classes I desperately wanted to attend, such as medieval dagger and Ringen/ medieval wrestling, but I had decided to focus exclusively on the longsword classes so that I could bring that understanding back to the Academy.
The venue is normally an airsoft site and so the camp area was a hodgepodge of small houses and watchtowers that wherein we needed to find a place to set up our tents. We found a quiet little corner that was “easily defensible” and made camp.
In the morning, we made our way up to the main hall where we were given a general greeting by Matt Easton and the whole Schola crew. Sadly, I missed most of the speech as the site was on a flight path and we often had planes flying in low and drowning everything else out. Suffice to say, I had not slept well.
I spent the next six hours doing workshops. Most were focused on German Longsword techniques. Fortunately, I knew enough about the Lechtenauer tradition to follow along, despite it not being my focus.
The highlight of those classes for me was a workshop lead by Keith Farrel who focused his two hour lesson purely of footwork. And I do love some good footwork.
However, after six hours, I felt I was no longer able to focus on the final workshop and so for the last two hours I took notes and then looked for someone to fight. I found a couple of keen looking gentlemen who seemed up for a fight and they didn’t disappoint. One such combatant took me to the ground in a wonderful display of ringen.
My Italian style apparently seemed quite strange to many of the people there whose focus was German. I rather liked that though.
The next day, I entered into the longsword tournament and managed to make it through the first pools and into the quarter finals by the skin of my teeth. Despite being rather tired and needing to conserve energy, I decided to do another longsword workshop lead by Andrzej Rozycki. He ended it early as he was taking part in the longsword tournament.
As it happens, his first opponent was me. I was a good fight. I managed to win by one sorry point. My second opponent, alas, beat me roundly by sniping my hands and ducking down to strike my leg, tactics against which I have never trained.
Eliminated from the match, I made myself scarce and joined in Keith Farell’s second workshop about winding or winden.
That night, there was an excellent barbeque and Sam and I were approached by someone who wanted to form a unit for the melee competition on the next morning. I was happy to do it having done a lot of shield wall combat, until I found out that I wasn’t allowed to take on my shield. We discussed tactics for a time, but as the night went on it devolved swiftly into the telling of embarrassing stories involving crazy ex-girlfriends.
On the Sunday, we were up bright and early and ready for the Melee. Our team was formed up of a number of random members including the YouTuber, Lindybeige, which was certainly interesting as it meant during each interval we were being interviewed about our tactics.
It was a little different to what I’m used to in re-enactment as scope of vision is drastically reduced by the mask where in re-enactment your helmet means you can see. In addition to the no shield rule, I was a little annoyed by the no running rule which made it hard to flank and there seemed to be a lack of self-preservation which made for a lot of doubles.
We took silver in the end and lost to the team who have won it four years in a row so it wasn’t too bad.
Next was the Egelton Cup, a mix of synthetic weapons (Pretty much sword and buckler or longsword). I managed to get through my first pool again and into the semi-finals.
I was pooled with the only two other fighters in that room who I felt had any technical ability. I lost soundly to a guy with a longsword (once again, I’m unused to sniping) and was knocked out of the competition.
I don’t want to sound cattish here and perhaps this will make me sound like a sore loser, but what followed was something of a disappointment. The following combatants in the subsequent pools displayed nothing that I could see that was based on a martial art or any kind of historical source. It was a flailing of limbs. There were those that lost their footing on numerous occasions, but being as they made a swing that connected with their opponent on their way down, they were awarded the point!
Feeling bitter that I had lost to such a poor display of martial form, I left. I had some water, I took a deep breath and then I returned. As I was leaning against the wall, watching the remaining fighters prepare, I looked over and found Matt Easton looking at me. I nodded to him and he made his way over to me.
“Which club did you say you were from?” he asked.
“Academy of Steel in Cardiff. We’re a new school.”
That was likely the highlight of the weekend: that despite having lost, my form had been noticed. I was given a number of compliments by the judges and other members of the contest and I could not have been happier. You can keep your tournament style fighting.
We listened to the farewell speech and took off. I’d like to say Sam and I talked about what we had learned on the way home, but I think we were both exhausted both physically and mentally so in the end we just argued about Star Wars.
If you’d like to see the video chronicling our exploits, you can find it here.