Members of the Academy of Steel participating in sword and buckler exercises.

The Academy of Steel holds regular classes twice a week – on Wednesday and Friday nights from 8pm until 10pm.

The Wednesday classes cover sword and buckler with the primary source being the I-33 “Anonymous Tower” manuscript. The buckler is a small shield that was far more widely used than most people realise, from the latter half of the Middle Ages through into the Renaissance. It was traditionally paired with a one handed sword such as a rapier or falchion – though the Academy typically favours the traditional “knightly” arming sword.

The Friday classes cover the longsword, one of the most celebrated weapons in history, literature and films. We focus primarily on the Italian style of longsword dueling detailed in Fior di Battaglia. However, other traditions are also touched on, both to augment Fiore’s techniques as well as to give some experience of what may be encountered from other practitioners.

Lessons begin with a short warm up (which is adapted to the fitness and capabilities of the participants). This is typically followed by structured demonstrations of wards and techniques. Academy members then practice the techniques and carry out pressure exercises to reinforce the skills. Sessions also including optional sparring and more extensive sparring days are held on a regular basis.

Shield wall versus shield wall in the hall and on the field

Many HEMA events (as well as related activities like re-enactment and Battle of the Nations) include team combat and mass battles. The differences between fighting as an individual and fighting as part of a group are vast and a superb duelist is not automatically the sort of person you can rely on to fight by your side.

Although many practitioners enjoy and take part in group combat activities, relatively few schools actually focus on formalised training in this area. The Academy of Steel offers specialised unit combat training including group sparring activities such as The Tree of Woe, Kill the King, etc. as well as instruction in battlefield techniques and shield wall formations. The approach that the Academy adopts makes use of principals from Roman and Viking warfare as well as more modern tactics and strategies; these very same techniques have been used to train modern day police and security forces.