What do I need to bring?
You will need to wear trainers (the flatter the sole the better). Black jogging bottoms or black combats are recommended as well as a black t-shirt. We will provide you with some safety equipment for the first month and if you choose to continue, we will give you all the help you need to find quality kit of your own at an affordable price.
Why do I need to wear black?
We have a dress code for a number of reasons. Part of it is down to something as simple as appearance as, while it has its roots in history, the Historical European Martial Arts community is relatively young. For those of us who strive for it to be recognised as a legitimate martial art, we understand that how it is perceived by the outside world plays a big role in that. It doesn’t matter how skilled a swordsman is if he’s wearing a t-shirt that says, “No Fat Chicks”, you’re not going to take him seriously. I’d also rather not see anything other than a group logo painted on the mask. It’s not a cosplay group.
Another major reason for it is group inclusion. We all wear the same uniform because we’re part of the same Academy with the shared goal of improving ourselves and helping each other grow.
It also helps to hide the sweat stains, so…there’s also that…
Do I need to bring a sword?
We’ll provide you with a Rawlings Practice Sword for the session and, as with the safety kit, if you choose to continue, we’ll help you research sites and swordsmiths which provide practical blades.
How can I contact you?
You can get in touch with us either via our Facebook page, by going to the contact us page, or by calling or texting 07535067333. We welcome people at any level, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Do I need any prior training?
No. We welcome people who have no training in martial arts, or alternatively, if you have some experience in martial arts and want to try something new, or if you have some training in fencing and want to keep on top of your game then come along and see what we’ve got.
Is this a dangerous martial art?
While there are always dangers in any martial art, we seek to create a safe environment with which to practice our art. Masks are worn during duels to protect practitioners from head injuries and safety gloves are worn that protect against blows to the hands. However, as it is a full contact martial discipline, you must expect to receive strikes to the body. If this sounds like it will be too much for you or if you’re afraid of working up a sweat, then this is unlikely something you will enjoy.
How do you judge who wins a duel?
We employ an ‘honour’ based system whereby the two combatants agree among themselves when and where they’ve been struck. While duels will often be supervised, we encourage combatants to acknowledge their own hits as it helps them to analyse for themselves what they could have done to change the outcome of the fight. There will be two types of rules: ‘first blood’ and ‘lethal’ which will be explained in more detail in class. Neither are as dangerous as they sound.
While we will NEVER encourage students who want to learn the art of sword play to be Trophy Chasers (fighters who tailor their training in how to win a competition as opposed to attempting to master a martial discipline) we will, nevertheless, practice various scoring systems in order to prepare students to enter the wider HEMA community and enjoy participating in HEMA events.
Can I wear my glasses or do I need to wear special goggles?
We wouldn’t recommend wearing glasses as this is a contact sport. However, if your vision is very poor then we’ll find a way to accommodate you. If you happen to have sports goggles which work for you, then it would be a good idea for you to wear them.
Are there any age restrictions?
Anyone over the age of sixteen is welcome. Unfortunately, if you’re younger than sixteen, then our insurance won’t cover you. This is something we may be able to change in the future.
What is HEMA, Re-enactment, LARP and BOTN?
So what is HEMA, Historical Re-enactment, LARP and BotN?
HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts and has a growing interest throughout Europe and North America. Events are held all over the world. While we will be practicing Historical swordplay and martial arts as part of this school, we won’t necessarily adhere entirely to the uniform rules of the HEMA society. We have a great deal of respect for the competitions and competition competitors in the HEMA community. However, we feel that when competition becomes the focus of a martial art, students train in how to win a contest which can re-enforce bad technique. That isn’t to say we won’t foster students’ competitive nature. Rather we wish to prioritise the development techniques that will work and have worked in a duelling context.
Historical re-enactment has been popular in Britain and Europe for a number of years and helps to give us a greater understanding of the function of weapons, military roles and strategies within a historical context. Knowing this allows us to recreate fighting techniques and reconstruct battle tactics employed by Roman generals, Viking raiders and British Field marshals. A common misconception is that these battles are entirely choreographed. Some societies no doubt choreograph the outcome of a battle to match the historical outcome, but there are many examples of re-enactors engaging competitively on a large scale. In terms of duelling, while the competitive element can sometimes seem a little tame when compared to the likes of HEMA, there are few substitutes to getting involved in a free-for-all involving hundreds of warriors from all over the continent.
LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Participants take on the role of fictional characters in fantasy or sci-fi worlds to develop a story. We don’t have a great deal of experience with LARPing ourselves, as the focus of the Academy is on competitive combat, whereas the LARPers tend to focus on narrative, world building and having fun.
BotN or Battle of the Nations are events where participants clad head to toe in armour use large weapons in order to fell opponents. This is especially popular in Slavic countries and North America and there is a British team as well. This will no doubt come with something of a large price tag as the requirements for quality armour will cost a pretty penny. In addition to this, participants of BotN events will need to be prepared to travel which will add the cost again, of course.
What style of swordplay do you study?
We draw a great deal of inspiration from the Anonymous Tower Manuscript better known as the I-33 manual when fighting with sword and shield and the works of Fiore die Liberi and Filippo Vadi, Italian masters of arms, for the longsword. Fiore and Vadi have a number of surviving texts with extensive details and images.
While there is something of a friendly rivalry between ‘Fiorists’ and practitioners of German longsword, we don’t impose a strict delineation between the two if we feel a technique derived from one historical source is more effective or efficient a response to an attack, we will employ that instead.
We will also be examining the work of more modern scholars such as Guy Windsor, Roland Warzecha and John Clements among others whose research has gone a long way in allowing us to reconstruct these historical martial arts.
Do I need to be fit?
Well, it certainly can’t hurt. Our sessions are very active and wielding a sword can take it out of you. That being said: if you’re looking to get fitter, then this can be a fun and unique way to do it.
Where do you train?
We train in the YMCA, Plasnewydd in Cardiff and the Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park in Keynsham Bristol. There’s ample parking at both locations. The YMCA is 10 minutes away Queen St. train station while the Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park is 5 minutes from the number 39 bus route into Bristol or Bath.