Members of the Academy of Steel participating in a sidesword lesson.

The Academy of Steel holds regular classes each week – on Wednesday and Friday nights in Cardiff, on Thursday nights in Caerphilly and on Sunday evenings in Marshfield (about half way between Cardiff and Newport).

Classes run through different semesters (of different lengths but usually around 3-4 months) with weapons and or techniques changing from class to class. We also frequently run taster classes and introductory courses. Check the events page to see what the current classes are offering as well as where and when they are.

The majority of semesters draw inspiration from the late medieval work of Fiore dei Liberi and the many weapons detailed in Fior di Battaglia. However, other traditions are also studied, both to augment Fiore’s techniques as well as to give some experience of what may be encountered from other practitioners.

A particular focus within the Academy, and a favourite starting point for many students of HEMA is the longsword, one of the most celebrated weapons in history, literature and films. In addition we train techniques with other complimentary weapons including the rondel, a type of dagger used by a variety of people from merchants to knights in Europe during the late Middle Ages and the poleaxe, a long hafted weapon with a steel axe or hammer head designed to punch through the armour of knights and men at arms.

We also study the sword and buckler with the primary source being the I.33 “Anonymous Tower” manuscript complimented by some of the later German masters. 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.

Moving into the Renaissance we explore the use of the sidesword, a form of early rapier, either alone or accompanied with a buckler or dagger. For this we mainly draw upon the sources of Achille Marozzo and Antonio Manciolino but also incorporate lessons from other traditions.

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.

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 duellist 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.