We’ve been exporting instructors again! Over the weekend, our head instructor for longsword Matthew, travelled over to the excellent Tremonia Fechtschule 2019 in Germany to teach a technical longsword workshop at the event, aided and abetted by one of our Free Scholars, Aaron, and they also ran into one of our instructors who moved away a year ago, Katja!
In addition to teaching the workshop, Matt also fenced in the steel longsword tournament at the event, picking up 2nd place for his efforts.
All in all, an excellent event, and well worth looking into for future years for anyone willing to travel.
At the start of September, two of our students, Aaron and Kelly, went through the first Free Scholar assessments ever at Medieval Combat Group. These assessments are aimed at long-term students with good technical understanding and ability.
For the first part the candidate must demonstrate in-depth technical knowledge of the core elements of either longsword or messer. For some parts they’ll know in advance to be able to prepare – almost like having to teach an in-depth workshop on a subject to your instructor – and for other parts no advance warning is given, things are passed or failed based on your technical response to a sparring situation and your ability to explain why your technical response was appropriate given the situation and the principles of the system.
For the second part, the students must ‘play their prize’, kitting up for steel sparring and fencing opponent after opponent after opponent for a significant length of time without break in between. These exchanges are monitored by the instructors to gauge the technical ability of the candidates to perform good consistent technique whilst under the stress and fatigue of constant unco-operative opponents.
Provided both of these elements are passed to a satisfactory level, the candidate then becomes a Free Scholar of the school, and we’re exceptionally pleased that both Kelly and Aaron passed, Aaron with longsword and Kelly with messer.
The group has been quite busy lately! We’re just through a weekend of test cutting training with guest instructor Keith Farrell (check out his Blog and Fallen Rook publications for lots of excellent reading on and around various HEMA topics), we’re starting to put things in place for next year’s Bladeworks event, and we’re working on another couple of things in the background.
We’re also going to be out and about a bit this September. On Saturday 14th September we’ll be giving two taster classes and some demonstrations in Narrow Water Keep for European Heritage Open Days. We’ll be in the keep from 12pm to 4pm, with a taster class in longsword from 12:15pm to 1:15pm, a taster class in messer from 2:15pm to 3:15pm, and demonstrations of fencing in and around both of them. We’ll also have our instructors and some of our students on hand to chat and answer questions throughout.
Attendees will have the opportunity to take part in introductory Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA) workshops for a variety of medieval swords, meet Northern Irish Historical fencers, and find out more about the use of weapons in medieval Europe.
12:15 – 13:15 Workshop: Introduction to European Longsword (1 hour)
13:30 – 14:00 Demonstration: Modern practice of HEMA (30 mins)
14:15 – 15:15 Workshop: Introduction to the Messer (1 hour)
15:30 – 16:00 Demonstration: The context of historical Fencing within Medieval Society
Demonstrations: Find your medieval self by learning how to wield a sword!
There will be two introductory classes at Narrow Water Keep:
1. European longsword from 12:15-13:15 (arrive at 12pm); and
2. The Long Messer from 14:15 – 15:15 (arrive at 2pm)
Registration is not required by participants. Spaces will be limited to 16 per class and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. Participants should be aged 15 and older.
The start of June saw our biggest Bladeworks ever, with sixty fencers and instructors from around Ireland and the UK descending upon Bangor for a weekend of fencing and socializing. As last year’s venue was unavailable, we shifted Bladeworks 2019 to EliteArchery NI’s range just outside Bangor. The old garden centre complex gave us more space than last year that was a bit better in terms of separation of areas.
As arrivals on Friday were spread throughout the evening, we decided to keep things social – some conversation, some drinks, and some gaming – and give people time to get set up and settled in. We may revisit this next year and offer a workshop an some sparring games on the Friday evening to get everyone moving into the spirit of the event.
Saturday morning kicked off with two workshops, Martin Fabian’s full day of longsword, and Paul Reck’s dussack. Space was a little tighter than we expected, but the weather was lovely outside, so dussack became an outdoors workshop rather than our contingency plan of disrupting the social area. The longsword workshop got off to a (almost literally) flying start, with Martin’s warm-up being… strenuous 😊 The remainder of the longsword content drilled down into the successful use of core techniques, approaching the matter from several different angles to give a well-rounded understanding of the tactics and applications.
Following the dussack came Fiore’s dagger, excellently taught by Tom Gorman of The Exiles Galway, and as expected included much stabbing and some lovely locks. This was followed by a lovely workshop on Naval Cutlass by Eanna Watters of the 1595 Club Ireland (who had a wonderfully pirate-y flag marking their portion of the camping area). Alongside all of this our own instructor, Ross, supervised test cutting throughout the weekend. It was excellent to see so many from a diverse range of clubs trying some test cutting, some for the first time.
Saturday evening inevitably led to more socializing, involving yet more board games, and more drinks. Bladeworks 2019 was supplied with a copy of the Highlander Board Game by River Horse Games, and since both Matthew and Ross owned their own copies, it seemed a fitting game for a weekend of fencing. Lulled by the sofas and comfortable seating of Elite’s social area, the conversation about games, fencing, and general nonsense continued into the small hours.
Sunday morning saw brave early risers getting to grips with Giganti’s rapier taught by Mike Prendergast, and as lunch brought more fencers back to life (some from the night before, some from the longsword work out the day before), things geared up for the first of the tournaments.
The four tournaments at Bladeworks used an alternative tournament system – the ‘Fechtschule’ format. Marshalled by the hosting instructors, the fencers fought against all opponents, one to one.
In the Fechtschule format there are no line judges or referees, the marshals only stepping in to ensure adequate control is maintained and keep the flow of matches proceeding. The fights are to a single exchange and the outcome quickly agreed by the two fighters – if an agreement can’t be quickly reached, the marshal moves both off. Defeat means temporary withdrawal – in a Fechtschule the fighters are fed in from a line-up and on defeat are returned to that line. Winning fencers choose their next opponent from the line.
At the end of the allotted time for the Fechtschule, each fencer casts a vote for the opponent they felt was the most skilled fencer present. The fencer with the most votes, who has won the most respect from their peers for their skill and conduct, wins the prize. In this sense, uncontrolled fencing, failure to acknowledge significant strikes, or continually selecting a single ‘easy’ opponent rather than fencing as many as possible, becomes inherently limiting behaviour.
Congratulations to Paul Reck for taking the prize for longsword, Oísin Newport of Goat’s Head Historical Fencing for taking the prize in Sabre, Matt O’Connor of Gray School of Arms for taking the prize in rapier, Aaron Meehan of Medieval Combat Group for taking the prize in langes messer, and to Jurg Gassmann of Goat’s Head Historical Fencing for taking the discretionary technical prize awarded by the hosting MCG instructors. Also to Martin Buckley of Cork Blademasters for being voted the best training partner of the weekend!
The Fechtschulen contained some exceptional fencing, not just by the fencers who took the prizes, but by all concerned. We saw some lovely techniques straight from the period sources popping up again and again. We were also very pleased with the general levels of control we saw throughout – everyone was taking care of themselves and each other, and fencing well and skillfully, and it was absolutely lovely to watch.
We’re exceptionally proud of how much of a success the event was, and the absolutely glowing feedback we’ve received in the aftermath. Here’s to making Bladeworks 2020 bigger and better again!
Several of our fencers attended this awesome event hosted by York School of Defence in April. The Art That Adorns You is an excellent event hosted by an excellent club, entirely in the spirit of good fun and good skilled technical fencing. We’re already counting down the days til next year!
Every workshop we attended was not only excellently run, but exceptional fun, and tied everything back into the sources and background context in a lovely manner. And for a change of pace there was spacehopper jousting at lunchtimes!
One of our instructors, Ross, taught a messer workshop at the event, which not only referenced the historical messer sources and background social context, but also managed to work in Star Trek IV and conkers as well. Ross also picked up the gold in the Discipulus Artis Dimicatoriae tournament, though seemed much more impressed by the chocolate dinosaur that came with it 🙂
In recognition of International Women’s Day, and the awesome swordswomen across the island in the various HEMA clubs, Medieval Combat Group were proud to host The Morrigan’s Melee in March 2019! Belfast Live dropped into our regular class a few weeks beforehand to give us a bit of promotion, check the video out on the link below!
The event kicked off by a women’s taster class for the longsword, taught by guest instructor Helen Gallagher. By all reports everyone had an amazing time, and there was some excellent technique on display from the attendees!
We also invited as many of the women HEMA practitioners on the island to come up the same afternoon for a mixed weapon Fechtschule style tournament. Again there was some excellent sparring on display, and as the fechtschule rewards any virtue which impresses your fellow fencers, fighting spirit, determination, and respect for your fellow fencers was rewarded as well as technical ability.
Welcome to the new look website for Medieval Combat Group! The old site was getting a bit glitchy and causing some problems, so we’ve started with a clean slate. We hope you like the new look, and we’ll get the useful elements of the old content back again as soon as possible!