European Heritage Open Days

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.

Check the official EHOD entry, and keep an eye on the Facebook event page for details.

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.

Bladeworks 2019

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.

The few who remained (roughly half) on the Sunday afternoon!

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.

A moment of explanation in the longsword worksho

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.

Paul Reck teaching the dussack.

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.

A lull in the social area on Saturday night…

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.

The longsword fechtschule underway…

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 winners of the technical prizes, and two slightly exhausted event staff

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!

The Art That Adorns You 2019

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!

If you had any doubts about how fun the event is, take a look at the huge smiles of everyone in the group photo! (photograph courtesy of Valerie HEMA photographer).

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 🙂

The medalists from
the Discipulus Artis Dimicatoriae tournament at The Art That Adorns You 2019.

Morrigan’s Melee 2019

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!

Our Sarah swapped her pen for a sword this week at the Medieval Combat Club

Our Sarah swapped her pen for a sword this week at the Medieval Combat Club. Here's how she got on!

Posted by Belfast Live on Thursday, 21 February 2019

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.

Entrants of the Fechtschule with the three medalists, Hannah, Hannah, and Nina, respectively from left to right.

We’re also exceptionally happy to announce we’ve just tallied up and donated the final proceeds of The Morrigan’s Melee 2019 to our chosen charity for this year, Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid. And huge thanks to the The Knight Shop International Ltd for providing the shiny medals for our fechtschule winners!

For a relatively small event everyone did excellent work and raised £451 for charity.

The Morrigan’s Melee will be back in 2020 for International Women’s Day, when The Exiles Galway will host it for another round of taster classes and the fechtschule tournament.

New class kicking off in Comber!

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be in a sword fight… Why not find out!

Classes in the German Longsword will be starting in Comber Leisure Centre from Saturday 2 March.

You might have seen us perform at Belfast Culture Night where we were in the Belfast Telegraph’s top 10 things not miss in 2017!

Come along for free on Saturday 2nd March to find out more and book onto the 10 week course.

Booking for this course has now closed.

Currently students must be over 18.

Fencing equipment will be provided. Check the Facebook Event Page for more announcements and information!


More Information

Saturday 2 March 2019, 9:30 – 11:30am
-Exhibition fencing
-Taster classes
-Meet members of the Belfast group
-Book on to the 10 week course

Saturdays 9 March – 18 May 2019, 9:30 – 11:30am
-Suitable for beginners
-Learn the basics of the system
-Moderate intensity

New Students:
10 weeks: £80 (includes 1st week free, and Historical Fencing NI/HEMA Ireland membership)
10 weeks + Training Sword £118**
10 weeks + Training sword + Mask £165**
**Valid only until 20th February

Existing Students:
10 weeks: £60


What is HEMA?

Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA) is the study and revival of European fighting systems; recreating techniques from period manuscripts and putting them to the test!

HEMA uses modern protective equipment and flexible, blunt training tools to safely recreate European swordsmanship.

This course will focus on the Longsword form the German Liechtenhauer tradition.



Matthew Malcolm, founder of Medieval Combat Group and longsword instructor will be leading the classes. Matthew has been practicing HEMA for 8 years, teaching for 7 years, and was the 2016 Irish Historical Fencing League winner.

He has exhibited his fencing as part of Belfast Culture Night, European Heritage Open Day 2013, and presented interpretation of Medieval German Longsword treatises at the Queen’s University Borderlines Medieval Conference in 2015.

Find out more:

New Website!

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!