Fancy seeing some good old fashion blood lust? Then look no closer than Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olimpick Games. We’ve been a few times and it’s worth a day out – it’s always a sunny day for some reason. Check out the website here.
The modern Olympic movement has its historic roots in “Robert Dover’s Olimpick Games”. For our 400th anniversary celebrations of what are now often called the Cotswold Olimpicks, a dedicated team of volunteers has organised a fun packed family day of races, games, music and entertainment – in addition to the traditional Games themselves which include the world famous shin-kicking contest!
Starting at 2pm, and with children in mind, the Robert Dover’s Games programme this year includes a Jacobean Village, folk concert, the traditional sporting events, torch procession with marching bands and a live band in the town square.
Welcome Songs & Folk Concert
But the real surprise will be the world premier of the 2012 Olympics Welcome Songs written as a prelude to the opening of the London Olympics and performed by a local choir led by world-acclaimed singer Eliza Carthy. Preceding this there will be a programme of folk music featuring several guest artists and groups.
Swash 2013 – more to follow on the BFHS’s gathering but we thought we’d let you have a look at this video. Here we have two members from AMEK putting on a good show piece they’ve created for the German Longsword. We believe that they went on to dominate the Longsword competition this year at Swash.
Before television and the wireless radio the people of Britian used to do other things for entertainment, such as getting together and watching or participating in various types of games, including shin kicking, cheese rolling and backswording. The first article is an account of the Chapel Row Revel and features the Butcher of Swindon, one of the finest singlestick players of his day. The article goes into the rules of backswording and paints the picture that this noble pastime was somewhat of a bloodthirsty sport – nonsense!
The second article is worth reading for the humour alone. You’ll get the feel if you’ve been to any British event like cheese rolling or the Cotswold Olimpick Games. The article describes the folk of Wiltshire as a joyful people fond of robust sports – especially backswording. Have a read and add any other links to related material to the comments. Enjoy!
Over the last month at Medieval Martial Arts it was our privilege to welcome guest instructor Chris Stride who kindly gave us a crash course on the basic fundamentals of the longsword in the Liechtenauer tradition.
There was a lot of ground to cover in a short space of time and Chris needed to push us hard. Despite the new (to us) stance, footwork and a completely different way of holding a sword it was gratifying to see familiar martial principles at work and we all gained a new respect for this subtle but brutal weapon. Continue reading The Art & Science of Liechtenauer’s Longsword
Two of the earliest and most cited sources on the English martial arts system are the works of George Silver and Joseph Swetnam’s The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence (1617). Although both men were contemporaries and described some similar techniques, what is less often mentioned are their vehemently opposing views on the key principles that underpin the system.
The earliest published fencing manual composed in English was in fact authored by an Italian, Vincentio Saviolo, his practice, in two bookes, the first intreating of the use of the Rapier and Dagger, the second of Honor and honorable quarrels (1595). Saviolo, following in the footsteps of his compatriot Rocco Bonnetti, had moved to London in 1590 and opened a school teaching the use of rapier and dagger. Both men had managed to side-step the monopoly enjoyed by the English Maisters of Defence by drawing their clientèle from the noblemen and gentlemen of Court. Saviolo was a great success. Not only was this sophisticated Italian gentleman teaching a highly fashionable weapon, the steep fees made his school very exclusive. The English maisters were traditionally drawn from the lower orders, as were the majority of their students, sniffily described by George Hale as ‘Butchers, Byt-makers, Shooe-makers; or Truncke-makers’. Rather than rub shoulders with these rude mechanics the young blades of Elizabethan London flocked to Saviolo.
This situation dismayed George Silver. Although a private gentleman rather than a maister, Silver was a connoisseur of the native fighting system ‘having the perfect knowledge of all maner of weapȏs, and being experiȇced in all maner of fights’. He saw Saviolo’s teaching as dangerously flawed, teaching offence rather than defence which, in a civil society armed to the teeth, was costing lives. Continue reading Silver versus Swetnam: Short Sword versus Rapier
Last week we unwrapped some shiny new bucklers and went through a few of the techniques as described by George Silver. Whilst offering protection from the off hand, the buckler is also a brutal weapon and can be used to smash into the opponents hands and face. It can even be tilted so the edge can smash down into the collar bone and the like. Serious stuff.
After the main session we then moved into an advanced lesson and explored some of the techniques by W.E. Fairbairn. Although some of the techniques are difficult to safely practice, when used in accordance with the principles and correct timings, they proved to be very effective.
Last week at Medieval Martial Arts we went back to the broadsword and worked through some of the techniques as outlined by George Silver in “Brief Instructions Upon my Paradoxes of Defence.” Using rattan cudgels, hand protection and sabre masks our goal was for the patient agent (defender) to strike the agent (attacker) from the stop. At the same time the agent had two goals: to attack in the truest time possible, and to fly in and fly out without being struck. To further train with realism, all the techniques were conducted whilst moving and at full speed.
The trickiest part for the agent was to try and capitalise on small false times brought about(hopefully for him) by the movements of the patient agent. Naturally, the patient agent was given his leave to strike the agent in the event that the agent should be clumsy with his coming in. The patient agent was also given further freedom to attack any target from the stop, thus preventing automatic blocking by the agent on his flying out.
The lesson for the patient agent – if you observe your times and distance then you’re at tremendous advantage when defending (attacking from the stop).
The lesson for the agent – don’t be the agent! That is unless you have won the place.
To round the evening off we sparred with the cudgel – full speed and with good power.
A few weeks ago at Medieval Martial Arts we went through some of the Longsword techniques outlined by George Silver (short-staff techniques) and compared those with elements of the German Longsword and new developments with research into English Longsword.
Here at Medieval Martial Arts we have an advantage over our colleagues who draw on the works of masters such as Liechtenauer, Fiore or Talhoffer in so far as our primary source material is at least written in English! That said the archaic language, spelling and abbreviations are often bewildering to a new student. Matters are further complicated by the terms used to describe the actual weapons themselves. These vary greatly across time with the same weapon being known by several different names while similar terminology can be used to describe completely different types of sword. Below are just a few examples taken from the works of George Silver, Paradoxes of Defence(1599) and Bref Instructions Upȏ My Paradoxes of Defence (c.1610), along with a description of the weapon and the terms we more commonly use at Medieval Martial Arts.
Last week at Medieval Martial Arts we took another look at the long sword and worked through some of the techniques as described by George Silver in the Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defence. We also worked through some of the different punching techniques, stops and reposts that we’ve been practicing since Christmas. We ended the session by putting on masks and sparring hard and fast.
Last year we became members of the British Federation of Historical Swordplay and last week they hosted their yearly showpiece at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Called SWASH, the event is a weekend long exploration of the world of Western Martial Arts. Below is a clip from one of the participants at SWASH 2012 from the Sheffield Academy of Western Martial Arts. In the video you see different students being introduced to new material, along with footage of some gentle freeplay.
We couldn’t attend this year, but look forward to going along next year to see what some of the leading Western Martial Arts clubs in the UK are up to. Check out the BFHS here and also have a gander through the list of members to see if there is a club in your area. Why not turn up for one of their sessions and catch yourself a glimpse into the world of sword fighting, polearms and maybe even some classical pugilism?
This week at Medieval Martial Arts we went through some of Dempsey’s defensive drills, took a cold, hard look at George Silver’s True Times and rounded the evening off with the dagger fight.
Temperatures outside of our training hall dropped to below -6 this evening so we took plenty of time to ensure that we were all warmed up and ready for the session. To begin with we refreshed ourselves on the Dempsey lessons from the previous two sessions and then added a few of his defensive drills, including simultaneous stop and counters – stopping incoming punches with the heel of the hand whilst simultaneously countering to the face with the other hand.
We then compared a few of our techniques with German long sword techniques to further clarify the difference between True Times and False Times. In addition to studying works by George Silver, a number of the students here are currently researching manuscripts, translations and interpretations of Johannes Liechenauer and Sigmund Ringeck (along with various English long sword manuscripts) and we will often use various teachings from the whole Western Martial Arts tradition in order to demonstrate and clarify our own teaching and understanding.
Finally we sparred with the dagger. For this we used shortened rattan sticks and wore sabre fencing masks. In our view the dagger fight is probably one of the most dangerous and brutal fights you could find yourself in. Forget grapples and fancy locks and arm grabs – against an opponent pumped up on murder (or anything else) you’re in a battle for your life and fancy stuff will get you killed. Because this weapon is so easily misused the dagger’s self defensive techniques and training is only provided for experienced and long term members of Medieval Martial Arts. Beginners can expect training in how to defend one’s self from a dagger attack… the first lesson of which is titled, ‘running really fast.’