One of our senior students, Lizzie, is currently spending some time in New Zealand.  However, that didn’t stop her practising her sword fighting.  She went along to the NZ Sword Symposium in Wellington and sends in this report…

The other Friday I arrived in Wellington where I had arranged to be picked up by a stranger,  his brother and a van full of weapons after which I would be taken to a scout camp in the middle of nowhere surrounded by hills.. sounds like the start of a terrible horror film!  Luckily it was not, in fact I was on my way to the first ever NZ Sword Symposium for the weekend.

I arrived pretty early, and was shown to the ‘single ladies cabin’, current residents, moi. Upon chatting to a few other early arrivals I was pretty sure that this would be like every other HEMA event I’ve been to… lots of bearded men, talking about swords, history, sci-fi… etc. There were also non-bearded men talking about swords, but as yet no other ladies. HEMA in New Zealand seems to be a relatively new phenomena and the Sword Symposium was the first teaching and workshop event to be held here. It successfully brought together people from the HEMA, SCA, re-enactment and western martial arts communities in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere whilst also being serious about sharing knowledge on historic martial arts.

Over the weekend I attended a number of workshops, but the sparring was limited, in fact for me there was none. I think this was partly due to people coming from different backgrounds with different rulesets for engagement and partly down to this being the first ‘teaching’ event therefore people were wanting workshops.

My first class, on Friday night, was mechanics taught by Paul Wagner. This was a generic theory based lesson that could be applied to a number of different weapons emphasizing the need for good body posture and mechanics but largely based on English sources for backsword, longsword and smallsword.  It was a good reminder that an awareness of what ones body can do, a good grasp on body mechanics, is essential to sword fighting.

On Saturday there was a warm up class where we were shown exercises much like we already do at School of the Sword, including some interval based training.  Afterwards there was a full days worth of classes with a good range of choice between different weapons and styles. I settled on spadone, with Richard Cullinan, according to Alfieri and after lunch a brief introduction to Spanish rapier followed by Manciolino’s sword and buckler as a movement system. The spadone was brilliant fun and my first real two-handed sword work. NOW I WANT A SPADONE! Spanish rapier was a reminder of some basics I had learnt at a Dijon workshop, looking at the upright posture and attacks on the inside and outside. In the Manciolino class, again with Richard Cullinan, we worked through lots of his ‘evil stuff’ focusing on footwork and stringing attacks together with feints. We also practised ‘the pretzel’ but with gathering footwork, which will be interesting to try out in an exchange.

Sunday saw another good range of classes and first thing for me was 3 hours of English Quarterstaff.  This was really, really fun!!!! And guess what…. NOW I WANT A QUARTERSTAff!  After lunch I joined Guy Windsor’s class on Italian rapier, according to Capoferro. We worked through a form Guy developed with his students that practises all the footwork and a number of important plates, plus a drill on finding the sword and a couple of Capoferro’s plates attacking on the inside and outside. It was soooo good to hold a rapier again!  And a really worthwhile class.

My greatest personal realisations of the weekend are that I need to develop more confidence in the weapon I am using, especially in rapier. If used correctly it can protect you with small, minimal movements. Being able to relax and have this trust puts you in a stronger position to make attacks. Overall, the weekend was brilliant fun! After a month without a sword in my hand it was all very exciting, especially to get to try out some different systems and weapons. It would have been good (kit borrowing dependent) to do some sparring in order to put the drills into practise and try out what works in a more real situation.  But it’s great to know that you can travel halfway around the world and find people just as enthusiastic about swords and … drinking!

(P.s. look at the glint on that sword!)