Is all you do just a fancy type of ‘sport’ fencing?
No! Sport fencing is a derivation of the styles we study, and is constrained by rules that allow judges to see who has struck a point within a target area (often just the head and torso). Historical fencing is the Western Martial Art of civilian defence; actual duels or fights may have had conventions, but the aim is not to score a point, but to ‘survive’ the encounter or to fight to first blood. Therefore, the whole body is a target and emphasis is laid on the deadliness a blow would have caused, not on the points to be gained. For us, historical fencing is ‘real’ rather than a sport, though many techniques are similar. And that being said, throughout the HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) community, there are several competitions a year for different weapons and with varying rulesets. Although even here, the martial validity of strikes is taken into serious consideration.
For more information on HEMA and what it entails, see here : http://sword.school/rapier/what-is-hema/
Can I come and see you?
Yes! Please contact us via the locations pages if you would like to see us training. We offer Beginners’ Courses a couple of times a year where you will have a chance to touch on various elements of swordplay, learn something of the history, handle weapons and meet our students.
When do you train?
Please check out our current locations for latest information on times and venues
You train at multiple locations. Do I need to go to all locations in order to train?
No. Reading and Godalming follow a similar curriculum (sidesword and rapier) so you can just pick the venue that suits you best. At Oxford we focus on longsword and rapier. Of course, the more training you put in the more you will get out, so you are more than welcome to attend multiple locations once you have completed initial training.
What should I bring?
Please wear tracksuit bottoms, trainers and a t-shirt – in black if possible. Please do not wear jeans, as these are not suitable for training. You should also bring some gloves; gardening gloves or ‘light’ motorcycle gloves are ideal, but ski gloves are too bulky. Do not bring fingerless gloves – the idea is to protect the sword from corrosion caused by contact with skin as well as protect you from any burrs or nicks on the blade. You may want to bring a bottle of water too.
A full list of equipment used by our students can be found here.
How old do I have to be to train?
For insurance reasons, we cannot train anyone under the age of 18, unless they are supervised directly by their parent or guardian. There is no upper limit to anyone wanting to train in historical fencing.
How fit do I have to be?
Beginners have joined the school at all levels of fitness. Training is staged, with techniques introduced at a pace comfortable to you; unless you are extremely unfit, you should have no trouble. However, as training progresses so does the intensity; you are attempting to learn to defend yourself and attacks come in fast! As with any martial art or sport, you will have to develop your fitness to be able to cope with advanced training in historical fencing.
It is generally advisable to consult your doctor before starting any new physical activity.
What will I learn?
Students at the School practise a range of weapon forms including the single sword, sword and buckler, sword and dagger, sword and cloak, dagger and cloak, unarmed combat, two handed great sword and the use of two swords at once, always staying true to the core principles of the art. The specialty we excel at, and our main focus, is rapier and companion weapons. See here for what to expect in your training if you become a member of the school
Does it hurt?
Historical Fencing is a martial art; there is inevitably a degree of contact. However, training starts at the level of ‘candidato’ (candidate) and must pass a basic safety test before being awarded full membership of the School. This means that you have the opportunity to get comfortable handling weapons and most importantly, learn control. At the next level, ‘studente’ (student), you will begin to train in limited contact with other studenti and instructors; freeplay is introduced slowly and with control.
Any exercise involving contact requires jackets and masks, and body armour if necessary (equipment can be supplied by the School until you purchase your own). You are therefore protected. That said, injuries can happen as in any martial art or contact sport; however, we believe that the measures make historical fencing far less dangerous than, say, rugby or horseriding.
Does it hurt? Well, you will inevitably be hit at some point, and occasionally that can smart, but you should not leave a lesson black and blue. The most likely pain will be some aches after training, for which we recommend a hot bath.
How much does training cost?
Fees are £7.00 a lesson for drop ins, £20 a month for one site, £30 if you attend both. School insurance is at present £10.00 a year.
We periodically offer special Beginner’s Courses (ideally suited to those wishing to start) priced £50 for 6 lessons (including a T-Shirt when you complete your 6 lessons). If you purchase our Beginners Course you receive your seventh lesson free of charge.
Apart from gloves and suitable clothing (see ‘What should I bring?’), you should not worry about equipment before speaking to our instructors; between them they have many years of experience and can advise you on what to get and when. The school can provide all necessary equipment when you begin to train.