Cyclical Sword Press: News for September 2015


…14th-century fights rarely lasted more than a few moments.”

Mr. Greg Mele of the item following notes that a lot of his students were brought to swordplay because of “popular culture” — the television and movies that influence us in our lives to try something new and different.

We have within the Western world seen the explosion of what in a previous generation would have been called “sword and sandal epics”… great stories featuring exciting (if not quite realistic) blade work.  Add that artistic inspiration to the recent reality of being able to purchase well made, realistic and “useable” swords at a modest price and… voila!  An instant pool of people seeking training in authentic, authorial sword play!

However, fashion — social fashion — is a fickle mistress.  In my own modest time I’ve seen movies and television dominated by westerns; police dramas and crime procedurals; court and lawyer programs; vampires and werewolves… and now zombies; and dinosaur tales … amongst others.  Each of these in turn dominated public interest and imagination for a half decade or so… before being quickly replaced by the next big “thing” … before returning once again to the top of public interest as a result of the great cycle of (entertainment) life.

It will be interesting to see in another decade or so whether the HEMA community will continue as a vibrant and progressive force in the study of the art, or if like so many fads before, after a “few moments”, a lot of longswords and rapiers will end up in basement corners with long abandoned-tennis rackets.

Renaissance Man

POLYGON. (USA). Hall, Charlie. “Knight Classes: Inside Chicago’s Only School For Medieval Longsword.” 19 August 15.

How to build a fitness centre, swordplay institution and a legacy in 2,300 words!

Gregory Mele, co-owner of Forteza Fitness, founded the Chicago Swordplay Guild, and translator of Fiore dei Liberi’s The Flower of Battle is truly a North American “olde master” and is one of the reasons that HEMA has had such a grounded and authentic start within North America.

Mele emphasizes that he does not know “everything” about dei Liberi’s art … and that a long sword practitioner in modern times really can’t expect to recreate a martial art ‘system’ with all its subtleties from a book.

But knowledge gaps remain. Mele says in those cases he looks to modern Italian martial traditions, like stick and knife fighting, that are still practiced there today. But even then, he says, he runs the risk of getting it wrong.

“Once you have to move outside dei Liberi’s place and time,” he says, “now you’re in the realm of what I call ‘frog DNA,’ like in Jurassic Park…. At a certain level, you’re definitely inserting (DNA) — whether it’s from later texts or from your experience in other martial arts, whatever it is — some sort of interpretation there that comes from outside the source.”

A Whiter Shade of Pale.Wes rebellium

TROJMIASTO. (Poland). “Walczą na miecze, włócznie i sztylety. Możesz do nich dołączyć.” 20 April 15.

Gdansk’s Rebellium Group meets weekly to work with and study medieval and renaissance sword, spear and dagger work.

What’s interesting with this item is that Rebellium’s founder grew his highly successful, internationally-competitive group out of number of like-minded souls that had a slightly differently interpretations of historical swordplay than had the group that they had heretofore worked with.  Different interpretations of the same text can lead to different approaches —  and distinctively different groups that meet annually in mutually-respectful, competitive swordplay, in spite of their differences.  (Or, come to think of it, maybe because of them.)

May the road rise up to meet … your visor!

THE JOURNAL. (Ireland). “Forget Mixed Martial Arts – check out Medieval Armoured Combat…” 05 September 15.Wes Claregalway Castle

Brendan Halpin explains just what it takes for Emerald Isle members of Medieval Armoured Combat Ireland (MACI) to get ready to fight in the upcoming world championships in Poland.

“The first time you go up against someone you don’t know you think ‘this is the stupidest possible thing I could be doing with my time’,” he says.

‘Team Ireland’ recently showcased their best full-contact medieval combatants by inviting the world’s best to try by deed of arms to wrest away the Claregalway Castle Shield.

High Tech goes ‘Olde Schoole’

POPULAR MECHANICS. (USA). Bishop, Rollin. “This First-Person Footage of Sword Fighting Will Make You Flinch.” 26 August 15.

Richard Marsden of the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship recently sparred using sabers — and a Go-Pro — with Lee Smith of the Blood & Iron martial arts school.

Honour is as Honour Does

OTTAWA CITIZEN. (Ontario). Robb, Peter. “Ottawa regiment sends ‘priceless’ Civil War sword home.” 1 Sept 15.

Ottawa-based 33 Signal  Regiment returned a Civil War sword and scabbard belonging Confederate officer Col. Charles C. Tew to the Arsenal Academy where he studied and worked.

‘The Federal soldier that took the sword from the American battlefield… was a Canadian serving with the North. He was known as a bit of a scoundrel.”

SNIPPETSWes Swords of Europe