If you’re into HEMA and based in the UK it is almost impossible to have escaped your notice that weapons supremo David Rawlings of London Longsword Academy fame (https://m.facebook.com/TheSwordLondon/) is the driving force behind the superb “2-Days of the Blade” event recently run in the Crystal Palace area of the capital.
Imagine, if you can contain your excitement, two days of training in multiple weapon disciplines by some of Europe’s most accomplished coaches. It was too good an opportunity to miss and so after the first set of tickets sold out rapidly; Mark, Kieran, and Neil were determined to get the second batch (of course we did).
And so, braving post half-term traffic we drove to London with a car full of kit (but minus Kieran’s fencing jacket, a near-critical failing of logistics)!
And so, along with 57 other HEMA enthusiasts, Saturday started at around 0930 with sword and buckler, taught by David Rawlings
Softly spoken yet with assured gravity, the lesson flew by and I picked up more in 90 minutes than I have in all my own endeavours at this surprisingly complex combat system. Like the sound of this? See the LLA website.
A break for informal sparring (all weapons) and pizza was swiftly followed by the next session, quaterstaff.
Introduced by the fantastically bearded and charismatic Roman Vučajnk, we controlled a lump of 8-foot oiled ash that was truly brutal in it simplicity, speed, and pain in the left elbow and traps (shoulder/neck muscles)!
As Roman cracked yet another smile of imparting a great secret: “it is based on Meyer…it’s just longsword dialled out so you can see everything”. So, so true. I confess I have fallen in love with quaterstaff and will be introducing it to my repertoire asap!
The afternoon and final session for “red” group (other groups were “green” and “blue”) was Spanish rapier. I confess that going into the weekend, this was the class I was least bothered about, I’ve done foil in the past and I like the chunkier weapons. How wrong was I, and how glad I am that I attended! Blimey! One heck of a workout for forearms and shoulders, with students charmingly engaged by the ever-smiling Aitor Blanco.
With such repetition of choice phrases such as a constant reminder to “smile” and to “dance” the class took footwork and constant mobility to the next level.
My preferred weapon is longsword so what did I take from this class that can be applied there? Like quaterstaff which dialled out the longsword of Meyer, Spanish rapier dialled in to the minutiae of füllen: the feel of the bind and the rapid shifting between weak and strong.
The day finished in 57 tired but grinning fencers who had enjoyed, learnt and used muscles not usually engaged in a mono-interest weapon world.
A quick sightseeing trip to concrete dinosaurs was capped by much needed hydrating beer and superb Turkish meal.
Muscles protesting at every move greeted the alarm clock at 0730 Sunday morning.
A light breakfast and multiple coffees sent us out of the house and back to the sports centre of awesome.
First up: Longsword with Keith Farrell, director of the AHA, of which TLA are affiliated. With some trepidation I stood front and centre wondering just how poor my technique is and how much I had forgotten.
Happily I wasn’t called upon to demonstrate my inadequacy, rather Keith took three class through 90 minutes of longsword focusing on 5 key components of the Lichtenhaure system. Simplicity itself and ease of practice says more about the teacher than the student or, indeed, the martial system. Another inspiring lesson.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Tom Puey introduced the Montante to us.
We’d seen these huge swords around the hall but had no idea how one was supposed to use them with anything other than comedic waving and screaming!
Tom demonstrated the lightening fast attacks that the sword could produce instilling a feeling of shock and awe in the rapierist opponents. Plural: Montante vs 7 or 8 rapierists: no problem. The feeling of the Blade connecting with the rapier is one of huge physics: small and light vs large mass travelling at speed. You work out the result!
Needless to say, the techniques required require superb body mechanics and footwork. Speed is everything and the class was (in this humble writers opinion) probably the most challenging of the weekend.
Finally, we dragged our tired, sweaty kit to Rob Runacres’ introduction to Dagger and rapier (via side sword). A gentleman from a timeless age with poise, dignity, and sneering contempt for the clumsy and dim-witted, Robs teaching of the basics of this complex artform was exemplary.
Of all the martial styles and systems I experienced (all to briefly) I think it is Robs rapier and dagger that has inspired me to seek more information and attempt to learn it. For more information: https://m.facebook.com/dancingwithsteel/ Renaissance Sword Club.
Finally, the admin and backroom management was second to none, some of the best I’ve never seen. “Never seen”? Yes: everything went so smoothly that it was entirely noticed people were sweating blood to make it work. These are the hero’s often not thanked but without whom I wouldn’t have managed to borrow a spare jacket, and people would not have known where to go at what time.
I can assure you: future 2-Days of the Blade events will see regular TLA attendance!