Geekfest (Festival of the Sword, Episode 1: A New Geekery)


Ingulf, Pete, and the Footwork class

Three days of workshops, tournaments, social free-play and a chance to talk, fight, connect, argue, agree and simply geek-out about swords. And not only do we have Ingulf Kohlweiss from INDES Salzburg in Austria and Peter Smallridge from KDF in England but even the formally reclusive Stoccata have come out to play. When you add three fighters from Queensland and seven from Adelaide, a re-enactor from Canberra and representatives from all four—or is it five?—of the Melbourne HEMA groups it’s no wonder that James Buchanan’s arms are waving like a small excited dragon about to take off as he welcomes us all to the hall.

To both halls’ in fact, the Hall of Learning where workshops are already being set up and the Hall of War, with one arena marked out for tourneys and another clear space for free-play. It’s a great idea but it won’t end up being used as those who can drag themselves away from the workshops will find themselves too caught up in the drama of the tourney fights.


Dan Pope’s Handwork class

But first there are over twenty HEMA fighters running around the hall. No they’re not frantically looking for a misplaced right gauntlet or the mask cover they swear they packed (at least most of them aren’t) they’re warming up for Peter’s first workshop.

Running, lunging, an awesome game of dagger-tag that Ingulf gave us and that Mark is planning to teach his eight year-olds, the Europeans are showing us that the fitness expectations of international HEMA are high. And though some of us Australians—like GLECA and Denby (love the vid Chris)—have been prioritizing work-outs for the rest us it’s an exhausting reminder. ‘I’ve been trying to get them working on fitness for ages,’ Gavin says, and though I think swordplay has some other vital components—like, say the swords!—it’s a good point that you can’t do the technique if your body’s not up to it.

And there are techniques aplenty being taught. With twenty-four workshops ranging from coaching to pugilism, from George Silver’s ‘True Fight’ to Sherlock Holmes’s Bartitsu  if you’re not bouncing with enthusiasm and cursing the fact you can’t do all the workshops plus all the tourney’s then please hand in your HEMA geek card on the way out. Because though the organisers might have rejected the name Swordfest for the event (like it was a total swordfest man) there’s no doubt that a total geekfest is happening in the learning hall.


Stu McDermid’s pugilism class

That’s a geekfest HEMA style with swords and masks and fighters lined up on mats learning how to roll and cartwheel and take a guy down—without using their arms! Not to mention box and wrestle and hit people with sword techniques ranging I33 to 19th century short sword. And side-sword, and rapier and sabre and longsword and more longsword and daggers and more sabre and broadsword and yes, even more longsword. And if that’s not enough we have Ingulf’s mixed weapons class with staffs, poleaxes, great swords, daggers and a sickle in case you want to mix it up even more.

If you love Swords you’d love this.

With so many classes it’s impossible to mention them all but I’d like to throw a few impressions out there.


Pete Smallridge’s Wrestling Foundations – fear the HEMA turtle!

Three-person leap-frog and a turtle hip thrust that looks really weird but is surprisingly effective. (Peter Smallridge – Foundations for Grappling) The last time I saw people have that much fun on a mat with their clothes on we were 10 years old.

Enormous enthusiasm for slapping people with the flat (pity we saw a bit too much of that in the tourneys, but that’s another story). And a demonstration that though all a beginner might need to know is that ‘the pointy end goes in the other guy’ it’s also true that short, long or flat; strong or weak; point or pommel; there isn’t a part of the sword you can’t hit with effectively. (Mark Holgate – The long the short and the flat of it)


A simple and TRAINABLE way to decide what to do when the swords cross using the Versetzen, using four of the five master strikes. Sorry Zornhau you don’t get a look in here but you’re getting plenty of stage time next door as a high Vom Tag and Zornhau opening is proving very popular in the longsword. (James Buchanan -The Vier Versetzen in Krieg)

Ingulf’s footwork plenary and his dagger game. ‘If you tell people to do twenty lunges they complain but if you make it a game they’ll do it all day’. Fighters lunging and laughing and noting down the idea for their next class.

Fighters (from 14 to 60), running, lunging, rolling, hitting, complaining that they are exhausted and then coming back for more. Kimito driving all Monday night because he’s got work on Tuesday and he isn’t going to miss Sean Reichmann’s Destreza class. International presenters (anything with Sydney in it is international right? 😉 ) and the chance to learn from Peter (England), Ingulf (Austria) and ten different Australian schools. It’s HEMA learning at its best.


So thanks to James and Courtney and the team at FSV. You promised a Festival of the Sword and for three days in the hall of learning that’s just what you delivered. A HEMA geekfest with all the feels.

And the swords and the daggers and the wrestling and the focus on the fight and the arguments about the techniques and the swords and…

Like I said a total HEMA geekfest.

Next week a look at the tournament side of Festival of the Sword.


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