The Guilds Annual Seminar, The Royal Armouries 2002
By Stuart Ivinson. Leeds Chapter.
A brief account of the EHCG Annual Seminar, 2002.
Following the success of the inaugural seminar of the European Historical Combat Guild in 2001, it was decided that it should be done all over again in 2002. As with the previous year, the venue was to be the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. The seminar was due to start on the morning of Saturday, August 10'th, but the Bistro at the Armouries was booked for the Friday evening so that attendees had somewhere to meet up and socialise once they had arrived in Leeds. Old acquaintances were renewed and new friendships were forged. There was an air of anticipation amongst us all, for the itinerary promised a weekend of great interest and enjoyment.
The day began with a short opening address from the Guild Master, Mr John Waller in the Bury Theatre. Following closely on from this was the first of the morning's lectures. It was conducted by Mr Joram van Essen, Chapter Master from Holland, who was ably assisted by his colleague Mr Arne Koetz. It was a study of armoured wrestling and unarmed combat techniques, many of which are widely illustrated in the 15'thC fight manuals. It gave a good insight into how such techniques could be used on the battlefield as a part of the warrior's full repertoire. Joram and Arne's able commentary and demonstration helped to bring the subject vividly to life, and to those of us with little personal experience, it was quite an eye opener! Anyone who has any doubts or misconceptions about what a man can or cannot do in full armour would do well to watch a demonstration like this!
The lecture was followed by a short break for refreshments after which the business of the day resumed. Continuing the wrestling theme, the second lecture, by Mr Lars Magnar Enoksen was a study of the Icelandic sport of Glima wrestling. This sport derives from the Dark-Age Scandinavian wrestling forms practised by the Vikings, and as such it is interesting to consider what Glima can tell us about how the Vikings may have trained for battle. This topic was the major theme of the lecture.
After the lecture we adjourned to the Royal Armouries Hall where Mr Enoksen gave a practical demonstration of Glima, assisted by Mr Ingibergur Sigurdhsson and Mr Per-Ola Martensson. It was truly fascinating, and on a personal note I was intrigued to see how similar Glima appears in form to the Cumberland wrestling style of my own native county of Cumbria.
An excellent morning drew to a close at lunch time, during which there was an opportunity to go into the museum and watch a combat demonstration of Roman Gladiator techniques, performed by members of the Armouries own Interpretation team.
The seminar continued in the afternoon with a training session in the Hall. Seminar attendees had the opportunity to train with a variety of weapons and with many different techniques. Daggers, two handed swords, sword and shield, unarmed combat and Glima were open to all to try out, and all proved to be highly enjoyable as well as informative. Syllabus and grading sessions were also held for any guild members who wished to participate.
The first day closed with a formal dinner held in the splendid setting of the Armouries War gallery. It was a chance to get dressed up and relax after a rigorous but highly enjoyable day. I have to say that after a minor collision with my own shield rim had cut my eyebrow earlier in the day, in a black suit I did resemble a night-club bouncer. Fortunately only a few people chose to mention this. Both the food and the cheer were excellent and a fine time was had by all. Guest of honour at the meal was the renowned historian Mr Ewart Oakeshott, a wonderful gentleman with a vast knowledge and personal love of swords. It was a great honour to listen to him speak about his life and work. For many of us who had our own love of history and historical weapons inspired by him, this was without a doubt the highlight of the weekend.
After the meal we went our separate ways. Several others and myself ended up in the residents’ bar of the Golden Lion Hotel for a few late night beers.
Sunday began hazily, due largely to the heroic gin and tonic consumption of the night before. After numerous cups of coffee the alcoholic fog had lifted sufficiently for all to enjoy the day's first lecture, conducted by Mr Mark Hillyard of the Albion Academy of Arms. It was a detailed study of the principles of combat advocated by the 16'thC English fight master, George Silver. The man himself, his views on combat and the principles he believed governed a fight were all examined and demonstrated in a most interesting and informative way.
Following the morning break during which more coffee was consumed, we again adjourned to the Hall. Mr Oakeshott had very kindly loaned six swords and a dagger from his own large collection to the Royal Armouries. They were to be used as handling pieces, as Mr Oakeshott wished them to be studied and enjoyed by others as much as they have been by him. We Guild members were given the privilege of being the first to have the opportunity of examining them. As we were doing so, Mr Oakeshott himself arrived. The look on his face as he saw us all crowding around the table with his swords upon it, said all that needed to be said.
Hearing of Mr Oakeshott's death only a couple of weeks after the seminar was a cause of great sadness to us all.
The afternoon was once again given over to practical training. Following my slight mishap with the sword and shield yesterday, I forwent further training with them on this occasion and concentrated on the two handed sword instead.
The day finally drew to a close with grade certificates being given out to those who had attained them over the weekend, and a closing address by John Waller. It was all over and we had to go home, at least until next year!
Had the seminar been worth it? Most definitely, yes it had. We all went away, having learned a great deal. But the weekend had been so much more than just a learning experience. We had all made new friends, tried new things and, perhaps most importantly, had a great deal of fun at the same time. I for one am looking forwards to the 2003 seminar. I can't wait!