The chances of sitting down to write my blog seem to be getting pushed later and later into the week. Mostly I do them at the weekends and schedule them for the week, this weekend was just so busy I’m only sitting down to pen this article on Wednesday night! We all have more on, more to do and a limited time to do it all in. Here’s a quick look at one of the many things taking up my time at the moment.
Last weekend a couple of us Peasants went along to the Galway Medieval Experience, a day long event organised by the Civic Trust and involving multiple sites across the city. Not being Galway based we didn’t have a large turnout from the peasants. Luckily a couple of our sister clubs – The Gaillimh Gallóglaigh (that’s Galway Gallowglass, to us non-Irish speakers) and the Knights of Fergus – were there in good numbers.
We set up a display area outside the excellent Galway Museum and started things of at around 11am with a rousing introduction from the town crier. We were to spent the day demonstrating historical combat skills, talking about swords and giving taster classes to anyone that was interested. Whilst I’ve done basically the same thing before at other events I’ve not done an event like this in the middle of a major tourist attraction city, which Galway certainly is. I couldn’t believe how busy the day was.
I did some warm up sparring early on in the day but frankly I love to talk too much and soon left the demonstration arena to work the crowd. Essentially I scanned around for people with a look of wonder and fascination in their eyes, sidled up to them and gently, I didn’t want to startle anyone, placed a feder in their hands.
I didn’t pressure anyone mind. There were a few people who absolutely didn’t want to be handling weapons, blunt or otherwise and you have to respect that. However the majority was more than willing to take hold and see what the things felt like. Some people just wanted to ask a few questions (“is this a real sword?”, “I thought they’d be heavier?” that sort of thing), many wanted to have a picture snapped with them demonstrating their best ‘medieval war face’. But, some were interested enough to take me up on the offer of ‘showing them a few things’.
I did condensed look at how to hold a sword, footwork, body mechanics and basic cuts, I demonstrated the first four cuts of the Meyer square, some repetition of that and then a quick demo of how the same cuts with a retreating step can be used defensively.
From the feedback I got I can tell you that HEMA is widening in appeal and is becoming more visible. I spoke to at least two other practitioners from other countries, Germany and Denmark as it happens, a couple that did linked activities, viking reenactment and armoured combat. A very common thing was people saying “I have a friend who does this and I always fancied giving it a go.”
What I take away from this is that whether you know it or not, if you do HEMA you probably have a few friends who are interested but who haven’t given it a try. If you want to get more people down to your own clubs you only have to approach them and you might be surprised how keen they are. Maybe they are just shy at starting the conversation themselves?
As if HEMA practitioners need more reasons to rant on about swords to anyone who is willing to listen?
Joking aside, events like this are an incredible opportunity to get out there and show people what we do. Interest is high and it is great fun to demonstrate your skills to a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. A couple of the people who put up with my taster sessions took details of the club and have since contacted me directly to ask about introductory classes on a more formal basis and so I’ve booked in a beginners course for later this month. Already the event has proved to be a winner for the Peasants.
This weekend three of us are off to the north of this island (political sidestepping in evidence there) to take part in the Medieval Combat Group’s annual Bladewords event. It’s a residential weekend, including indoor camping, a fechtshule, late night board game sessions and amongst all that Martin Fabian is giving an all-day longsword class! I’ll do a full review next week.
Until then I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what the Peasants are up to. You can contact me/us through the comments below or the Wrathful Peasants page. All photo credits on this post go to the incredibly talented and lovely Caroline Walsh!