Monday, 2 November 2009

Back from Swordfish 2009

Just got in the door this morning and am trying to drum up some enthusiasm for working from home today on the laptop. Well, what can I say? Swordfish 2009 was a blast and I had a lot of fun despite feeling somewhat fluish on saturday afternoon and evening.

The first class I attended was Harry Winter's class on German dagger fighting. This was pretty interesting and I got some good ideas on warm up and reaction drill that we might use in our own training. Overall, the material itself was not hugely different from Fiore dagger but the presentation itself was kept fast-paced, intelligent, clear and by turns downright funny. Harry is a big man but moves very smoothly and quickly for all that and his technique was very impressive also.

After lunch I went along to Matt Galas class on Montante or Portuguese longsword. This style seemed to consist of, at least at first viewing, of twiddly sword forms, which increased in complexity as the class wore on. However, Matt told us that different forms were described in the manuscript for specific purposes, like fighting multiple attackers, defending a bridge or an alley, or fighting on a ship. The forms themselves were actually beautiful and a superb workout but quite a few people seemed to drop out as there were no pair drills and as the forms became more difficult, concentration was quite hard to maintain. This might simply be a feature of some people attending Swordfish, who seem to like a "good bash" and they weren't getting what they wanted from this class. All in all though it was very enjoyable and I'm glad I stayed til the end. I look forward to seeing Portuguese longsword thrown into the mix of German and Italian longsworders in tournaments in the future.

I was feeling rather fluish on Saturday so I just took it easy in the morning and watched the sword and buckler and singlesword tournaments. The former was a little bit too bash-crash for me, but I really liked the single sword comp. The vibe was completely different and it was a really nice opportunity to see a Silver exponent take on sabre and backsword fighters from other traditions. I have a new found respect for the backsword and think it would be fun to take it up. In the afternoon I took part in only half of Dierk Hagedorn's class on techniques from the Falkner manuscript. Although it was German style, which I'm not so familiar with, the clear instructions were easy to follow and the techniques shown very interesting. My headache had returned so when we had a break I packed it in and went to watch the rest of the nylon longsword tournament. It was interesting and fun to watch but the organisation took quite a lot of time and I think it may have been given too much weight in the overall event, with only one other option for those less interested in competition. Oh well, can't please everyone I guess.

On Sunday morning I was supposed to go to Fabrice Cognot's class but tiredness, flu, a slight hangover and laziness made me just take things easy and move from class to class, checking out what was going on. From what I caught while watching on the sidelines, Fabrice's class on Fiore was interesting as his interpretation is very close yet still different from ours. Ilkka Hartikainen held a very interesting class on Bolognese dagger, which looks very elegant. By comparison, Claus Soerensen from the Laurentiusgildet had a class on half-sword techniques (in armour) from Tallhofer which was brutally elegant. Both were great fun to watch and judging by those taking part, even more fun to do.

Although this was my third year at Swordfish, I caught the phenomenon that is the "Midnight Brawlers Club" for the first time. This is where anyone, regardless of age, sex, whatever, can take on anyone else in some friendly wrestling. It at first seemed incongruous that two guys in their underpants trying to twist each others' heads off, would then jump up and hug the other affectionately at the end of the bout, but I was told that this is precisely the essential element that makes this happening so popular year after year.

A big thanks to all the GHFS people who worked so hard to organise this event and did such a good job yet again. I'm looking forward to the next one already!

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