I Survived Swordplay 11

Swordplay is a three day gathering of schools of historical swordsmanship held each September in Brisbane, Australia and run by the Australian College of Arms (ACA). The idea behind the event is to bring together fencers from all corners of this wide brown land to meet, exchange ideas and cross blades is a friendly atmosphere. This year, we kidnapped Puck Curtis and refused to release him until he presented a workshop on one of his passions, La Verdadera Destreza, the Spanish rapier technique of the sixteenth and seventeen centuries.

The format seems to have roughly fallen out as a day of social swordplay, ice-breaking and catching up with old friends. The second day was Mr Curtis’ workshop followed by the longsword, single-handed sword and skill-at-arms competitions on the third and final day.

The highlight of the weekend was without a doubt Puck Curtis’ Destreza workshop. The man showed vast reserves of both endurance and patience leading a bunch of gumbies like us through de Rada’s ten drills and a bunch of additional techniques and extrapolation built upon them over a period of at least six hours. I’d not looked at Destreza before now as I had always figured the Spanish were much more interested in their re-discovered geometric fripperies than they were in actually fencing. Boy, was I wrong! This stuff is magical. It made sense of a lot of the fencing dogma I’ve imbibed over the years but have never been able to figure out how to apply in practice. For instance, I’m eternally grateful to the man for giving me permission to take my point off-line when parrying. Hopefully, and with tons of practice, this will cure a lot of the mistakes I commonly make.

(I also saw a huge amount of cross-over with techniques described in the rapier combat section of Joachim Meyer’s Art of Combat. This will come out in some later posts once I digest it all thoroughly.)

I saw about half of competitions on the third day as I was called away by family matters a little after lunch. The bouts I saw displayed clean technique and, although strongly and martially competitive, shows degree of safety and courtesy not usually seen elsewhere. I’ll be back in the competitions next year for sure. This year’s list of winners are on display at the ACA’s website.

Of course, there were some difficulties as there always is with an outdoor venue. The spirits of the wind and rain needed to be appeased and after a little coaxing came around to our point of view, providing us with perfect weather final day. It rained on the afternoon of the first day, forcing us indoors to fencing in a high-ceilinged hall. The wild wind on the second day drove us into a wooded glade which provided a better natural amphitheatre for Mr Curtis’ workshop than was originally planned.

So, start preparing now for Swordplay 2012 because, as the ACA says, “if you’re not there, you’re not serious.”