torek, 29. marec 2011

Seminar on Meyer's dagger and longsword

by Roman Vučajnk

SwArta, a Belgian group, invited me to hold a weekend seminar on Joachim Meyer's dagger and longsword.
I accepted the invitation gladly, due to past co-operation with some of the members.

Alwin Goethals (Chief Instructor at SwArta and member of HEMAC) picked me up at the Brussels Airport and drove me to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military Museum. Karin Verelst (SwArta & HEMAC) joined us there at the collection of medieval and post-medieval arms and armour.

A visit to the Royal Museums of Art and History (Jubelparkmuseum) followed; there we saw a very good exhibition Between Heaven and Hell- Death in Middle Ages. The exhibition was comprised of four parts- the artefacts and elaborations vividly presented The Causes of Death, Care for the Dying and the Rituals of Death, Topography of Death and [the way] From Death to Resurrection.

After enjoying a good lunch at 't Kapiteintje next to St. Catherine Square, our way led us to Antwerp, where the plan for the weekend seminar was re-checked.
Next morning we drove to an elementary school gym outside Antwerp and commenced with the seminar on Meyer's dagger. In order to learn about Meyer's approach to fighting in more depth, we included many drills from ringen and physical exercises for warm-up, stretching, strength and breathing. The seminar followed Meyer's text Grundliche beschreibung...; we had plenty of opportunity to compare Meyer's approach to fighting with dagger to the medieval ones.

That evening we had a glorious evening meal in De Grootte Ganz in Antwerp. It was a great time to have a decent chat and lots of fun.

On Sunday morning we drove to a larger gym (as there were additional participants) and we looked into Joachim Meyer's approach to fighting with longsword. Basics on movement were tackled, as well as the principles of combat and details on various executions of techniques. To fully comprehend the topic, we needed to refer to the context of Meyer's fighting- the Fechtschulen, frequent events in many cities, which attracted fechters from all over Europe to fight. The purpose of Fechtshulen was not to run a proper tournament and certainly not to stage a judicial duel. It was about displaying one's fighting skills before the public eye and judges, who granted rewards and even certificates. That lead to some combat tactics and techniques being forbidden or limited due to safety reasons, even though serious injuries were known to have occurred.

As the second day of the seminar was also very demanding, some competitive games and recreational exercises were included.
I was very pleased with the attendees- highly motivated, open to new knowledge and happy to provide good feedback.
The members of St. Michaels Guild from Brugge also attended, as well as Reinier van Noort (School voor Historische Schermkunsten & HEMAC) and Peregrijn (Zwaard & Volk / Zwaardkring) from the Netherlands.

The next day I had a great honour of being taken on a historical trip through Gent by Alwin and Xavier Baecke (SwArta & HEMAC), an expert on Gent and an excellent historian, who organised the tour. I learned a lot about the evolution of Gent in connection to history of Flanders. Sugar on top- warm and sunny weather.

Tuesday passed in exploring Antwerp, again with Alwin and Xavier. This time, Alwin was the guide with Xavier standing ready with additional info and suggestions. Diamonds were not what we were after- we browsed medieval sights and tried to fit them in a larger picture of Flemish history and culture.

In the afternoon we said our good-byes and I took the train to Brussels. There I spent the rest of the sunny week exploring the city sights and catching up with friends.

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