As some of you know, David has developed an interest in swords and other medieval weapons. He’s spent large chunks of his own money buying swords at Bud-K, and asked for several more display weapons for this past Christmas. As part of that interest, though, he wanted to learn to use them.
Well, when our sons show a real interest in something, enough that they are willing to spend their own time and money on it, we do our best to support them. Accordingly, we took David to the Virginia Academy of Fencing, and signed him up for their Historical Swordsmanship classes. He took the eight-week beginners’ course and moved on to the six-week Intermediate course – and enjoyed it a lot. His interest kept going, or maybe even increased – he never complained about having to go after a hard school day, and he even spent some of his spare time practicing moves on his own.
We considered keeping him in the Academy. It would have been very expensive. Around $1400 a year just for membership, plus additional fees for classes, and the requirement to purchase expensive equipment. But we could have managed it, somehow…but something else occurred to us. In the world of fencing, there are competitions for epee and rapier, and multiple styles and scoring…but nothing for the broadsword. The only purpose of his continuing classes would be to get better so he could take more advanced classes. In the long run, not much fun!
So, after a bit of discussion of the options, we chose another route, and looked up the local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I dropped $60 on a family membership for all four of us, and we have attended four of their “Indoor Fighters’ Training” meetings. They run for two to three hours instead of one hour at the Academy. There’s always at least one experienced fighter available to train the three or four novices, and often three or four skilled swordsmen and swordswomen will lend a hand, offer pointers, or provide critiques – yes, that equals one-on-one training! We will at some point still have to spend a significant amount of money on his gear, but for right now, he’s practicing moves at “slow speed” using a Whiffle bat…and every week he comes home thrilled with how much more he’s learning than in the fourteen weeks we spent at the Academy. Later on, he’ll get real armor and “real” weapons (still plastic, foam rubber, and duct tape, but capable of serious bruises or even broken bones if it hits an unarmored spot), and actually be able to test his training against honorable and chivalrous opponents out to kill him…and then shake his hand and congratulate him on a well-fought battle.
It’s also a good excuse for the rest of us to use our Rennaissance Festival garb once in awhile!