wpe261.jpg (6756 bytes)



Medieval & Renaissance Martial Arts
Expo 2001 Review

By the ARMA Webstaff

The Medieval & Renaissance Martial Arts Expo 2001, held Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th, at the Personal Training Institute of Atlanta was an informative and fun-filled weekend. Over 50 attendees and guests from around the South, Southwest and the East Coast received over 16 hours of demonstrations and expert instruction in long-sword, great-sword, rapier, dagger, and grappling.


intro1.jpg (43506 bytes) jw1.jpg (55317 bytes) rahaca1.jpg (31063 bytes)
rademo1.jpg (44947 bytes) Untitled-5.JPG (54259 bytes) ra1.jpg (35527 bytes)
Introduction and first Royal Armories session

By special arrangement, we were proud to present the first American teaching appearance of historical arms expert, John Waller, director of fight interpretation at the Royal Armories (RA) in Leeds, England. This event gave attendees an unprecedented opportunity to see first hand the Royal Armouries’ method of historical fencing and receive hands-on instruction in the new European Historical Combat Guild (EHCG). Mr. Waller is a martial artist, jouster, fight-arranger, and 30-year veteran of European arms and stage combat. He is founder of the EHCG and co-author of the new historical performance fighting book, Sword Fighting. Mr. Waller was featured in the video program Masters of Defence and in the History Channel’s Arms in Action series, as well as several books. He was a theatrical fight instructor at leading London drama schools and is particularly known for the fights he arranged for the cult-film Hawk the Slayer, the recent First Knight, and the legendary Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  The Royal Armouries is known for stressing the importance of accurately using actual historical techniques within their arranged performance fighting.

Untitled-8.JPG (37338 bytes)
Hank & John

Untitled-81.JPG (40234 bytes)
Open practice

On Saturday, the Atlanta program began with a warm-up followed by a welcome and opening remarks.  Things started off with an introduction of the guests and brief demonstration by John Clements. John C. discussed the current explosion of interest in actual European martial arts and the recent growth in serious research and practice now underway. This was followed by the first session of long-sword techniques, “European Historical Combat: The Waller Way.”   Mr. Waller, his son Jonathan Waller, senior RA interpreter Andy Dean, and assisted by a few Houston students, went over a fundamental fighting sequence used at the Armouries.  Attendees were given instruction and tips on how to execute essential movements as well as explanations as to why they worked.

After several hours of long-sword practice using the Guild’s "Waller-Method", which emphases eye-contact, balance, and intent, Mr. Waller stressed the importance of realism and martial validity in any practice but especially in choreographed fight sequences –whether for film, television, educational presentation, or historical fencing instruction.

HACAdemo1.JPG (21599 bytes) jcteach1.jpg (52860 bytes) jcteach2.jpg (33885 bytes)
halfs1.jpg (59700 bytes)

First session by John C.



Test Cutting!

pulved1.jpg (70933 bytes)
Setting up a target

thedamage1.JPG (76185 bytes)
Inspecting the damage
oneway.jpg (96214 bytes)
One way of doing it...
goodcut.jpg (51453 bytes)
A great sword cleaves
meat1.jpg (47869 bytes)
Mr. Waller inspects the cut
mail1.jpg (113271 bytes)
Hank displays the damaged

rusty mail & flesh
thrust.jpg (91981 bytes)
cuts & thrusts
thrust1.jpg (79638 bytes)
A ground thrust?
Untitled-11.JPG (59257 bytes)
The RA gang looks on
Untitled-1.JPG (61178 bytes)
John C. prepars a blow
Untitled-x1.JPG (58184 bytes)
Hank proceeds

gamb1.jpg (85758 bytes)
The "impeneterable" cloth

See Videos of these here:
Bastard sword on maile
& Cut on maile

hrtalk1.jpg (37041 bytes) cut1.jpg (90964 bytes)
hrtalk2.jpg (39551 bytes) Untitled-x3.JPG (57912 bytes)

The second session of the day was “Stances and Guards of Medieval Swordplay” by ARMA Director, John Clements. John went over the four foundational stances of Liechtenauer as well as others introduced during the 1400s.  John also used the opportunity to amend and revise the fighting postures described in his Medieval Swordsmanship book, giving in some cases the correct names and proper positions from then current ARMA curriculum and translations. The practical and enlightening material was particularly invaluable to the many of our Associate and Study Group members present.

After lunch, Hank Reinhardt gave a special lecture on “Swords and Steel: the Myth & the Reality.” Hank talked casually and informally about his many years exploring historical arms and armor; discussed blade characteristics and sword wounds; and with his usual dry humor and sharp wit answered questions on a range of related topics.  Mr. Reinhardt is the founder of the original HACA, North America’s foremost expert on historical arms and armor with over 45 years study and experience with swords and bladed weaponry, and a man who has likely cut and chopped and hacked and cleaved at more things with more types of weapons than half the room combined.

Following Hank’s talk, the Royal Armoury’s guests completed their first day’s instruction by continuing with their earlier Medieval long-sword section and also incorporating some of John Waller’s great-sword material.

The first day’s instruction was rounded out by John Clements doing an informative and well-received section on the “Forgotten Techniques of Half-Swording.”  John demonstrated the fundamental concepts and principles behind these techniques. He demonstrated the basic stances and mechanics of gripping a sword in both hands in order to deflect, beat, thrust, and strike blows as well as trap, disarm, close and take-down an opponent.  The  section placed emphasis on understanding these uncommon techniques in earnest, with proper intent (realistic speed, range, and energy). Attendees were able to enthusiastically go through a variety of half-swording stances, learn a half-swording exercises, and work through several techniques.  Instruction was also given in how ARMA employs half-swording from historical sources in its exercise, drills, and free play. 

Untitled-2.JPG (30676 bytes)
Class in session
Untitled-91.JPG (36433 bytes)
Jeff Basham leads

The first day’s events closed with an opportunity for everyone to do free-play sparring with padded contact weapons or flexi-rapiers against people of different backgrounds and experience. Later, about 45 attendees joined the Royal Armories and the ARMA staff for a rousing social dinner outing at the nearby Three Dollar Café.

Sunday’s schedule on day two started with rapier & dagger instruction by the Royal Armories.  Jonathan Waller explained a sequence of moves used as a training basis in the Waller Method.  The floor became crowded with more than twenty pairs of fencers practicing sequences.  John Waller and associates’ sessions on rapier (and on sword) exercises focused heavily on footwork and transitions between actions.  They did a very good job of presenting their method and explaining things to people individually as well as a group. The amount of personal instruction that he and his assistants provided helped to understand the details of the moves everyone practiced.

fence2.jpg (31924 bytes) rafence.jpg (31178 bytes) AndyJohnathan.jpg (67249 bytes)
Jonathan1.jpg (96603 bytes) Royal Armories
rapier & dagger
hip.jpg (61626 bytes)

Those not learning rapier joined Assistant ARMA Director Jeff Basham in another room where he taught several impromptu long-sword classes: the first on ARMA's basic Schwertnemen and Halb Schwert techniques, the second on ARMA's fundamental footwork drill.  A third lesson covered the cutting Segno in which he showed the 8 true edge cuts and 5 effective false edge cuts, while a fourth lesson covered ARMA’s two foundational flourishes (or practice routines) for long-sword.

Later on Sunday, Jeff Basham gave an informal 30-minute instruction on Medieval and Renaissance Grappling (Ringen) from German manuals, which covered one technique from Talhoffer (1443) and three techniques from Passchen (1659). Jeff's short session on unarmed grappling was well put-together and went very well.  Most of the techniques he showed were very intuitive (i.e. appealed to common sense).

Untitled-dd1.JPG (19883 bytes)
Jeff's session
Untitled-exp.JPG (33935 bytes)

At midday, Dr. Ron Harris gave a lesson on Medieval & Renaissance Dagger fighting. Dr. Harris delighted everyone with a simple and lively explanation of the principles behind Talhoffer’s roundel dagger as well as some moves from Marozzo. Dr. Harris’s smooth and fluid movements made it look easy as he taught several techniques. Ron's Talhoffer dagger session was interesting, but unfortunately not nearly as long as everyone would have liked. He received several acclaims from attendees and guest for the ease and flow of his highly effective but casual instruction.

dag1.jpg (49408 bytes) Untitled-10.JPG (46457 bytes) Untitled-9.JPG (54649 bytes)

Following this, Hank Reinhardt lead one of the highlights of the Expo: the Sword Cutting Demonstration. The cutting demo was really eye-opening. Hank banged on a standard MRL sparring helm, which while not a historical replica, being so familiar to everyone did put in perspective what a heavy gauge steel helm could and could not withstand from a blade.  With deceivingly little effort Hank dented the helm with apparently lazily thrown blows. Afterward he revealed the slight but nonetheless perceptible distortion caused to the sword’s edge as a result of the strikes.

John Waller and John Clements, as well as other senior students, then assisted in chopping at some ¼ inch cardboard tubes, a steel helm, and then large 10-pound raw pork shoulder bone (a realistic if somewhat eerie simulation of the human body).  The meat was struck first bare (to show how devastatingly effective a blade could be on meat), then covered with mail armor, and then mail and a cloth gambeson, and finally just the gambeson.  A simple butted-link mail coif was hit with a fine Raven Armoury blade and while it did not penetrate the gambeson, the raw flesh underneath was severely pulverized from the blow as a result. 

Although the test targets were place on a tree stump at just above knee level, thereby altering the angle and force somewhat, the meat was almost entirely sheared through by some cuts.   On one strike using the Raven short-sword, Hank cleaved nearly 80% of the way through the 8-inch block of fresh meat and bone.  On another, Jeff Basham using a custom-made Zamorino great sword from Toledo delivered a powerful cut that all but severed 8 inches of meat and bone. For the most part, Hank stressed more than once he was not even hitting very hard.  When he did, he cut the meat in two and hit the stump beneath.

Hank made an effort to cut with different portions of a tapering short sword to show that whether the blow came from the first two inches of the tip or down on the very middle of the blade, the effect was nonetheless tremendous.  John C. also struck with a completely blunt Raven Armory bastard sword to surprisingly show a nearly identical effect to that of the sharp swords, demonstrating how with a good sword and a proper blow, even a blunt weapon can do terrible damage to flesh. The only real difference between the sharp and blunt blades was in the depth of the cut.

Mr. Waller stressed that good test cutting takes into account the resistance of the human body’s weight and mass as well as its motion and “give”, such as hanging targets or attaching them to punching bags.  At one point, to experience a more realistic position and result, John Waller calmly held up the mail-covered meat on the end of a three-foot cardboard tube so that Hank standing off could casually swipe a full blow at it with a sharp short sword!

The armor cutting demonstration was very convincing in how well mail protects against slices and weak cuts, but also how many Medieval sword edges were specifically designed to penetrate with their cuts.  It also made it very clear to never wear mail next to your bare skin!  Hank Reinhardt’s discussion of armor and wounds during the demonstration was also very interesting. Hank is always fun to listen to and he has a way of making everyone reconsider how they evaluate cuts in both free-play sparring and drills.  Experimental forensic anthropology can tell us a lot about just what weapons could and could not do.  Many attendees had no idea a sword could so easily cut into or damage mail.  What amazed everyone (with the exception of John Waller and Hank) was how difficult the simple cloth gambeson was to cut through.  The most interesting thing for many was how effective it was. It proved resistant to all the blades, sharp and blunt.  While the cloth showed no tearing the meat below it was slit open or the bone below visibly shattered. Seeing how much damage it surprisingly prevented was very informative as was the deep and brutal trauma it didn't prevent.

John C. also used Hank Reinhardt's antique Spanish rapier, made in Toledo about 1600, to demonstrate some things about rapier wounds. A thrust through the meat was effortlessly made and because of the small slit hole produced afterwards it was nearly impossible to locate the entry point.  A light edge blow on the meat by the thick yet slender blade of star-shaped cross-section also produced no discernable effect whatsoever. A short, quick, and very mild tip scratch with the very point however did result in a noticeable “tear.” Concern for the antique’s condition prevented more vigorous edge strike demonstration on this occasion.

Unfortunately, time did not permit the planned session by Mr. Reinhardt on Medieval sword & shields fundamentals. A special feature of the event was for attendees to be able to hold and examine several excellent examples of actual antique European swords. The blades ranged from ring-hilted bastard swords of c. 1520 to rapiers of c. 1600. Earlier, a special treat for all official members present was to be able to spend a few personal minutes handling the weapons on their own. 

blade3.jpg (49066 bytes) blade2.jpg (29495 bytes)

Member attendees handling a real
Spanish rapier from c. 1600

At the end of Sunday, John Clements gave a presentation on “Renaissance Sword vs. Dueling Rapier.”  John used this occasion to discuss often-overlooked elements on the nature of the rapier, its basic fighting principles, its origins as a personal weapon, its use in urban self-defense as well as duello, and the context under which it developed as a method and style of fencing.  John went on to present material on “Fighting with the Rapier” and demonstrated some of the often under appreciated aspects of closing against a rapier, a few grypes and seizures, and some disarms displaying something of the speed, energy, and finesse for which he is known. This was followed by a short overview of period criticism of the rapier and some of the theories for facing it with a sword.  A brief but fairly intense example was shown of sword vs. rapier free-play and of rapier fencing within ARMA using padded weapons and flexi-rapiers.

Following this, Certificates of Attendance signed by all three guest-instructors for the Expo were presented to attendees. A special announcement was that all attendees to the event were now able to receive the standard ARMA Member special 15% discount off purchases of any Museum Replica’s Limited products. After the event on Sunday night, a special members-only private dinner with the Royal Armories guests was arranged.

One thing repeated through the two-day event was how balanced the two complimentary methods of historical fencing instruction and practice between the Royal Armories and ARMA were. The distinctive “arranged performance fighting” of the Waller-method used at the Royal Armories focuses on elements of technique and counter-technique within sequential routines developed from historical fighting manuals. ARMA in contrast, emphasized spontaneous fighting skill training obtained through earnest practice of techniques and counter-techniques (i.e., with real range, speed, and force) as well as extended free-play. The combination of the two reciprocal and complimentary methods provided a dynamic felt throughout the weekend.

Many attendees expressed interest in getting to see the similarities between what ARMA and the Royal Armories have each developed with their distinctive methods, as well as the differences. Overall, this was one also of the largest gatherings of ARMA Associate members and official Study Groups. It was the chance for many to finally acquire actual ARMA practice and exposure to the training curriculum first hand.  You could see a lot of, "So that's how you do it!" expressions on the faces of many when it came to information on fundamental drills, exercises, and fighting stances. The same was even truer for the half-swording session; many of the attendees were new to half-swording. Effort was thus given to the reasoning behind the techniques and interpretation of the guards. This was also a unique chance to finally see the expert practitioners from the Royal Armories here in the USA. Everyone came away with many new things to think about.  In conclusion, the Expo was a terrific success. As the first of its kind in the South, it was an intense two days of historical European martial arts education, camaraderie, and fun.

Untitled-7.JPG (76345 bytes)
Hank R. , Pradhib Windlass, & John Waller at MRL
mrlsword.jpg (35582 bytes)
Hank with a new MRL ring-hilted back sword
jbmrl.jpg (37999 bytes)
Jeff Basham considers some pieces in the MRL showroom
blade1.jpg (44325 bytes)
Hank R. shows off a fine Raven Armory rapier with a thick riser and star cross-section

While in Atlanta, a few senior ARMA students shot archery with Hank Reinhardt and even received an axe-throwing lesson in his private target range. On Friday night, the Wallers and Andy Deane discussed myths of European archery on such topics as accurate rates of fire for longbows vs. crossbows, accurate ranges, draw lbs., and etc. At one point Jonathan Waller also was able to display some of his very impressive expert historical archery skills.  Several senior ARMA students and the Royal Armouries guests also visited and toured Museum Replica’s Limited in Conyers and consulted with MRL president Pradhib Windlass.  We also examined some of MRL’s new line of more historically accurate swords. However, being surrounded as they by hundreds of antique swords and weapons on a daily basis, it makes it naturally somewhat hard to impress the Royal Armouries’ fight interpreters with anyone’s modern replica weapons.

Back to Spotlight


Note: The word "ARMA" and its associated arms emblem is a federally registered trademark under U.S. Reg. No. 3831037. In addition, the content on this website is federally registered with the United States Copyright Office, © 2001-2022. All rights are reserved. No use of the ARMA name and emblem, or website content, is permitted without authorization. Reproduction of material from this site without written permission of The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts and its respective authors is strictly prohibited. Additional material may also appear from "HACA" The Historical Armed Combat Association copyright © 1999-2001 by John Clements. All rights are reserved to that material as well.