About Me

James Hester is an internationally-renowned specialist in medieval and Renaissance swordsmanship. He began his career as an educator at the Higgins Armory Museum, while also serving as an actor-combatant and fight choreographer on the New England Renaissance festival circuit. He graduated from Salem State College in 2004, having presented his thesis on the Elizabethan fencing master George Silver, before moving to the UK in to complete an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York. His dissertation, an edition of MS Harley 3542 (aka “The Man That Wol”), a little-known 15th century English fencing manual, received a distinction and continues to be used by the Western Martial Arts community.

He then joined the Royal Armouries Museum, where he gradually rose through the ranks, having the honor of being appointed Royal Armouries Curator of Tower Collections at the Tower of London in 2010. He conducted in-depth research into arms & armour and early fencing techniques, making use of their vast collection of original weapons and surviving treatises on combat. He has lectured and published widely on these topics, led workshops allowing the public to handle and learn from original objects, appeared in several documentaries on fencing and early arms, and offered training and consultation in both historical and stage combat. In 2012, he co-wrote the Introduction of The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship, the newest edition of Royal Armouries MS I.33, with Worcester Art Museum curator Jeffrey Forgeng. Most recently, he was appointed Editor of the newsletter for the Arms and Armour Society, of which he is a long-time member.

In 2015, James was awarded the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust Studentship by the University of Southampton. He currently resides in the UK where he is pursuing his PhD in History, focusing on late medieval edged weapons.

European Swordsmanship

The martial arts of Europe were every bit as comprehensive as those of Asia. The fencing masters of the Middle Ages and Renaissance have left us a vast storehouse of knowledge concerning their art in the form of surviving manuals that outline the principles and techniques that they once taught. Although the traditions taught and practiced by swordsmen in Europe faded with use of the sword itself, these manuals are a foundation from which we can revive the art of the sword in the West. Drawing inspiration from European Masters, while also making use of a wider knowledge of sword traditions throughout the world, I have led classes and workshops both in historical styles and also in a hybrid style that, while grounded in the teachings of the past, is capable of evolving as our knowledge and experience grows.

Stage Combat

<center>Sir Robert Cecil (James Hester) and Sir Walter Raleigh (David Todd Agro) at the Vermont Renaissance Faire. Photo courtesy of Eric Tetreault.</center>

Stage combat differs in many ways from earnest combat. In a real fight, the priorities are self-defense and defeating your opponent. A fight portrayed in a film or on the stage, on the other hand, is meant to further the story. Safety for the actors, while maintaining the illusion of violent actions, is paramount. However, for the story to be told in the most engaging way, it is important that fight scenes be believable. I have produced fight scenes for various theatrical productions in the US and the UK, and also taught workshops on the fundamentals of stage combat.

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