The Judgement of Mars: A Challenge to a Passage of Arms at Château de Castelnaud 15-16 September 2018

I, James Hester, having dedicated my life to the study and practice of the sword, and out of a desire to test and improve my knowledge of the art, do hereby declare my undertaking of a passage of arms at Château de Castelnaud, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, France, from the 15th through the 16th of September in the year 2018.

I therefore invite challengers to face me in an exchange of blows in light armour with the longsword.

Continue reading “The Judgement of Mars: A Challenge to a Passage of Arms at Château de Castelnaud 15-16 September 2018”

Stage Combat versus Historical Combat: The Tale of a Marriage of Equals

Prior to my career studying early arms and fencing, I had spent years writing and performing stage fights for plays and several Renaissance festivals throughout New England. Gradually, I met more and more people who were involved with the more historical side of things, and found my way into that world. But teaching and performing stage combat remains a passion for me.

Generally speaking, a stage fight will never be the same as a real fight (by which I mean one where you’re actually trying to hit the other person, rather than just pretending to). They tend to involve, and need, very different things. A stage fight must be entertaining and engaging for the audience, reasonably easy to follow, be safe for all participants, and somehow contribute to furthering the story that’s being told. A real fight is under no obligation to be any of these, and frequently is none of them.

Over the years, however, I have had some luck combining the two in productions with good effect. I shall tell you now of my favourite case. Continue reading “Stage Combat versus Historical Combat: The Tale of a Marriage of Equals”

Digitising Fencing Treatises at the National Fencing Museum

Last weekend I had the privilege to be assisting fellow fencing scholar-practitioner Guy Windsor in beginning a massive undertaking to digitise the extensive collection of early fencing treatises held at the National Fencing Museum in Worcestershire. The collection of manuscripts and printed books includes some of the most iconic works dating back to the sixteenth century. We got a fair bit done in three days, but there is much more work to do, so stay tuned for updates on this ongoing project.

Working on a pristine copy of Gran Simulacro dell’Arte e dell’Uso della Scherma (1610) by the legendary Ridolfo Capo Ferro
It wasn’t all work of course. In my right hand, a 1687 treatise by Sir William Hope. In my left, a 1729 work by the same author. What is it that drives me forward to keep photographing pages with so many more texts to go, you may ask? Why, nothing less than hope beyond hope.

Lecture on combat in medieval art at 2016 Leeds IMC

Acta Periodica Duellatorum organised a session at the 2016 International Medieval Congress at Leeds this year, entitled ‘Historical European Martial Arts Studies II: The Art of Fighting in Context’, at which I had been invited to present by organiser and fellow scholar-practitioner Daniel Jaquet.

Entitled ‘Depictions of Combat in Medieval Art: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’, my talk explored some of the initial findings of my PhD research concerning the way in which combatants are portrayed in medieval artwork of various media. I examined the ways in which the weapons were being held, both in attack and preparation for an attack, and the patterns that have begun to emerge as the data set of visual sources are examined as a whole. I then looked at how the depictions in these works of art compare to the way that combatants are depicted in the fencing treatises. Although a very stats-heavy presentation, it was generally well received.

Lecture on blade damage at 2016 Kalamazoo Medieval Conference

Today I delivered a lecture at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The session was organised by the Societas Johannis Higginsis, and was entitled ‘”Can These Bones Come to Life?”: Insights from Re-construction, Re-ennactment, and Re-creation’.

My paper, ‘Extant Damage on Late Medieval Edged Weapons and Armours: Initial Findings and Interpretations’, showcased some of my initial discoveries from the object examinations I am conducting as part of my PhD research. I identified some of the types of damage discovered on pieces of arms and armour, and also some of the trends that are beginning to become apparent when they are compared.

James Hester awarded PhD Studentship in UK

Earlier this summer, I was honoured and delighted to have been awarded the Arms and Armour Heritage Trust Studentship to pursue a PhD in History, focusing on late medieval edged weapons, at the University of Southampton in the UK.

While this means that, unfortunately, I will be suspending teaching classes as The School of Mars for now, I look forward to possibly offering workshops and lectures in the UK and the US in the coming years.