The Return to Castelnaud.

After an unforgettable weekend of swordplay and camraderie last September, Château de Castelnaud has invited me and the gallant fighters of La Mesnie du Blanc Castel to return once more to stage a Passage of Arms.

Once again I, as tenan, will match my skills and my sword against a series of challengers throughout the weekend. In addition, you can look forward to a weekend of talks, demonstrations, and displays by skilled craftspeople.

More details will be forthcoming as they are confirmed, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can follow my progress in the coming year here and on social media as I prepare once more to submit myself to the Judgement of Mars.

British expats cheer on ‘The Dark Knight from the Tower of London’

Shortly after returning from Castelnaud and the Judgement of Mars, I stumbled across a delightful blog post written by a pair of British expats who now live in the Dordogne. They seem to have enjoyed themselves, and were very happy when ‘The Dark Knight’ himself reached out to them asking if I might share their post with my readers.

You can find the post here. My thanks to the authors for coming to the event and for writing the post.

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.