not uncommon for me to respond to the question ‘So what do you do?’ by
saying that I’m a swordsman. While this is partly for a bit of fun, to a
greater extent it’s reasonably accurate. Starting at 15 performing
fight shows at Renaissance Festivals, then studying the techniques
preserved in treatises written by early fencing masters while caring for
Britain’s national collection of arms and armour at the Tower of London
and later receiving a PhD in medieval European martial arts, for me the
sword has gone well beyond a mere passion or an academic pursuit.
Yet my pursuit of swordsmanship has also become more than just learning a lot about swords and how to use them well. Over the years, it has become an all-encompassing guide, a ‘Way’ as the Chinese or Japanese would say. For if we study it closely, the sword has a lot to teach us about life and how to live it.
I will now be sharing my research and teaching on Patreon to help support my ability to continue to do this important work and share it with the community.
While most of my videos and articles will be publicly available, certain tiers of patronage will give you access to these earlier than general release. Other tiers will provide access to instructional videos covering the core teachings of the School of Mars curriculum, private discussion groups, and also one-on-one lessons via Skype.
First off, since I know that a lot of people are sitting at home
looking for ways to keep entertained, I’ve decided to do my bit.
Over the coming weeks and months, I am dusting off about a decade’s
worth of lectures and presentations I’ve done, recording them, and
sharing them for all to see. There’s quite a lot of ground covered,
ranging from basic introductions to some more in-depth scholarly stuff.
So hopefully it’ll be useful to everyone. Stay tuned for releases!
Second, I have received the blessing of one of Britain’s
renowned medieval ensembles, Misericordia, to use one of their songs for
the opening and closing of my videos. Their arrangements of medieval
music are mesmerising, and I can’t wait to make one of my favourite
songs of theirs part of the forthcoming videos. You can learn more about
them and hear some of their music by visiting https://misericordia1.bandcamp.com/releases
Hope all is well with you and yours. Speak again soon!
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.
Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life; Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.
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.
For those of you who might be interested in learning a bit more about some of the things I’ve been picking at in my PhD for the last two years, I shall be giving a talk at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford later this month.
Imagine my surprise to discover that the video my recent talk at the 2016 International Medieval Conference in Leeds has appeared on the renowned Medievalists.net, a site that gathers news and articles related to the study of the Middle Ages. What an honour!
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.