Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

So there are twenty-four actors in this show, and I think about twenty of them pick up arms over the course of the Fifth act battle at Shrewsbury. As the men we are playing are much more skilled than the men we are at this sort of swordplay, we need a little help to look the part. Paul Dennhardt, fight choreographer extraordinaire, came in on Saturday to get us statred with the weapons.

For nearly all of us,* that weapon is the Bastard sword, a one-and-a-half handed broadsword,with a thirty-five inch blade. The sword is not particularly heavy, but I know I have started a regimen of forearm strengthening tennis ball squeezing in order to better master the thing. The last thing we need is to see my arm shaking holding the sword at arm’s length. Some warrior.

Now I’ve had some training at school, but a refresher course is always welcome, and Paul gave us a 2 hour tutorial on the basics. We begin by just holding the sword, learning never to loop the index finger over the hilt, for fear of, as a student of his did once, fracturing the finger lengthwise from the second knuckle to the tip. (In the real world there’d be no fear of that — the finger would be gone altogether. Yeesh.) Then we learned to carry and run with the sword. And then came the most important part of swordsmanship.

Defence. Even though we think of rapiers and epees when we hear the word now, the term fencing stems from “The Art of Defence”, and can actually pertain to defending oneself with any sort of cutting or bludgeoning weapon. So we took up the blades and learned to parry (or make defensive moves), by pronating and supinating our forearms,applying pressure with the weak hand to the pommel, raising and lowering the foible (or tip) of the blade.

Then came time for cutting – these swords were designed with both two cutting edges and a sharp point, but of course as parts of a fiction, they’ve been blunted and made as safe as possible. We learned to find safe fighting distance, about 2 hands from the tip of the blade to our partner’s chest. Then came targeting and thrusting, followed by lunging and passing through (or stepping forward with the thrust.) After a few drills here, we got together and practiced parrying our partner’s attacks. A few more drills, which included learning inviting, slips, pass backs, and our two hours were up.

And the room was, as they say across the pond, close. Humidity was up, and we were adding it to it. Twenty men in a room wielding broadswords for two hours is thirsty work. So, off to the pub for a bit of unwinding.


*A couple of characters are much badder asses, and get badder-assed weapons, but I’ll leave that to the imagination.


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