The RMSG has a variety of classes for every experience level, and we welcome visitors to our open classes.
Training with the RMSG typical begins by attending one of our introductory class series, offered periodically throughout the year. These series include twelve weekly classes teaching fundamental biomechanical principles, sword-handling techniques, fencing theory, and the basics of swordplay. After completing this series of classes you and the Guild instructors will discuss whether you are prepared to join the Guild’s regular novice classes.
Our novice classes are geared toward those students who have completed at least one introductory series, and have grasped the basic principles. Here the student will have the chance to deepen his or her understanding of the “art of arms,” exploring techniques in grappling, dagger, and sword.
While still focusing on the sword material in our curriculum, the student will begin to understand the larger martial system we practice, and learn how the Art works as a whole. Students will eventually develop the skills to join in free-play, and many will work to obtain the rank of Scholar in the Guild, an important step in a student’s development and growth. These classes are held on a weekly basis, and require a monthly Guild membership.
Classes for more advanced students are also offered weekly, by invitation only. These classes deal with more complex aspects of the art, and require a good basic understanding of the core concepts. Attending students will have dedicated themselves to serious, thoughtful practice, coupled with physical and mental discipline.
ADVANCED CLASS (BY INVITATION ONLY): 7-9pm
INTRO CLASS – PERIODIC: 10AM – 12PM
Novice Class: 1-3pm
Scholar/Advanced class times are by invitation only.
Other class times and private lessons may be available. Please contact the instructor for more information.
Our core curriculum is based in the “art of arms” (Italian armizare or arte dell’armi) of the late 14th century master Fiore dei Liberi. Maestro Fiore taught a cognate system of combat, designed for use by the knightly class in battle, duel or tournament. His instructions include one and two-handed sword use, abrazare (grappling), unarmed knife defense, dagger combat, sword versus dagger and dagger versus sword, mounted combat and the use of the sword, spear and poleaxe in armour. He recorded his treatise in Il Fior di Battaglia (the Flower of Battle), which survives in four related, but distinct, manuscripts, and these books form the basis of our reconstruction.
In addition to the armizare of Fiore dei Liberi, Guild scholars will have the chance to study the work of the masters in related traditions, including that of Filipo Vadi, following Dei Liberi’s work in the late 15th century, and Antonio Manciolino, and early 16th century master of the Bolognese school.
How We Teach It:
Instruction at the Guild is conducted through the coordination of physical conditioning, historical “plays”, solo drills, partnered exercises, contextual drills, games and “free play” (fencing and sparring). Emphasis on the underlying body mechanics and principles of fencing, and their application to a specific weapon, instead of the weapons themselves, is made throughout the curriculum, and students will find that the principles of movement, timing, distance, body mechanics, etc., that are applicable to the first weapon they learn, will carry over to all of the others.
While the words “physical conditioning” may bring to mind an image of free weights and track suits, we are not a gym. Our objective is to make the student more flexible, increase functional strength, and build overall endurance, specifically for the goal of superior martial performance. This is done through a combination of modern cross-training techniques, classic 19th century calisthenics (such as medicine ball and Indian club exercises), and competitive games, all of which reinforce underlying body mechanics and martial skills.
Solo drills are used to teach the fundamental skills of swordsmanship: balance, biomechanics, footwork, cutting, and thrusting. Examples include: air-cutting, pell-work, and slow motion and full speed footwork drills. The solo drills instill in the student the “ABCs” of historical swordsmanship.
The historical masters at arms recorded their art in formal “plays” – short, pre-planned sequences of attack and defense, similar to the two-man kata of traditional Japanese martial arts. While plays are used to teach fundamental techniques in a way that will encode them in the student’s muscle memory, they are more than just techniques; they also contain valuable tactical lessons of time, distance, line and control of the opponent.
Once a play has been memorized, students can then vary the distance, timing and rhythm to further explore how the techniques can be applied. After the student has internalized a number of plays, loose-play takes the lessons one step further. One student still makes a pre-planned attack, but the other responds with a defense of their choosing. By altering their timing, rhythm, entry, etc., the attacker can provide the defender with a variety of subtle variations. This can be taken a step further, with the original attacker then defending against the defender’s response. While still a cooperative drill, there is an increasingly level of randomness that the students must respond to instantly, applying the conditioned responses they have learned through the more rigid and formal plays.
The historical plays were usually presented in a relatively equal or “dueling” format, where both combatants are facing one another, out of distance, in an open space, and the defender is prepared to “receive” the attack. Contextual drills are similar to “loose play” in that they apply variations to a formal play, but they do so by changing the assumed combat conditions. For example, a dagger defense taught against a frontal assault will then be taught with the student kneeling, on their back, beginning with their back turned, fighting in cramped quarters, or navigating multiple opponents. These contextual applications help increase the student’s likelihood to apply the skills in real self-defense, and thus are a strong part of the unarmed and counter-knife curriculum, as these are the elements most relevant to today’s world.
Finally free-play, be it unarmed sparring or weapon fencing, pits the student against an uncooperative opponent to further develop his or her sense of initiative, timing, and focus. Competition also builds the intangible, but ultimately equally important skills, of courage, courtesy, honesty, and fair-play. It is important to understand that we are studying a martial art, not a sport, and free-play is only a simulation of combat, not combat itself. As such, once they have progressed to the level of free-play, students are encouraged to view fencing not as the culmination of their training, but as another tool for developing their skills.
As a final word on training,the RMSG has developed a bit of a reputation in the larger WMA community for our ‘Spartan’ work ethic , and we take a lot of pride in seeing our students physical stamina and skills increase rapidly. But here’s the real secret of our success. Work is boring, but games and challenges are fun. The key is to take our art seriously, but not ourselves. Prospective students should be ready to train hard from day one, but expect to have fun doing it!