The Rocky Mountain Swordplay Guild began as the Denver branch of the Rocky Mountain Historic Combat Guild, which was a loose association of Colorado study groups devoted to HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts). The Denver study group divided its time between several different disciplines until the arrival of Keith Jennings, who assumed the role of head instructor shortly after his arrival in 2003. Keith was a senior scholar of the Chicago Swordplay Guild, and began teaching a variation of the CSG’s curriculum, based in the Italian tradition.
2005: Affiliation with Chicago Swordplay Guild
In 2005 the group was renamed the Rocky Mountain Swordplay Guild, and became a formal study group of the Chicago Swordplay Guild. This relationship was formalized when the first RMSG students tested for the grade of Scholar and played their prize in Chicago in February 2006.
Keith returned home to Chicago in the fall of that same year, and the group was again without a head instructor. Luckily, Roger Siggs, a former Rector (instructor) of the Tattershall School of Defense, instructor in Italian close quarter combat, Renaissance swordplay, and Japanese martial arts, moved to Denver. He was also a recurring guest instructor at the CSG, and had recently helped them redesign their close quarter combat program. He expanded the RMSG’s training schedule, revised and expanded the grappling and dagger curriculum, and saw to the continuation of the CSG’s curriculum.
2008: RMSG becomes a chapter of CSG
In February of 2008, three more Guild claimants successfully played their prize for Scholar in Chicago. At this event the RMSG was given a charter as a full, filial chapter of the CSG, granting the right to train and promote Scholars within the Guild’s curriculum for medieval swordsmanship.
The Scholar’s rank is one recognized in the wider Western Martial Arts (WMA) community as denoting a student showing proficiency in the core material of the discipline who is dedicated to the serious pursuit and perpetuation of the art. It is awarded only after a written exam is taken, covering various historical and technical aspects of the curriculum; skills tests are passed, demonstrating the student’s ability to correctly perform the taught techniques; and a “prize play” is fought against fellow students, Guild instructors, and invited guests from other schools, showing good form, honor, and integrity. All of this is done in order to train the next generation of instructors, who will continue to delve into the historical material and produce improved interpretation and instruction.
2009: RMSG’s first Scholar prize play
In December of 2009, the RMSG hosted its first full prize play for Scholar from within its own ranks, and established itself as a school on its own merits. This prize play was attended by members of the public, as well as visiting combatants from the Black Falcon School of Arms, from Colorado Springs.
In the two years following this, another generation of scholars played their prizes in December 2010, and the Guild’s first two native scholars, Douglas Wagner and Ben Fisher-Bruns, went on to become instructors of the Guild.
In early 2011, Roger Siggs stepped down as Dean of the Guild, and Greg Mele of the Chicago Swordplay Guild assumed those duties. He appointed Douglas and Ben to head the Guild locally, and through this reorganization established closer ties between Denver and Chicago.
Through a year of consolidation and reestablishment, the Guild’s program was tried and tested both in classes and on the field. Thanks to connections with respected instructors from across the country, and the firm determination of its members, the RMSG surpassed all expectations. Students of the Guild made excellent showings on and off the field, and RMSG instructors offered classes nationally and internationally. Douglas Wagner was elected Head Instructor and acting Dean of the Guild, and in his time as instructor the Guild has been proud to develop curriculum, grow its membership and expand its role in the greater Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) community.
Into the future
Today the Rocky Mountain Swordplay Guild enjoys a reputation as a hub of dedicated teachers and practitioners of Western Martial Arts. The Guild’s program includes physical training, mental discipline, historical research, and community outreach. Each student has the opportunity to improve through physical conditioning and connecting to a tradition deeply embedded in our cultural framework, coupling ideals of honor and camaraderie with historical exploration and relevant physical and mental discipline.