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Greg Mele
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Location: Chicago, IL USA
Joined: 20 Mar 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2012 2:52 pm    Post subject: New from Freelance Academy: Ancient Swordplay by Tony Wolf         Reply with quote



In late Victorian England, even as the sword was being rendered useless on the battlefield, swordsmanship was experiencing a unique revival. Captain Alfred Hutton and Egerton Castle, both devoted fencers and amateur historians, led a systematic study and reconstruction of combat with all the weapons of the Elizabethan arsenal - the elegant rapier, deadly sword and buckler, and the massive two-handed sword. Their work found practical expression in classes, exhibitions, academic lectures and theatrical combat, for audiences as diverse as school children, soldiers and the Prince of Wales.

Yet for all of their efforts, Hutton and Castle did not establish a tradition of historical swordsmanship that survived their own generation. Instead, their books and essays were largely forgotten until the second revival of ancient swordplay in the late 20th century, and today’s researchers often view these early efforts with a cavalier or dismissive eye.

For the last decade or so, modern students of Historical European Swordsmanship learns that the Victorians saw fencing as a linear evolution toward the "perfection" of their own day, dismissed medieval swordsmanship as "rough and untutored", and generally, missed the.er...point of the earlier systems entirely.

Enter 19th c martial arts scholar, theatrical fight director and martial artist Tony Wolf to take a closer look.

In Ancient Swordplay: the Revival of Elizabethan Swordplay in Victorian London, Tony reexamines Hutton and Castle’s work, both through their own words and those of their enthusiasts, students and critics. Every student of historical European martial arts, especially those who believe they know what Castle, Hutton and their circle thought and taught will be in for more than one surprise:

* A tradition of Medieval fests and swordsmanship – some of very dubious derivation – had already become popular throughout Europe and Canada;

* Nearly a generation before Hutton and Castle, Maestro Gregorio Villaamil had already attempted to save La Verdadera Destreza from extinction by reconstructing earlier methods;

* Castle’s views on medieval fencing evolved considerably over the years, and the dismissal of “the rough, untutored swordsmanship” written by a 26 year old prodigy did not reflect those of the mature man;

* If Hutton and Castle had a true “heir” it was not an Englishman, but rather Maitre George Dubois, whose reconstruction of Gladiatorial combat prefigured the field of “Living Archaeology” by over 60 years, and whose syncretic system of modern rapier and dagger fencing would survive into the late 20th century;

* Although the Ancient Swordplay movement failed to survive its founders, they would have considered it to have served its purpose – the preservation of modern fencing.

But what this look into a world of top hats and rapiers best shows is that the modern view of the Victorian revivalists as earnest but misguided amateur scholars is both unfair, and a bit arrogant. Instead, they are revealed as the inventors of a systematic study and practice of lost fighting arts that has only been exceeded in recent years, worthy of being celebrated as the true pioneers in the field.

With Ancient Swordplay, we are very pleased to bring the old boys (and girls! wait until you read about the swordswoman-actress-suffragette-role-reverser Esme Beringer!) back into the limelight, and in the weeks to come we will be uploading a number of images and manuscripts that couldn’t make it into the book. Keep watching this space!

Greg Mele
Chicago Swordplay Guild
www.chicagoswordplayguild.com

www.freelanceacademypress.com
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