By Harris Hoin, Historical Interpreter
My first featured interpreter interview is with Spencer Waddell. Spencer is a longtime practitioner of a variety of Medieval Combat arts. He’s currently affiliated with several groups including The Chicago Swordplay Guild and the International Medieval Combat Federation. Spencer has fenced at a competitive level, taking national champion in the longsword category with the American Medieval Combat Federation’s events.
What initially led to your interest in reenactment?
Spencer: During my deployment with the U.S. Air Force in Germany I saw a lot of fencing and activities like it going on more casually. I thought it was pretty cool, so when I came back to the States I looked into it. I started working with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) around 2009 and became involved with local groups around Springfield, Illinois. Over time that developed into a variety of martial arts studies, including doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in armor around 2012, beginning a self-study of Fiore (Longsword) in 2016, and working with the Historical Martial Arts Movement to increase visibility for SCA, HEMA, and Buhurt organizations in 2017.
How do you procure and take care of your equipment?
Spencer: I make use of a few different eastern European suppliers, similar to a lot of people. I’m a bit more intense in the care I take of my gear, taking influence from Japanese practices. It involves a lot of time properly oiling the gear and using various powders to make sure everything is clean, dry, and polished.
What is your favorite piece of equipment that you’ve had the opportunity to train and practice with?
Spencer: My VB Brand longsword. It’s the one I was using when I got my national championship win, and I’ve taken it with me to many other competitions since.
What’s your favorite story or part of your time doing armored interpretation?
Spencer: There are too many to count. For me though it’s really been about seeing how things have developed. I love doing outreach for the organizations I’m with and seeing the sport not only grow but become more widely organized. You never know when someone will put down the games or even foam swords and play equipment and pick up steel.
I also like to think of my practice as almost a kind of “experiential archaeology.” Through the different types of fencing we do it brings in a lot of anthropology and cultural studies. One day we’re learning Italian or German culture to understand the European practices in HEMA, another day I might be studying Japanese etiquette and practices as I’m working with Kendo. I personally have also recently developed in interest in African studies, too, as I want to see if I can develop a practice with equipment like the shotel and the khopesh.