By Harris Hoin, Historical Interpreter
“Find whatever sword you like and swing it,” says Spencer Waddell, a longsword practitioner with the Chicago Swordplay Guild when asked how he encourages newcomers to historical European martial arts and fencing. “You never know when someone will decide to put down the toys and videogames and pick up steel.”
From June 23 to October 9, Telfair Museums is hosting The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum. With this exhibition I’ve taken the opportunity to interview several modern-day practitioners of historical martial arts and discuss with them what life is like for someone who interprets history in armor.
Regarding the development of their interest in the field, many of these interpreters described a love of swords and medieval history: “Everyone wants to be a knight! The sportsmanship, the community, the travel, and the exercise that comes with it are all too good to pass up. Plus, fighting in armor,” explained Quentin Dulaney, a practitioner with the Steel Coven Buhurt association. These modern-day knights describe what it takes to take care of their equipment, including having to hand-wash padded cloth equipment, as well as oil and scour steel, all in order to ensure that the arms and armor they bring to their bouts will protect them as much as serve them as they bring medieval combat to life. Their inspirations even come from historical texts such as those of Fiore, an Italian longsword master noted for his treatise on fighting Il Fior di Battaglia (The Flower of Battle), published in 1409. Through careful study and rigorous training, groups such as Schola St. George, Steel Coven Buhurt, the Chicago Swordplay Guild, and more bring historical combat to life through modern armored interpretation while also keeping these traditional practices alive.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be seeing more from these historical interpreters through a series of blog posts. I discussed with them what brought their interest to the field, what goes into practice for them, some of their greatest memories and experiences in the field, and more! My first interview will be with Spencer Waddell, a former American longsword champion and current board member of the International Medieval Combat Federation!
Hoin, Harris, and Spencer Waddell. Armored Interpretation. Personal, March 20, 2023.
Hoin, Harris, and Quentin Dulaney. Armored Interpretation. Personal, March 15, 2023.
Hoin, Harris, and Jocelyn Wright. Armored Interpretation. Personal, March 17, 2023.