Austin’s Historic Weapons Guild Brings Historic Swordplay to Life: Cut, Thrust, Parry, Play – Arts

Founder and chief instructor Anthony Buonomo (r) teaches writer Robert Penson how to fight with a messer, a single-edged German sword (Photo by John Anderson)

From history buffs to fantasy fans, who hasn’t wanted to be the armed warrior, the knight in shining armour? Who hasn’t wanted to storm the castle sword in hand? Face their enemies and cross swords with an enemy? Who has never wanted to dive into the pages of a Conan comic or on the screen of an epic historical action film? Wanted but never could. Enter the Austin Historic Weapons Guild.

In a small business park north of town, the AHWG is on a quest: to teach the death arts of yesteryear to those who wish to learn and spread “HEMA, Hospitality and Honor.” HEMA represents historical European martial arts, the study and practice of the armed combat systems of Europe from the medieval period through the Renaissance. Yes, it means sword fight. Longswords, shortswords, rapiers, daggers: AHWG has it all, focusing on different methods of teaching history for everyone. For example, when it comes to the longsword, they specialize in the teachings of 14th century German swordsman Johannes Liechtenauer. For the rapiers, they focus on the early 17th century style of Gérard Thibault d’Anvers as recorded in his Sword Academy. by Joachim Meyer Gründtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechte covers a multitude of disciplines from the 16th century. Even wrestling is part of the program. “It’s the basics of combat, with or without a blade,” explained AHWG founder Anthony Buonomo. Classes are informal and relaxed, unlike instruction manuals, written by and for those who have lived and died by the sword. The pursuit of the Guild is to study these materials, to discuss them and to try to decipher what these masters of the sword, with their artistic illustrations and their poetic writings, meant that their students could glean from them a long time ago. so many centuries.

“We’re incredibly in love with teaching people how to punch other people.” – Anna Beard

The school’s website succinctly states that its purpose is “to teach people how to hit their friends safely since 2016.” Buonomo embodied this mission even in middle school, where his fights were fought with fake PVC swords, pool noodles, and duct tape. After joining a HEMA group at an Austin park, Buonomo soon found himself leading the class. “It was accidental,” he explains. “The guy who was in charge of it had to move, so I was like, ‘I have martial arts experience. I will help you do things. “” Within a few years, he founded his own school, the Austin Historical Weapons Guild.

“We’re incredibly in love with teaching people how to hit other people,” said co-owner Anna Beard, a lifelong dancer who uses her experience and training to teach several classes, including “HEMA, Rinse, Repeat.” , a course that strengthens the muscles. memory and improves footwork. “We deliberately cultivate a sense of community at our school for anyone who wants to come try it out for whatever reason. Everyone is welcome here.”

And who are these people, these modern swordsmen, these keepers of the flame?

“I’m a nerd,” said student and assistant rapier instructor James Cooper. “I love history and I love being able to practice history. It feels like archaeology.”

“I played J&D, wow, star warsall those things,” Beard said.

Photo by John Anderson

“I discovered it through Olympic-style fencing,” added senior student Morgan Sinko.

Whether you love the story or just want to fight like your favorite fantasy character, you’ll need to complete a six-week beginner’s course before you can punch your buddy. “You learn the basics to be able to function in classes,” Beard described, adding that there is no real beginner’s weapon. “We don’t do beginner, intermediate, advanced. It’s like an open buffet.” And like a buffet, they allowed me to sample each of their offerings.

Tonight’s class opens with daggers. Buonomo demonstrated techniques with senior student Andreas Fabis (who also teaches basic courses). Mirroring the teachers, the group of students begin to stab and parry, in and out. Daggers, the party continues. The clatter of steel striking steel echoes loudly through the air, the distinctive sheen of swords sliding edge to edge echoes through the training space. But above the crash of ancient weapons and the commands of the instructors, another sound rang out louder: the sound of laughter. “At the end of the day [HEMA schools] all want people to have fun,” Beard said.

Fun is the main focus here, but you’ll also get a workout. “These guys had to be in good shape,” laughed Beard, referring to the sword masters of old. It only takes a moment with a real weighted weapon to know what it means. The one-handed shortsword, called a messer, takes effort and strength to wield and control, and this is just a taste of the swords to come. When it finally comes time for the longsword part, I raise the blade two-handed above my head like a barbarian warrior from a Frank Frazetta painting. It becomes very clear why the warriors of the fantasy artist were so muscular. At this time in the class, everyone is sweating.

Offering me a slender, sleek rapier as he politely takes the longsword, Sinko tells me, “They’re all heavy metal, but they’re not sharp.” I understand. I have now held more swords in a few hours than most people knew existed.

How do we choose? “It all depends on what you’re in the mood for,” replied Ashleigh Cote, a senior student. “If you want to move around a lot and swing swords, you’ll probably like the longsword. If you really want to work on precise, smaller moves, you might like the rapier.”

It doesn’t matter what weapon you prefer, with the proper protection and enough practice, you’ll eventually get hit with them. A fencer’s mask, a big padded jacket and serious gauntlets, and you’ll be trading blows with the best of them. And so it is, me standing there, fully armored and armed with a battle-worthy sword, realizing that I’ve finally had my chance to become that knight in (not-so-)shining armor.

For more information, visit Adult beginner courses are monthly; the next course for beginner teenagers starts on March 6th.

For more cuts, thrusts, parries and fun, check out our photo gallery of one of the school’s classes.

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