A man living in Belfast is the first person in Norther Ireland to teach people the art of longsword fighting.
Matthew Malcolm recently began teaching adults in Northern Ireland Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA).
He is part of the British Federation of Historical Swordplay (BFHS) — an independent umbrella organisation for all UK societies involved in the research, study and practice of historical fencing and the European martial arts.
While he does not claim to know everything about swordsmanship — since much of modern swordsmanship is interpretive — he does have a vast knowledge of the history of long sword fighting — a skill that dates back to the 14th Century.
He told Following the Nerd about how he first became interested in globally growing martial art.
“Around five or six years ago I wanted to try sword fighting, but I didn’t really fancy fencing,” he said. “There was one school in London, but I was still a student, so I was kind of tight for pennies at the time.
“One of my friends, Jamie, asked me if I’d be interested in trying sword fighting, so we arranged to go meet a man in Wales who has a background in reinactments called Nathan.
“Matthew said this is where he first learned about HEMA, although Nathan’s background is in Mixed Martial Arts, and Armed Combat and tactics — the weapons used in this type of combat are more interest based rather than historically accurate.
“When we finished, we wanted to work from historical manual. Jamie is interested in the historical side and I was coming from more of a sports and fitness background — but you have to respect the historical aspect and luckily there are tonnes of internet sources and articles that are part of the freeware culture.”
He continued: “Once we knew what we were up to I organised affiliation with the British Federation — I emailed them, and called them, and while I was at an event I met a few of them.
“I did instructors courses — which were mainly health and safety based — because of the interpretive nature of swordmanship and because of the variety of historical sources.
“I finished the course in October of last year and in February this year I started trying to get a class organised.
“It took a long while to get a centre sorted but we’ve set up in Donegal Pass Community Centre. We’re sponsored by one of teh groups in the BHSC at the minute but we’re trying to become our own independent group.”
He said lots of different people have attended his group so far, but that there are fewer women appearling than men.
“You don’t need a fitness background to come along, but to use longswords you do end up having to be fit — it is heavily fitness based. People need to build up their fitness to get better,” he added.
He said there were risks involved in longsword fighting — as would be expected in any martial art: “The nylon swords are safe, but you have to be prepared for some bruising.
“The worst injuries are broken fingers and lost finger nails.”
He said that when steel swords are used there have been incidents were people have been stabbed due to the swords not being tempered properly — however this has been rare and the swords he uses are from reputable suppliers. They are also have their tips rounded and have a blunter shaft than real longswords and have a considerable amount of flex.
Anyone who is interested in joining the Medieval Combat Group in Donegal Pass should contact Matthew via their facebook page or contact Donegal Pass Community Centre on: 028 9032 7661.
He said that membership for the club is £25 a year for insurance with the BFHS.