Fifteen years ago today, my employer Patrick Baxter laid me off from my job as a cabinet maker. Exactly one year later, I opened the School of European Swordsmanship in Helsinki. We began with a free demo class, which was hopelessly over-attended; so much so that the demo class turned into a lecture instead. The school has never looked back. Much has changed over the years, but not the value of a good kick in the crotch: allow me a moment of nostalgia, posting this from the photoshoot for The Swordsman's Companion:
As I have written before, I didn't do this by myself. Right now, I'm in Italy, as you probably know, and have not swung a sword for months (except at the lovely Armizare 2015). Yet, on at least three continents, and without any direct help from me, students who consider themselves a part of the School of European Swordsmanship have been training, fencing and teaching the Art of Arms. In this, I see myself as a catalyst, rather than a source; because of the work I do, the barriers to entry to an authentic training life are significantly reduced, allowing many more people to enter the Art. But I don't, can't, do it for them; I just help them do it a bit better. So while I have been immersed in Italy, the School has carried on just fine without me. I even get emails from students I've never met, telling me that my books or videos have helped them accomplish something. This is profoundly satisfying, as I'm sure you can imagine.
Here's an example, from Mexico:
Another victory for the Italian tradition Mr Windsor, I tied for first place on steel longsword and placed 2nd on rapier at our national HEMA tournament. It was my first steel longsword tournament and we used a variation of this ruleset (http://www.hroarr.com/concerning-the-rules-of-tournaments/) where we didnt count “points”, instead we tracked wounds over a round robin with the top fighters of my country, most of them with international tournament experience, and I tied on first place with Arturo Medina (former champion of our anual Albion steel tournament and 2nd place at combatcon 2012) with the least wounds over the tournament.
All of this thanks to your books, The Duellist's Companion, and your series of Italian longsword, I cant wait for the next book to publish because as I said before, I have no other teacher than your books and videos, and the way you transmit the principles of Italian fencing has allowed me to rank this high.
All my gratitude to you, from México.
José Luis Zamarripa
I am leaving for America and Canada this week; teaching at Lonin this weekend, and VISS the weekend after; back in the saddle again! And then home to Helsinki, and back to my salle, at Easter. I am looking forward to seeing you all again; it feels very odd to be away from home on this particular date.
I'd like to take this moment to thank every teacher, every student, and every colleague, who has supported this work; whether you started yesterday, have run a branch for years, or were teaching me something useful 30 years ago, thank you. It's been wonderful.
Fourteen is a significant number in all traditional arts; seven years of apprenticeship, seven years a journeyman. Now, I have to create a masterpiece. What, I ask, would you have me do next?