I have often remarked in class that I have broken bones in training so that my students don’t have to. In other words, the safety regulations we have were arrived at through my getting hurt and figuring out ways to avoid it happening again. One of my favourite such examples occurred at a training session at the Dawn Duellist’s Society, a historical fencing club I helped to found back in 1994. I had challenged a dozen or so folk to duel at the weapons of their choice. My last fight of the evening was with the redoubtable Kieran Robb, who was a) very tired and had to be persuaded to fence (mistake no.1) b) using a flamberge bladed longsword (mistake no. 2). I was also tired (mistake no.3) and was using just a normal fencing mask with no back-of-the head protection (mistake no 4.).
Merrily I attacked and lo, he stepped offline, parrying my blow and letting it go by, and his sword crashed into the back of my head. The moment was caught on camera.
That’s Kieran on the right, in red, me getting whacked on the left, in green.
Assessing the damage. After this shot I tootled off to casualty for three staples in my scalp. But not before assembling a group shot with all my opponents of the evening, holding the weapon we fought at:
This was an important evening for me as it established in my own mind my willingness to take serious physical risks in pursuit of the art- and of the need for better safety standards for the school I was planning to open. My decision to open a school was made in September 2000, this photo was taken in October, and the school opened in March 2001. Not long after this I got a broken finger playing around with longswords- while my steel gauntlets were in my bag about 5 feet away. We had no proper rules, and so laziness and stupidity got me hurt, twice in a couple of months. Doh.