When you live in a village with a history as rich as Gunning’s, a return to the past is never far away.
Like the good old days when men were men – and they usually carried a sword.
About two years ago local policeman Daniel Wise and some like-minded souls decided to indulge their passion for days gone by and formed the Gunning District Sword Fighters group.
They are part of the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) community and base much of their actions on a 1798 manual.
The Gunning group, which also includes a computer programmer, an ex-military veteran and a cleaner, meets when they can to practise their skill.
They don’t do the costume bit or go the medieval fanfare route. Rather, they enjoy practising the skills that folk jousted about with centuries ago.
“We like to sword fight the way they used to do it,” Daniel said.
“It’s a period not that far removed from us, especially when you look at the Victorian period of only 200 years ago.
“What we like to do with our classes and training is to show how they used to do it. What we do has history behind it.”
The group uses original manuals from the era to get every lunge, thrust and manoeuvre just right.
“We’re out there to fight how they would have,” Daniel said.
“It’s like copying history in a way by finding a practical application of the manual.”
They don’t do re-enactments, preferring instead to buy the equipment they need; the weapons and the protection rather than costumes.
It’s also not fencing, which Daniel describes as more of a sport.
“Fencing’s not for me,” he said.
“It’s too fast and it can be seen as elitist. What we do is slower because of the weapons we carry. You also don’t have to be extra-fit to do what we do.”
For the Gunning group, it’s also about not hurting each other. All the weapons they use, despite most being made of steel, are blunt and all the fighters wear protective gear to protect themselves from injury.
“In what we do, we’re not out to injure our opponents,” Daniel said.
“We’re just looking to show our skills in a fair fight. The worst thing you can do is probably roll an ankle.”
They practice regularly, everywhere from the scout hall to the showground, definitely preferring the latter as there’s only so much space for a decent thrust in a confined space.
The group is preparing for the weekend of 9 and 10 July when it stages the Gunning Sword Symposium at the Gunning Shire Hall.
Daniel said it’s a great event for people to learn about the craft and see experienced swordsmen and women show their skills, using history as their guide.
The weekend will include a series of workshops on weapons from throughout different periods of history, including rapiers and daggers from the Elizabethan era, back swords from that time and long swords, which were used by medieval fighters.
Members will also stage open all-weapon tournaments, which are beginner-friendly and more advanced events where all sword fighters can take on each other. It’s like a dance card for fighters, where they can all take each other on at least once.
The group expects visitors from as far afield as Sydney to attend as well as from Canberra and the Southern Tablelands region.
More information is available on the Gunning Sword Fighters Facebook page.