En guard: Rimbey club goes medieval

Thanks to ancient sword fighting manuals, there’s no excuse not to be prepared should your castle come under attack by dragons, pillagers or armoured invaders.

Thanks to ancient sword fighting manuals, there’s no excuse not to be prepared should your castle come under attack by dragons, pillagers or armoured invaders.

A new club in Rimbey is attracting young and older members who want to learn the ancient martial art of medieval long sword fighting. But there is also training involving other weapons from the Middle Ages, such as short swords, daggers, and staff and quarter staffs for stick fighting.

While as close to real as possible, the edges of the blades are blunted, said Justin Skjonsberg, president of the Academy of European Swordsmanship — Rimbey Chapter.

He started the club about a year-and-a-half ago, in part because he’s always been interested in swords and their history .

A friend got him involved in the actual sword fighting. “I was hooked instantly. It was completely different than anything you would see in the movies or what you would ever expect out of sword fighting.” A movie sword fight might take 15 minutes before someone finally dies, “whereas what we do, it’s very quick. A fight can be over in 30 seconds.”

Skjonsberg, 26, started taking classes with a club in Edmonton but it meant travelling back and forth twice a week. It really wasn’t feasible so he convinced the head instructor there, Johanus Haidner, to come down once or twice a month to teach.

There are three clubs in Alberta now — Edmonton, which at 25 years is the longest standing one in North America, Calgary and Rimbey.

The martial art is also known as Historical European Martial Arts and is quite popular in Europe. It is based on treatises that were instruction manuals written by fencers between the 11th and 16th centuries, Skjonsberg said.

About 50 years ago the manuals began to be translated from original German and Spanish, and more people started learning about how they actually fought then.

People came to realize this was a very effective marshal arts system because they do hand-to-hand combat — basically everything one would expect from a standard marshal arts system, but they also trained with the weapons of the times, he said.

The Rimbey club has about 30 regular members. A person can get started with about $100 in used hockey gear as armour. “The sky’s the limit. My personal kit is about $5,000,” he said.

“It is full contact. We are hitting each other fairly hard. … We teach people how to use the stuff properly and not at full speed until they have learned proper control.”

Skjonsberg said injuries are rare but he did end up once with a concussion “after I ducked when I shouldn’t have.”

Skjonsberg, who operates a small family business in Rimbey that sells a variety of outdoor equipment and supplies, said the club is also a study affiliate with a group that focuses on combat in the Viking ages, when axes and spears were weapons of the day.

The Rimbey club meets Mondays from 7 to 10 p.m. at Forshee Hall, which is between Bentley and Rimbey.

For more information, Skjonsberg can be contacted by email at aesrimbey@gmail.com or by phone at 403-843-4999. The academy is also on Facebook.

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