Broadsword, staff, pike and dagger – they’ve been replaced by more modern weapons. But the challenge of learning to skillfully use the medieval weapons still provides entertainment and enjoyment, as well as unconventional physical activity, for locals.
Just weeks ago, Holly Springs resident Eric Lindbeck began instructing the local school of the European Medieval Arts of Arms. Every Monday at 6:30 p.m. his class meets at Evolution Self Defense in the Omni Center above Holly Springs Academy for an hour of sword fighting. The lessons are hands-on.
“That’s the only way to do this,” Lindbeck said.
Currently the Holly Springs class is studying the singlehanded broadsword. Students practice with a foam sword. Every three months, the class studies a different weapon, rotating through nine. Lindbeck said his class will focus on the long sword next. And the practice in medieval swordsmanship prepares students for light-sword stage combat.
Lindbeck said the European Medieval Arts of Arms group attracts people who are “interested in physical activity that’s not a typical competitive sport.
“It’s not about who is best,” he said. “A pure interest in learning a lost art – that’s a whole lot of fun. It’s something not many people get to do.”
And the weapons and armor the group uses – from the chainmail headgear that weighs more than a gallon of milk to the light-swords that look like something out of a sci-fi movie – aren’t something many people get to see in person, either.
But in addition to training, the European Medieval Arts of Arms also is active in taking the classroom to the community. Last weekend, Lindbeck and his fellow knights fought volunteers at Hollyfest with foam swords. Donations were collected for the Special Olympics.
The school regularly performs demonstrations at the Triad Highland Games, South Carolina Highland Games and Parade, and North Carolina Renaissance Faire. Locals also may have seen the school in the Holly Springs Christmas Parade or at the Holly Springs library. The group also regularly visits the Duke University Renaissance and Medieval Studies Program where they demonstrate medieval and renaissance fighting forms, lecture on the evolution of armor, swords and fighting styles, and provide hands-on instruction for broad sword.
While the Holly Springs location is the newest, the European Medieval Arts of Arms began in Cary in 2001. Classes are open to students ages 8 and above, though younger participants may enroll with a parent. Donning chainmail and armor and fighting with steel weapons is reserved for ages 17-18 and above. In addition to achieving knight rank, students can learn choreographed fighting with light-swords designed for high impact.
Lindbeck said he approached the course from a historical point of view and is interested in the ancient manuscripts the group uses. The school uses translated manuscripts, some dating to 11th century, to guide its studies in combat.
“That’s what attracted me to this school in particular,” Lindbeck said of the school’s focus on historical accuracy.
Lindbeck said he makes a point of bringing the books to classes.
“There are always different angles and different interpretations,” he said.
For his individual study for knighthood, Lindbeck focused on the pole arm. The weapon is comprised of a pole with a hammer, spike, axe head, hook or other object attached on one end. Lindbeck owns a safety version of the pole arm with a hard rubber end.
Lindbeck, a Holly Springs resident of seven years, lives with his wife, Melissa, who also participates with the group using a rapier and light sword.
“It’s for fun and to learn another aspect of the sword,” Lindbeck said of non-competitive sport fencing.
As part of spreading the word about the Holly Springs medieval arts class, Lindbeck gave free sword fighting lessons during the warmer months at Happy Holly’s ice cream in the Food Lion shopping center.
“They’ve been supportive in helping us get established,” he said.
For more information, visit the school’s website at www.emaaknights.com. The first month of classes is free for all new students.