Saturday 12 May 2012

Guest Post: Jenna Elizabeth Johnson

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword . . . or is it?
Hello folks, I’m independent fantasy writer Jenna Elizabeth Johnson and I’m here to talk a little bit about what I do in my downtime (that is, whatever time is leftover after finishing my day job and my writing goal for the week).  Most people my age would spend their Sundays kicking back and relaxing; catching up on their favorite shows, getting some yard work done, maybe heading on over to the gym or to a friend’s house for a barbecue.  Me?  Well, I do something a little different.  Beach volleyball? Nah.  Tennis.  Nope.  I go to my Western Martial Arts class.  Is that like Eastern Martial Arts you might ask?  Not quite, but close.  Eastern Martial Arts are more well known, but Western Martial Arts is slowly making a comeback in the world of sports.  So what exactly is Western Martial Arts?  What I do is more along the lines of medieval longsword fighting.  Yes.  Longsword fighting. 
Now, before you go and get any crazy ideas and start picturing me clad in armor and running down a hill with a sword in hand, let me elaborate.  On Sunday morning, my two best friends and I go to class to learn the art of 15th century sword fighting.  If you are picturing role-playing right now, you still wouldn’t be completely accurate (Okay, I guess the armored-and-running-down-a-hill-screaming picture would be somewhat appropriate).
Although we aren’t quite at the full battle stage yet, the three of us have absorbed quite a lot since joining the class.  What we have been learning are the techniques from two sword masters, Fiore (Italian) and Liechtenauer (German).  The two styles are very similar, but different enough that our instructor teaches us both.  Actually, the more advanced we get, the more he points out how similar the two styles really are.  After all, they did a lot of technique borrowing during their time.
Now you might be wondering how we go about learning this stuff without incurring massive bodily harm.  Fortunately, we don’t use actual steel swords, but wasters.  Wasters are wooden swords designed to practice swordplay without causing (much) injury.  I say ‘much’ because they do hurt if you get hit with them (the welt I received on my temple from my friend is proof of that), BUT they are much safer than steel.  The wasters we use are about four feet long, the blade taking up three of those feet and the hilt about a foot.  The convenient thing is that the wasters weigh about as much as an actual steel sword of that size would weigh (about three pounds, give or take – not the thirty pounds some people might imagine).  In case you are thinking about running down to the next Renaissance Fair in order to purchase your own waster, you might want to reconsider.  The ones we use are actually constructed for heavy use.  The Ren Fair swords might die on you pretty quickly if you were to use them the way we do.
I’ve been in the class for about a year now, and so far I’ve learned many different guards and cuts.  Some of the guards (or ways you protect yourself from an attack) have some pretty colorful names.  Iron Door, Crown, Boar’s Tooth, the Window Guard and Dragon’s Tail to name a few.  Our cuts (how we actually utilize the sword when attacking an opponent) have some fun names as well.  Tondo, Fendente, the Squinter and the Strike of Wrath (no, really, that’s what it’s called . . .).  We have learned that the sword is quite a useful tool and isn’t just made for stabbing and cutting.  The blade can be used to trap your opponent’s weapon or to pin them.  The hilt and cross guard can be used as a pick axe (sorry about the images that might conjure up . . .) and the pommel can be used as your own personal battering ram.  Neat, huh?
So, now that I’ve explained all this, you might be wondering, ‘Why on earth would you want to take up sword fighting?!’  Good question.  I can’t quite say why this sport intrigues me so much.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I write fantasy (it can be helpful with research, right?), or that I have an interest in medieval history (I have a longbow as well, but that’s a story for another time . . .).  Whatever the reason, I’m so happy I discovered this sport (and someone who teaches it!).  Now, I just need to find someplace to utilize my new skills . . . ;).
Before I go, I want to thank Becky for having me on her blog.  It has been a blast and hopefully an interesting post for those who are reading ;).  All the best and happy reading (oh, and sword fighting)!
-J.E. Johnson
If you’d like to know more about Blackfriar’s School of Fence, visit them on facebook:!/blackfriarswordschool
If you’d like to know more about me (and my crazy hobbies!) and my writing, visit my website:

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