It was a warm afternoon in a defunct church. A young woman readied for battle.
She adjusted black plastic motocross shield across her chest and back, strapped a silver metal collar to her neck, secured black kneepads to her legs, pulled a meshed helmet over her face and, finally, bulky lacrosse gloves onto her hands.
Amanda Trail wielded a long sword like the aggressive knights of yore as she poked and prodded, stepped toward her rival, twisted the sword above her head and lunged toward the jugular of the unfortunate opponent chosen for the sparring match.
He countered the attack and his sword would have pierced Trail’s shoulder if this were a real battle.
“Good job,” Trail said to Rob Anderson.
Sometimes, you have to step beyond the norm. Members of the Iron Crown KDF, Spokane, do just that when pursuing their Historical European Martial Arts passion Wednesday and Saturday evenings at Kick N Fun, a former church building on Argonne in the Spokane Valley.
Shaunn Wenig, Wayne Heinz and Steve McDougall organized the club that studies German martial arts in the Johannes Liechtenauer tradition of Kunst des Fechtens, the group’s website explains.
Iron Crown is affiliated with the HEMA Alliance that, according to its website, “extends to all martial studies that come from historical Europe, from the Roman gladius to the Fairbairn-Sykes knife of World War II.”
The local group offers beginner classes of long sword and ringen (medieval wrestling) and, as students progress in rank, messer/dussack (single/double blade knives), sword and buckler, rapier, and pole weapons are also taught.
Although Liechtenauer, considered a grand master of German fencing, left behind no information on his art, others have written of his skill and teachings and “bit by bit, information is being found and published” Trail said.
A five-year veteran of katana sword martial arts, Trail became interested in the HEMA methodology after searching online for “sword classes” and reading about the club. Two-sided long swords (meaning both sides of the blade are sharp) can be used in a variety of techniques and strategies. “Katanas are one-sided, sharper, designed for slicing. With long swords you can punch the cut,” she said.
Member Dustin Coffey was intrigued by Iron Crown, HEMA, and its mission to teach historical weapon techniques that date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. On the group’s Meetup website Coffey said he wanted “to learn how to fight with swords instead of your older brother with sticks.” This year, Iron Crown will host the annual Pacific Northwest HEMA Gathering. Students and masters from near and far, who emphatically state they are not re-enactors, will attend the event to “realistically reconstruct and practice the martial arts of our European forebears.” Of course, blood will not be spilled for king and country … well, almost.
At an event and despite wearing protective gloves, a blade hit Wenig’s finger, causing a fair amount of blood to gush. “It happens,” said Wenig, Iron Crown’s president.
The upcoming HEMA gathering will convene the last weekend in August in Leavenworth.
“We’re calling it, ‘Big Trouble in Little German Town,’ ” Wenig said with a laugh.
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