In a time of essays, in the foreign land of England, American study abroad students are in natural need of a stress outlet.  What better way to relieve tension than to wack each other with swords?

The session was led by Rob, who took us through some basic moves in the style of Western medieval martial arts.  He led us through various stances before demonstrating a few strikes and counters.  We then had the opportunity to practice some on our own and even dual each other.  I could almost hear the “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” sequence from Mulan as we trained in the art of war.  Rob emphasized to us that this style of fighting was not a sport like fencing.  The moves were originally designed to kill, and he explained many of the strategies you could use in battle to ensure that you survived and your opponent did not.

Probably the highlight for me was getting to fight Rob.  Towards the end he was allowing people to dual him one on one, and Bea and Pippa volunteered me for the last fight.  Getting to swordfight was always a childhood dream of mine, so why not give it a go?  Fighting was like a dance, with added commentary going on behind me.

“Go for the knees!” Pippa advised with a yell.

I obliged.

Rob was by no means going purely easy on us, but he showed a lot of restraint in letting us wack at him.  He would attack us himself, but any blows he landed were taps.  We showed no such control… I wacked his hands and neck.  After a pause we resumed, and suddenly I was on the defensive, barely able to deflect his strikes.  One of his stances reminded me of the famous crane from Karate Kid.  Ah crap, I was done for.  But I managed to somewhat hold my own. For his last attack, he spun his sword around to hit me on the opposite side, but not before I hit his unexposed ribs.  It was a fun bit of wish fulfillment, even more so while wearing my “got xena?” t-shirt.

The atmosphere was fitting as we packed up our things to leave.  We saw birds in the distance.  Ravens.  No doubt drawn to death someone speculated.  Bea broke our ominous ponderings.  She pointed exasperatingly at their white forms.

“You guys, those are seagulls!”

Well, we may not have attracted ravens to our practice, but we ourselves had a blast!


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