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Forest of Dean

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5 Ways To Prepare Yourself For The Weekend’s Activity

Preparation is key in the Art of War.

sun-tzuThis upcoming weekend we’ll be filling the Forest of Dean to the rafters with cunning rogues, light-footed cutthroats and dastardly mercenaries. They’ll all be patrolling, camping and idling around in amongst the trees and rivers, unaware that they’re about to be set upon by two teams of well-trained assassins. 

Although I’ve tried my best to prepare both teams of assassins and the various target volunteers for the weekend ahead, I thought I’d collect a few more thoughts just to help everyone make the most of the time we have.

Here are 5 ways any of you can prepare yourselves for the upcoming battle, with a little help from Sun Tzu:


‘Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.’


It’s imperative that you keep your basic skills up to scratch. The rules remain the same whether you are an assassin or a target. At some point you will be forced into a 1-on-1 or possibly 2-on-1 fight scenario, so you’ll need to be ready to deflect, parry and attack as quickly as possible. There’s no point in spending the best part of 6 hours tracking your quarry, only to be bested by them in the battle proper. This leads us onto my next tip…


“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”


The missions that I’ve set the teams aren’t simply assassination based. Each set of targets, as well as some roving bandits, will be carrying their own supply of resources as well as some intelligence on where and when the other target groups will be. These supply crates will be clearly labelled and boxed up in timber packing cases, kindly lent to us by a friend of Kevan’s. You’ll need to plan your attack and stalk your prey thoroughly before diving into the thick of it though…

Get Inspired

‘You have to believe in yourself.’


You’ll find that you’ll become a great deal more immersed in the weekend if you’ve mentally primed yourself first. This can either be achieved by reading a favourite swords-and-sorcery book or simply by kicking back with a classic movie. My personal recommendations would be either Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of The Ring for some quintessential forest based battles or (if you’re looking for something a little cheesier) Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Tool Up

‘Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.’


A big weekend away is always a good opportunity to treat yourself to some more gear. You wouldn’t want to be caught short in a fight, and not have enough throwing knives to take down that last bandit. Assassins also might want to invest in a cloak, to adapt to the changing colours of the forest, targets will be given outer garb to wear, but are encouraged to style and kit themselves out as much as they deem suitable.

Bring Food

‘When the enemy is relaxed, make them toil. When full, starve them. When settled, make them move.’


Although we’ll be supplying all our volunteer targets with plenty of ale, meats and soups – the assassins won’t have the same luxury. Our two teams will be laying low and lighting fires at their own risk. As part of the experience we’ll be getting assassins to cook and prepare all their meals in the forest, but you can still bring seasonal fruits, breads and cheeses – anything period – no cereal bars (I’m looking at you Barbara!).

We’ve got a big weekend ahead of us, so my very last tip would be to get a good night’s sleep tonight and tomorrow. Rest up in your beds well, because the Forest floor is not always the most comfortable of mattresses!

Rachel Leissbecker is an expert Stealth Trainer and Knife Thrower. Her weekly classes teach the uninitiated how to successfully track, stalk and eliminate groups of targets – utilising ancient covert tactics passed down from her Priesthood ancestors. She is a huge fan of the LOTR films and has just the smallest of crushes on a certain Kevin Costner…

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Broadsword Battles in the Highlands – There Can Be Only One!

sean conneryWith the summer upon us, despite how much its been raining, the Forest of Dean is full to the brim with visitors. Although there’s nothing quite like a peaceful walk in the woods – its also a joy to hear it so alive with people.

Rachel has been busy for the last couple of weeks with her teams of assassins. The clatter of quarterstaffs can be heard as Jeremy puts his students through their paces. Droves of dog walkers, hikers and families also descend upon the forests on the afternoons and weekends. Whilst its a wonderful to see so many people enjoying our gorgeous Forest, sometimes it feels like there’s not enough room to swing a cat, let alone a broadsword!

synthetic_medieval_training_swordAs a result of the increased traffic through the Forest, I have decided to scale down the weekly 3-hour broadsword workshops to daily one-on-one sessions. Due to the niche nature of broadsword combat, I think we’ll find it easier to fill classes this way and will allow everyone to learn at their own pace.

Training with the broadsword is an intensive and potentially dangerous past-time. By scaling down to solo classes, we can upgrade from oak to blunt steel. Without spectators and other students in the near vicinity, we have more space for evasive manoeuvres and big swings, giving us all a chance to experiment with different attacking styles.

highlandsOn the subject of swords; after picking up a niggling shoulder injury during last month’s competition, I’ve invested in some new Carbon-Fibre blades from the States along with a couple of sets of rubberised armour for sparring. For coaching, you need real steel, but these light-weight beauties are perfect for training at home. As for the armour, I think the need for some protection goes without saying!

Now, looking ahead to Autumn – there’s the yearly outing to plan for. After chatting to Rachel, Jez and the rest of the students; I’ve settled on the Highlands as our destination for this year’s Broadsword Weekend Away.

Its a cheap time of year to visit, with Highland Heather Lodges in Scotand being able to accommodate all of us in their gorgeous self-catered cottages. There will be a couple of dinners cooked by the trainers, as well as master classes and workshops you can take part in.

Apart from being a visually stunning landscape to surround yourself in, I know that the Highlands holds certain cultural connotations for a great deal of my students. With that 80s movie franchise in mind, we’ll be having a themed competition that will run throughout the weekend. Trainers and students will be competing against each other in single round combat sessions, in a knock-out style tournament.

So as much as I’d like to wish you all luck, my competitive spirit denies me from doing so. Remember dear students: there can be only one!

Kevan Dennisal is a Broadsword Martial Artist with a background in Ju-Jitsu and Wu-Shin. After spending a decade studying in Japan, whilst there on business, Kevan returned to the UK to pursue a career in EMA training.

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