Defense Training Volunteers

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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Summer Round-Up

autumn-foresWe’ve reached that magical time in the year again.

The days have been shortening, but they’re about to get a great deal shorter. 22nd September is the Autumn Equinox, ushering in cooler breezes and much darker days.

Looking back, we’ve had a fantastic Summer here in the Forest of Dean. Despite a few rainy days, for the most part we’ve been able to run our sessions with little or no issues (minus that small run-in with a few interested kids!) and once more all our students have made some great progress.

The Summer is a time for capitalising on the longer hours and cracking sticks until dusk, and that’s just what all of you have been doing. The hard work and practice has been paying off and, as teachers, it’s incredibly satisfying to see so much improvement in your techniques.

Kevan, Rachel and I have been keeping a close eye on every single one of you and, after a brief team talk, we’ve come up with a shortlist of award nominees. Of course, we like to make sure that all our students’ progress – no matter how big or small – is properly recognised.

The awards are reserved for those who have exhibited the skills of a total warrior. Those who have shown themselves to be devious in battle, fierce in resilience and even in temper will be awarded with one of our hand-crafted trophies.

short-sword-fightersThis year we’re going to be upgrading our Awards night and joining forces with our border-allies, The Cotswold Warriors. The lads from over the way have been training in Broad and Short Swords for the last 3 years.

After meeting Jason at a competition earlier in the year, we’ve kept in touch, and are proud to be holding our celebration nights in tandem this October.

My quarter-staff student, Barbara, has been kind enough to offer the huge space she has in her barn, so we’ll be feasting like our forefathers and drinking like them too, hopefully!

Before we move onto our Winter plans, I thought I’d mention out little trip to the Highlands, during the peak of Summer. The midges may have been out in full force, but that didn’t stop 20 of us making the journey up North to stay in the lovely Cottages that we had rented for the weekend.

highlands-swordsAfter some one-on-one training sessions, our broadsword fighters made some big improvements and Jason pulled off some particularly clever moves, deposing our reigning Champion Kevan to claim The Prize.

A wonderfully deft feint put our valiant Sword instructor off balance, and gave Jason the upper hand in this thrilling closing bout of the weekend. Congratulations go to both participants.

Now, with our eyes firmly set on the future, we can look forward to the next three-day event which will be taking place on our home turf, The Forest of Dean.

Rachel will be putting the skills her Assassin’s have been learning over the Summer to the test with a weekend long stake out missions. Two teams of light-footed cutthroats will be scouring the forest for four groups of targets (comprised of our Quarter Staff and Sword students), all of whom will be on the look out for would-be attackers.

larpersAll of the targets will be given enough food and drink to keep them going, and medieval camping gear will be provided to those who need it. As ever the rules of costume and camouflage will apply for the whole weekend: no electronics and no modern clothing or equipment!

For the time being, don’t mourn the loss of Summer too much, let’s make the most of the evening hours we’ve got left.

Jeremy Whiting-Huntsley has been running training sessions and seminars from the Forest of Dean for the last decade. He enjoys Quarter-Staff training the best, but has been known to pose as Short Sword wielding Merc on certain weekends away…


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