English Martial Arts are, by their nature, an old man’s game. The time and practise taken in developing excellent skills often puts off the younger crowd, and to a lot of people it might just seem a little silly. But, for those willing to give it a shot and really commit themselves to learning one of our disciplines, great personal satisfaction can be taken in practising our arts. However, the longer in the tooth you grow, the harder it is to keep up with the pack and maintain a schedule of regular training. Sports injuries can occur at any time, something that I wasn’t prepared for back in the 80s when I first started on my road to English Martial Arts excellence.
Back in ’87, I had started a Medieval Reenactment Society. Part way through my University course in Middle English I had felt inspired, by the texts I was studying, to attempt some chivalric feats of my own. A young and impetuous scholar who desired to slip into a world of knights and vagrants, I thought that I would be alone in my quest. However, I was not. After a few awkward first meetings with a handful of people, numbers began to swell until there were 20 or so members at a given time.
Over the four years I spent at University, I nurtured the society and its members into a group of well trained warriors. Those days were not spent without conflict, however, there were plenty of other ambitious young men and women who wished to make their mark amongst our community. As a result, rivalries and team battles would often breakout amongst our ranks. One particular bout involved myself and another trainer vying for the affections for a much coveted girl (its always a girl isn’t it?).
Often, when you spend enough time enveloping yourself in the context and practices of another time, the lines between fiction and history begin to blur. After weeks of rigorous training and studying of ancient texts, my words and thoughts were starting to adopt a Medieval dialect. So, when my love rival and combatant, Torben, lashed out during a sparring session with an illegal pommel bash. I treated his actions as a breach in conduct and publicly challenged him to a duel.
It seems so petty looking back on it now, but its the folly of all young men – to care too much about their ego and reputation amongst others. The duel was a tense affair. Our friends in the society enjoyed watching us battle, because we were both experts in our chosen field of combat; but everyone was aware of the ulterior motives that we both held. There was no end of gossip within our ranks, a telling sign of the futility of our duel was the notable absence of the object of our desires.
As our quarterstaffs clashed, I lunged for a sweep of his leg. A worthy opponent, Torben took his chance and struck my unprotected leg. This was the end for me. Up until then, we had only suffered a few scrapes and bruises but this was the injury that was to haunt my Martial Arts career for the rest of my life. The quarterstaff connected with the side of my knee sending me sprawling, and immediately dislocating my knee cap. Torben, seeing the fight was over and his adrenaline quickly subsiding, rushed to help me up but the damage had already been done.
8 weeks off my legs, and copious physiotherapy has not returned my knee to its former functionality. Youthful exuberance had led to my injury and a similar source of enthusiasm would serve to be the cure. As time wore on, my knee only grew worse. Continued training and coaching had left me reliant on painkillers until I met a young physiotherapist. Finishing a quarterstaff team building day for a privately run sports centre, I was approached by this young woman who had noticed me popping pills throughout the day. Having enjoyed the day so much, she offered me a free acupuncture & sports massage session.
Before then, I had dismissed acupuncture as holistic mumbo-jumbo, preferring to trust in what I saw as hard science. This one session changed my mind on the matter completely. The pain in my knee has disappeared, and although I would need to return to an acupuncture specialist every month or so, my overall fitness had never been better. Here’s some advice from an old man who’s spent too long fighting with swords; don’t let emotion be the reason to practice English Martial Arts. Practice safe and, if you sustain an injury, treat it with acupuncture.
Jeremy Whiting-Huntsley is an experienced English Martial Artist and trainer in Quarterstaff. His time fighting duels for the affections of young ladies is far behind him now, he now spends the majority of his time training and practicing with the Defense Training Volunteers of Forest Dean.