The average quarterstaff training session is something I consider to be a transformative experience. The students in my classes may live their own lives at a break-neck pace, interacting with modern technology that, not so long ago, would have belonged in Science-Fiction; however, for a couple of hours a week they can leave those lives behind. For two hours a week they can forget about sales projections, dissertations
or social media.
When the weighty silence of the forest is all around you, and just the sound of clashing staffs can be heard (along with the trainer’s calls) the members of the class are no longer Digital Marketing Executives or Quantity Surveyors. When the clatter of a blocked side blow sends a man’s feet sliding through the undergrowth; the last thing on his mind is his Facebook Newsfeed.
I meet my students in a car park or lay by. Part of the joy in training in the Forest of Dean is that there are dozens of wonderfully peaceful clearings where we are guaranteed privacy and peace to practice our art. Although, logistically, it would be easier for us to meet in the same place each
week; there’s a certain mystery and fun in training somewhere different.
It harks back to the days of guerilla gatherings of medieval serfs. Terrorised by local landowners and their goons, they were forced to train in hiding – equipping themselves with the skills that they would need to defend themselves from future raids.
Once we have all greeted each other, we change out of our modern civilian clothes and into the training garb of the traditional English peasant. Simple cotton, yarn or even hemp sacking is re-purposed into basic tunics or robes – this allows freedom of movement and brings us closer to the ancestors that began this tradition. It can be amazing what a quick change of costume and scenery can do to a person’s demeanour. A pushy, sales executive (yes, Gavin, I’m talking about you!) can be transformed into a contemplative forest nomad or a shy, stay-at-home-mum can turn into a daring woodland warrior.
With a strict no phones policy, a two-hour workshop can almost feel like a time-warp. When the noise of the modern world is muted by the dense wall of the surrounding forest, the only thing you can think about is the man or woman who’s trying to knock you down with a quarterstaff. Focus and concentration are two of the main tenets of our society – one that is based on decency and honour. By the end of a typical training session, our participants should feel tired, exhilarated and embellished with new skills that can be perfected in the future.
Jeremy Whiting-Huntsley is a fully trained Quarterstaff practitioner with over a decade’s experience in competitions and teaching. His teaching has taken him across the breadth of Britain, however the Forest of Dean is where his regular activities take place. If you’d like to experience one of Jeremy’s Quarterstaff workshops then you can make an enquiry over on the Contact page.