"Can My Teen Join Your Longsword Class?"
We are delighted to receive requests from parents of teenagers asking about participation in our German longsword historical fencing classes. (We do not accept any students under the age of 13 in our classes.)
While “medieval sword fighting” might seem like a lighthearted kids’ activity, it’s important to know that Chivalry Today's historical fencing program, San Diego Longsword, is a serious weapon-based martial art, and our training groups are aimed at adult attention spans, maturity levels, and physical fitness capabilities.
Before considering enrolling your teenager in our courses, first, please take a look at the photo at right, taken during one of our weekly training sessions depicting two adults bouting with 48” blunt steel swords, and consider whether this activity looks right for your teen’s level of emotional and physical maturity. Then, take the time to read the following Q&A, and consider whether this training course sounds like a good match for your teenager.
Questions & Answers
“Is this a knights-in-armor playtime group where wanna-be warriors act out video game battles with foam swords?”
The bulk of our participants are adults, who are serious about learning the art of historical fencing - and want (and expect) training partners who are ready to do the same, who are not bored by an hour-long lesson. As such, our classes are geared toward imparting serious fencing technique, involving specific footwork, detailed understanding of timing, and precise manipulation of a 48” steel sword - all while under the pressure of defending yourself from a partner’s attack! We find that younger teens often don’t have the strength, coordination, and/or body awareness to really benefit from (or even enjoy) these types of training exercises with adults.
”Are there lots of kids in these classes for my youngster to play with?”
While we do have several teens in our training groups, the majority of our participants are adults, many age 30 and up, some of whom are (for example) police officers, military hand-to-hand combatives experts, and ju-jitsu practitioners. While San Diego Longsword places a high emphasis on respect, technique, and control in our classes, teens who want to join our group (and their parents) need to know that they will be working with adult training partners, and these adults will be swinging swords at them. Working with adult partners performing an offensive action (like swinging a sword), regardless of how controlled, can be intimidating and downright frightening for a child, especially one who is not fully developed physically or emotionally. Furthermore, this is a martial art and there are inherent risks in participation, just as there would be if your child were taking classes in karate, Greco-Roman wrestling, escrima, or kendo. All of our training requires participants to use appropriate protective equipment, and all of our participants (of every age) are dedicated to creating a safe, controlled training experience, but everyone entering the training floor needs to recognize that accidents can and do happen in martial sports.
“Do your classes involve a lot of capture-the-flag games and make-believe battles?”
The historical fencing art we study and practice is based on dueling manuals from 14th and 15th century Europe. New students will work through a minimum of 12 weeks of technical training (while wearing required protective equipment) before being given a chance to “qualify” for freeplay (aka “sparring”) with other students. Freeplay bouting involves tournament-style practice, attempting to employ the techniques learned in class in a non-cooperative match with a single partner. Which is a fancy way of saying: This fencing art is intended for use in a one-on-one contest of skill, not in the chaos of a melee. There are lots of Live Action Role Playing (L.A.R.P.) and re-enactment clubs who put on large group battles, but that is not what we teach, or practice at San Diego Longsword. (And if fantasy/make-believe battles are what you’re looking for, for yourself or your teen, please feel free to reach out to us through our contact page. Our crew of coaches are involved in a variety of medieval and Renaissance related groups, and we can point you in the right direction!)
“Okay, you haven’t scared me away yet! And my teen is still interested, and feels comfortable training and interacting with adults. How does he/she get involved in your program?”
For teenagers who are actually interested in learning the art of longsword fencing rather than playing sword games, the process for joining our training group is as follows:
- Introduction to the Medieval Longsword - this 4-week class is held on a regular basis (roughly once a month) and is a prerequisite for anyone wanting to take part in our ongoing classes. All training in the class is solo/mirror work (there is no sparring, or even partner training involved) and the focus is on controlling and mastering your own movement with the sword. The good news is, no purchase of protective equipment is required, so teens can use these four weeks to assess whether our training style is right for them for nothing more than the cost of the class.
- Parent/Student Observation - Before moving into our Core Concepts in German Longsword class (our weekly “general training” group) we require under-18 students and their parents to attend one of our sessions and observe at least one adult sparring match between our senior students and/or instructors. We want to make sure that parents are very clear on what sort of martial art they are getting their teen involved in; and we want to make sure teens get a look at the “finished product” they will be training toward.
- Core Concepts in German Longsword - Advancement into Core Concepts is by instructor assessment and invitation, so if a teen wishes to move into the regular training group, one of the instructors/coaches who worked with them in the Introduction class will provide an assessment of their readiness, and determine whether they can join the class. At that point, a purchase of student protective equipment will be required in order to take part in the “contact training” of Core Concepts.
All of the above is not presented to discourage teens from joining San Diego Longsword’s training groups, but simply to ensure that young students and their parents have a clear understanding of what the art of historical fencing is all about. We don’t want to waste your money, or your teen’s time and enthusiasm, by dragging them through an adult training class, when what they want is to play sword-tag games with kids their own age. (And if you’re looking for recommendations for groups/organizations that do that, please feel free to drop us a line and let us know. We have lots of connections!)
If you are interested in getting your teenager involved in medieval longsword fencing, please feel free to reach out for more information, or enroll them in our next scheduled session of Introduction to the Medieval Longsword by using the Sign Up button below.