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Callum Forbes is an extremely experienced martial artist, having got into sports fencing in the late ‘70s, and Hapkido from 1982. But then HEMA drew him in, both from a love of Dungeons and Dragons, and from a disillusionment with the ruleset of sports fencing.
In this, our 40th episode, Callum tells us all about jousting – how it works, how he trains, what sort of horses you need and how competitions are held. Since the mid ‘80s, Callum has been building up jousting tournaments in his native New Zealand, to the point where he hosts international tournaments. We discuss the challenges that brings, particularly when you are not a multimillionaire and can’t fly your own horse around the world with you. He also explains what a fantastically all-inclusive sport jousting is, so long as you can ride a horse!
We also talk about recreating Fiore’s highly dangerous (and effective) mounted combat plays, and Callum has kindly agreed to film them for us. Watch this space for those.
Callum’s YouTube channel is here, with lots of videos of jousting training: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0s38rZT23Y67XwVy2ypsjA/videos
And for the Hapkido Academy, where Callum is chief instructor, see here: www.hapkido.co.nz
GW: Hello sword people, this is Guy Windsor, also known as The Sword Guy, and I'm here today with Callum Forbes, who's a jouster and Hapkido instructor in New Zealand. I met Callum the first time I went to New Zealand, to the Swordplay Symposium there, and we got on extremely well. And he is very clearly a very, very experienced martial artist. But you actually have to drag it out of him because he'll just quietly get on with stuff in class and then you find out who's there in your class, you're like, oh, God, I hope I didn't screw it up. So without further ado, Callum, welcome to the show.
CF: Great. Thanks, Guy. And it's a real privilege to be in your show. It’s the first podcast I’ve ever done.
GW: Wow. So they get the scoop here. Excellent. OK, now whereabouts exactly are you?
CF: I'm in Upper Hutt, New Zealand and New Zealand is on two islands, North Island, South Island. The capital city Wellington is at the bottom of the North Island. Upper Hutt is a satellite city, about 30-40 kms north of Wellington. So, we’re just outside the capital city, we're actually about 15kms north of Upper Hutt up in the Forest Park. I’ve got 50 acres. It’s the ideal lifestyle here. And yes, I have a nice mix of my life between town and country.
GW: Excellent. Of course, you actually live in Middle Earth, not too far from Hobbiton.
CF: Yes, we do. We are just down the road from Rivendell, probably about a ten minute walk down the road. And then we would do our jousting at Harcourt Park, which is where they did a lot of scenes, especially in the first movie. So we joust over hallowed ground. That's where Ian McKellen and Peter Jackson and all the other top people there, and Christopher Lee did the Gandalf and Saruman scenes at Isengard. And so there was very close relationship with us. And some nearby locations that are very prominent in the films.
GW: That must be fabulous.
CF: Yeah. Yeah.
GW: OK, now we're definitely going to get into the jousting in a little bit, but it says in your bio you've been training since 1982, which is a pretty long time. In Hapkido, and you’re now 7th Dan. Congratulations. And when did you get into the historical stuff and how did that come about?
CF: Well, before I started Hapkido I was involved in sports fencing and I got involved in sports fencing probably 1979 in my first year at university. And I was very fortunate. I was trained by a lady called Enid Milne, and she was first woman from outside of France to train in France to be awarded a French Master of Arms title. Enid was a very accomplished classical fencer. And she taught us classical fencing and through Enid and the classical fencing school, I was fairly successful competitively. But I realised that the rules of modern fencing didn't really ring true. And at the same time, I was a big Dungeons Dragons nerd and that sort of thing. I was right into Dungeons and Dragons and all that sort of stuff.
GW: You’re amongst friends here.
CF: Yes, right. Yeah, I spoke amongst friends. I was probably the first person to buy a set of Dungeons and Dragons in New Zealand, but that's another story. And so through Dungeons and Dragons and through classical fencing and through Enid and the university Swords Club, I wanted know what it would be like to fight in proper armour and with a proper medieval style sword. I got a bunch of mates together, we basically just had no knowledge, no resources back then. Prince Valiant comics were our main resource and the old 19th century Victorian scholars had some books out and through those resources, we started putting together our own homemade mail armour and leather armour and made these heavy swords and that sort of thing. We just started mucking around in the backyard and just trying to tack what we learnt in modern fencing to HEMA, to these weapons at the time. So it was a bit of a mishmash. And then somebody saw us and said, can you guys come to a public show for us at some sort of country fair. We just got involved and just put on these really bad reenactments back in the early 80s to various fairs and community events. They didn’t know any better so they thought we were fantastic, swinging around ten pound single handed swords, helmets like buckets, mail put together with mild steel butter wire that fell apart and probably just slashing each other. And then gradually over time we got access to better knowledge and that sort of thing. And then in 1997, I went to Australia to one of the medieval events in Australia and a guy called Stephen Hand, who's very famous around here, he is one of the leading practitioners, and Stephen was really into George Silver, who I also had a great deal of time for. And so Stephen taught me, showed me True Times and I knew True Times possibly through Enid showing me, and all the stuff I did in classical fencing started to make a bit of sense. And I was able to adapt to my ideas for what Steve was showing me. From there we started I started to do proper studying the manuscripts and I started dipping into it too. I got into Fiore because my period of interest is 14th century, late 14th century. So he was the one I was interested in. Then another friend of mine, Colin McKinstry, who was the HEMA man in New Zealand started interpreting stuff. We just gradually built from there. At the same time we got into jousting and horseback and armour and that sort of thing. I think we gradually got better. It all started back in the backyard with a few beers and with Dungeons and Dragons and a bit of classical fencing. That's how we got started.
GW: Wow, there's a lot to unpack there. Stephen Hand and I go way back, not quite back to 1997, but I met him in about 2003. And we've been friends ever since. He came to Finland to teach a couple of seminars for me, including Silver. So you were in pretty good hands there.
CF: I’ve known Stephen since 1985, I went to Australia and met him at a reenactment event and then we lost touch for about 12 years. I actually had Steven out in New Zealand as well. He’s come out and done stuff for our guys and he's really good, a great mind. Very bright man, very clever man. He knows his stuff.
GW: Yeah, and it's interesting that you came to it through classical fencing, I had the exact same disillusionment with the ruleset. The fencing itself is great, but the ruleset just doesn't satisfy anyone with that kind of really swordy soul, I don't think.
CF: No. That's why I got out of the fencing, I got out of it because of the ruleset, and then when they brought in the Olympic style with the whippy swords, that was the end of it for me.
GW: Yeah, me too. The idea that someone could just curl their sword around and tap you on the shoulder and ignore the fact that your sword was sticking through their guts, it drove me nuts. Well, it drove me into the arms of Alfred Hutton, is what it did.
CF: Yeah. So we’ve got the same issues with fencing and thing was too with the simultaneous hit, when you bend your blade fractionally on the other person and they get a hit on you too but you get the point anyway.
GW: Yeah, I'm very much in favour of using 19th century style sharps, it's not actually a sharp sword, but it's a quarter inch spike. It's like it's sticking out of like a flat thing. So it's not going to go in very deep, but it will certainly puncture the skin and fencing without shirts with those. If you miss your parry, you bleed. And that's very conducive to a good parry.
CF: That would be quite interesting.
GW: Yeah. It focuses the mind and it is a little risky because if the point slips, it can slice you open a bit, which is unfortunate. But again then you really, really should have parried. OK, now I don't know about whether this rings true for you, but in the historical martial arts world, as far as I'm aware, you're mostly known as a jouster.
GW: OK, and you organise jousting tournaments. And that is something that simply boggles my mind. You have horses and you have armour and you have people riding at each other at high speed. And it must be absolutely terrifying. We’ll get into the actual specific feeling of what it's like to joust in a little bit. Let’s have a look at the organisation side of things. I mean, what on earth possessed you to organise a jousting tournament and how did you pull it off?
CF: Nobody else was doing it, and we had gradually evolved. We had basically just worked out here quietly and got to the stage where we had two or three horses that we were working with and we were doing mounted skills, which is just basically doing some of the battle drills on inanimate targets with weapons. And so we started adding those into our combat shows that we were doing at other people's events. Basically, we were just tacking ourselves on to community fairs, that sort of thing. Often the odd council might have us up do a small display, we had the odd equestrian event, they thought we were bizarre enough and interesting enough to chuck us into a corner somewhere and run us at these events and that sort of stuff. So we had a lot of experience as we tacked on other people's events. The trouble with these events, especially when you have horses is they are unpredictable. And you are bound by somebody else's time frame. And we were doing a lot of events at racing horse meets. And we have a very limited window of opportunity to do a show between races and often the races ran to TV and very late, we were gradually getting into some quite dangerous stuff between races in a limited time frame is part of that, and I run my businesses, I’m fairly OK running business and running events, I’m lucky I’ve got business skills. So I was looking around for a venue and just to give it a go to put on a public event of our own, just a one day thing, that we could control the time frame and that sort of thing. And back in the day, the Upper Hutt city council was run by a guy who had a promotions manager who was very supportive of small people doing events. We had a lot of support from our council to put on a small event at Harcourt Park, which was one of the venues for Lord of the Rings. So we just got a few of our friends together, a couple of my Australian friends, Rod Walker and other guys in Australia, we put on our first international tournament and it was basically just myself, Rod from Australia and Phil Pederson from New Zealand. We just basically put on a small show of jousting with lances. It wasn't real jousting at the time, was just tapping solid lances on shield, but it went down really well. And so that gave us the confidence to say, let's do it properly and actually start their own event. And because we had a small number of people and a lot of enthusiastic reenacters who were keen to do anything, we were able to put together an event for five thousand dollars, which was quite cheap back then. It brought in about 3,000 members of the public. And we didn't charge them for that as we didn’t know how it was going to go. We ran our first event and it went really well. And then we said right, this is good. So we'll keep rolling with it. And so we gradually built up over about 10, 15 years a really slick international joust. It had its heyday in 2015, bringing in jousters from Scandinavia, Europe, USA, England, Australia, New Zealand. So it just sort of grew from small beginnings. And as we built up our expertise and as more people were interested, we were able to make it bigger. It wasn't that hard. It was very time consuming, obviously, but it didn't seem that hard because we were just building on stuff we've done before. Just every time we did an event we added a bit more in. So it wasn't jumping into a huge event straight away. It was just starting small and gradually adding to it. And a lot of the international people saw what we were doing and took our ideas over to their events. And certainly in that way we helped to build the international jousting circuit as it is today. Or as it was, pre-covid.
GW: That's extraordinary. And starting small, three guys with horses. How do you manage the horse situation? Because you need properly trained horses for this. Do people bring their own?
CF: This is our is the biggest problem and it's why we haven't done much for the last few years, is that obviously it's very expensive to fly horses anywhere in the world and none of us are multimillionaires who can afford to do that. We're not polo players who can fly the horses around the world. Basically, we've got to provide horses for the international visitors and that does limit the scale of what we can do. So really, you rely on people having extra horses and we're lucky we got 50 acres here so we can keep a team of horses surplus to our own requirements. So we always have a couple of spare horses here. We've got a friend of ours up north, Vikki Subritzky, who is the same. She's got spare horses, and a few others. So between the local jousters around the country, we can bring in about three or four, maybe five spare horses and so we bring in a few spare, so we learn to buy the availability of trained horses and the numbers as there are only a handful of horses in New Zealand that will joust and there's only a handful of people are going to joust anyway. So we're very limited by the number of horses we have. So we can't go to huge tournaments with say 12 jousters. We did that once. It worked, but it was quite tough. So we just tend to limit our events to eight jousters normally. It will be three or four Kiwis and five Australians or other internationals, but getting the horses is the hardest thing and then they get old and you have to retire them and you can't shoot them, you’ve got to give them a good retirement. So yeah, of course having a horse retire on your property means there’s one less horse who can work, which is our situation at the moment, we have about three or four jousting horses. And up to about six months ago we didn't have any jousting horses here at all, but we were very fortunate the last couple of months to actually pick up a couple of new jousting horses and they were proven. So we're back in the frame to do events again. But it's very hard because you got to keep bringing on new horses and you've got to find a way to exit your old horses out. And for us, a horse that works for us deserves a good retirement. So we have to be very careful how we manage things. So, yes, just sort of having enough horses that are in work any one time, it's a tough thing.
GW: Yeah, I'm really glad to hear that the horses are given an honourable retirement and not turned into sausages. That would be very sad.
CF: We don’t eat horses in New Zealand. It's not a thing. Some of the old racehorses do end up as dog food. The horse works for us, it does jousting for us, it works hard. It’s part of our family. I don't really like retiring the horses unless they’re unsound. Even an old horse still wants to work. I’ve got a horse that is going to be 25 this year, he's still working, he's still doing work with newer riders, that sort of thing. And he'll keep working till his body tells us that he's no longer into it and then he'll be retired up the hill with his mates. So we try and keep them going so as we can, because like people, they like to do something.
GW: Yeah, and horses are social animals and they're part of the herd. They want to be doing the thing that the leader of the herd is doing. I do get the impression that serious jousting horses are really into jousting.
CF: Yes they are. I have lots of arguments with people, especially the animal rights people say, oh, it's unnatural to ride a horse and it’s unnatural for a horse to run at another horse. It’s unnatural for a horse to be aggressive to another horse. Yeah, it is, just like humans is. There's a hierarchy, but the horses at the top of the herd, they love it. They love the jousting. And often you just can't hold them back. They just go and other horses may need a little bit of encouragement because they are beta horses. A horse won’t joust if it doesn't want to. And there's no way that you can force your will on an animal that's about six or seven times your body mass and much stronger. So they have to enjoy the joust in order to do it. And all of our horses have some of that. Some just love it. They go up about ten gears.
GW: And it's worth thinking that in Napoleonic Times, if an infantry formed a well structured square with all their bayonets sticking out, no cavalry could break through it because the horses would not run into the spikes no matter what the people riding them would say.
CF: The same with the medieval times. A horse would not go into a hedgehog of spears or a line of bayonets. They are not stupid animals and they do require that you've got to be confident with them and you've got to have their trust. Once you've got their trust the jousting is fairly easy for them. So once you've got that sorted out, they're pretty good.
GW: OK, so I imagine so the people coming from abroad are borrowing horses and I've ridden enough to know that horses are extremely different. I imagine that there's an advantage to riding with your own horse that knows you really well and you understand each other. So do they have a training period where they can get used to the new horse or do they just jump on it and go?
CF: Basically what I do is I fly them in the week before tournament, so they have a week here at our place where we've got the event and we give them the best horses. We give the international people the easiest horses to ride so they get the best horses. So they get my horse. My horse is really good. I’ve actually never jousted on my horse in an international tournament, I always give him away to an international jouster and all the good horses that are the least problematic and the most experienced we tend to give them internationals. Just because you understand that even a good rider, it takes them a few days to click with the horse and get used to it. So they basically have about a week, five days before the event. They get to ride a couple of hours a day. That's all they need, especially a good horseman or horsewoman. They can pick it up in two or three sessions, but they always get the best horses, the easiest horses to ride because we are aware of that. Unlike some events I’ve been to where I’ve been given a horse that’s never jousted and told to joust with about half an hour's riding before an event. So we always give our guests the best horses available and time to train. So they have an advantage because of that, because they are on horses where they don't know the horse’s issues, if it’s got any. Often the local guys have got horses that are quite new. So we tend to ride the newer horses. They're still in training and it tends to even out the playing field a bit.
GW: So is it actually competitive jousting?
CF: Yes, it is.
GW: How do you score it?
CF: We score it like historically, and one of the big misconceptions about jousting is it’s not about knocking the other guy off the horse. And that was never the intent of most styles of joust. They were different styles of jousting, like there are different styles of HEMA and other martial arts. But the style of jousting we use is called the Joust of Peace, and that's where you used lances that broke on the shield or the body of the opponent. And depending upon how well you break your lance, you got a point for it and either got one point or two points or a point for a touch, a point for a miss. They had a very simple scoring systems. And you look at some of the historical records there are actually scoring chits and that sort of stuff are quite complicated, scoring your chits from an event that shows exactly what happened to that sort of thing. Most of the jousts are the Joust of Peace. So we've copied that concept. And what we use is there's two kinds of jousting now, the solid lance jousting, which is big in Europe and also in Australia were they are actually doing things with a solid lance and a metal tip. The step down from that is using a lance body with a breakable tip. And most people who do that use a balsa tip that breaks on contact with the opponent. And depending upon how well the balsa breaks, you get points for it. We've moved on from that. We've gone to a pine tip with a spiral cut, which weakens the tip enough to break under pressure. And depending on how well you break that pine tip determines the points. So how we score things is if you break the lance within 15cm of the tip, that's one point. If you break the lance in two pieces down the middle of the tip, that's two points. If you shatter the lance into multiple fragments, that’s three points. That’s our scoring system and get penalties for off target hits, you get disqualified for hitting a horse. That’s it, if you hit a horse, you are out of the tournament. Wherever you came from, no matter how far you travelled, you hit the horse, you're disqualified from the event. We’ve only had to do that once or twice. But that was a long time ago. So we do have a proper system of scoring. There are penalties for infractions like not presenting your shield properly or abusing a squire, that sort of thing, which doesn't really happen. So it’s a proper sport. And the ruleset is fairly common around the world, so we know what we're getting. It's fairly consistent how you score the tournaments. And what you do is you accumulate the points over a jousting match and over a jousting round and then you go to a final and semi final to determine the winner. So it's properly regulated and it's properly judged and adjudicated. So it has taken a few years to develop, but it is a sport.
GW: Now, I'm sure some people are wondering what the prizes are.
CF: The prizes are basically just we might give a sword away. Depending upon how much money you got. We tend to give away things that are simple to carry, because getting armour around the world, that's a big issue. So we give out medals, we give out trinkets, well not really trinkets, they are basically fairly expensive replicas of small historical items. Might be a nice dagger, might be a nice sword. Something nice you can put in a suitcase, in the backpack, and take home. There's no cash prizes. Although we do pay the air fares for our international competitors. We do pay for their accommodation because they are travelling and people put a lot time into jousting. We do cover air fares. And we do cover accommodation and beer money, that sort of stuff. So they don't really have to spend much money during the pre training and tournament. Most of them will stick around New Zealand for a week or so and travel afterwards at their own cost, but we try and make it cost neutral to win the tournament and to get a nice prize and bragging rights, you know.
GW: That’s epic, I wish I was a better rider. There is no way on earth I’m jousting. I can ride well enough to know how much I don't know and there's just no way I’m at that level.
CF: Well there's two things we do. There's the jousting and the mounted skills and the mounted skills are like a dressage course with weapons and armour and targets. And that's actually a harder skill to master than the joust. So we have that as well, the mounted skills, which is basically just an individual contest with you and your horse and these targets. There’s no competitive aspect with another rider. And that's a skill in itself and another discipline itself, which we also do. And we also do the mounted melee, as well. So it's not just the jousting lance on lance. It's also the mounted melee and also the mounted skills. To have another guy coming at you with a sharp, with a small stick, you can do the mounted skills or the mounted melee. There are various disciplines you can get involved in.
GW: Wow, that sounds like super fun, you say you have another guy coming at you with a stick, but if I remember rightly, you have a female champion recently, Sarah Hay, is that correct?
CF: Yes, Sarah Hay, she won our last tournament and Sarah’s done really well. So the thing with jousting, it's all inclusive sport. We don't have divisions for women and we don't have divisions for weight. So when you joust it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, you’re in the joust together. So there's no division of the sexes or weight. If you’re a small person, big person, man or woman you are all jousting in the same pool and same competitions. It’s a true gender neutral sport and anybody can do it. Anybody who can ride fairly well and who can ride in armour and who can hold a lance properly can do jousting. Sarah has done really well. Michelle Walker has also done really well in previous jousts. Raya Goddard over in Canada. She's done really well in jousting as well. There's heaps of women and Alison Mercer the same in Canada. That is to name but a few. Probably half of our jousters here are women as well. It’s a really inclusive sport.
GW: Excellent. So how do you train for it?
CF: You gotta learn how to ride, first of all, and that's the hardest thing, because we get guys showing up who’ve done a day’s trekking and thinking they can ride. What I'd suggest to people is that they need to get professional riding lessons, classical dressage or Western riding will set you up for jousting. Learn how to ride, how to walk, trot, canter and do all the basic stuff and leg yield and all that sort of thing. And once you can do that, you then start riding just like the squires used to do. You start riding with weapons. You do the spinning quintain, you do rings with spears that sort of thing, learning how to use these weapons on horseback. And then once you can do that you start putting armour on which changes the game totally because it changes your weight distribution and you start riding in bits of armour and then eventually you can ride in armour and with weapons and then we start putting you into joust training, basically riding with another rider coming at you so you can learn about the parallax and how that affects your aiming point. Obviously moving towards each other and you gradually go up from there. We tend to find that people who are horsemen or horsewomen pick up the jousting faster because they know how to ride. And that's the big thing. And they can pick up jousting within a year. It takes about a year or so to get their armour together, if they’re lucky. And we've had people joust within a year who are accomplished horse people. Most people, especially me, because I’m a very slow learner, it took me many years. Most people will take two to three before I put them into a competitive joust. Before they do that, they do public shows, which are just basically demonstrations, so are non-competitive. Once they are good at that I can put them into competition. So it can take anywhere between one and five years, I think, for someone who is really dedicated to get into it.
GW: Many years ago, my girlfriend at the time and her mum had a horse that was a grand prix level dressage horse, and that horse taught me to ride to the point where I was able to do flying changes and what have you. But I could ride that horse because that horse knew absolutely everything there was to know about riding and dressage, and so long as the clumsy oaf on his back gave vaguely the right signal, it would cheerfully do the thing that it knew it was supposed to do. But it doesn't really transfer to being able to ride just any old horse.
CF: No, and our horses are not top level. My horse is level two dressage. It does jumping with me, we do other stuff with the horses, too. But they're not top end horses, they are your average mid level horse. So you really need to know how to ride through all these horses. If you had a high level dressage horse you wouldn't waste it on jousting, you would be competing with it. It’s a little bit harder riding the general horses that we use, you need a little more skill, but yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And yes, the horses seem to enjoy it and we enjoy it or else we wouldn't be doing it.
GW: Sure. Now I have a question about Fiore’s mounted combat. Do you do reconstruction of those plays as part of any part of your training?
CF: Yes, we do. That's a big part of my training. The Fiore mounted plays. As you know, at the last Sword Symposium, I was going to run a session on that, but at the last Symposium I had a really bad hip, which has been replaced since I saw you last. I'm back to normal now. The mounted plays we do that here. We've now got more horses. We couldn't do it until quite recently, but now we've got more horses here that have a jousting background we're going to get more into it. I've done quite a bit in the past. The thing with Fiore’s mounted plays is that they are very hard to do safely. One of the disarms with the shoulder lock, we don’t do it any faster than a walk because when Peter Lyon and I, (Peter Lyon is a former jouster who is quite famous on Lord of the Rings as a sword maker) we had a workshop. He's a big man. And when we're doing a disarm with the shoulder wrap at the trot, he took me out of the saddle and almost broke my shoulder. That’s how effective these techniques are.
GW: Well, yeah, they're supposed to kill the people who are annoying you.
CF: Yes that’s right. So Fiore’s mounted plays, we’ve done most of them and they're designed to kill the other horse or the other rider. So you do them at a walk but you certainly wouldn’t do them any faster because they are designed to kill or maim the other horse or other rider because Fiore’s battlefield techniques, we can’t do them in competition, obviously, we do them as academic interest and to complete the Fiore system.
GW: Callum, I just had a fantastically brilliant idea, feel free to shoot it down and I can edit this out of the episode if it turned out to be not such a good idea. Would you be able to video all of those mounted plays?
CF: Yep. We can do that for you.
GW: Because I've done the translation and transcription for all of the sword plays, but I haven't even looked at most of the mounted combat plays except in the most theoretical way possible, because I've had no way of putting two trained people onto horses and telling them what to do. If you guys would do that, then I could then, because when I published the sword stuff, I included a link to a video clip for every play so that people can see how I think the motion should work.
CF: That sounds like a great project. Yeah, I can probably do that now. I had a really good jousting team down here then all of them had ambitions to buy their own land and buy their own horses. So my team dispersed. So we're still a team but we’re about 200 miles apart in various places. But I've got a new rider here who is starting to get pretty good so I can probably start working with him on the Fiore stuff again. I haven’t been able to do much in last year or so as I've been building this guy up, Kieran’s ready to go now to get into advanced techniques. So we'll start videoing the Fiore plays during the year for you. We’ll try and get it done, it's a good project for us.
GW: That would be epic. Of course, if you run into any interpretation issues drop me an email or we can get on the phone.
CF: That sounds fantastic, Guy. I would be into that. It’ll give us something to do. Because of Covid in New Zealand we can't do any tournaments. So we are trying to find things to keep us motivated. And I think for the first six months of this year, that could be a good project, actually.
GW: That could be a fantastic project. Then we could publish the translation and the transcription and the video clips and whatever, so that there's a public record of how it can be done.
CF: We'll get onto that. That sounds brilliant.
GW: And Callum, the next time I'm in New Zealand, I think I might just be accidentally popping by your place for a little visit.
CF: Great. You are welcome any time.
GW: Basically, I can't ride at home because my eldest daughter is severely allergic to anything with hair. So, I just can't be traipsing horsehair through the house because it could be a real problem.
CF: That’s fair enough. We’ve got the horses here now.
GW: Yeah. So when I travel, if I ever get the chance to get on a horse, I take it. I don't jump on it, obviously. I carefully climb aboard.
CF: I've got the horses and I will do that for you. As I said, we're basically back in action so we've got one horse we can put a beginner on. Another horse that should be good too. So you’re more than welcome to come and stay with us next time you’re here.
GW: Fantastic. Thank you. Yes, we shall bring Fiore to the masses, is what we will do. Excellent. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, because I’ve always known you were a jouster and into Fiore.
CF: Yeah, we've done a lot of stuff. And up until about a year or so back, I’ve got another rider of mine, Simon Nielsen, who I trained. He's up north now. But he and I were doing the Fiore lance plays. And I don’t know if you know about Kyral Castle in Australia with Philip Leitch, they’re doing some really nice stuff too, with mounted HEMA. They are more advanced than I am in this field because they do it professionally for a job and doing shows every day. There’s a bit of it happening now in this part of the world. I'm really happy to see it. I do want to do more with mounted HEMA, with mounted Fiore. So I am quite keen to get into that a bit more.
GW: Fantastic. OK, I've been to New Zealand a couple of times now and I realise that you're some kind of a linchpin for historical martial arts in New Zealand. So you set up the tournaments, you have an equipment shop called The Red Knight, is that correct?
GW: OK, so you've seen the New Zealand historical martial arts scene grow from absolutely nothing into what is actually a pretty thriving historical martial arts community. Could you just describe it for us, because most people dream of visiting New Zealand because it is Middle Earth and all that sort of thing, but some kind of idea of what the scene is like there?
CF: It's hard to say. If you look at it as part of the wider reenactment, which I do, but it's not as big as, obviously, the medieval full armour combat, which is big in Europe now. Probably in New Zealand, Historical Medieval Battle, that's the dominant thing.
GW: That's bigger, is it?
CF: Yes it is, it’s huge.
GW: I interviewed Dayna.
CF: Dayna is down right down the road from me. She lives in the same city, Dayna Berghan-Whyman. At the moment, that’s the dominant thing. SCA is big in New Zealand and especially in the South Island and there's also standard re-enactment. And there's HEMA and probably of the historical martial arts it is probably the smallest of all the four. But saying that, up in Auckland, there's two clubs and in my area there’s my club in Upper Hutt, and Colin McKinstry’s club in Lower Hutt and we're basically the same club and there's two clubs in the South Island and a few people around the country. So it's not hugely popular, but it's strong enough. And you've also got Selwyn as you know who organized the Sword Symposium until recently. So if you look, there's enough activity to run obviously the Sword Symposia and that's gone on three or four times. So I don't know, there’s probably maybe one hundred people doing HEMA in New Zealand, probably as a rough guess, studying various things. That includes the later period, the rapiers and that sort of stuff. In terms of what we do with the medieval, it's hard to say the numbers, but it’s strong enough to support viable clubs and host events. It started back in the late 90s with me coming back with what Stephen showed me and Stephen's first book on Sword and Buckler with him and Paul Wagner.
GW: I have that book.
CF: Probably the biggest thing that's grown it here is Colin McKinstry. So Colin he’s my HEMA instructor along with another guy called Mike O'Hara who’s also a student of Colin’s. Colin’s probably the main HEMA guy here, he's got the academic knowledge and the ability to put that into practical reality. He’s my teacher in HEMA. And he's done most of the interpretation, especially around Fiore and sword and buckler and other bits and pieces. So he and I have probably got about 30 students that do some form of sword fighting. We will probably be the biggest in the country. Two clubs merged, it grew up in Auckland. Sports HEMA. So yeah, there's a fair few clubs around, but it's not as dominant as what Dayna’s doing with the medieval combat.
GW: Yeah, I interviewed Dayna recently, her episode of the show will be coming out before this one, but I didn't realise when I talked to her, I wasn't aware that it was actually bigger than historical martial arts. I'm not sure that that's true anywhere else. I guess maybe in America, the SCA is bigger than historical martial arts.
CF: Yeah, I think in New Zealand it's probably more popular because it just appeals to Kiwis who are quite physical people. So I think that style of fighting appeals to a lot of people. Certainly it’s the one that's getting the numbers in the clubs at the moment. Having said that, they do have a fair turnover of members as well. But probably looking at people in the clubs in New Zealand and different styles, they'll be the biggest at the moment.
GW: And I imagine as an equipment supplier, you have a pretty good handle on what is actually being practised.
CF: I don't actually sell [to Historical Medieval Battle], because the armour I sell is not up to their standard. I tend to sell stuff to jousters and HEMA practitioners, and also to Australia. Our standard client who's doing medium contact fighting. But my gear doesn’t meet their quite rigid specification requirements in their international sport.
GW: Well they need it wouldn’t they?
CF: Yeah they do. They buy some of my gear, some Living History stuff they buy. They don’t buy my armour or my weapons because they're not really rated for their style of combat, though they are good enough for everything else.
GW: Excellent. OK, now a couple of questions that I ask all my guests, or most of my guests, at least. The first is what is the best idea you've never acted on?
CF: I can't think of any actually. On receiving that question I thought about it.
GW: You just do it. “Let’s do jousting. OK, we’ll do jousting!”
CF: If I have a good idea and I think it's worth pursuing I’ll pursue it. I've never not finished anything I’ve started. I can't think of anything. I guess the only idea that I haven't done and it is what I want to do is to build a castle. And that's my biggest idea I haven't done yet. And I'm really keen to build some kind of fort on our property. That's probably my only regret is I haven't been able to do that because I bought a martial arts school on my own, so I bought premises and other things as well. It consumes my money, I haven’t got the spare money to build the castle. At some point in time I do want to build a Norman style keep in my place. And it's probably the only thing I thought about that I haven't acted on.
GW: Dude. That's a really good idea. Yeah. A Norman style keep, on your own property. You can practice siege.
CF: Yes I can practice siege, and I thought it could be a hide out for the Dungeons and Dragoners, the LARPers, that sort of thing. So that's my next project. But it takes money so if I’m in a position where I’ve got spare cash flow again, I’m doing that because I can build up to 12 metres here. It wouldn’t be too hard to get planning permission. And I've got a bit of land to put it on, but that's the only thing I haven't done is to build this. The deal was to build a stone castle, back when I was a teenager, a younger man, but that’s not practical in New Zealand. It’s an earthquake zone and it would be so expensive. But putting together a Norman style keep out the side, a palisade, that's doable and probably something I'll eventually do, if I’m not too decrepit.
GW: That would be fantastic. And then maybe we could do the Swordplay Symposium there.
CF: That would be great, you could do it there.
GW: Fantastic. I had a feeling you probably had some projects that hadn't quite come to fruition yet. A Norman keep.
CF: That’s the only big one. Yeah, that would be pretty awesome.
GW: That would be extremely awesome. OK, and my last question is somebody gives you a million dollars, or ten million dollars or whatever, I know New Zealand dollars aren't worth as much as they might be, to improve historical martial arts worldwide. How would you spend the money?
CF: I’d actually put together some really good events.
GW: So you’d spend it on events? OK.
CF: If it was a million dollars, that million doesn't go too far in New Zealand these days, but it would be good to build infrastructure that would support a hub for reenactment in New Zealand and also for international events. Use it to build a hub. Bring people in and train them, run public events to fund it. So if it was five million dollars that's what I'll do with that.
GW: Wow, that's a great idea.
CF: So you’d bring guys like yourself in to run sessions and run jousting tournaments and build an academic and practical centre for all forms of European martial arts.
GW: That would be fantastic. If I had the money, I'd give it to you, because I love going to New Zealand.
CF: As I said, you are always welcome back here.
GW: Thanks. OK, is there anything you would particularly like to ask of the listeners? Anywhere you would like to send them on the Internet or anything you think that they would benefit from doing?
CF: Just believe in what you're doing, just keep doing it. And with your HEMA, practise every day is important. And just keep doing what you're doing and keep enjoying it.
GW: OK, well, thank you very much indeed, Callum, it’s been a delight talking to you.
CF: That is great. Thank you. This was brilliant, thanks Guy and thanks for the opportunity.