Robert Grima and his group Show of Arms (Scuola d´armi) kindly invited me over to Malta for a 3 days seminar. The topic was Highland Broadsword and Targe, but also material from Sidesword and Rotella-manuals was inclueded. The seminar was supposed to be interesting for general use of an arm-bounded shield together with a sword, so members of Mercs Malta also joined. They are a group of field combatants, who display fights of Viking, norman and medieval age. The seminar was taking place in the conference hall of the Hagar Qim Temples, a megalithic temple complex dating from 3600 – 3200 BC. Located at the southern coast of Malta it is surounded beautiful landscape and wonderfull view at the Mediterranean Sea.
On friday the seminar weekend started in the evening with fundamentals of the Highland Broadsword, starting with the single sword, but already getting some focus on concepts usefull for the later double-armed work. Also some aspects of Sidesword from different european sources came into play. I was really happy to not only get my favourite softdrink Kinnie (a maltese bitter orange and herbs lemonade), but also Maltese Spiced coffee (a recipe from the 18th century). I want to thank Maryanne Feynech for organizing the Kinnie and also for creating the contact, which finally lead to the seminar. Thanks a lot also to Stella Grima for preparing the Maltese Coffee. Robert and his crew are great guys and I was very happy to meet them all.
After the first seminar evening, some the organisators and me headed to a small restaurant, where the best Fenek (Rabbit) is served in all of Malta. And not kidding, it was the best rabbit I ever ate. Thanks so much btw to Christian Grima for sending me the recipe 🙂
Saturday morning I enjoyed the sunset at the coastal promenade close to my hotel until I was picked up for day 2. This seminar part was very intense from morning until the evening with some short breaks and a longer lunch break. We worked through the fundamentals, footwork, cuts, guards, shield work etc. of Highland Broadsword and Targe. The group was doing very well, even adopting quickly to various weapon and shield sizes present (Sidesword, Langes Messer, Arming Sword, Sabre etc.). Some of the group even adopted the advanced concepts on other tools like the Rondel-dagger and Parry-dagger. Within one break I was kindly invited to see the exhibition show of the Hagar Qim Temples, which was very interesting. Later we went on to more advanced techniques, combination attacks, feints and enclose and command.
In the evening we went out for a Gala Dinner in the Victoria Hotel in Sliema. It was an amazing buffet with lots of good seafood, meat, sweets and other maltese specialities. The evening was full of interesting and entertaining coversations.
Sunday morning we met in Mdina, the old capital of Malta in the centre of the island. It is called “the Silent city” and located on a platform uphill, only entry on one side. The city is just beautifull. Some parts of Mdina are also known as locations for King´s Landing in the first season of Game of Thrones. I already went there at night in 2014, but seeing it in the daylight was even better. We visited Palazzo Falson, a medieval nobleman´s townhouse from the late 15th century. It contains a beautifull collection of weapons, old kitchen, bedroom, library and lots of other things. Of course the armory was the first station for us and we not only had the weapons behind glass, we were even allowed to get some of the weapons in our hands. They have very interesting Rapiers and a wonderfull Schiavona, as well as a rare Katzbalger with a pointy blade (propably shortened longsword). After our sightseeing people went for lunch and I tasted one of the amazing cakes Malta has to offer. We later sat down in a restaurant nearby, where I tasted amazing Octopus and had interesting conversations also with Paul T. Grima and his wife, both wonderfull persons.
In early afternoon everyone met again at the Hagar Qim Temples and we started the last day of the seminar. The topic were different freeplay exercises and group fights. Later we did free bouts against each other. During the seminar days, I was watching out for potential candidates for certification bouts. As many of the attendants already have swordsmanship experiences for many years, I picked out three of them who already understood the lessons and principles for Level 3: Broadsword and Targe very good and had the potential to get mentor rank. I did three bouts with Robert Grima, Adam Peter Fretwell and Dylan Sultana and all three gentlemen did a very good job, earning their mentor certification for Level 3 at the end of the seminar weekend. Congratulations again!
In the evening we went to another restaurant meeting Chev. Maitre d´armes Antoine Bonello. Antoine is a historian, Knight of the Order of St. John´s and weapon master of Show of Arms. It was a pleasure to meet him and we had good food, drinks and interesting conversations about history, swordsmanship and the future of HEMA.
On monday I had the time to visit the Maritime Museum in Birgu/Vittoriosa, which is evry interesting and has a nice collection of model ships, nautical tools, naval weapons like Cutlass, Sabre, canons and other firearms and much more. Besides visiting the small harbour around Fort St. Angelo, the old town of Birgu and some good food, I also got the chance to see the original sidesword of the Grandmaster De Vallette, who was famous defending Malta against the Ottomans during the Great Siege in 1565. The pretty long and broad blade is wonderfull, although I would prefer a Basket-hilt on it of course 😉
Time passed too quick and so I had to head back to Germany in the afternoon.
I want to thank Robert Grima and his team of the Show of Arms Scuola d´Armi for the invitation, their kindness and hospitality. It was a great weekend and I enjoyed every minute of it. Working with them was a great pleasure and I will be happy to visit again for more fights, fun, food and friendship.
by Heiko Große