The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

The Guild

The reasons for the creation and existence of the Guild are varied. In essence it was  founded to teach the approach to Historical Combat used by John Waller (1940-2018) Guild Master.

While John had been investigating the combative behaviours and approaches since the 1950's and had taught a number of people in many contexts, and had conducted his own personal research and had used his skills  and knowledge to teach combat in Drama Schools and in Fight and Action Direction in theatre films and Television. There had been  no specific way in which people could more generally access the teaching and approach.

In the early 90's with the movement to have a purpose built museum to house the majority of the Royal Armouries collection housed in were progressing with ther necessity of the collection moving away from it historical location at the The Tower of London. Because fo Johns collaborations with the Royal Armouries since the 60s and his works with and friendship of Guy Wilson who was by then the MAster of the Armoruries.

It was during that time and then ocne the move to Leeds had taken place that Steve Tappin made contact with John. Steve whose back groudn wias as a martial artist, he was then an inbtrsutor for the Latosa Escrima organisation itself involved with the pan European EWTO. While LAstose Esctrima stemmed from the Teachings of the Philipino American Rene Latsosa and was both an inclusive art incop[erating both weapons and unarmed, it wqas based upon the teaching of Concvepts, many of which were the samne or anaologus to Johns ( and concsequently the Guilds) Principles. As Part fo Steves teaching and to herlp make conncetion to those Concepts tied within his teaching his own iterest  and love for History and ahad begunb toamke use of European Weapons. THis was also in response to finding that many of his British and European STudents had desire to fight in a Eurpean style but auntil that point thee was little European weaposn combat ubness one looked at Fencing or Reneactemtn,

To futher his knowledge Steve had been travelling towork with anyne who couldoffer him insight in to the Hostroical MArtail hertiage of Europe, this had lead him to various aveneuse in cluding fencing stage combat, and various forms of remeactment combat, all of whicjh he felt lacked the vital elements he was looking for andn knew must exxoits in any practical application of combat behaviours and practicine.

During that time he had also sort ot moreacademice knoweldgewhere he could and that lead himto the Library of the RoyalArmouries then stillat The Tower.there he got to see the source materials, we need to also remeber thatthis was before the expansion of the internet and the access to source materisls that followed ad people now take for granted. In those days ypu day to acquire the information by visiting the libraires and collectiosn where they works werelocated, or perhasp acquire an expoenisive facislmile, thosugh hteses were genraly in a foreign laguage, if you were very lucky you might be able to obtain poor photo copies of someofth works. While  also became more aware of John Waller who he had heard of in other contexts.

This Lead Steve to contact John and make the trip to the Royal Armouries in Leeds. After that meeting Steve knew he had found what he felt was missing from the others he had met and trained  with.

What he wanted now was to help make this available to a broader range of people,many of whom he knew within the membership of the Latosa Escrima and EWTO membership across Europe.

This lead to further considerations, a large, organised and structured organisation could work with ad study from a teaching base that was both informal and personal.
This lead to discussions and bout how that may come about. It also lead to John stating that he would support Steve but that with the Armouries he didn't have the time but that perhaps Jonathan, his son would be interested and who was also like Steve based in London and who would find it easier to train further with Steve.

These discussion between Jonathan and Steve lead to the idea that the teachings of the Wallers would be better feed in to a broader audience and in association to the larger organisations such as he taught with if it were structured as an organisation.

THis was through 1997-98 and where the seed for the formation of the Guild took place.

This change was to lead to difficult decisions to be made, as again it was the need to fit a personal approach to the training based as it was around small groups in an informal setting in to one for large groups that were used to more structured syllabus and things like formal gradings.

Once it was beginning to develop the Guidl began teaching in Europe as Steve and Jonathan took the teaching to various groups both in and outside the EWTO.Initially in Denmark then Sweden and Germany.

This lead to the holding of International Guild Seminars at The Royal Armouries in Leeds, participants from the US and Europe attended these and this lead to a wider expansion of the Guild and the forming of Chapters in other parts fo the UK and Europe as well as in the US.

During this time John and Jonathan went to US as Guests of John Clements and HACA'/ARMA, JC had visited the Armouries and was a guest at the inaugural Guild Seminar there.
Jeffery Forgeng was also in attendance and became the first US Chapter Master, having met John Waller when at the Armouries researching with work on the Armouries MS I-33 and encountering Johns approach to historical Combat. other speakers and attendees included Toby Capwell, who John and Jonathan had met in the late 80s when he was in the UK studying with MIke Loades, John Waller's long time friend and also attendee. Toby now well known as Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection as well as authority and author, had worked for John as riding  interpreter at The Armouries. Arne Koets attended with Joram Van Essen who had visited the Armouries and met with John and Jonathan  and later Arne was also to work for John at The Armouries.

While this was an exciting time for the expansion of the Guild it also revealed the difficulties that all organisations experience, especially as they grow larger, and also exacerbated by the contrasting differing the differing backgrounds of those that now came to the Guild, of people with experience in large Martial arts organizations, those with an interest and love for history and the emerging world of HEMA, something that didn't even have the at name being WMA. As well as trying to keep a  consistent and coherent level of quality and training across countries and continents.

John had been involved in other organisations and had already been the Founder of the Medieval Society in 1963 as well as involved in the origins of ther Sealed Knot. He had always held that while an organisation needs to to have a structure that too much Hierarchy and rigidity was equally bad.
Conversely Many Martial arts organisations work in the format of a Franchise and and areas of control, teaching and even financial matters and formally structured and rigidly guarded. This can lead to internal politics that would not sit well with the goals of the Guild. Many members were seeing the wider growth of HEMA and the emergence of the focus on sparring wearing masks. Again this was something that John, Jonathan and Steve were reticent about within the Guild for a number of reasons

Others had a growing interest in particular historical styles, masters and weapons. This was possible within the Guild Structure and one of its Goals was  to use the Principles to further the understanding of Historical combat in general and specific areas. However some were feeling that a more focused approach was needed. 

KDF in the UK and Europe, Zwardkring in the Netherlands, Historical Weapons Combat in Denmark and Combat Archaeology as well as number of individuals and smaller  less formal groups can all find the link and connection to the Guild. 

At it's largest the Guild had Chapters and Groups in Leeds London Liverpool Nottingham, Jersey, Conwy and Dundrum.
Tilburg, Netherlands
Copenhagen and Helsingor Denmark
Malmo and Gotenburg Sweden
Erlangen Bonn Dreseden Germany  
Worcester Massachusetts USA

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