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Thread: An American Werewolf in Budapest

  1. #1

    An American Werewolf in Budapest

    Item-It was my great pleasure to have recently been invited and attend the annual summer training camp hosted by A Kard Rendje. The Order of the Sword is a primarily Hungarian martial arts group dedicated to the study of HEMA. Now headquartered in Budapest, the Order has a membership of approximately 120 members with seven branches throughout Hungary as well as one branch in Slovakia.

    Item-Hosted in the rolling hills just outside Budapest, the camp is a week long Tour de Force designed to put participants through a vigorous series of challenges both physical and mental. A strong emphasis is put forth to explore knightly virtues, moral conduct, both on and off the field, chivalric commitment to ones self, family, and community. These traits are tempered, in turn, by heavy doses of physical challenges designed to test endurance, coordination, and command of the trinity: body, mind, and sword. This year’s event enjoyed participants from Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and the U.S.A.

    Item-It would be impossible to adequately cover every moment of a week long event in a single post so I shall instead hit the high lights with the idea of illustrating the feeling and depth of the event.

    The typical day begins with a mandatory 45 minute warm-up which includes 20 plus minutes of group formation jogging combined with callisthenic stretching and endurance training. Following this, a light breakfast, then onto a three hour longsword lesson, broken up into beginner, intermediate, and advanced. After this, the very eagerly anticipated “Mass Training Battle” takes place. The over 75 attendees were broken into various groups with appointed leaders who were given the days scenario and expected to manage their groups in disciplined maneuvers related to the various scenarios. Much of these exercises were taken directly from Niccolo Machiaveli’s, Art of War, one or two were unique unto themselves! Next, a short break for lunch and onto the afternoons lessons. This is where the specialty training was conducted. Every day saw a variety of courses being offered including focus classes on the usual Fiore, Lichtenauer, Dagger, Ringen, Halbschwert, Etc. but also some more exotica such as new courses on Destreza and Di Grassi, Quarterstaff, and an exploratory course using the Bidenhander. Also given was a nice selection of tactical and mechanical courses. Later we lined up for dinner and every night were exposed to a variety of lectures. Nightly, a fire was made and guards were stationed to keep the fire burning as well as fend off any attempted night-raids on the flag of the Order. While all in attendance slept in bungalows and a fire was not directly needed, this was one of the many ways used to establish a common goal and enforce a disciplined mindset. It also made for many wonderful late night conversations and much mischief making. With fond memories (after the fact) I must mention that several nights were interrupted by the call to arise for impromptu training sessions. What a sight to see a horde of sleepy eyed men and women, swords in hand rushing out onto the field for they, know not what, training.

    The first day had a similar tempo as above, with the variance of the introductory speech and, of course, the dreaded RUST DE-SNAPPER. This is an intense workout designed to clear the cobwebs. Think of every film concerning boot-camp you have ever seen then squish them into two hours. Szab talked of bringing people to their own personal boundaries then going a little further and he wasn’t kidding. With record high temperatures in the region this was a grueling and hard fought session that utilizes the concept that when people struggle together they form bonds that are stronger than any normal interaction.

    The last day saw the prize-playings for some and it should be noted that these are not tests but rather public challenge events for those that interested in pursuing a teaching vehicle or care to push themselves beyond the normal rigors of study. I witnessed these with great appreciation. Lunch next and then onto the very most serious of affairs….The Medieval Bloodbowl, an interesting and much anticipated match conducted in a field, soaked beyond capacity. Teams, of both genders, strip down to their personals and participate in a vigorous mud covered sport part American football, part rugby, and part something like I have never seen before. (Hietter Akos (a star of the sport) assured me that this was good battlefield training in that it trains the ability to stay on your feet though the ground becomes slippery.) It is a fun and hilarious way to wind down from a week of high intensity training and, to my mind, was a beautiful expression of the good natured depth of these fine Hungarian enthusiasts…..right up until they dragged me in to the muck with them, leaving me no doubt.

    Item- The faculty needs special mention as they allowed me to sit in upon their nightly de-briefing sessions. They astounded me with their process. Although steered by Rabai Orsi and Waldmann Szabolc the format is largely open floor. Every one was expected to participate and there was no allowance for tepidness. Opinions were expressed in a very forthright manner and even thoughts regarding personal grievances or disagreements with other instructors were demanded to be brought forth. Proudly, I witnessed as this very direct approach brought a number of issues to the surface and in a very straightforward and mature manner, uncomfortable issues were addressed, any necessary apologies publicly delivered, forgiveness or acceptance professed, and operations moved cleanly onward. Lingering sore feelings were spared as the participants saw their issues addressed and resolved in a forum with a structure designed to include all.

    Item-An impressive display of the Orders depth of tutelage was to be seen in the nightly lectures given on a wide range of topics by many different presenters. Topics covered included a lecture/discussion on Knightly Philosophy in everyday life, European fencing guilds, and my favourite, 1000 years of Hungarian valor. A special presenter, Dr. Németh István also gave a compelling lecture on warrior mentality and philosophy dating far back into ancient times. He is a unique resource and friendly companion to the Order who has apparently helped them much in the formulating their philosophical directions.

    Item-As an aid to understanding the players of A Kard Rendje I shall offer brief notes on many, but not all, of the many fine instructors I had opportunity to meet with, train, and study with. I apologize for any unintentional absenses. As an honorific to these noble people I will present them with their family names first and their personal names second, as is their custom. I would like to make mention of the fact that at no time during the camp was language a barrier. It is sometimes difficult for non-Europeans to relate to the idea that many Europeans speak two, three, even four languages. Special mention must be made of Burghardt David and Karasz Edit (sorry about the head!) who, although they were not faculty, generously gave of themselves to translate (at speed!) all of the lectures given throughout the week.

    Waldmann Szabolc- The leader of the Order is a tall, lighting quick swordsman with a strong capability to recognize and bring out the natural abilities of his staff and members. Understanding well that some of the toughest decisions are the most necessary, he is one of the few natural leaders I have ever met. With his heartfelt sentiments regarding chivalry and integrity, he talks the talk and walks the walk. I was honoured to be his guest and I am grateful of the many insights our conversations have sprung up within me regarding training, teaching, snail sex and, of course, the bigger picture in HEMA.

    Rabai Orsi-Szab’s very beautiful fiancé and strong right hand, she runs the most exciting beginner courses I have witnessed in many years. Her unwavering efforts in hosting the event cannot be stated enough. Translator extraordinaire, she helped in many of the more technical and lengthy discussions I had with a calm, polite, and earnest desire to help.

    Heitter Peter-Every group should be as fortunate to have such noble men as Peter. A bit of a father figure to the Order and their Ringen guru, to be sure, Peter placed second in the Dijon tournament earlier this year and didn’t hesitate in showing me why. He gave me a saber lesson I’ll not soon forget and he shared his treasury sized library with me. I am grateful for the hospitality shown me by his entire family.

    Waldmann Maria(Maci)-If Heitter Peter is the papa bear then Maci is the mama bear of the group. Our nurse-de-campe, ever on duty, she is the calm rational voice of wisdom. Always with open mind and the interests of the group at heart she is at once kind and commanding. A daunting combatant, I relish her support and our many conversations exploring our respective approaches.

    Berkes Zoltan-Perhaps one of the most impassioned men in these arts today, his commitments to the cause is astounding. As Head Librarian for the Order he has translated (and overseen) more than ten historical works (sometimes into more than one language) and made them freely available to the public. Always pushing the group to higher and higher standards he has the energy of the young and the loyalty of the committed. Ever willing to bout just for the pleasure, he is the group’s hunter of adventures new, both weapons and writings. Expect some interesting works from him and his staff in the near future. He is also my friend.

    Regenyei Peter-The Order has their very own blacksmith in Peter who custom fabricates every members weapons to their own demands. A fun natured man, I had no ideas of his talents as a horseman before he took me on the most intense horse ride of my life. Break neck speeds through unknown (to me) Hungarian forests and fields had me giggling and terrified all at once. There are still men who can lay their horse down and back up again without ever leaving the saddle! Now that’s a martial skill far beyond my meager talents.

    Berki Andras(Boba)- Always questioning and challenging current interpretations, he has brought much to the Order with his technical prowess. Mischievous and playful he has an eye for detail that has serves well as he continues to ask his many questions. My translator for a sojourn to a medieval monastery and our far too eager 3:00 am training guide, meeting Boba was one of the highlights.

    Papai Adam(Neo)-Even though playful Neo has chosen to follow the path of the Flower of Battle I still find him to be a wonderful character. He has somehow found the perfect dagger guard for bouting and plays a mean air-bass. Neo impressed me with a keen sense of distance when playing at quarterstaff and the kids group he runs adore him to a fault.

    Nagy Imi-Our fire-breathing Slovakian instructor, Imi played an important role in the organizing of so many people and though it was him that woke me for so many late night trainings, I cannot say enough to his good character. It finally seems that we may have found some honest competition for Matt Easton in the cool facial hair department....

    There are still more important people to mention such as Jakus Roland (Roll) who leads the newest branch, and Hietter Akos as well as Marcell Toth(Doki). The order also has several fledgling instructors whom I enjoyed watching learn their roles and duties.

    Then there was my absolute favourite of all….Bogi. S’mores is one aspect of American culture not soon forgot, am I right Bogi!?!

    Item-Many of A Kard Rendje train, bout and take part in the training battles without head protection. At first uncomfortable with this seemingly dangerous method I soon came to value it for it’s many interesting insights into how the medieval man may have approached his training. A strong emphasis on control, control, control was prevalent. A primary concern in the camp is one of safety but don’t let that translate to soft laziness in your mind. I have come away with many things to consider regarding training methodologies and blade control.

    There is more, a lot more, for example, the authentic Hungarian bow shooting, (another fine martial skill still proudly kept alive) but this has hopefully provided some preview of what to expect for any wishing to expand their training by venturing this far into Europe. In short, if you are interested in fast forwarding your training and think you have what it takes to keep up with these proud enthusiasts then I thouroughly recommend making it to next years training camp. But please. Be sure. Be very sure. This is not “just another sword seminar.”

    Van itt egy hejj!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Great post, Scott!

    For those of you who don't know Szab, he puts the "I" in "intense". I've not been able to make it to this event in Hungary - yet - but am looking forward to it.

    The level of commitment by these guys, and the numbers of people they manage to bring to events, are amazing. And a number of the fighters I've seen (the smith in particular) are real up & comers.

    Thanks again, Scott!
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Suburban Chicago area
    In a word - wow! This sound fantastic, and indeed, as if the Order functions as just that!
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

  4. #4
    For those of you who don't know Szab, he puts the "I" in "intense".
    The level of commitment by these guys, and the numbers of people they manage to bring to events, are amazing.
    Yes, that's putting it mildly

    And a number of the fighters I've seen (the smith in particular) are real up & comers.
    Indeed, 'ware the smith.

    I have been asked to attach this link containing some photo's of the event:

    Despite the large number of photo's, this is only a sampling, many events are not represented. Also, please be advised, towards the end are located the "Bloodbowl" excerpts. These may or may not rest easy in your mind

    Please enjoy!


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