Sandy student’s skill with a sword wins him top award

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He trains at the Sandy-based Aisle O’Var Academy of Arms

A Sandy student has taken one of the top prizes in the country for his skills in the ancient sport of English Country Backswording.

Dan Gurton, a senior student at the Sandy-based Aisle O’Var Academy of Arms, claimed the Blackford Prize in an open tournament played at Black Cat Archery, Roves Farm, near Swindon. The bronze medal went to Ross Brown, also of Aisle O’Var.

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The Blackford Prize is one of four top trophies available to fighters of the sport, a type of prize fight played using wooden ‘wasters’ that represent the type of sword used since Tudor times.

Dan Gurton, (centre, kneeling) a senior student at the Sandy-based Aisle O’Var Academy of Arms, takes the Blackford Prize.Dan Gurton, (centre, kneeling) a senior student at the Sandy-based Aisle O’Var Academy of Arms, takes the Blackford Prize.
Dan Gurton, (centre, kneeling) a senior student at the Sandy-based Aisle O’Var Academy of Arms, takes the Blackford Prize.

Also known as Singlestick, English Country Backswording (ECB) has been played at country fairs, revels, and major gatherings for hundreds of years. It is a full contact sport and a single bout can last for up to an hour. The sport all but died out after the First World War, but is enjoying a revival amongst historical fencing clubs throughout the world.

Dan, 23, not only fought six tough bouts against players from across the UK to reach the final, but also suffered a knock to his elbow, cramped legs, and some serious bruising – so his toughest opponent was himself.

The academy teaches the study and practice of historical martial arts to promote health and well-being and to provide an enjoyable and friendly training environment for adults and young adults from all backgrounds.

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Activities cover steel backsword, arming sword/broadsword/sabre, sword and buckler, paired weapons, English longsword, English quarterstaff, spear and shield formation battle techniques, classic English pugilism, indigenous English wrestling styles, and WW2 combat tactics with empty hand and knife.

The teaching is based on several English and other treatises on swordsmanship, but the foundation of the system is the Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of Defence by George Silver, written around 1599.

The purpose of the club is the study and practice of historical martial arts to promote health and well-being and to provide an enjoyable and friendly training environment for adults and young adults from all backgrounds.

Classes take place at Maple Tree School in Hawk Lane, Sandy, and the Stuart Memorial Hall in Tempsford. Check out the website for dates and times.

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