I was only fifteen, and being dragged along to some group where weirdo’s dress up in frocks and smack each other with lumps of metal was the most amusing, stupid thing that my friend Martin had ever coerced me into. I didn’t see the point – back then I didn’t see the point in a lot of things. I was pretty much a loner, definitely narrow-minded and just wanted to get on with things that I liked as usual (mainly video games and Warhammer).
Thankfully, and thanks to Martin, I wasn’t allowed. I turned up, sat outside with a bunch of bearded-longhaired-heavy metal-stereotypes and chatted about nonsense. I went inside the training hall, sat on a chair while they performed some marching and shouting, got bored, fiddled with my mini-disk player and looked at the ceiling, which had an awesome disco ball. Then, with a clatter, I was awoken.
It amazed me, still amazes me: the brutality, the harshness of tone as wood splits and sparks fly and the smiles on the faces of those after, revelling in it. Combat. But not like any martial art I had ever seen, it wasn’t fluid and purposeful like Tae kwon Do or karate, yet it had a rhythm. It wasn’t pretty like Tai Chi, but it had a certain elegance. I was hooked on it, the adrenaline poured through my veins and as soon as a little knife – a seax – was put in my hands I was at one with it. That was 2001.
The years have passed, I’m a bit slower, a bit (a lot) fatter and as interested in researching Viking-age life and crafts as I am hitting people with swords, but my enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. I’ve since started a family with someone I met through the group and I have a massive extended family of awesome people. I haven’t ever regretted it.
~ Alan ‘Kael’ Ball, Group Secretary, and Research Co-ordinator