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Reviews

The Circus Skills Artist

"Swordpunk was a wonderfully weird weekend in a beautiful location. I'm always keen to try new things. Over a few days I got to learn knife throwing with a master, practice my whip cracking and rope dart and get into the basics of sword combat. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming and I met some great people who I've stayed in contact with and in a few cases worked with on projects. I would recommend
this to anyone looking for something different.

Don't go if you dislike getting dirt under your finger nails. Do go if you have always secretly wanted to release your inner warrior!!!"

- Edward Gosling, circus performer, founder Chivaree Circus

The Adventurer

"I’m a proud member of the montage generation – I fundamentally believe that anything should be possible in the time it takes to play one high-energy song. Unfortunately this means I lack the patience to devote myself to a discipline.

I also like learning to do cool things. Over the years I’ve picked up sword fighting, contact juggling, rope dart, knife throwing, whip cracking – I’ve even learned to fletch my own bamboo arrows.

It’s not surprising that I’ve never spent that much time around martial arts. There’s just too much discipline and too much training. There’s not enough silliness and sharing. Swordpunk is one of the few environments where I have the opportunity to learn and practice such a wide range of frankly awesome skills – and I get to do that surrounded by frankly awesome individuals - individuals for whom learning and sharing skills is more important than competition, grading and hierarchy.

Going to Swordpunk feels like the ultimate adventure training camp, but it also feels like a holiday with new friends that you’ve been waiting to meet. As amazing as it is to be able to spend the days learning to throw knives and clash swords, it’s even more amazing to jump into lakes and spend the evening sat around a fire, the banter and conversation flowing.

Meeting Dan and having the opportunity to learn from and with him has been a highlight in my life. His range of skills and experience is exceeded only by his willingness to support and teach. That’s a rare combination.

Going to Swordpunk feels like leveling up in the Game of Life.

More please. Lots and lots more please."

- Santiago Genochio

The Novice

"I am the clumsiest person on earth, so my friends were understandably concerned for my well-being when I set off on a weekend of weapons training. How would I cope with swords and throwing knives, when I have twice injured myself with teaspoons?

There were a number of skills on offer over the weekend: sword-fighting, archery, knife-throwing and whip-cracking. Swords, it turns out, are not for me. Move your arms and feet at the same time? There’s a reason why most of my dancing involves bobbing around on the spot. Throwing knives, on the other hand, I loved. There’s something very satisfying about hurling blades around, and by the time I could hit the target four throws out of five, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. We had plenty of time to try out everything, and to focus on the things we particularly enjoyed. All the instructors were enthusiastic, skilled and (luckily for me) extremely patient!

The training culminated in an assault course involving the skills we had learned. I knew I had no chance of winning the speed competition, but hoped not to embarrass myself too badly. Before even reaching the first obstacle, I tripped and fell at the feet of an armoured orc, who kindly refrained from ‘killing’ me while I scrabbled to my feet. Mercy is the new slaughter, say 1 out of 7 million evil minions.

We spent the time between sessions exploring the beautiful grounds of Newnham Paddox, chatting around the bonfire and making new friends. I’m feeling very nostalgic writing about it, and two things occur to me. Firstly, I should find out when tickets go on sale for the next one. Secondly, my attic is probably big enough for a knife throwing range. What could possibly go wrong?"

- Megan McClimont

The Warrior

"SwordPunk is unique amongst martial arts events I have attended in being as equally useful to the absolute novice as to the most grizzled of veterans. Each exercise in the syllabus could be taken at face value, demonstrating a simple mechanic, or extrapolated into much more complex plays. Not only has the course clearly been designed thus, but it also benefits from Dan's exhaustive vocabulary of techniques, so after the briefest of discussions Dan can send each student off on tasks appropriate to their particular skill level and interpretation of the initial technique. This not only makes the course relevant and accessible for all,
but also produces numerous variations on a theme, allowing each student to develop a unique insight into the core technique and then share their findings to all.

On top of the technical excellence of the course it is also an enormous amount of fun, whether you are interested in martial arts or are more concerned with stage combat, re-enactment, performance art, trying out something utterly new, or even thought no further than 'swords are cool'. The course allows students to focus on weapons and disciplines which are of particular interest to them but combines all in a climactic assault course, beset with challenges of which the Crystal Maze would be proud. Close on the heels of the assault course follows the fire circle and feasting. The fire circle itself is an impressive installation in its own right, encompassed with a palisade of rough hewn stakes, the summit of each crowned with a billowing brazier, festooned with skulls and the accoutrements of war. Amidst this Wagnerian setting each SwordPunk takes their turn to put into practice the techniques they have gleaned, pitting themselves against none other than their former master, Dan. Even the meekest of souls are spoken to by something deeply primordial about the setting, atmosphere and camaraderie.

After the participants have expended the last of their vigour in the circle, Mars departs, making way for his welcome usurper, Bacchus and the feasting begins and is enjoyed with the gusto that only comrades in arms can muster.

Against the backdrop of such a splendid weekend, the final word has to go to the architect of the event: Dan. Being a good martial artist and a good teacher are two entirely different skills, but Dan is a consummate
master of both.
He combines a nigh-on unique background working at the Royal Armouries in Leeds with the hard earned skills of a pragmatic martial artist, who trains their art under stress to produce a well rounded instructor. Combined with this martial and academic pedigree Dan's keen eye and subtle instruction will add polish and finesse to the best of swordsmen, just as well as they build confidence and ability in a novice. He can spot and adapt nuances in body mechanics that will see the wild flailing of a beginner metamorphose into a vorschlag gaining mutieren before the student is even fully aware of what they've learned. Best of all, despite his formidable repertoire of martial prowess and abilities, Dan is the nicest chap one could wish to meet and both a pleasure and a privilege to train under.

- Gil Harrison
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