Rob Runacres demonstrating a technique with Sam Booth.
On the weekend of the 19th and 20th of September this year, the Academy of Historical Arts hosted Rob Runacres for a weekend in Glasgow, to teach a seminar on rapier fencing.
In the last year or so, there have been a growing number of people in the Academy of Historical Arts who have wanted to begin studying the rapier. So a few months ago, we bought in a box of rapiers, in order to provide loaner swords for people to begin studying the art without needing to invest in their own swords immediately. The second part of our efforts to facilitate the study of rapier in our organisation was to invite Rob to teach a weekend seminar, to give people an introduction to the fundamentals of using the rapier effectively and safely.
I asked Rob to focus heavily on the mechanics of using the weapon, to emphasise the proper way to do the basics. Any beginner can pick up a rapier treatise and begin to interpret the pictures – but a healthy study of the discipline would benefit from input on details such as exactly how to hold the sword, how best to form stance and posture in order to achieve an effective lunge – and, of course, how to lunge properly, to achieve success with the action and without hurting yourself!
Rob is a superb teacher. He stuck to the brief and focused on mechanics, fundamentals, and low level details. Not only did he manage to cover these difficult and complicated subjects, he managed to do so in a manner that was engaging and entertaining. One of the things that I appreciated most of all was that over the entire event, Rob spoke loudly and clearly, so that everyone in the room could hear him and understand what he said. Too many instructors possess great information, but cannot express it loudly and clearly enough to be heard by their students; but Rob made sure that every participant could hear him clearly.
We did not look at any single treatise in isolation. Instead, Rob synthesised salient points from different sources to provide a sensible and coherent introduction to the discipline. By giving a reasonably wide basis to the introduction, discussing and comparing some of the Italian ways of doing things and some of the Spanish methods, he was able to show that different masters and schools had different ways to approach the fight, and that each method had its advantages and disadvantages. Rather than teaching us to follow a single treatise, he equipped us to make sensible choices about what sources to go ahead and study, and showed why we might come across seemingly contradictory advice between sources.
The theme that ran through everything Rob taught was that of personal safety. He was not teaching a sporty, point-scoring method, nor was he teaching an overly-theoretical, image-interpreting method. Instead, he taught a safe and secure method of fencing where the focus was on “not being hit”. There was no room for ego. The fundamentals all involved personal safety, and security when acting. This was exactly what some of the participants needed to hear!
I would encourage anyone to get in touch with Rob about arranging a seminar, if you and your club are interested in learning about the rapier. His knowledge is extensive, his teaching skill excellent, and his ability to demonstrate and put into practice what he teaches is admirable. Not only is he a great instructor to have teach at your event, he is also a very friendly fellow and is a delight to have as a guest.
Rob’s club is the Renaissance Sword Club in Reading, Surrey, and you can contact him through their website: