The club was formed as the Aisle O'Var Backswording Clubbe just after the Millennium by Pete 'Buzzsaw' Holland, his wife, Tina 'Long Meg' Holland, and their friend Chaz 'The Groo' Allbrighton.
The underlying principle of the Clubbe was that it should be accessible to everyone, be thoroughly English and taught to a strict syllabus.
The founders won the approval of the Amateur Martial Association, and the club's style of TEMA is now recognised officially as a Martial Art through the AMA, and through them by Sport England.
The Clubbe ran classes in various towns throughout Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire as venues changed hands and class sizes fluctuated, and has participated in, and organised many UK and European tournaments, workshop weekends and demonstrations.
At its roots, though, is the spirit of English Country Backswording. Many HEMA clubs believe that the AOBC is either mad or "well 'ard" to engage in a contact sport without the use of the extensive padding that so many other HEMA clubs wear as standard.
The AOBC, and subsequently the AOAA, believe that 'the best lesson learned is through the kiss of the ash plant': that is, if you don't want it to hurt, don't get in the way!
The wooden cudgel is an effective piece of training equipment that was used by our forefathers for centuries. We do not believe that modern plastic wasters (especially with the wearing of heavy padding) engender the same respect for the opponent's weapon as does open play with fresh wood and limited essential minimal protection.
Our in-club tournaments developed into the national, indeed, international, ECBA tournament season.
The English Country Backswording Association boasts several member clubs and exponents throughout the UK and in other countries. The World Championships have been held recently (until COVID struck) at the Royal estate at Sandringham.
Of course, play with steel swords and the quarterstaff is a different matter, and fighters will not be allowed to spar without adequate protection. However, the lessons learned through cudgel play at the early stages of a student's training will foster the employment of the correct principles of swordplay and provide an enjoyable and accurate experience of sword-fighting.
You notice I don't use the term 'fencing' here.
'Fencing' to the modern ear implies a sporting exchange of strikes and wards. We, on the other hand, teach the art of swordplay as a potentially lethal art as would have been the case with our ancestors. We do this with safety in mind, of course, as we all need to go to work the following day!
A new structure and a new name
In 2020, the founders retired, and the reins were handed over to long-standing club instructor Jed Pascoe. Maister Jed has been running the Sandy branch of the Clubbe since 2016, and his students have enjoyed success in tournament and high marks in gradings.
The original Clubbe name has been retained by Buzz Holland for his many other activities in and around the world of backswording and his career as a film SPACT artist.
The new-look club has decided upon the name 'Academy of Arms' as it is felt that this reflects the widening scope of the disciplines taught within the Academy, and the new brand recognises new training disciplines such as coaching and stickling.
'Stickler' is the title of a referee at a backswording, pugilism or steel tournament. The Sticklers carry large wooden staffs which were traditionally used to beat back the crowds and separate the fighters when things got tough. Sticklers were traditionally hard fighters themselves, and the Stickler's word was law. Hence the expression: A stickler for the rules!
Fundamentally, we practice this art because we love fighting with swords. Everything else is a side issue. But what we do find is that those who join to bludgeon and batter don't last very long, whereas those who stay the course grow an ever-widening interest in swordplay and historical fight in general, and develop confidence, respect for others, and courage. We supply some of the toughest fighters to inter-club tournaments, yet with all humility, I say all are very likeable people.
Join us now and get fit, stay healthy, gain confidence.