The clang of crossed blades has begun to ring from the traditionally-tranquil Roberts Creek Community Hall, as a modern-day veteran of historical European martial arts launches hands-on instruction in sword mastery.
Todd Thompson, the founder of Mythic Blade Sword Academy, sharpened his fencing skills as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism after relocating from Ontario to the West Coast.
“I’ve fought a lot with polearms and two-handed weapons through the society,” Thompson said. “I was doing a German technique by [14th-century swordsman Johannes] Liechtenauer. I did that for years and years fighting battles up in Clinton and in other tournaments.”
The village of Clinton, some 100 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, is a hotbed for medieval activity. The small community regularly hosts a mock war involving 200 participants suited up in mail and plate armour. Creative anachronism enthusiasts raised a castle whose redoubts are annually besieged or defended.
Thompson has since diversified his technique, exploring the full breadth of historical European martial arts (known as HEMA for short). Contemporary research by scholars is revealing nuances hidden for centuries.
“They’ve found manuscripts in Europe that have revived the whole art of the two-handed longsword,” Thompson said. “There are a few masters that people have studied, taking pictures of manuscripts and interpreting them. Here, we’re starting with Fiore [a technique named for Italian knight Fiore dei Liberi], learning the guards and attacks that he teaches. It’s like medieval duelling, or ritual art.”
By day, Thompson is an entrepreneur, landscaper, and musician. His passion for role-playing games prompted him to design an interactive surface for tabletop games — only to be beaten to market by a deep-pocketed competitor. He left the digital battlefield bruised but undeterred. With a newly-launched website under his Mythic Blade banner, Thompson is determined to share the benefits of creative conflict with practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, one evening class at a time.
“Learning these skills teaches people about discipline and honour,” he said. “Confidence comes when you get the gear on and start fighting. It’s very similar to karate, and as far as I know, it’s the first sword instruction on the Coast.”
Thompson has assembled an armoury of a dozen swords, blunted rubber blades for beginners and weighty steel two-handers with capped points. For safety, participants in his program wear heavy padding and fencing masks.
Marcus Berger and his son Layne were among the academy’s first registrants. “Todd asked if I wanted to come and play swords with my son, and he didn’t have to convince me one bit,” said Berger.
Gabriel Ditmars, another pupil, wielded a blade onstage in the 2019 Driftwood Players production of Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), but has space-age motivation to thrust and parry. “I love Star Wars,” Ditmars said. “I always watch Jedi duels, even though I also love medieval fantasy. I’ve played with foam replica swords before, just for fun, and I thought I wanted to learn more traditional skills and become better-trained.”
Thompson’s Mythic Sword Academy offers weekly classes for all ages, plus a class for duellers under the age of 12. Background and registration are available by browsing to mythicblade.com.