As a volunteer-run nonprofit organization, members are an essential part of Triangle Sword Guild's mission. Our instructors, researchers, staff, and officers all volunteer their time to help educate the public on historic martial practices. Contributions and donations from members also make up the main source of TSG financing. In short, TSG is a member-run organization, and we collectively share in the benefits of that combined effort.
TSG membership is open to anyone age 16 years or older who is interested in our training and research methods. It’s important to note that what we offer isn’t for everyone. Some HEMA groups emphasize the cultural aspects of medieval history, requiring historic or semi-historic clothes, noble ranks or titles, historic pseudonyms, or other practices. While many in TSG are interested in the cultural history of the middle ages, our focus at TSG is completely on the martial practice of their weaponry. We require historically accurate weapons and we try to contextualize techniques with their appropriate historical background, but aside from that, we favor modern athletic clothing and training methods.
Some HEMA groups are also more interested in an intellectual approach to martial history, with more of a focus on slow application of the techniques with little sparring or high-intensity practice. While we believe these groups are a valuable resource to the HEMA community as a whole, at TSG we try to strike a balance between the martial and the historical, keeping our techniques rooted in historical sources but also attempting to train these technique in as martially realistic circumstances as possible. Since full simulation of martial reality isn’t always a practical possibility, we believe in applying a variety of training tools and methods to ensure that we avoid as many artificialities as possible.
Some historical swordsmanship groups and sports leagues swing the opposite direction, favoring a brutal, martial (and entertaining) combat system over one rooted in historic context. These systems often include rulesets that limit techniques in a way that favor entertainment, safety, or a modern style over historic practice. While these disciplines offer good physical training and experience in martial fundamentals, this kind of activity is also outside the realm of our focus. Our desire is not just to know how to fight with historic weapons, but to also know how historically these weapons would have been used…and to learn to fight with them in those ways.
For any new members looking for activities that fall outside of what TSG offers, come talk to us. We’d be glad to point you in a direction of a group that better fits your needs. We also have no problem with members training concurrently with groups who have different approaches. A number of our members also are members of the SCA, fencing clubs, asian martial arts, reenactment groups, living history companies, or other medieval-based pursuits. On the other hand, if TSG is what you’re looking for, then welcome! We’re always glad to meet and train with new people interested in historical swordsmanship.
Types of Members
Because the nature of martial training can be dangerous, we make an effort to ensure all new members in TSG are familiar with our training methods, safety procedures, and research process. We also make to make sure that TSG is a good fit for new members, since many people find that they’re looking for something other than what we offer. As such, all new students are considered provisional members until they’ve completed the Fundamentals class. It’s important to note, though, that aside from training intensity and a few minor differences, provisional members are treated the exact same way as full members. In fact, outside of the fundamentals class itself, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.
Our Fundamentals class functions with rolling admission. That is, we don’t have a dedicated beginning and end to the course. Instead, new members are free to show up anytime and jump in. We cycle through a series of basic techniques and students graduate out of the fundamentals class at different rates. Generally, new students stay in fundamentals anywhere between two and six months. Sometime after the mid point in their tenure in the class (or often near the end) the instructor will pull them aside for a 20 minute skill review. This is not a test, just a quick joint training session with the instructor that functions as a check-up to see where members are at. The skill review is useful for determining which skills still need to be honed for the student to graduate from the fundamentals class.
Usually sometime after the skill review, the instructor and student will set a goal for the student’s first prize play. The prize play is a historic artifact that TSG has adopted and modified to its own use. Historically prize plays came in many varieties, but one of the fundamental ideas behind them was that the prizer would step forward and take fights from any challengers. TSG’s first prize play is much tamer, and we primarily use this as a chance to a) give the student feedback on his or her skills in a non-drilling environment, and b) introduce new students to the rest of the club.
During the prize play, the new member get a chance to do a 30 - 60 second fight with each TSG member present. Afterwards each member will then give the new member feedback on things they did well and things they need to improve, then welcome them into the club. The new members isn’t expected to “win” a certain number of these fights or to beat their opponents in any way. What we’re really looking for is a good showing and a chance to offer personal feedback to all new members. After the prize play, the new student moves from the fundamentals to the core class and is considered a full TSG member.
Full members enjoy the same benefits as provisional members, except that they train with the core or focus-level classes (see Curriculum below). TSG also occasionally offers sparring classes, test cutting sessions, or other training that for safety reasons may be limited to full members. Finally, only full members are allowed to serve on TSG’s board of directors, teach classes, or hold a club office. There may be other small benefits to full membership, but aside from that provisional members can expect the same benefits and treatment as full members. Even the dues are the same.
Full members are expected to do what they can to buy their own equipment. At the very least, they should own a fencing mask, elbow protection, and a pair of gloves suitable for sparring. Any lacrosse gloves should be reinforced with leather to ensure that fingers are adequately protected. Members may also purchase any of the HEMA-specific gloves on the market, though we don’t recommend the Absolute Force gloves. For steel sparring, members should also work on purchasing their own torso protection. Most members in the group own SPES Axel Pettersson jackets, though any similar protection will do.
We highly encourage members to buy their own swords as well, but we understand that a steel training sword can be quite an investment. If nothing else a cheap training sword for home and pell work is necessary. We always have extra steel trainers available to borrow at practice, though most long-term members should consider saving up for their own as soon as possible.
For more information, see the equipment page on our website.
Occasionally HEMA members from other groups will move to our area and begin training with TSG. These members are considered associate members. Associate members pay dues like all other members and they need to go through an evaluation and training period like provisional ones (including the prize play). However, due to their experience, associate members may be allowed to start their training in a more advanced class. Once their prize play is complete, associate members are considered full TSG members like everyone else.
TSG Member's Rights
Full members are entitled access to records kept by TSG relating to the general administration of the club, though TSG retains the right to withhold or redact requested documents that contain specific training, financial, medical, or other personal information about other members. TSG will also produce financial reports to its members upon request to account for the spending of membership dues and other revenue.
Full members are welcome to attend TSG board meetings, except when the content of those meetings involves personal or private information concerning other members. Member opinions on club decisions are encouraged, but members do not necessarily have the ability to vote on board resolutions or other official decisions.
Amendment of Bylaws
Thirty days before any amendment to TSG’s bylaws, notification of any change will be sent to TSG’s email list. Members are encouraged to offer their opinion on any changes, either informally over email or in writing to the Board itself.