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Indonesian Knights Keep Medieval Sword Fighting Alive

Indonesian Knights Keep Medieval Sword Fighting Alive

Armed with blunt swords, a dozen would-be knights are put to the test in Indonesia in a gallant effort to keep alive medieval European martial arts, taught hundreds of years ago.

This is not a scene from Game of Thrones or the Adventures of Robin Hood. It’s a windy Sunday in the center of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, one of the world’s busiest megacities.

Fighters rehearse sword fighting techniques perfected in Europe from the 14th to the 18th century, known as Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA).

Following a warm-up, members of the Gwaith-i-Megyr group take turns showing off their swordsmanship outside the massive Gelora Bung Karno stadium.

"The training is more than I expected. When we ‘spar’ with weapons, the adrenaline of attack and defense is felt more intensely than in close combat"said Gede Indra Krisega, a 23-year-old civil servant.

– Guild of swordsmen –

The Gwaith-i-Megyr group was established in 2016 after several members of a fan club of the English author JRR Tolkien, author of the trilogy of "The Lord of the rings"became interested in the discipline.

Almost 50 people have recently joined the group in Jakarta and the headquarters in the city of Bandung, Java.

The name of the group means "Swordsmen’s Guild" and it comes from the Sindarin language, one of the fictional languages ​​created by Tolkien in his work, explained Ahmad Rizal Soulisa, a founding member of the group.

HEMA enthusiasts study manuals left by past masters to learn, train and revive the movements, Soulisa said.

But it’s not just fighting and a love of movies that inspire duelists: they also study the history of European fencing.

world tournaments

Sekar Widya Putri did not expect much when her friends invited her to join Gwaith-i-Megyr in 2017, but she says she has come to value learning from HEMA.

"I love learning these details of the art, why do we need to stand this way, what parts of the body are open (to attack)"commented.

After years of training, the 30-year-old editor wants to see her name in the international rankings of HEMA, which follows tournaments around the world.

There is currently only one Indonesian on that list of 9,000 competitors, a man who participated in a tournament in 2019 in Taiwan.

"I would like to add another Indonesian to that list"putri said.

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