The entry level of Membership in the Guild. The Novice trains in the fundamentals of the art, focusing on footwork, movement, and basic attacks and covers with hands, dagger, and sword. A good foundation of academic learning takes place at this stage and the complete understanding of that material is essential for advancement. There is no sparring or hard-contact drills at this level, so no protective equipment is needed.
Almost all training equipment for the Novice is provided by the Guild:
- Uniform T-shirt
- All study materials
- Wooden Rondel Training Daggers
- Wooden “Waster” Training Swords
- Safety mats for grappling and throws
There are the following exceptions to the equipment that the Novice must provide for:
- Black athletic pants (no shorts)
- Non-marking, preferably flat-soled shoes
The Apprentice is the first level of full Membership within the Guild. The Apprentice trains the fundamentals learned as a Novice with much more intensity and uses a concise “toolkit” of basic attacks and covers in sparring and dynamic drills. The Apprentice is tasked with becoming very proficient with these foundation techniques which embody 80% of all fight scenarios encountered in free-play and tournament-style battle.
In order to support the much more uncertain and hazardous sparring and free-play required to learn the techniques and the accompanying concepts of timing, distance, and space, the Apprentice must acquire the following mandatory safety equipment (all of this is not necessary at once, but failure to procure the necessary equipment will slow or stall the Apprentice’s studies):
- Heavy weight gambeson (padded coat) – approx. $200.00
- Fencing mask (3-weapon or sabre) – approx. $100.00
- Hard or heavily padded hand protection – approx. $100.00
- Hard or heavily padded elbow protection – approx. $50.00
- Hard groin protection – approx. $50.00
- High-quality steel training sword – approx. $500.00 (not immediately, but soon)
It should be noted that Apprentices are not left on their own to procure this equipment. The Guild has developed relationships with high-quality and reliable suppliers and Apprentices will be able to use those avenues for their equipment.
The Scholar is the rank bestowed upon an Apprentice who challenges the Guild Council and Instructors for the acknowledgement that he or she has reached a level of fluency and sublime control over the “toolkit” of foundation techniques that form the base of all further study. The Scholar-to-be faces a gruelling trial that tests all aspects of his or her knowledge, technical ability, and complete control over his or her body and mind.
Once admitted, the Scholar begins the long journey of complete understanding and mastery of the manuscripts and the Guild’s interpretation thereof. This pursuit is accompanied by an intense reflection on the foundations that brought him or her to this point as the Scholar is also an Instructor to the Apprentices and Novices that come after.
The equipment requirements for the Scholar are not as straightforward as those of the Apprentice. With the equipment acquired while an Apprentice, the Scholar is still well served initially. However, to truly master the art, the following items will have to be gained, eventually:
- High-quality steel training dagger – approx. $150.00
- Maille haubergeon (chain-mail shirt) – approx. $400.00
- Hard steel hand protection – approx. $300.00
- Hard elbow, forearm, and knee protection – approx. $300.00
The Journeyman is the last official rank of study within the Guild. Once a Journeyman, the Member has a good working knowledge of the manuscripts and is adept at all weapons and techniques displayed in the “Flower of Battle”. Though the learning never ends for anyone, the Journeyman now embarks on a pursuit of other interpretations and ideas regarding WMA.
The Journeyman is an independent ambassador of the Guild, trusted to represent it well to other groups as he or she shares ideas. The Journeyman also brings back fresh and new ideas and interpretations to the Guild, expanding and enriching its knowledge.
There are no specific equipment requirements for the Journeyman Members, however, most seek out the full heavy armour of the man-at-arms of the Transitional Period if they seek to gain the next and final stage of Membership.
The Sergeant-At-Arms is the highest order of regular Member within the Guild. This senior Member is a Journeyman that, in addition to mastering the techniques appearing in the manuscripts, has built/acquired the full harness of a 14th century knight and is experienced in its use.
The Guild considers someone who can apply all of the techniques dei Liberi describes both in and out of harness the pinnacle of the modern-day man-at-arms. This person is someone who has a lot to share with the world about what combat might have been like for the medieval fighting man.