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The coat-of-arms and motto of the St. Lawrence Swordfighters Guild

The St. Lawrence Swordfighters Guild is an organization dedicated to
the discovery and revival of medieval European martial arts
in a manner that emphasizes safety, fraternity, and authenticity.

Dave Rouleau and Matthew McKee at a stand-off at Ye Olde Kemptvillian Medieval Festival in March, 2013.
The members of the St. Lawrence Swordfighters Guild, like other groups within the rapidly growing Western Martial Arts community, base their studies on the long-silent historical record left by a handful of medieval masters-of-arms.
Through these ancient texts, they seek to uncover the arts of combat used in true life-or-death situations during the tumultuous 14th Century in Europe.
The purpose of the Guild’s efforts is twofold:
  1. To revive the historical fighting arts of Medieval Europe by physically practicing and refining techniques, both as drills and as free-form combat scenarios.

  2. To share that knowledge with the general public through educational programs, presentations, exhibitions, and demonstrations.
The Guild focuses on the hand-drawn images and writings contained in the manuscripts entitled “The Flower of Battle” attributed to the 14th Century Italian fightmaster, Fiore dei Liberi.
The manuscripts (there are at least four versions of them) describe a multi-weapon combat system that employs such simple and efficient techniques that they are applied, with subtle changes, throughout the use of various weapons commonly seen on the battlefield and tournament lists of the day.
The Guild’s instructors have spent many years using these techniques with real (blunted) steel weapons and surprisingly different movements than you normally see in modern entertainment.
Is This Martial Art Safe? safe as you can be when someone else is swinging a sword at you.
In all seriousness, the manuscripts the Guild study depict a devastatingly effective method of maiming and killing an opponent in mortal combat. To put these techniques into practice the way they were intended in today’s society would be both criminal and suicidal.
The paramount concern for practitioners of these martial arts is safety. That safety is achieved by:
  • Rigorous and incremental training, beginning with solo drills, followed by controlled contact drills, then a gradual introduction to speed and force with proper control and protective equipment.

  • Specially designed body protection and purpose-built blunted weaponry at all levels of contact.

  • An absolute demand for a calm and peaceful approach to the practice and application of these arts.
All martial artists are our brothers or sisters and the tremendous violence that these techniques embody is emulated in practice only as an exercise in historical interest, personal growth, and physical development with kindred spirits. Peace must reign.
If you are interested in joining the Guild or want to know more about what its like to train with us, see the Training section.
How Did The Guild Start?
After many years of training and participating in tournaments and public events with The Ottawa Medieval Sword Guild (OMSG), Matthew McKee decided to form a school of Western Martial Arts south of Ottawa, the city in which he grew up, to teach and practice the skills he had learned.
The St. Lawrence Swordfighters Guild opened in 2012 and is based out of Kemptville, Ontario, spreading Western Martial Arts to Eastern Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. It strives to maintain close bonds with other schools in Canada and throughout North America in order to share knowledge and experiences as the revival of Medieval European Martial Arts grows.
The Guild regularly participates in tournaments, demonstrations, and public school presentations. For more information on Guilds upcoming and past activities as well as what they can do for your event, see the Events section.
In June 2012, Sandy Durocher of Navigator Communications, created a short video from footage shot of the Saint Lawrence Swordfighters Guild demonstrations.
Click the image on the left to go to the video on YouTube. There is also more information on the feature in the Multimedia section.
Western Martial Arts
Western Martial Arts (WMA) and Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) are terms that are used almost interchangeably to refer to the fighting arts stemming from cultures that rose out of Europe.
They are used most often to denote the martial techniques that have been discovered (or recovered, as we like to think of it) from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the early modern periods.
The Guild focuses its activities around the study and interpretation of the techniques of the Medieval Italian Swordsmaster Fiore Furlano de Civida d'Austria delli Liberi da Premariacco (ca. 1350s - 1410s), more commonly known as Fiore dei Liberi. His true life-and-death battle techniques appear in several versions of his masterwork "The Flower of Battle" (1400/1410).
"The Flower of Battle" (Flos Duellatorum/Fior di Battaglia) is the third oldest European martial arts treatise and by far the most complete as a comprehensive combat system employing both unarmed and armed techniques using the most prominent and effective hand-to-hand weapons of the period.
The Guild primarily sources the Novati/Pisani-Dossi and Getty versions of the manuscript as they are the most complete, detailed, and orderly of the four extant versions (the Morgan and Paris being the other two).
Though the Guild bases the majority of its practice around the dei Liberi combat system, there are other significant medieval manuscripts that it examines as contemporary combat variations that would have appeared on the battlefield during the same period.