If you havenâ’â¬t yet seenâ â¬Priest,â â¬you may not be aware of the joys of watching kindly religious figures turn into bad-ass warriors, and then killing vampires with such things as ninja throwing crosses and rosary darts.
But the question was, could a mere Den of Geek writer be turned into one of these holy warriorsâ? â¬The answer is sort of.â â¬A bit.â â¬Look,â â¬I got to play with swords all day, and thatâ’â¬s good enough for me!â â¬Summoned to a mysterious crypt in an ominous wooded gladeâ (â¬actually the rather lovely Abney Park in Stoke Newingtonâ)â¬,â â¬I was greeted by a hooded figure who promised to take us to meet our sacerdos,â â¬and then train us in the feudal arts of sword and buckler.â â¬Which basically meant Iâ’â¬d be taught sword fighting by a monkâ. Just your average Wednesday afternoon, really.â
Our robed warrior stepped from the shadows to greet us.â â¬He looked absolutely ripped under his cowl,â â¬and the glimpses of a mass of tattoos peeking out from the sleeves suggested this guy meant business.â â¬He then picked up a long sword and, with a practised air, swung it casually in his hands as he approached.â â¬Not for the first time this afternoon,â â¬I started to wonder whether learning to sword fight would be as fun and light-hearted as I’d imagined.â
The possibility of having my head chopped off and rolling through the undergrowth in a bloody mess started to play out before my eyes.â â¬I had the monkish equivalent of Darth Maul menacingly eyeing me up,â â¬like the easy foppish meat I obviously amâ…
“â¬Alright guys,â â¬Iâ’â¬m Dave.â â¬Iâ’â¬ll be your sword master for the day,â â¬nice to meet you.” And so I met Dave Rawlings from theâ â¬Londonâ â¬Longswordâ â¬Academy,â â¬maybe the one of the most softly spoken, patient, and genuinelyâ â¬nice ultimate killing machines I have ever met.â â¬Honestly readers,â â¬he was a bloody delight.â â¬He could probably slice you from head to foot without thinking, though.â
After sizing us all up, and obviously feeling a disappointment in the quality of his recruits,â â¬he dished out our weapons,â â¬in this case a sword and buckler.â â¬For those who donâ’â¬t knowâ (â¬and I certainly didnâ’â¬tâ), â¬a buckler is simply the small centre part of a shield.â â¬It didnâ’â¬t look like it could stop a butter knife,â â¬let alone a bloody great sword.â â¬However,â â¬as I wasâ â¬soon to find out, that wasnâ’â¬t the point of it.
Dave quickly put us through our sword drills,â â¬and taught us all the geometric positions of attack and defence used by the warrior priests in the middle ages.â â¬There are seven basic positions to counter every other move,â â¬and although at first it seemed limited, you quickly realise these old monk dudes knew what they were on about.â
The seven positions are just basic concepts, which you can adapt as you see fit,â â¬and the buckler really comes into its own during these attacking and defending movesâ â¬– it’s not really to stop the blows raining down on you from bad-ass warriors;â â¬rather, itâ’â¬s designed to be a distraction to your opponent,â â¬enabling you to knock their sword hand aside when going for a killer blow.â â¬I could deal with that.â
We then finished our practise moves, and finally given real steelâ (â¬previously weâ’â¬d been given plastic swords which, while a okay,â â¬didnâ’â¬t sate my inner knight enoughâ), â¬we were set against each other.â â¬Then we went mental,â â¬forgetting all our careful training Dave had given us, and started trying to lamp each other instead.â
Sadly for me,â â¬my careful and pin-point sword technique let in a counter-attack, which resulted in a rattling blow landing on my thankfully helmeted head.â â¬I can still feel the lump on my head,â â¬which just goes to show how hard we were going at it,â â¬and how bloody lethal a real sword would beâ â¬– any edge on this thing, and my poor face would have had a massive great hole in it.
Perhaps sensing that a load of over-excited journalists being allowed to play with swords and then killing each other wouldnâ’â¬t be great publicity for him,â â¬Dave then took us aside and started to demonstrate more complex moves from the manual he had learnt from.â â¬For those interested,â this iâ¬s a medieval manuscript created inâ â¬Germany in theâ â¬16th Century, and known as The Tower Manuscriptâ (â¬thanks to its long stay in theâ â¬Tower ofâ â¬Londonâ)â¬.â â¬Teaching a form of sword martial arts, it has been translated into English and then given to Dave to learn.â
The same goes for manuals all over the world,â â¬including awesome Samurai ones fromâ â¬Japan.â â¬Dave learns them, thanks to his ridiculously high capacity for remembering patterns,â â¬and then slays anything he wants with his incredible skills.â â¬He demonstrated a few of these skills on us,â â¬and no world of a lie, he moved so fast I could hardly see him.â â¬It wasâ â¬incredible.
Finishing the day with a quick bit of battling in a crypt,â â¬we were then able to admire ourselves in monk robes holding swords.â â¬I loved my sword.â â¬It was a dream come true.â â¬I also loved my monk robes,â â¬which was maybe a latent religious dream come true. The concept of priests and monks as deadly warriors may seem an alien concept,â â¬enough to provide a great idea for a film,â â¬but as today proved, it is, in fact, an ancient ideal,â â¬dating back to the crusades, and perfected through manuals such as we saw today.â
So if the day ever comes when the church needs to militarise in order to face a vampire threat,â â¬they know who and where to turn to.â â¬Me, obviously.
Priest is available onâ â¬3D Blu-ray,â â¬Blu-ray and DVD now.
You can learn more about Dave Rawlings and awesome sword skills here.
You can follow Nick on Twitter here.â