Den Of Geek goes on a warrior priest training day

Ahead of Priest’s release on DVD and Blu-ray today, Nick went off to a remote forest to learn all about sword fighting, and becoming a warrior monk...

If you haven‭’‬t yet seen‭ ‬Priest,‭ ‬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 warriors‭? ‬The answer is sort of.‭ ‬A bit.‭ ‬Look,‭ ‬I got to play with swords all day, and that‭’‬s good enough for me!‭ ‬Summoned to a mysterious crypt in an ominous wooded glade‭ (‬actually the rather lovely Abney Park in Stoke Newington‭)‬,‭ ‬I was greeted by a hooded figure who promised to take us to meet our sacerdos,‭ ‬and then train us in the feudal arts of sword and buckler.‭ ‬Which basically meant I‭’‬d be taught sword fighting by a monk‭. Just your average Wednesday afternoon, really.‭

Our robed warrior stepped from the shadows to greet us.‭ ‬He looked absolutely ripped under his cowl,‭ ‬and the glimpses of a mass of tattoos peeking out from the sleeves suggested this guy meant business.‭ ‬He then picked up a long sword and, with a practised air, swung it casually in his hands as he approached.‭ ‬Not for the first time this afternoon,‭ ‬I started to wonder whether learning to sword fight would be as fun and light-hearted as I’d imagined.‭

The possibility of having my head chopped off and rolling through the undergrowth in a bloody mess started to play out before my eyes.‭ ‬I had the monkish equivalent of Darth Maul menacingly eyeing me up,‭ ‬like the easy foppish meat I obviously am‭…

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“‬Alright guys,‭ ‬I‭’‬m Dave.‭ ‬I‭’‬ll be your sword master for the day,‭ ‬nice to meet you.” And so I met Dave Rawlings from the‭ ‬London‭ ‬Longsword‭ ‬Academy,‭ ‬maybe the one of the most softly spoken, patient, and genuinely‭ ‬nice ultimate killing machines I have ever met.‭ ‬Honestly readers,‭ ‬he was a bloody delight.‭ ‬He could probably slice you from head to foot without thinking, though.‭

After sizing us all up, and obviously feeling a disappointment in the quality of his recruits,‭ ‬he dished out our weapons,‭ ‬in this case a sword and buckler.‭ ‬For those who don‭’‬t know‭ (‬and I certainly didn‭’‬t‭), ‬a buckler is simply the small centre part of a shield.‭ ‬It didn‭’‬t look like it could stop a butter knife,‭ ‬let alone a bloody great sword.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬as I was‭ ‬soon to find out, that wasn‭’‬t the point of it.

Dave quickly put us through our sword drills,‭ ‬and taught us all the geometric positions of attack and defence used by the warrior priests in the middle ages.‭ ‬There are seven basic positions to counter every other move,‭ ‬and although at first it seemed limited, you quickly realise these old monk dudes knew what they were on about.‭

The seven positions are just basic concepts, which you can adapt as you see fit,‭ ‬and the buckler really comes into its own during these attacking and defending moves‭ ‬– it’s not really to stop the blows raining down on you from bad-ass warriors;‭ ‬rather, it‭’‬s designed to be a distraction to your opponent,‭ ‬enabling you to knock their sword hand aside when going for a killer blow.‭ ‬I could deal with that.‭

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We then finished our practise moves, and finally given real steel‭ (‬previously we‭’‬d been given plastic swords which, while a okay,‭ ‬didn‭’‬t sate my inner knight enough‭), ‬we were set against each other.‭ ‬Then we went mental,‭ ‬forgetting all our careful training Dave had given us, and started trying to lamp each other instead.‭

Sadly for me,‭ ‬my careful and pin-point sword technique let in a counter-attack, which resulted in a rattling blow landing on my thankfully helmeted head.‭ ‬I can still feel the lump on my head,‭ ‬which just goes to show how hard we were going at it,‭ ‬and how bloody lethal a real sword would be‭ ‬– 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 wouldn‭’‬t be great publicity for him,‭ ‬Dave then took us aside and started to demonstrate more complex moves from the manual he had learnt from.‭ ‬For those interested,‭ this i‬s a medieval manuscript created in‭ ‬Germany in the‭ ‬16th Century, and known as The Tower Manuscript‭ (‬thanks to its long stay in the‭ ‬Tower of‭ ‬London‭)‬.‭ ‬Teaching a form of sword martial arts, it has been translated into English and then given to Dave to learn.‭

The same goes for manuals all over the world,‭ ‬including awesome Samurai ones from‭ ‬Japan.‭ ‬Dave learns them, thanks to his ridiculously high capacity for remembering patterns,‭ ‬and then slays anything he wants with his incredible skills.‭ ‬He demonstrated a few of these skills on us,‭ ‬and no world of a lie, he moved so fast I could hardly see him.‭ ‬It was‭ ‬incredible.

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Finishing the day with a quick bit of battling in a crypt,‭ ‬we were then able to admire ourselves in monk robes holding swords.‭ ‬I loved my sword.‭ ‬It was a dream come true.‭ ‬I also loved my monk robes,‭ ‬which was maybe a latent religious dream come true. The concept of priests and monks as deadly warriors may seem an alien concept,‭ ‬enough to provide a great idea for a film,‭ ‬but as today proved, it is, in fact, an ancient ideal,‭ ‬dating back to the crusades, and perfected through manuals such as we saw today.‭

So if the day ever comes when the church needs to militarise in order to face a vampire threat,‭ ‬they know who and where to turn to.‭ ‬Me, obviously.

Priest is available on‭ ‬3D Blu-ray,‭ ‬Blu-ray and DVD now.

You can learn more about Dave Rawlings and awesome sword skills here.

You can follow Nick on Twitter here.‭

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