A look back at Mark Gilbert's visit to Calimacil

A look back at Mark Gilbert's visit to Calimacil

On Thursday, February 15, 2024, we were honored to welcome Mark Gilbert, one of the world's leading swordfighting instructors, to Calimacil!

For almost an hour and a half, Mark Gilbert explained his vision of combat and gave invaluable advice to the participants who came to take part in this unique event!

Here's a look back at an incredible masterclass with a master of his discipline!

Many thanks to Alexandre Girard of the Ordre du Combat Récréatif, without whom having Mark Gilbert would have been impossible!

Many thanks to Alexandre Girard of the Ordre du Combat Récréatif, without whom having Mark Gilbert would have been impossible!

Who is Mark Gilbert?

Mark Gilbert is a renowned swordfighting instructor, tournament competitor and manufacturer of custom LARP weapons for over three decades. He also made a name for himself by founding Riddle of Steel in 1996, with affiliated clubs in Belgium and France.

What sets Mark apart from the rest is his holistic approach to swordfighting. Indeed, his method emphasizes martial arts principles, and he is more concerned with developing creative fighters who can adapt quickly and effectively.

As a professional mentor to both children and adults, he works closely with students in their development, frequently helping them to build self-confidence and break down mental barriers.

Beyond his teaching role, Mark has a formidable tournament record across a range of weapon categories, winning 68 tournaments in total, including numerous gold medals at Fight Camp, the UK's premier HEMA event, and in LARP competitions at all major UK events.

Its workshops offer a playful approach, enhancing the learning experience. Mark's vast expertise and innovative methods make him a fixture in the HEMA and recreational fighting communities.

Before the masterclass

During the day, Mark had the opportunity to visit the factory and put himself in the shoes of the Calimacil artists!

Mark was able to discover all the specifics of making a Calimacil weapon, while having the opportunity to create his own sword with Patrick!

Under the expert guidance of our CEO, Mark molded his own hilt and blade to create the sword of his dreams!

The result lived up to our expectations, to say the least!

This afternoon of exchange, laughter and discovery was a great way to unwind before the masterclass!

The masterclass

After welcoming participants from 5pm to 5:30pm, the masterclass finally got underway! A packed program awaited the participants! Here are the topics Mark covered during this hour and a half

• Distance: Why are you standing so close to me? → Exploring different distances.

• Defence: What makes a good on-guard position? → Analysing stance and body position to optimise initial on-guard.

The problem with Parries → Introducing the flexible mindset and the principles of a dynamic defence.

• Attack: Speed multipliers in sword fighting → Exploring the multitude of factors that influence the speed of an attack.

Forms of attack → Investigating the different categories of attack delivery

• Mastery of self: Why are patterns so bad and how can we reduce them?

Understanding and dealing with stress.

Positive Mindset → Turning a negative into a positive and the practice of acceptance.

• Manipulation of others: Why are patterns so bad and how can we reduce them?

Effective feints → Understanding the elements that make a good feint, including the application of one time feints.

Opponent performance erosion → What can you do to make your opponent fight worse?

• Melee Games: Twenty plus team games developed over the last 30 years, designed to be fun while improving awareness and understanding of group combat dynamics.

• Graded Fights (OCR): Introducing OCR's approach to tracking the evolution of a fighter: graded combat.

The masterclass ended with a 30-minute exchange with the participants, which was extremely instructive and enjoyable!

Interview with the master

Mark played along with us by taking part in a quick interview that allowed us to learn more about him, his future projects and his vision of things in general!

One thing's for sure: we can't wait to welcome him back!

How did you come across Calimacil? 

I have been making LARP weapons since the early 90’s so I had a keen interest in different weapon makers.I saw some of the Calimacil weapons years ago. I researched them in more recent years when trying to find weapons to suit what I wanted.

What is HEMA, and how does it differ from LARP? 

Historical European Martial Arts. Reconstruction of martial arts from historical manuals. Much more focused on combat and the techniques of combat than LARP. LARP is living in and contributing to the creation of a dynamic world.

What do you enjoy the most about combat sports?

Meeting new people, finding new methods that will give me an advantage and teaching and competing at a high level.

You are the founder of Riddle Of Steel; what was your primary goal when you started this company? 

To teach people what I have learnt, to create students that will test me.

In your opinion, what can LARP combat contribute to HEMA combat, and how has HEMA combat improved your LARP combat?

LARP fighting is much more varied that HEMA, with many different weapons, melee’s and battles, as well as many different environments. Combat does not only exist one on one in a hall. I have learnt a number of martial concepts from HEMA that I have then used in LARP. I am always trying to look for new angles to improve my fighting. A higher percentage of HEMA fighters are serious about improving their fighting than in LARP. So there are more people to share ideas with and learn from.

To what extent do you think the weapons used by different groups (LARPers, re-enactors, HEMA practitioners) change the perspectives on combat?

I have done all three and don't really change my overall perspective. However there are some key differences.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Teaching a number of students that have gone on to win gold medals at Fightcamp and won major tournaments at the biggest LARP events in the UK.

What are your three tips for someone looking to improve their performance in tournaments?

Fight as many different people as you can in pressure situations. Work on mental toughness, positive thinking, acceptance.

Lastly, what are your plans for 2024?

I am working on a swordfighting card game and a boardgame. I am setting up a HEMA mentoring business.