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Wearing a long green tunic and carrying a sword, spear and shield is David Baskeyfield's regular Sunday morning outfit.

Mr Baskeyfield and about a dozen other passionate followers gather at a suburban scout hall each week to practise accurately a historical European martial art.

The re-enactment group specialises in the late mediaeval era, learning 500-year-old tricks and techniques of traditional sword fighting, using weaponry from the 14th century onward.

This apparently eccentric group of people belong to the 45-member Auckland Sword and Shield Society.


Why they do it becomes clear when Mr Baskeyfield, the society's president, says dancing around in ancient attire and hitting each other with weapons is an important part of maintaining the cultural experience. However, there's more to it than that.

"We are not just a bunch of loonies hitting each other and playing pretend," he says. "For us, this is more than just a hobby. It is about re-establishing our past and ensuring the survival of ancient traditions."

The society is one of around 30 re-enactment organisations in New Zealand. Two other prominent New Zealand re-enactment organisations are the Barony of the Southron Gaard and the Barony of Ildhafn, branches of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Anachronism society representative, Scott Campbell, says there are about 140 members in New Zealand and more than 750 members in Australia. It is the largest re-enactment organisation in the world, with 30,000 members worldwide. Mr Campbell says members love the social aspects of the organisation.

Julian Chisholm has been a member of the Auckland Sword and Shield Society for almost a decade and has made some great friends during this time. "We are friends first but we all enjoy a common interest," he says.

"We all have different professions but it's a lot of fun getting together and having a laugh."

Mr Campbell says members of the anachronism society enjoy the battles, in which accuracy of re-enactments is important but participation is optional.

The Auckland group has the same approach. Mr Baskeyfield says they strive for accuracy but some inconsistencies can occur.


"We try to re-enact events as best we can but, in the past, people fought to kill and obviously we aren't going to do that," he says. "But we try to keep it real and that includes wearing authentic garments and using armour and weapons from the 14th  century."

Authenticity has been even more challenging to achieve since the death some years ago of chief sword-master Steve Hodgson. Mr Baskeyfield says traditional elements of the medieval culture have suffered as a result of the loss.

"There are only a handful of justifiable sword-masters in the world and Mr Hodgson was one of them."

Club member Andrew Kerslake has taken over the sword-master role and has to decipher ancient sword-fighting techniques from historical writing. He says knowledge is often passed down by word-of-mouth so some swordsmanship, such as skill and technique, were lost with Mr Hodgson.

"Sword-fighting is very refined and complex and it is a technique that takes a lifetime to master," says Mr Kerslake.

Club members need a great deal of dedication to be involved at this level.


Thankfully, the club members all have supportive families whose participation varies from making costumes to cooking feasts. Mr Kerslake says his family lives overseas but are very encouraging. "They're very supportive of me, not so much the sport though," he says.

It might take a while to convince his family but Mr Kerslake says being involved in this type of organisation is very satisfying. "It's lots of fun and I love it."

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