ID #1056

Castle Tintagel and the Japan Armored Battle League

Japan Armored Battle League
Photos courtesy of Castle Tintagel

Our e-mail interview this week is with Jay Noyes, founder of medieval European chivalry, swordsmanship and culture school, Castle Tintagel, and the Japan Armored Battle League, a sports league and MMA promotion. Medieval European castle in Tokyo, you say? Yes – and it sounds all kinds of awesome.

A medieval castle (of sorts) in Tokyo teaching medieval European martial arts and culture. I’m sure this comes as a shock to many of our readers. Can you tell us how this came to be?

I came to Japan 20 years ago to teach English, and brought with me my love of medieval martial arts and worked to develop my skills and organize practice groups and study sessions in parks and civic centers. Finally, six years ago, I decided that it was time to build my own school to further the study of medieval swordwork and chivalric culture in Japan.

What kind of training do you and other instructors have in medieval martial arts? Are there organizations abroad where you receive ranks, like belt systems in Japanese martial arts?

My own training paralleled the rediscovery of medieval martial arts. In the beginning it was fast and loose based on rough pictures and even rougher understanding, but over time I relied increasingly on the rediscovered medieval martial arts texts and the network of similarly interested people throughout the world. Up to now, I have had to rely on personal professional development, taking sojourns to Europe and the US to increase my understanding under different instructors. It is only as of this year that a certification system has been put in place in America, and it my goal to establish one for Japan as well.

How many members are there at Castle Tintagel and what nationalities are represented/languages are spoken?

Currently we have about 50 students in Tokyo and scattered around in Japan. Most of the students are Japanese, but there are also Americans, Canadians, and French. In the past, we have had Chinese, German, and Austrian students as well. In class at times you will hear two or three different languages.

Castle Tintagel is associated with the Japan Armored Battle League, a sports league and MMA promotion – can you tell us about it?

Castle Tintagel is a school for medieval martial arts focusing on authentic medieval technique. The Japan Armored Battle League is a separate medieval sports league and promotion doing aggressive steel fighting under rules approximating those of medieval tournament rules. It runs three members’ clubs who provide teams for our hard-hitting modern tournaments: Dracones, Sanglier, and the Kuroganeshu. As you might guess, that last team is the medieval Japanese samurai team, whose members study various types of Japanese weapon arts. The practices are held at the Tintagel School after hours, but the tournaments are much larger affairs. Our first one was held at Womb, a popular event hall/live house in Shibuya. Although at times we will also do more medievally themed events, you can be sure that our normal tournaments are designed to be appreciated by a modern audience.

Medieval weapons were heavy (from what I’ve heard). Are the weapons/armor used as heavy as the originals? If so, does it require quite a bit of strength to practise?

Japan Armored Battle League combat is not for the weak of body or the faint of heart. Fighters are going full power with realistic steel weapon simulators. Although the modern image

of medieval weapons is quite heavy, they weren’t significantly more so than what was used in the sengokujidai in Japan. The armor is a bit heavier, and depending on the style and quality of its construction, it can be 25 to 35 kilograms. Regarding weapons, of course we can’t use swords in Japan (although axes are surprisingly legal), so we have made strong hard-hitting replacements.

Do women and men practice/compete against each other, or is it men vs. men and women vs. women?

Currently, the international standard for steel combat calls for separated men’s and ladies’ leagues, although they often share practices.

I noticed there are quite a few rules and regulations to abide by, but even with rules and being careful, do injuries occur from time to time?

Oh, yes. The armor does quite a bit to keep you safe, but in a melee with people everywhere, you can never tell when you could take a shot to a bad place. And of course, the halberds — large steel axes on 180cm poles — will dent-in even a thick helmet. A lot of the injuries, though, are similar to those of rugby: sprained joints and dislocations from bad falls or tackles. We don’t like it, but it happens.

Can you tell us a bit about the different styles you teach?

For unarmored combat, I teach 15th century German two-handed sword as well as 15th century sword and buckler (small shield). These are quite detailed, technical styles – far different from the hacking and slashing you see in the movies. In armored combat, I teach weapon and shield (sword and shield, mace and shield, axe and shield), poleaxe, spear, two-handed sword, and dagger. I also teach the skills necessary for fighting against light armor and heavy armor.

You have a shop (Tintagel Shop). Where are the items from? Are they made in Japan, or shipped from abroad?

Almost all of our items come from the the US and Canada, with others coming from Ukraine, Germany, and even India.

How much does it cost to outfit yourself with the required weapons/armor?

If you fight rattan only, you can get a serviceable kit for ¥200,000 to ¥400,000. If you want to fight steel, you can expect to pay ¥300,000 to ¥600,000. However, once you have it, armor lasts quite a while.

(Editor’s note: a rental system is also in place.)

Can you give us a brief summary of what a class entails?

The rough outline of classes at Castle Titagel would be warmup, specific skills practice (for example, wrestling from the bind, use of body language to control the early fight, the various basic cuts and guards), followed by sparring. We have relatively few skill levels – as few as I can get away with, actually. The novice-level students will focus on acquiring foundation skills (cuts and guards for example), the scholars work on practical application of skills, and the advanced scholars work on refinements, rarely used skills, and controlling the fight at all ranges and stages.

You also have culture classes – calligraphy, sewing, etc. Can you tell us a bit about those?

These are special seminar classes that occur from time to time – usually once per month. Guest instructors visit Tintagel and teach the topics. Skills learned will be historically accurate and aimed to show the beauty and technical skill of medieval arts and culture.

Are there medieval fairs in Japan where members gather and mingle?

That is on its way. Although we are not ready to fully announce the event, Castle Tintagel will be hosting a medieval fair based on the Hundred Years’ War. The goal is to have a weekend of fun and battle, with classes, medieval food, fighting, and dance.

Do you have any amusing/horrifying/particularly interesting stories about your time training in medieval European martial arts or at Castle Tintagel?

That is a big question. The nicest part of my life is that it is filled with incident. I have seen the slapstick comedy of a fighter tripping over another in a melee only to plant the pointed beak of his helmet deep into the dirt and I have seen real glory at arms as I participated (on the losing side) in a particularly lopsided fight of nine fighters against one in a forest only to watch the single fighter heroically defeat all comers. These stories can go on and on. Castle Tintagel is a place for emotion and experience and exhaustion and elation and drama: boredom is rarely an issue.

Thank you so much, Mr. Noyes, for taking the time to answer our questions. Readers – Castle Tintagel and its followers might be medieval in spirit, but they’re not living in the past – they’re very much online. Check out Castle Tintagel‘s YouTube page and Facebook page. You can also find the Japan Armored Battle League on Facebook and YouTube.

For an introduction to Castle Tintagel and event videos, check their YouTube channel -> Castle Tintagel

Tags: advertiser, Castle Tintagel, classifieds, Clubs and Interests, European Martial Arts, Features, Hobbies, Japan Armored Battle League, Medieval Martial Arts, Sports

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Last update: 2014-12-19 02:48
Author: Metropolis Classifieds
Revision: 1.2

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