The School as a whole comprises a wide range of different organisations, united by a common syllabus, devised and developed by our instructor, Guy Windsor. The local branches have a high degree of autonomy in what and how they train- for example, some groups will follow our Fiore syllabus, but also run training in Victorian physical culture, or 18th century black-powder shooting, which is drawn from other sources. Other groups will stick purely to the School syllabus.
The School of European Swordsmanship, Helsinki was founded in March 2001 by Guy Windsor. The school’s first lessons took place in the Olympic Stadium and the Töölö primary school. The first demonstration lesson was attended by more than seventy people, and the first beginner’s course started with more than twenty people, many of whom are still with the school. In June 2001 the school found its own salle in Jakomäki.
Initially, classes took place three times a week. At first the longsword was the only weapon taught, but rapier was added to the curriculum after five months. Weekend courses gave students the opportunity to become familiar with other weapons as well. The second year saw the school growing steadily. The number of students more than doubled and the number of classes was increased accordingly.
The first branch of the school outside Helsinki opened in Linköping in 2002, and the first branch within Finland opened in Tampere in January 2003 under the aegis of Tomi Försti, Provost. The third year saw an enormous increase in the number of students, who organised themselves into a rekisterointi yhdistys (Suomen Historiallisen Miekkailun Seura Ry) and the training schedule in Helsinki was expanded to accommodate regular training on six days a week. All training fees and equipment sales are now handled by the association (Ry).
Formal beginner’s courses also started during the third year and have proven very popular. In October 2003 the school opened two more branches, one in Turku (founded by Miika Vanhapiha) and one in Lappeenranta (lead by Mikko Hänninen). In the same year, The Swordsman’s Companion was published, which lead directly to the school’s association with PHEMAS of Singapore in August 2005; two hardy souls (Greg Galistan and Chris Blakey) spent a month sleeping on our concrete floor and training 6 hours per day. Since then, Guy Windsor, Provost Topi Mikkola, and Ilkka Hartikainen have made the return trip and taught seminars there.
In March 2006, the fifth branch of the school in Finland opened in Jyväskylä, lead by Jukka Salmi.
Guy Windsor’s second book, The Duellist’s Companion was published in November 2006.
In summer 2007 the school moved to a larger space in the same building.
The school has been growing steadily since, with branches and study groups in Oulu, Joensuu, Kuopio, even Toronto and Seattle.
In 2009 Guy Windsor’s third book was published, The Little Book of Push-ups, followed in 2011 with a book of mnemonic verses, The Armizare Vade Mecum. The first volume of his Mastering the Art of Arms series, The Medieval Dagger, was published in 2012.
Since its inception it has been part of the school’s policy to learn as much as possible from other instructors and researchers. To this end, the school regularly hosts seminars by visiting instructors in western martial arts, and occasional demonstrations and seminars by instructors in the asian arts. The first visiting instructor was Gareth Hunt, from the Dawn Duellist’s Society, who came in July 2001. Since then we have held an average of 3 seminars per year, featuring guest instructors from as far afield as Italy, America and Australia. Our own instructor also teaches regularly in Finland, Sweden, Singapore and at the major international events in the historical swordsmanship calendar.