GW: I’m here today with Jason Kingsley OBE, co-founder and CEO of the games company Rebellion Developments, which also owns 2000 AD. And he’s the man behind the YouTube channel Modern History TV starring Warlord, which goes into depth and detail regarding many aspects of medieval life, most notably combat and horsemanship, but also aspects of daily life. So without further ado, Jason, welcome to the show.
JK: Thank you very much. That’s a very grand introduction. I won’t insist you do it more or gild the lily further. That was great, thank you.
GW: But I think we can agree that Warlord is the real star of the show, right?
JK: He is a magnificent horse, yes. It’s quite a funny story how I found him. He I was at an event, a jousting event down in Lulworth, and a woman came up to a colleague of mine who said, I’ve got a horse for sale, which is a slightly unusual phenomenon. And he wasn’t looking for a horse, and he said, well, you might be interested. I said, I’m not really looking for a horse, but well, you know, go for an adventure. Have a look. And I saw this horse in the field, and he was scruffy and dirty and not particularly well cared for from what I could see. But I rode him and I instantly realised that he was a fantastic horsey athlete and the rest is history. I took him on and trained him up. So yes, it’s a rather nice origin story.
GW: Yeah, that’s lovely. So whereabouts are you at the moment?
JK: I am sitting in my farm in Northamptonshire.
GW: That’s where I met you and we did some shooting.
JK: That’s right. Yeah, in the indoor school. There was that long thing where we’re discussing one small element of Fiore plays with man against mounted cavalry or footman against mounted.
GW: A lot of my listeners are gamers. And so for them, I do have to ask, how did Rebellion come about? And why is it so successful?
JK: Well, I’ve been a gamer in various guises since the earliest days I can remember. I remember inventing a variation on Monopoly when I was about six years old, which involved nuclear warheads. As people who may or may not know monopoly, actually, most of us don’t know the rules. We play it, but we don’t really know the rules. But you sort of build houses and then you build hotels and charge people money, and it all gets very fraught. And I felt that it was a bit sort of boring once you had hotels everywhere, the game was over. So I thought, what could we do to reduce the hotels back down to rubble? And I thought nuclear rockets. So I initiated this idea that you could also with money buy nuclear warheads and you could roll the dice. You could launch them from any one of your housing squares and you could have one, two or three dice rolls. And wherever it landed, all the housing was taken away and it was reduced back to not owned by anybody again and keep the game going. It worked surprisingly well. And also, there’s a risk that if you’re very dominant you actually blow up your own housing, which is quite representative of geopolitics, right?
GW: Absolutely. Yeah. Blue on blue, they call it.
JK: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So I did that. And then I played role games, I was one of the first kids that I was aware of at school that played Dungeons and Dragons and a variant called Tunnels and Trolls and Rune Quest – tabletop playing, and I managed to persuade a teacher to donate a cupboard for a small group of role players to play at lunchtime. You were meant to go outside to play. You had to have a special club in my school to stay indoors. The benefit of that was you didn’t actually have to stand around outside getting freezing cold in the winter. So I started a role playing game society before the first wave of Dungeons and Dragons, first edition Tunnels and Trolls and I imported rulebooks from America back in the day when you sent your postal orders off and you had to wait months, literally, to get things back. It’s very exciting. Not like these days. Everybody’s spoilt. All this was used to be fields when I was a lad, but anyway, I’m reminiscing. And continued in that way, and then computers came along. My brother was very interested in computers. We had an enormous computing room at school with some donated enormous computer that’s probably about as powerful as most people’s microwave ovens now. But it was again quite compelling, didn’t have any VDU displays. It had a ticker tape display punch you could programme by punching holes in tape. And literally you could carry a programme with you on a band of paper rolled up in your pocket, which is rather nice and sort of continued with formal education, went to university to do a zoology degree, which is interesting. A study of animals and the environment. I always loved history. I always loved the medieval part of history and the fact that large numbers of people lived a totally agrarian life. Not quite subsistence level farming, but sometimes not far off it, and how fascinating that was for me. And it sort of tied in with the role-playing as well. Fantasy role playing always seems to be a lot of it steeped in this medieval component. Obviously, it gets fantastical as well, with magic spells and dragons and things. But a big component of it was real English-style medieval history and then then decided once we’d finished degrees Chris and I decided to start Rebellion just because we both were making computer games at the time as fun, as a hobby. And the rest is history, you start a company, arguably quite naively. And you find your way through the jungle of the real world to the point where I’ve now got over 450 full time members of staff in four different locations across the UK and huge number of outsourcers we work with and we sell games like Sniper Elite and Zombie Army, and most recently, Evil Genius 2 worldwide to a global audience digitally and physically. Yeah. I never really imagined it would get this successful, but we seem to be doing something right.
GW: Well, I guess if you make something that people want and enjoy and make it available, then why wouldn’t they buy it?
JK: Yes, we’re very interested in making games we want to play, which some people have said, oh, you should analyse the market and look at market segmentation and you know what? There is a value to be doing that sometimes if you don’t really know the industry, perhaps. Or if you’re a much bigger multinational, perhaps. But at the end of the day, I want to be able to play the things we make or read the comics that we publish or read the books that we publish. You’ve got book publishing, Solaris Worlds, as well as 2000 AD and the graphic novels. I don’t like the idea of having a company that does something that I don’t care about, if you see what I mean?
GW: I totally see. I don’t really run a company, “I own my job” is a better way to describe my business set up. But I have freelancers who work for me in various capacities. But there are in the writing world, there are definitely people who write to market. They figure out, oh, there’s a gap in the market for a romance with werewolves and vampires, right? And so they write that. But most writers I know, they write the book they want to read or they write the book. They feel it like, I mean, I tend to write books because I need to learn something and while I’m figuring out, for example, a specific historical fencing system, writing a book on the subject is the easiest way to channel and organise my thoughts and basically make the whole thing an effective learning process for me. And then, oh, at the end of it there’s a book with a bit of editing and off it goes.
JK: I think it’s wonderful, but I was going to ask you if you have this same phenomenon as I do. Obviously I try to generate videos on the Modern History TV show and why it’s called Modern History is something I’ll explain to you later. Because that’s wrong. Basically, it should be the Medieval History. But anyway, when I do my research, which I try to do for subjects, I try not to pass on this sort of accepted sort of norms that everybody goes, well, this is how it was, and you look into and you think actually, it wasn’t like that. The evidence we have is it was this and that’s what I try to do. I try to unpick some of those sort of nonsenses that come about largely actually as a result of, dare I say it, computer games, TV and films and sometimes books are very influential. Thing is, I do the research and we do the video. My partner Cass, she does the filming and the editing, and sometimes afterwards I keep doing research because it’s an interesting subject, and sometimes I find many more things that I wish I’d put in. And is it the same with a book? Is it is not the same?
GW: Yeah, the way I get my head around it, is every book, when I produce a new book it’s the first edition of that book. And as I keep learning about that particular subject then at some point I will go back and produce a second edition, maybe even a third edition. So the way I managed to get it out the door is by making the assumption that this isn’t the last word.
JK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, actually. That’s interesting because you’re sort of “this is my first pass at doing the book”, because I would think doing getting a book finished is actually quite a task.
GW: Yeah. Writing is actually, for me, fairly easy. Finishing, it is really difficult, because there’s always going to be the next thing. Let’s say I write a book on what my latest book is called The Windsor Method: The Principles of Solo Training, and I’m going through it now making monthly challenges to my listenership. And we have a different challenge every month. So one month it was prioritise sleep. One month was prioritise your diet and one month is prioritise strength training. This month we’re in prioritising range of motion and so on. And I’m using the chapters from the Solo Training book as the hooks for each month and a couple of times I’m like, yeah, I that’s what I thought when I wrote it. But really, I need to add this, this and this and that, that and that, and I’m compiling this lengthy series of additions to the second edition so in a couple of years time when it’s had time to marinate, I’ll be producing the second edition of the book because, you’re never going to stop learning and if you wait until you’ve got all the information you’ll never publish. And so the general body of knowledge out there won’t grow if you don’t publish. But if you wait for the completion, it won’t grow.
JK: I think that’s the same for pretty much every sphere of knowledge, or at least it should be. One of the challenges for me is the equestrian arts. There’s a small amount written in some of the treatises we’ve got, which is which is really interesting to explore. But there’s a huge amount missing when you are an experienced horse rider you know the horse’s lateral movement is completely natural. But it’s very hard to illustrate. I mean, quite frankly, lateral movement to human beings is quite easy and hard to illustrate as well. I would imagine you could tell me more about that, and the ways you can move a horse are hugely more complicated than some people who don’t know about horses think. One of the areas I’m interested in is how to be effective on a horse one handed with a weapon, or sometimes no handed with a two handed weapon. And there’s so little evidence to look at, and you have to do a lot of extending what you know as well, because horses are the same, arguably, or maybe they’re not, and I find that fascinating. I quite like the idea that we don’t know a lot of stuff because it means it’s exciting when you’re on that journey, how boring would the world be if we knew everything about everything. This is why I find certain types of dogmatic book, let’s put it that way, in the broadest possible sense, you know, this is how it is. I find that really frustrating because I presume the writer would have finished that book and then afterwards gone, actually, I missed this bit out. I missed this bit out. Oh, well, never mind that.
GW: So there’s always a compromise when you’re writing because you can’t put everything in. You can’t. You can’t say the same thing from 27 different points of view. It just doesn’t work as a book. So you’re always editing and leaving bits out. And you can present the skeleton of the thing, but you can’t present the fully fleshed thing.
JK: Yeah, and I find sometimes context is so important and I might add implied context in a lot of my videos that I do is sort of England, medieval in the broadest possible sense of the word, but probably middle to late medieval rather than early medieval. And you know, I talk about shields, for example, I talk about the evolution of shield shapes and why they might have been like that. Might it have been fashion, changes in tactics? Who knows? And then people say, you didn’t mention the Roman Shields and you didn’t mention the Hoplite shield. You didn’t mention the African Zulu shields. There’s a lot of other shields in the world as well. I could have literally talked for 10 hours on shields around the world. And when I say medieval, I mean, for me, anyway, it’s shorthand for English medieval. And the thing is, it becomes very cumbersome to say every time I am talking about roughly this period in time and roughly this geography, I mean, the north of England was very different. Northumberland was very different in the medieval period, and the south of England is very different. So I’m really actually talking about a particular part of medieval England. And you suddenly start drilling into it and you think there’s so many exceptions, but I’ve also got to try and find the truth. And as an author or presenter or communicator, you’ve got to simplify in many ways, simplify without making it inaccurate. But I think that’s partly our job is to try to simplify. Same with computer games, actually, interestingly enough, because computer games are all about what ifs and wouldn’t it be great to be an elite sniper in the World War II? Well, maybe it wouldn’t be, actually, there’s an awful lot of waiting around when you’re a sniper and lying in puddles and pooing in a bag and getting shot at as well. So there’s a lot of wish fulfilment in a lot of entertainment forms. But you also have to simplify it for people that are not elite snipers. I always remember watching an episode of Top Gear where those professional drivers got into Formula One cars and they can’t drive them because it’s a very specialised skill. Yet they’re still professional drivers. And then if you extrapolate that to having a computer game about being a Formula One driver, you really necessarily have to simplify it so that your average player can actually have a fun game. This is a part of computer games that sometimes people don’t realise you have to do. It’s not dumbing down, but it’s sort of simplifying and extracting the essence that makes Formula One or World War II sniping really good.
GW: It’s not dumbing down or simplifying something to have a beginner’s course on a subject. When I’m teaching somebody’s swordsmanship for the very first time we don’t go into the specifics of second intention, or power generation for hitting really hard. The subject is incredibly broad and deep and vast. But if you tell that to the beginner, they’re just going to drown. So instead, you give them, OK, here’s a good place to start. What are you interested in? Let’s swing a sword like this. How’s that feel? OK, now let’s reach a little bit further or time it a little bit differently or whatever. And that’s not that’s not dumbing down. That’s just finding the beginning of a thread that you can then gently tug to unravel the whole thing.
JK: Do you find strange words actually get in the way as well, especially because a lot of our treatises are in non English language. Well, some are, but there’s an awful lot that are in German or Italian. And when we were doing our video, you were mentally reading the medieval Italian as you were going along and necessarily translating it for me because I don’t understand medieval Italian. But sometimes if you’re telling people to do a particular move and you use a word that’s unfamiliar to them, that’s actually a barrier, perhaps.
GW: My view on it is the student eventually needs to know the proper terms to use, like when you when you take up any new skill, you have to learn the proper terms. When you take up horsemanship for the first time, you have to know the parts of the tack and the names for the specific things and what a flying change is and so on and so forth, right? There’s always going to be jargon in any area of research or skill or whatever. And the thing is, what I like to do is, let’s say we have a bunch of guard positions and they have names like posta di donna or posta di fenestra or posta fontare. And that’s just like throwing gibberish at somebody, and it’s not helpful. But if they’re doing a particular action where they’re taking the sword from the right shoulder and they’re cutting forwards and then it’s coming down to the left hip and then up to the left shoulder, you say, oh, incidentally, you’re in posta di donna destra, women’s guard on the right. And as you cut, you went through a position, called posta longa, long position and then it came down to your left hip, which is posta dente di zenghiaro, position of the wild boar’s tooth. And then you brought it up to your left shoulder, which is posta di donna la sinestra, women’s guard on the left side. And so they have the motion which they can then, when they’re ready to, attach names to. So the terminology becomes a shorthand for the thing that they’re doing so they can talk about it with other people and what have you. But I never, ever line up a class and test them like that. Like, “OK, everybody posta di donna destra now!” Because it’s not about the language. And in fact, yes, you’re a gamer, you’ll appreciate this. I created a card game which teaches people Fiore’s Art of Arms, or at least the sword fighting part of it and the genesis of that game was I was chatting with one of my students after class and we were going on about, well, why do people find it so difficult to remember the terminology? These same people might know the names of 200 different football players or 500 different Pokemon characters or whatever. Memory isn’t the problem, it’s attaching meaning to the words that is the problem. And so I thought, Well, OK, in the Second World War, they had these decks of cards which had, for example, German aeroplanes silhouettes on them. So you can recognise, oh, that’s a Henschels or whatever. And in Afghanistan, they were using decks of cards with the photos of the top most wanted terrorists. So, oh that bloke, he looks like the 9 of diamonds. It just creates this kind of thing. And so why don’t we do a deck of cards with Fiore’s guard positions and blows and various bits of technology on it, and why don’t we make it into a game? And that’s what we did. So it fills that gap for somebody who has difficulty learning the terms, they can just play the game and it is incredible how quickly with the right kind of multiple inputs, so like, oh, you’re in posta di donna. I will strike with riverso fendente, boink. Because it’s written on the card and you tend to say what you’re doing when you’re doing it. And within a couple of games, people are starting to use the terminology just like that.
JK: Fascinating. So it’s a really, really good learning device, actually playing a game, not trying to learn things or not trying to memorise, using it naturally. Yeah, you’re absolutely right about the equestrian terms as well, because it’s exactly that, in that each part of the horse has specific names that are specific to the horse and confusing. The legs of a horse are actually surprisingly complex and bend in different ways than you might expect. Ever tried drawing a horse from memory? You realise that it’s quite difficult. But then again, sometimes you get these wonderful technical words, which actually when you translate them back into English, are fairly ordinary. Part of my zoology study, a lot of bugs and insects have really complex words until you translate it back from the smattering of Latin that I have and realised it’s a “brown hairy moth” said in Latin or, you know, or a “Red Winged Fly”. But the Latin almost obscures it, but it allows it to be a code that can be translated by somebody who speaks Brazilian Portuguese, as well.
GW: And it’s specific to domain. And the thing is, like in in German, we have Oberhau, which is a blow from above, literally “over strike”. And in Italian, that same thing is a fendente, which is like a cleaving strike. But the thing is, if you have one or other Fiore Italian stuff or the Liechtenauer German stuff as your kind of native language, when you learn, the other one it is really useful to have different terminology because they’re not done quite the same. There are nuances of difference in the way Oberhau is treated in the German systems to the way fendente is treated in the Italian systems. And if you have a way of keeping them linguistically separate, you can be specific about what it is you’re trying to do.
JK: Hmm. Is there is an English equivalent of those? Is that with overhand strike?
GW: Well, yeah. A fendente would be a descending blow or cleaving blade or a downright blow. All of those are correct. Mandritto just means forehand and riverso means backhand. So just like in tennis. The sottani is from below. So, mandritto sottani is a forehand from below. None of it is like, really special. I mean, the guard names are a little bit whimsical, almost.
JK: Yeah, I like those because they’re a bit fantasy, aren’t they? I love that. Take The Guard of the Woman or I see you’re using the Guard of the Boar. And I think that’s really cool. You could write that in a book and the reader, if they didn’t know, wouldn’t realise that you would talking about anything, they would just think it sounded cool.
GW: So yeah, it’s kind of helpful to have that kind of specificity. So for example, Fiore’s posta breve is quite similar to the German guard, pflug. But they’re not the same. Pflug is generally chamber to one side or the other and posta breve is in the middle. So yes, OK, we would say pflug was basically breve held to the side, but we can just say pflug when you mean one thing and posta breve when we when they mean the other. So it’s useful to have that kind of specificity, I think.
JK: I know we’re probably going into details that we might not want to explore in the podcast, but I was wondering, is there any evidence of any lost treatises that we that that that we ought to have, that we don’t have any physical remains of that you’re aware of?
GW: Yes. I can’t put a finger on a name just off the top of my head. But there are, for example, references in catalogues of collections from, for example, the 17th century, which would suggest that there should be this particular version of a manuscript that we don’t know where it is.
JK: Right, right. So there are still secrets.
GW: Absolutely. But we have one thing we are not short of anymore is primary sources. We have a massive abundance of primary sources. I totally respect and admire these scholars who go hunting around in archives and sometimes occasionally discover previously unknown or believed to be lost manuscripts from Fiore or manuscripts from whoever else or even printed books. But, honestly, if you just want to get cracking and swing swords around in an historical manner, there are plenty of sources to choose already. The one thing I wish somebody would find is an Italian source for the Storta or Messer Falchion. Basically, a machete-like sword, because we know the Italians had them. And we know the Germans had something very similar. And there are loads of German sources for it, and there are no Italian sources for it. And that bugs me. I want to see the Italian sources for that. There’s bound to be one.
JK: Somewhere, somebody’s got it and don’t know have it. This is the amazing thing about our archives. And you know, I had the privilege of walking around the back of the Royal Armouries quite a few times in their stores. And for those who don’t know, all museums typically have quite a lot more not on display than they have on display. And obviously the curators, part of their job is deciding what to put in and how to contextualise it and that kind of thing. There’s an awful lot of stuff which is beautiful but not displayed for general consumption. It’s literally on the shelves and literally in racks. And you see all these beautiful things you think, wow, you’ve actually got 26 of those and they are all wonderful.
GW: And you are like, are you sure you can’t part with just one?
JK: Exactly. And you look at them and you say, Oh, that’s interesting. Yes, gosh. And it must be the same in libraries with books and manuscripts and stuff. Even some of them, these places are so old and so big and vast they probably don’t know what they have got.
GW: And modern cataloguing and modern library scholarship has advanced in leaps and bounds, whereas back in the old days it was basically you had to know the right librarian who happened to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of this particular chunk of the library. And you had to be nice to them so that they would go, oh yeah, you seem like a decent fellow. Yeah, come with me. Let me take you down to the stacks, is this what you were looking for? And is it is changing and it’s becoming a bit more a transparent and open. But yeah, just cataloguing everything, because it only takes someone who doesn’t quite know what they’re looking at to mis-describe a thing for it to be effectively hidden in plain sight. And sometimes, for example, a lot of the German material is bound in what are called house books, which are these commonplace books, which might have stuff on fireworks and medicine and planting, and basically all the stuff that the person who owned the book was particularly interested in. And yet there’s this fabulous, never-before-seen longsword section, which would just be like catnip to us. But because the librarian didn’t happen to spot that bit or it just got missed out in the cataloguing, we have no idea that it is there. So basically, what we have to do is open every single book, and that just takes a lot of permissions and a lot of time. And it’s really hard work, but we are not short of sources.
JK: Yeah, it’s not the main focus, is it? I mean, there was a recent debate about what is HEMA going around, I don’t know whether that is of any value to discuss briefly.
GW: Go ahead.
JK: Well, there was whole concept of, if you’re not using the sources, it’s not HEMA and I would agree with that. But I also think you’ve got to develop from those sources as well. And my particular passion is the horse side of things. And there is some, there is quite a small amounts of it, but it’s quite valuable. Some of it’s bizarrely specific, like how to defend yourself if you’re carrying a lance and somebody else is mounted with a crossbow and I’m thinking, Well, OK, that defensive position probably gives you a 10 percent less chance of being hit by a crossbow, which is better than nothing, but it seems like a bit of a desperate position to be in. I’d prefer to gallop away as fast as possible and get out of range, but what do I know? And I find that quite interesting, because you almost have to uncover it, but you will almost certainly never know whether it’s “correct” in inverted commas or historical.
GW: Yeah. Thing is to my mind, history is all about the written records.
JK: It’s literally what “history” means, isn’t it?
GW: Yeah, exactly. We also have a living history, which is the attempt to recreate skills and pastimes and activities that people used to do back in the day, and there is experimental archaeology, which is basically figuring out how these artefacts that have been dug out would actually work by literally messing around with them and figuring them out. One of the best examples of which was there was this ceramic pot that kept being found in various digs with weird holes in it. People thought it might be a cheese strainer or something like that. And somebody figured out that it’s actually a Bunsen burner because if you put just the right stuff in the bottom of it and you put it the other way up and light it, you get this collection of hot gases which ignite and you get basically a Bunsen burner for soldiering stuff with. So that’s experimental archaeology in a nutshell. And to my mind, we need all of these things and for it to be properly historical. So, yes, written sources absolutely, but also the living history side of things. I mean, I have friends who have gone on lengthy or 100 km pilgrimages wearing only medieval gear and carrying only medieval sort of stuff. So they have an understanding of how medieval clothing works in the wilds that is invaluable. You have spent an awful lot of time in armour on horseback. That changes how you look at armour. I imagine you would look at the way a particular piece of armour is cut or shaped and you go, right, that’s so it’s not going to cut into your leg when you’re sitting on a horse.
JK: Absolutely right. Just simply how your tacit plates are attached and how a saddle interacts with your armour as well.
GW: And so we need to draw from all of these disciplines to get as clear as possible a picture of how it was actually done back in the day. I distinguish between combat sports and martial arts, which is probably just me that does that. But martial arts is something where it is effectively a military art and is intended for mortal combat. Whereas a combat sport would be, for example, like fencing or even jousting, if you’re not trying to kill the person on the horse and they’re not trying to kill you, to my mind, it is a combat sport. And what combat sports is, they provide this fantastic little crucible, a window in which there are all sorts of constraints that make it a survivable encounter. I mean, nobody knows about kicking and joint locks like a modern martial mixed martial artist competitor. Because in that crucible, they can do extraordinary things. But of course, it would be a very different fight if somebody threw a bowie knife into the ring.
JK: Yes. Yes.
GW: And so to my mind, my focus is on the martial arts side of it. But again, the “art” is important because it has to be artistic. Really with modern military weaponry and aircraft and nuclear missiles and what have you, we’re not really doing a martial art in a modern sense. But there is there’s something artistic in the way that these combat systems are organised and articulated, and there’s often, particularly in like medieval combat, there’s a massive element of display, even especially in actual warfare. Well, if you think about how the Italians used to fight each other in the 14th century, they would mostly march around in formation with fancy gear on until one hired professional army would be in a superior position, and then they’d have a little bit of argy bargy just to make it look good for the people who were paying for it. And then one side would surrender to the other, which whoever had the superior position would accept the surrender of the other one and they would all go away. There’s a famous example in one of Ewart Oakeshott’s books – I can look it up and put it into the show notes – where one side, I think it was Venice against Bologna, something like that. One side started shooting with actual guns. And so the other side abandoned the usual rules of war and just went smashing into them and slaughtered them. Because if people were allowed to do that kind of shit, war would get really dangerous.
GW: So there’s definitely an artistic component.
JK: Yeah. I actually think armour is a lot like that. I think especially if you’re wealthy, you have good armour that all the tests we see people shooting long bows. I mean, guns change it all. But the most expensive plate armour would mostly keep you alive, apart from exceptional circumstances and therefore, I think for the rich and wealthy and those in power, medieval battle wasn’t that lethal. I mean, it obviously was lethal, we do know that people did die. You know, let’s face it, Richard III died in combat. But I think for many of them, they didn’t actually expect to die. I mean, not saying that people go to warfare to expect to die, but I think probably their expectations of their likelihood of dying were actually quite low. They might get injured, they might get taken away, but the armour would protect them almost entirely. And therefore it wasn’t such a threat to go into battle the same way as if you were a peasant with a pickaxe, basically.
GW: Well, think of the beginning of Much Ado About Nothing, where the prince comes back and everyone’s happy because they’ve just come back from a war and “few of any sort and none of name” were killed.
JK: Right, now that’s interesting. Yeah.
GW: Isn’t that an interesting distinction?
JK: None of name, yeah.
GW: Because and of course, if you’re wearing really good armour, then you are a target for ransom and you’re a target for, you know, “take out the officers” is usually good policy. But yeah, an awful lot of what went on in many battlefields, I think, was taking for ransom. I mean, think of Marshall Boucicaut, who was captured at Agincourt and taken back to Britain, never actually went back to France because his ransom was so expensive the French crown couldn’t afford it.
JK: Yeah. Good point. And think of the outrage of the people that had given up. They’d been captured and were held in the in the baggage train and they were then slaughtered. They got executed by Henry’s archers because he couldn’t get these men at arms or his knights to do it because that was against the rules. He had to get the “low life”, in inverted commas, to actually slaughter those men. And it was an outrage. Because they’d stopped fighting. They’d done their bit. They’d stopped fighting. And he was worried that there was a substantial number of them in his rear. It’s no longer that sort of Italian manoeuvring for position, and everybody’s going to drink together afterwards and make some money. It becomes one of those, almost total war, like Towton was where everybody was trying to kill everybody. And lots and lots of people died. It’s almost like there are two different sorts of medieval battle going on. There’s a slightly more flamboyant posturing posing one which is still potentially dangerous if the wrong kind of person. And then there’s the war of succession, where you genuinely do need to kill the other posh guys as well. We’ll never really know. And then you have the whole concept of heralds identifying people then.
GW: Yeah, having all over yourself so obviously everyone can see from across the field who you are. Which on the one hand, is sort of braggadocio. And on the other hand, is also, look, I’m super valuable. You really probably shouldn’t kill me because I take in my army because that’s worth quite a lot of money. But really, come on, you can do much better. If you capture me, take my armour because that’s kind of part of the deal. But then, my family will give you loads of money and you can buy yourself a nice big farm.
JK: There’s also the terror factor as well because you see somebody over there that’s got a reputation of being an absolute nutter who probably will kill you and is noble as well. I mean, the Black Douglas, a famous Scottish knight, was known. He died in some kind of mad suicidal charge, I think in Spain, I can’t quite remember. But he was notorious and basically everybody used to run away from him because he was an absolute psycho and would genuinely try to kill you. The implication being that he was more dangerous than the average person by quite a long way. He was genuinely trying to gouge your eyeballs out and chop your head off, and everybody was kind like, let’s not fight him, let’s just run away.
GW: So I mean, obviously, you are madly keen on medieval combat and what have you. And so how did you get into it and what made you start Modern History TV? How did that come about?
JK: Well, I can’t remember not being interested in knights and castles. It sounds weird. I also loved horses. I was lucky enough to get a pony at the age of about eight, managed to nag my parents, and I subsequently realised that we didn’t have a foreign holiday from that point onwards, so they were obviously spending all their available money on our education and my pony. And I used to love going on long rambles through the countryside, literally mounted mounted rambles, I’d follow bridle paths, but I’d also go off bridle paths and just wander around, as you are as a kid, going on adventures. I never really connected the two together until I was a bit older. And then I saw at a re-enactment some people on horses in armour and I thought, oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t realise, because I normally associated it with stunt men and things like that and plastic armour and string mail. And I decided to investigate and get involved. And I remember going along to the first training session where the group Destrier was testing people out for riding skills. And I just thought, well, okay, I’m assuming I’ve got good riding skills, given that I’ve been riding for 20 years and competing at international level. But you never know. I did showjumping and dressage. It was the British student riding team and we won the World Championships. So I was this competitive sports rider as well with my own horses that I trained, played polo as well at quite a high level. So for me, the riding was second nature. Lots of types of riding style, of course, and I realised that yes, my riding skills were good enough. But could I actually do it in armour? And if people don’t know, armour is wearable, it is heavy, though, it is hot. It does restrict your movements sometimes. But the most important thing I found when on a horse is it shifts your balance automatically. And if you over balance, especially with helmets, if you over balance, the leverage can actually take your centre of balance off the side of the horse quite easily. So, knights are a bit top heavy on foot, but they’re even more top heavy when they’re on a horse, if you see what I mean.
GW: Yeah, I actually measured that once. My centre of gravity in armour is about 30 centimetres, 12 inches higher up than it is when I’m out of armour.
JK: So yeah, you are more top heavy. That’s quite significant if you think of the leverage, let alone swinging weapons and heavy weapons and things to get through. So my bet is that it’s significantly easier to fall over when you’re on foot in armour just because you’ve mistimed the balance. But when you’re on horseback, of course, you’ve got a lot further to fall and you’ve got the movements of the horse, which is predictable but not always predictable. I’ve tried to explain to people that horse riding is a bit like playing tennis with a racket that decides it has good days and bad days, doesn’t want to swing in the way you want it to swing and things like that, and you have to have you have to persuade it and train it to do what you want, and it will have its own moods. I mean, Warlord has good days and great days and sometimes bad days. He can get a cold. You know, you can ride a horse and you go, why is he? why is he sort of really kind of quiet, and it might be had a really bad night’s sleep, for example, because they’re living creatures that do that. It might be that he’s got a bit of a cold, and you’ve got to be mindful of that when you ride a horse. And I assume the knights that were good at their job would also have been sympathetic to the needs of their equestrian companions. Although we do know, Pietro Monte says, in his work, always check whether the opponent’s horse is a target because if you kill their horse and it wasn’t a target, they will get very angry with you. And I’m thinking, no shit, Sherlock, they really will. And it’s interesting that he suggests establishing beforehand whether the horse is a target, and he’s talking about duelling, obviously, not in combat, in combat you don’t really ask permission. And we do know that people were paid compensation for horses they lost on campaign. Which is interesting. And that’s how we know sometimes the cost of particular horses was quite extraordinarily high. It was the equivalent of £80-£200,000 or dollars.
GW: Like sports cars.
JK: Yes, significant cost of a significant sports car, and it makes sense. But you could also get much cheaper ones because people sometimes say, well, how much was a horse?
GW: How much they got?
JK: Yeah, exactly.
GW: You can get one for one hundred quid.
JK: Yeah, exactly. You can literally get a horse for a hundred quid, but you could also pay one hundred thousand pounds for a horse, or millions of pounds for the best horses. You know, some racehorses, and the showiest of show horses can go for vast sums of money because they’re bought by kings and emperors. Today they are. And back then they were too. I love these parallels, we’re exactly the same today, it’s bragging rights. You’ve got the fancy colour, fancy looking horse, it probably isn’t necessarily as good as some other horses who are doing work, but it doesn’t matter because you want to show it off in your menagerie.
GW: Quite OK. So obviously you’re extremely busy because you’ve got all these horses to look after and you’ve got a full time job as CEO of a successful games company. But you also have this YouTube channel, which has 650,000 subscribers. And what made you go, “Do you know what? I’m not nearly busy enough. I need to start a YouTube channel and grow it and do videos of me and others.”
JK: well, it actually really comes from going to live events and talking to people and entertaining. Can you hear that noise in the background?
GW: Yes, that’s fine, don’t worry.
JK: OK. It actually comes from going to live events and hearing and listening to what feedback people were giving me and realising that I’d entertained 30 people or 100 people for half an hour, talking about how a knight should wear armour and what it does and my personal anecdotes around it, showing them what I could do with a horse. And I thought it’s a shame I can’t capture that and have a bigger audience and let other people and my own media watching habits, it started to shift. So when I was a kid, obviously I watched telly because that was what you did. Listened to radio a bit, but mostly watch telly, and I realised I’d stop watching television probably a decade ago, really. There’s no longer appointment watching for me. I was consuming media in other ways and I felt that YouTube was interesting. But of course, from the outside, as a viewer of YouTube, it looks quite intimidating to start because how on earth do you start and how does it work? And I just thought, you know what? Let’s have a go. Let’s just fling some ideas out there and try and see what happens. And so I had some colleagues at work and we decided to put some things together, and we did it a bit more upscale than I do it now. I would partly do the research, partly script it. We would film it like a documentary series. So it was a lot more involved, but I found that a bit less spontaneous because I wanted to when I was holding a pollax. Rather than saying the words I was supposed to say, I wanted to…
GW: Swing it around and go “Raaaaa!”
JK: And also illuminate, tell people what you can do with it and how can move it and what it feels like, because a lot of people don’t get a chance to swing a pollax for obvious reasons, they’re dangerous and expensive. And I wanted to tell them how it feels and the fact that if you’re not wearing armour when using a pollax, it feels quite heavy. But weirdly, when you are wearing armour and you’re carrying a pollax, it feels lighter because your arms are heavier somehow. I don’t know how the mechanics work. Obviously, it’s heavier, but it feels lighter and it feels like it fits in. And riding in a medieval saddle, a reproduction medieval saddle, it’s very different to riding in a modern English saddle, which is designed for a different style of horsemanship and a different type of environment. So as the enclosures came in and as people started to not have great fields anymore and big open swathes of heathland and stuff in England, they started to plant hedges, getting around on horseback you have to follow the roads a bit more. You couldn’t just cut across country, but in medieval times, staying in the saddle was more important than getting out of the saddle to go over jumps. So medieval saddles are really designed to kind of keep you in place. Whereas modern English-style saddles are designed to get you up off the back of the horse, partly for riding cross country, partly for jumping over obstacles. And the different tools are reflected by the different needs of the people at different times. You know, simple things like explaining to somebody that a modern bridle that you might be familiar with, where you’ve got the bit that goes to the horse’s mouth that’s attached to the strap that goes behind their ears, there’s a brow band that goes in front of the ears. And then you’ve got what’s called a noseband. Now, most people in English riding don’t know that that nose band isn’t actually parts of the bridle. It’s actually the remains of military halter developed in the Napoleonic ages. I mean, sometimes nosebands are integrated, but brought by and large a cavesson, you can theoretically, if it’s put on properly, you can take the bridle off the horse and you’re left with a simple head collar, which you can keep control of the horse with. And people have no clue in modern riding circles that the noseband, not all of them, but the most nosebands are not designed as part of the bridle. They’re a separate military accoutrement. The reason modern horse reins are so long and have buckles at the end isn’t fashion at all is so that you can unbuckle them and buckle them to a horse next door and create a picket line from the reins.
GW: I’ve ridden quite a bit and I had no idea.
JK: Yeah, yeah. And so there’s literally no good reason, unless you’re going to create a picket line with your cavalry, there’s no good reason to have a buckle that holds the reins together. Obviously, you’ll need two strips of leather and they’ll be sewn together, so they do not fall off, but they’re too long, actually. So if you look at medieval reins, they’re much shorter, and they don’t have that extra loop. And that extra loop is to give you working space between your picket line of your horses. It’s a military expedient and people have no idea of the history of that. And I just find that fascinating. So back to the modern history. So we were trying to look at history through a modern lens. That was the idea of the name. And of course, at the time it wasn’t a big channel. I didn’t really care about the name. And, you know, we had a few hundred subscribers and it was just fun. It was fun messing around. And then it took off when a few videos went viral. One on what did medieval peasants eat. One of the tropes is medieval peasants eat slop and crap. It’s like, no, they didn’t. They were hard working physical specimens. They needed to eat a lot of calories. By my calculators they were eating about 4000 calories a day, albeit not particularly spicy food. And not necessarily flavourful in the way we think of it today. Not particularly sweetened, but they’re eating a lot of turnips and a lot of you know, they were eating meat if they could get it, because you can’t use a flail all day threshing grain without the energy from food, or you will die. You have to take the food on board. That went viral and people went bloody hell, medieval peasants eat better than me. I’m eating ramen noodles and drinking coke. And it’s like, yeah, they definitely drank and ate better than you. Much healthier food. And it sort of took off from there. And so how do you brush your teeth if you don’t have toothpaste and a toothbrush because toothbrushes are expensive? What do you use? My research showed that medieval people often use rags and these twigs, and they sometimes flavoured it. They use salt as well.
GW: This is what drive me nuts. Everyone these days seems to think the medieval people were dirty. They were almost pathologically clean. The bishops were complaining about people going to bath houses because sometimes there were prostitutes there, and that’s like no, no, no. But it wasn’t the cleanliness that was the problem. It was the fact that it was associated with hookers.
JK: Bawdy houses. And also, I think the confusion in our modern convenience societies where we have piped hot water in the western world, a lot of the western world, it’s easy to go and have a shower and the energy use and the work is done elsewhere. You just turn the tap on or turn the showerhead on, have a shower, turn it off again. But if you want to immerse yourself in a big vat of warm water, that’s a lot of wood. You’ve got a lot of water to heat up. Showers require pumping. And you know, how are you going to get pressure? You could you put a jug over your head. But what they did, they washed their hands and faces and bits and bobs with cloths in warm water if they had it, as vast numbers of people in the world today still do. And if you’re out camping, let’s face it, if you go camping, there are rarely showers available. There are in some campsites. But if you’re doing proper camping, you either decide not to bother washing too much, or you use a wet rag to wash your bits with. And that’s good enough. And also no central heating. So you keep your clothes on, how do you get warm? Well, you keep your clothes on because it’s nice and cozy?
GW: Yes, I know we’re heading towards time, but there are a couple of questions I do have to ask you. And the first is, a while ago, I asked my listenership and readership about the movies that got them really started as sword nerds. And this is mostly based on the 70s and 80s, sometimes in the 90s, and you could really tell how old the person was by the things they chose. But Hawk the Slayer was a massively popular choice. And yet I see, you actually got to play with the actual sword from the actual movie and for the benefit of the Hawk the Slayer fans listening, how did you manage that?
JK: I am colleagues with Terry Marcel. I reached out to him and said, hi Terry, you don’t know me, but I’m very interested in Hawk the Slayer and stuff. And we worked together to get a sequel made, kick start a sequel, but it was a dismal failure. Unfortunately, I mean, it’s a good lesson to fail. Sometimes it’s very disappointing. I think it was all done wrongly, but you know, you live and learn. We tried to do that. We did a bit of that. So I got to know him quite well. And he’s a fascinating and passionate man about all sorts of things and told me all sorts of things about what lay behind the scenes and things, which is great. We interviewed him a couple of times on the Rebellion channel. A few years ago now, actually pre-pandemic, I phoned him up and said, Terry, do you think there’s any chance that I could borrow the Mindsword and make one of my videos on it? Because I talk about swords, I talk about real swords or about war hammers and pollaxes and use on horseback and that kind of stuff. And he said, yeah, sure. So he popped it in. Yeah, he brought it in and I was just sitting there and the 15 year old boy in me was just in awe as I was lent the Mindsword, complete with Elfin Mindstone, and I made an homage, a cheesy video talking about it, I sort of analysed it as a sword, and I thought it was kind of an interesting weighting on it.
GW: I was very impressed by the fact that the Mindstone actually spoke to you. That was like, Wow, wow.
JK: Well, I love CGI, obviously, because I come from the technology world as well. But I think CGI can be malused. I don’t say misused, I say malused. There’s certain things when you’re filming, I think you want to see it done practically. You want to see it in camera as it were. And obviously in the 80s, there was very limited CGI for anything. So everything had to be done practically. And the whole Mindsword technique was an interesting one and partly forgotten. Terry can’t bloody remember what the set up was so we have forgotten knowledge, how the Mindsword is activated, but we just thought we could play around with it coming into my hand and reversing the footage and all that sort of stuff as an homage to o it. And we happened to have the woods. I’ve got woodlands here as well. Because it was filmed in the backlot at Pinewood. So it’s filmed in a very, relatively small area of woodland, although you wouldn’t know it. And I’ve got more woodland to play around with, and it was just awesome fun to look at that sword. And it did have some peculiar characteristics. The hilt is strangely long and quite chunky and also very heavy. The balance point of that sword is right on the cross guard, which is interesting because, as you know, balance point on swords and sword blade geometry is quite a complex area, but it made it very, sort of swishy. You could swish it around very, very quickly. But it probably means it won’t cut very well because there’s not much weight in the tip. But it was really interesting, and I asked Terry if that was deliberate so you could do all the fancy moves. And he didn’t really have an answer. So it might have been deliberate from the sword maker to make it easier for an actor to swing a sword around. But it was surprisingly sharp as well. I have to say, I’ve handled prop swords and modern prop swords are not sharp like that. It wasn’t sharp, it wasn’t razor sharp, it was sharpened, but if you hit somebody with it they would get cut.
GW: It was this wonderful moment of absolute fandom and geekery.
JK: I am trained in the sciences, and science is obviously fantastic for knowledge and seeking for knowledge and analysing your own biases and stuff like that. I also love unicorns and dragons and knights on quests and mythical beasts and all of that stuff, which I would love to exist. And it does exist as long as we keep it alive, you know, it exists in our minds. You know, I exercise my horses out a lot, I train them in the indoor school, which is a bit like going to the gym, but also relax them by going on long rides through the countryside. And I’m lucky enough to have lovely countryside. When I’m going on those rides, I don’t really see many other people, so I can travel in my mind as well, and I can pretend I’m a knight errant on a journey. I can pretend I’m a merchant travelling somewhere or I’m on pilgrimage, and it’s just a nice mental exercise to play around with those kind of ideas when we’re sword fighting. I have to ask you a question as well. Do you ever make noises of the sword makes when you’re practising?
GW: Invariably. Invariably. Of course I do.
JK: Good, I’m glad it’s not just me then.
GW: Yeah, no. And when I’m demonstrating in front of a class, I subvocalise it so they can’t hear it. But sometimes if I’m really relaxed with that particular group of students, I just make the noises and everyone who picks up sword makes the swishy noises. It’s like it’s automatic. It’s the law.
JK: Yeah, yeah, it is. I have a good working relationship with Terry, so hopefully we will be doing some more stuff with Hawk and Hawk’s world in the future, it’s hard these days. The pandemic has kind of knocked everything for six and knocked things out of kilter, but we have some outline plans.
GW: Fantastic. Watch this space. OK, now I grew up, or failed to, reading 2000AD. Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Slaine. Slaine was one of my favourites with his enormous Flint Axe. OK, you own the IP to all of that and you’re producing 2000AD. OK. My question is how does Tharg the Mighty feel about you as his employer?
JK: Well, I’m not Tharg’s employer. Tharg communicates via his Rosette of Sirius, and he tells Matt Smith, who’s the current representative on Earth, what he should put in the prog. And I’m there as sort of a guardian and a guide on this earthly plane. He’s sort of behind the green curtain a little bit like The Wizard of Oz. Tharg is the operative brain of it all. And he communicates to us mere earthlets about what we should put or not put in the prog.
GW: Well, I’m glad to hear that you haven’t messed around with the hierarchy there.
JK: But in all seriousness, my brother and I acquired it in the year 2000, which is quite useful to remember. When we subsequently acquired quite a large catalogue of other comic books. So we have the Treasury of British Comics as well, which is a non 2000AD sort of division of our comics publishing. So things like the Leopard from Lime Street and The Spider, the British comics bestrode the world actually in the 20th century and really sort of started to fizzle out in the 70s with the rise of computer games, ironically, and more TV. And we’re bringing a lot of that stuff back. We’re republishing it, making it available. There are some superb stories there as well. So we’ve always thought of ourselves the guardians of that library of entertainment content. And yeah, technically, we’re the owners, but our job is to kind of preserve it and guard it and manage it so that lots of people can read stuff that they had forgotten they read once when they were kids. There’s a lot of girls’ comics that have almost literally moulded in archives and really need to be brought back, some superb stories. Quite a lot of horror stories for women as well. Quite a lot of skateboarding. There is a whole set of late 60s, early 70s set of skateboarding girls comics, which was a really fascinating area of a society that’s partly forgotten and how girls’ comics changed to more about pop stars and fashion and makeup in the late 70s. Really interesting. But before that, girls’ comics were broad equivalence to boys’ comics, they were they had adventure themes. There was a lot of pony riding and pony theft in the comics as well. A lot of girls’ comics were obsessed with people stealing their ponies, which is an interesting common theme running through the 50s and 60s. So, yeah, we have got that. All of that and we we’re guardians of it as much as we are owners, so we want it to be preserved for the long term. It’s such an important element of our culture. Pretty much everybody I know that works in modern film and TV of a certain age actually knows 2000AD or grew up on comics that we now own and we’ll be republishing. So it’s very, very exciting.
GW: That’s fantastic. Yeah. And I’m looking forward to seeing some of these things being republished.
JK: Yes. If people are interested as there’s a Twitter thread, the Treasury of British Comics is a website which has all of them on it. A lot of them are available digitally as well, if people can’t physically get things these days because distribution at times of crisis is always difficult and they’re quite fun to read digitally because you can zoom in on the artwork. We don’t have a lot of the original artwork sometimes. So we have to repair the comics themselves. You have to rework. We’re not re-arting them. But we’re restoring them. We employ a full time archivist. So talking about libraries and stuff, we actually have a climate controlled archive where copies of these comics are stored. So yeah, we’re doing it very properly, and I do think it’s a gift to the future because sometimes “low culture”, somebody said, oh, it’s low culture. It’s like, yeah, but low culture is entertainment and it influences us all. And it’s not made with a view to leaving a legacy behind it like “higher” culture can be. And it was representative.
GW: And also, let’s face it, like Shakespeare was low culture in his time.
JK: Absolutely right. And so was Dickens. And Mozart.
GW: Dickens was basically doing soap operas by bi monthly instalments of in a magazine. But now he is a revered, grand old man of English novels, and he never wrote a novel in his life.
JK: Yeah, fascinating, isn’t it? People that people sort of pooh, pooh it and actually literally call it low culture, which is incredibly insulting, when you think about it. But comic books are hugely influential and arguably a slightly forgotten medium. And of course, I’m a huge believer in reading the source material before you see the TV show or the movie. I’m actually reading The Witcher novels because I felt I needed to read the literature before I watched the TV show, because I think there’s so much more in books. Lord of the Rings is a hugely important book for me. I love the movies as well, but the movies are so shallow compared to the books. There’s so much missed out. And if people only know these things by the shadow that is the movie or the TV show, I think they’re missing out on a lot of a lot of valuable information.
GW: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I am very glad that you take your responsibility as guardian of these comics seriously because Mozart’s die Fledermaus, that was like a Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of its time. This whole cultural snobbery of oh yes, but this is Die Fledermaus. No, no. This is Phantom of the Opera in the 18th century. The equivalent of. That snootiness really just doesn’t serve anybody. OK. My last question. You’ve been very generous with your time already, so let me let me bring this to a close. You’ve done a lot and you tend to act on ideas that you have. But I am curious as to what may be the best idea you haven’t acted on.
JK: Oh, crikey, oh, hundreds and hundreds of ideas. I think the biggest challenge is trying to balance ideas with your ability to actually put them into practise and having a realistic expectation that A) it’ll be appreciated, but B) there’ll be some kind of return. By return I don’t mean you’re going to make a profit. Some things are worth doing just because they’re worth doing, and the return is slightly more abstract than that. But when you’ve got 450 members of staff that work for you, you do have a responsibility to them and their families to keep the business going. So being a boss of a medium sized company now, we’re not small anymore, although I like to think of us as small, but being big of being the boss of a boss and co-owner of a medium sized company, there is actually a lot more responsibility than people think because you have to make decisions based on profitability. Yes, you want to do that based on strategic where you want that company to be. What the future is likely to be. You can’t make a computer game in a month, you make a computer game over multiple years. So you’ve got to anticipate what’s happening in two and a half, three years’ time. And you also have a responsibility to the people that are working for you because they’re working hard, they’re talented and they’ve got families. And so you’re acutely aware that decision making has to factor in all of those things, but you also have to make decisions and you have to decide what to do and sometimes you get it wrong. But I think the judgement of a good leader is that you get more decisions right than you get wrong and your wrong decisions are not catastrophically disastrous. I think when they’re teaching officers or people to give instructions in military terms, first of all, you’ve got to make a decision and you make a decision and then at least the men are doing something and then try to make sure that decision is more likely right than wrong. But indecision in combat, indecision in strategic thinking in computer games is the thing that is going to definitely damage you.
GW: It’s exactly the same in fencing. Dithering will get you hit every time. And even if you are confidently wrong, at least at least there’s a chance that your confidence will sway your opponent into doing something other than that what they’re intending to do. So, yeah, it’s so critical about decisiveness.
JK: Yeah. So coming up with ideas and then putting them into play a lot. Lots of people have lots of ideas and ideas are wonderful, but they’re only tested if they’re expressed. And if you try to do it. As we started, we were talking about writing a book. Lots of people can write books, theoretically, but most people don’t write a book because it’s hard work, and it does take quite a lot of bloody minded determination and slogging through to actually get it finished. And anybody that writes a book needs to be congratulated just for writing something. Then you can judge whether it’s good or bad or indifferent or whatever, right or wrong. But just the fact of getting something out there for other people to read should be applauded, in my opinion. And it’s the same with starting a business or making a computer game or having a go at fencing or having a go at riding or starting a YouTube channel. The very fact of having an idea and then trying it is where the adventure really begins. And I just encourage people to have a go if they possibly can. Even the smallest start is a start. And that’s how I would encourage people just to give it up. Give it a go. Have a go.
GW: Yeah, and make sure failure is survivable.
JK: Absolutely, yes. Of course we all have responsibilities. We all have the sort of daily grind. We’ve got to keep things going. But you know, obviously, unless you’re particularly interested in high-risk endeavours, don’t do anything that’s potentially lethal and do anything which is going to make you bankrupt instantly if you could avoid it. But by having a go, I mean, if you really think you should write a book, have a go, write a short book.
GW: The worst case scenario is it’s rubbish and it never sees the light of day. And you could have spent that time more enjoyably doing something else. But the time was going to pass anyway. If you spend it watching TV or spend it writing the book, if that’s the choices, the choice is quite straightforward. It’s like being a parent, my job is to basically create environments in which my children can fail without the failure being non-survivable. When they’re learning to walk, they fall down a lot, that’s fine. Just make sure they’re walking in a place where falling down isn’t dangerous for them.
JK: Exactly. And to extend that metaphor, it is exactly the same as everything. When you first start sparring you presumably use wasters and plastic swords and padding. You don’t give somebody a sharp and say, have a go, you know?
GW: Yeah, we start out with the blunt steel and protective equipment and what have you. Sharps are for the more experienced.
JK: Exactly. Same with horses. The first time you ride a horse you’re not going to get on one of my trained stallion horses who can do airs above the ground and rear and kick and gallop because A) you won’t know how to communicate with that horse. And B), you’ll scare yourself rigid and never get on a horse again in your life. And C), that’s something to aim for when your skill levels are higher. So you start with a more steady horse, you start with a smaller horse, you start with a horse that quite frankly, will sit stand there and allow you to sit there and absorb your errors, because you will make tons of errors and they won’t be dangerous to you. If you were to sit on Warlord and kick him in the ribs, he would go upwards and backwards. And he would fall on top of you because he’s not used to that kind of command. He’s used to subtle commands and you give him an over large command, he doesn’t know what to do with it, and he’ll metaphorically explode in his behaviour and it will hurt you or hurt him or hurt a tree or something. Anyway, we we’ve chatted and we’re getting into other subjects. But it was absolutely delightful talking to you, Guy. And we should maybe do another video or two exploring other areas of Fiore or combat because certainly my foot combat is not where it should be. So maybe I can have some remedial lessons on foot combat as well.
GW: I’m certainly game for it. That’s a brilliant idea. I guess I should give that some thought. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Jason. It’s been delightful talking to you.
JK: A pleasure. Thank you very much.