GW: Hello sword people, this is Guy Windsor, also known as The Sword Guy, and I’m here today with Jessica Gomes, who is co-founder of the Velha Guarda Marcial in Portugal. I met Jessica a little while ago at an online event hosted by one of the Portuguese organisations where she was giving a presentation and I thought she would be an excellent guest for the show. So without further ado, Jessica, welcome.
JG: Hi, Guy. And hi, everybody listening.
GW: So, Jessica, whereabouts are you at the moment?
JG: Oh, so I’m living in Portugal, in Sintra, which is in the region of Lisbon. So if you know, this area is basically one of the most Western points of Portugal next to a lovely little mountain. So it’s full of lush vegetation. It’s green and it’s beautiful. It’s by the sea.
GW: Oh, lovely. But you weren’t in Portugal your whole life, is that correct?
JG: Yeah, that’s right. I was born in South Africa and my roots are from Portugal, both from my mother’s side and my father’s. And we ended up coming back when I was about nine.
GW: Have you been back to visit South Africa since?
JG: Only once, and it’s so different.
GW: Yeah. I mean, I lived in Botswana in the 1980s and I would just love to go back, but I’m worried that if I do, I’ll never leave.
JG: Yeah, that’s the thing. I was really surprised to learn that too. I only learned that recently. Do you have many memories of there?
GW: Oh, yeah. I remember the place vividly. We moved there when I was about seven, I think. And we left when I was about 13. Africa is a special place. I went back to Zimbabwe in ‘92 with a school trip. Basically my school’s big band was doing a tour of schools in Zimbabwe. And I went along with that playing the trumpet. And when I got off the plane in Harare and there’s that kind of particular smell of heat and dust and a bit of wood smoke. And I just got this really profound sense of home. Which is weird because Zimbabwe itself was never home, it was Botswana. But it was just a fantastic trip because it just felt like being home the whole time. That’s why I don’t dare go back, because I’ll never leave. So whereabouts in South Africa were you?
JG: I was living in one of the suburbs of Johannesburg, but some kilometres out, and it was those new areas. And so it wasn’t really the densest parts of Joburg. And, well, I have a lot of good memories and there is a lot of space there. And the Cape, I have good memories of Cape Town. It’s very beautiful. It’s so frequent to just see penguins at the beach or around the town. This is more in Cape Town, and you just see baboons going past. And sea lions are there on the docks rolling around. They are just so entwined with the town.
GW: We had a family holiday near there once a long time ago. And, yeah, it was fantastic. It’s exactly as you described. African animals wandering about that. I remember the sea lions, too, but it was a long time ago. You will know that that defining moment when the first rain comes and after it stops and you can suddenly see twice as far as you could before and all the plants have had the dust washed off their leaves and suddenly everything is green.
JG: Yeah, exactly. They got their faces washed and now they’re shiny.
GW: Yeah, it’s amazing. Oh, God.
JG: The thunder is beautiful. In the summer you see thunder and lightning. I just love those moments.
GW: Oh, yeah. Then parents move away and you have to go with them, right? OK, so. So you’ve been in Portugal ever since, is that correct?
JG: Yeah, I’ve been here.
GW: OK, and when did you start historical martial arts? How did that come about?
JG: Oh, um, well, I don’t think at the moment I started that I would call it historical martial arts because it was a bit mixed with the reenactments training or stage combat, because the group that I joined was very into the medieval fairs and historical reenactments. But there was some training to back that up and there was mention of the sources. But it wasn’t going deep into the sources, there wasn’t a system or systems being studied from one end to the other. But this was round about 2011 that I found a group. Actually it was my partner Pedro that found it because we were really starving for some action for a year and a half before. We had just left another martial arts group that we had been practising together with and which was like this whole mixture from Kendo through Hojōjutsu, which is with ropes in the Japanese martial systems.
GW: Did you say “with ropes”?
JG: With ropes.
GW: So basically, how to tie people up?
JG: Yeah, but it’s not that other rope…
GW: Well, that’s OK. We’re very broad minded show here…
JG: I forgot the name of the other tying, but anyway. And also a little bit of Kalari Payat too and, you know, working on the ground, there were a lot of throws, there were a lot of locks. There’s a lot working close up and going to the ground. So that really gave us, I think, a good base and preparation, at least for me. It was feeding into my love for wrestling and close up combat and but what we did with swords because there was some sword working, it was essentially katanas with bokkens and only the most graduate ones would receive the opportunity to work with an iron katana, but I mean, even that they would be doing katas, so they wouldn’t be doing combat. And I remember once, only once, we had the opportunity to put on full equipment with the Kendo mask and the chest protection and the protective dress. And it was awesome just to see the intricate ties that were going on this, but only that time we did some combat with Kendo, in one lesson. I thought that we would be doing more. So it was great to actually find HEMA later on. We found HEMA as a surprise because we were actually considering LARPing groups because it was really hard to find something, at least around our area, in that sense, that we’d be working with swords, weapons and if possible close body combat.
GW: It’s really important that you find a club that does the things that you want to do at that particular time in your career, so it might be that you really need to get some sparring training in or you really need something that has wrestling or you really need to be working with knives or ropes or sticks or whatever else, and finding the training environment in which you can do the thing that you are showing up to do, I think that’s really important. And it’s something that is easily forgotten by the people who run the clubs who maybe don’t understand that not everyone’s needs are the same. So it’s not even really a criticism of a club to say, well, OK, that’s great, but it’s not really what I’m looking for right now.
JG: Yeah, that obviously happens, and you can’t obviously you can’t cater to everybody’s wants and needs. But I mean, when you say you’re doing something and you’re not actually doing it, that is just annoying.
GW: It’s a trading standards problem, isn’t it? And we see the same sort of thing all over the place where if people are doing, for example, a sport version of a system and that’s what they say they’re doing. Absolutely fine. If you see somebody with a modern épée and they’re prancing around and fencing with that and they’re calling it a rapier, then maybe there’s a problem. OK, so you branched off and started your own club at this stage, is that correct?
JG: Yeah, that’s correct.
GW: OK, what is your club all about? How do you guys train?
JG: Well, at the Velha Guarda we basically we start off with at least three main systems progressively doing a full cycle of a year, which is Fiore’s medieval system, and in his system we do everything except the on horseback for obvious reason, but we also do the Capoferro rapier system up until at least sword and dagger, because we haven’t got capes yet. We do have rotellas but we do one play or another from time to time.
GW: Well, it’s not a very big part of Capoferro’s system, is it?
JG: Yeah, that’s true. And it’s also quite heavy. So if we have younger students, we will just bring it in once in a while just so they can get that idea that we’re also working with shields and it’s possible to work with the rapier. And then we do Jogo do Pau which is Portuguese staff fighting. Our lessons are thought out through the year of what objectives we would like to attain or achieve, but each lesson we also adapt to the people that are there because one person might be interested in something else and say, OK, if today you’re here and you’d like to do something else, let’s see what we can do now. We try to give a lot of attention to body conditioning. At least like half an hour in the beginning of each lesson is dedicated to that, we always trying to mix things up so that people don’t fall into repetitive patterns. We change the exercises, we change the intent of the exercises. And right now, because we can’t run around a lot, we’re changing up the exercises to other things like calisthenics. And it’s good because you can see the people progressively strengthen up. Then we have the technical part of the lesson, in which we try to do a play or two or more and reconstruct technically or into drills that we think that might benefit certain aspects of objectives. And in the end, we like to have at least half an hour of sparring and it is really great because especially working with the younger classes, I mean, we can easily integrate different age groups, that’s not a problem for us, because during the technical side, we like to pair up people more or less by their body constitution or where they are at technically, but in the end it’s fun to just have everybody sparring. And one of the most fun, inspiring moments is when everybody has to support each other. So it’s really cool to see how the younger kids in the beginning, they look really confused because we’re using the whole field and they just think individually, but then they start understanding they can actually make alliances.
GW: So you are sparring as a melee?
JG: If they want to.
GW: That’s really cool.
JG: Yeah, we also do capture the flags and it’s really cool to see them understanding, OK, you can actually integrate alliances, but you also have to use strategy against various opponents. And once in a while, we also try to bring in Godinho, we especially use that a little bit in Jogo do Pau, which has already similar premises combat against various opponents, but also with the longsword we try and integrate those notions, you know, you have to step out of the line between two opponents. You have to always manage to see them in the corner of both of your eyes. When you approximate one, you have to try and push him out. It’s not so that you want to beat him you just when to push him out so you can gain some space to get out. Yeah, it’s really fun to see those different sparring situations, not just one on one. Having different opponents changes your fighting.
GW: Absolutely. So what sort of equipment are you using when you’re doing this kind of everyone against everyone?
JG: OK, so if it’s the longsword, we should be using those, I don’t know the proper name of the brand because Pedro is usually a lot better with the brand names. But it’s those rubber sponge ones with the black tissue that covers them…
GW: Padded swords.
JG: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And if it’s with the rapier, the like the triangular sectioned ones.
GW: More flexible.
JG: And everybody has to get fully protected. With the padded swords it depends, if we’re just trying to do it lightly, you got your mask, you got your chest protector, you’ve got your gloves. But do it lightly because those can also hurt, obviously. Oh, and for the younger kids, we found a great supplier, which is in Spain, John Jakelsky does these Noodle Swords. I don’t know if you have heard of him?
GW: Yeah, yeah, they are made of pool noodles. It’s basically it’s almost impossible to hurt a person.
JG: Exactly. When we use this, even with adults you’re just in your mask, because they are pretty safe.
GW: OK, now I totally get having Fiore longsword, so Fiore’s system and Capoferro rapier, it’s like you’re describing me. My school logo, I have a longsword and a rapier behind a shield and it’s Fiore and it’s Capoferro and those are like my two core arts. But I’ve met Luis Preto who teaches Jogo do Pau a long time ago, in Dallas I think it was, and I’ve got his book, but I don’t really know very much about Jogo do Pau, and I don’t think the average listener will too. Would you like to maybe describe it a bit and say how it sort of interacts with or supports and expands your longsword and rapier studies?
JG: I’d love to. Because I’ve been so interested in it for years. And when I finally said, OK, let’s get into it, it unlocked a lot of great notions that I applied instantly to the longsword. So Luis Preto, like you said, he trained with a living master who was called Nuno Russo. And basically what he did is he visited all these different schools in Portugal that were training Jogo do Pau. Schools or groups of people that were actively still doing it. And a little bit like that idea of Musashi, he went there and he also challenged some people, but basically what he did is he collected a lot of information with his previous master. And out of the grand compilation that his master was trying to accumulate all of this information, because they were always in fear that it might get lost because people might just lose interest in this culture, and so that’s why they did the survey. And Nuno Russo had a different idea, he said, out of all of this, I think that this little part of this is efficient. So he basically extracted the parts that he thought was efficient and he dedicated himself to that. And I’m talking about this because I learnt more from his school. I learnt through Ricardo Moura, who was in his school. And just to say that Jogo do Pau was very vast. It’s this staff, so basically you’re using both your hands, right? So it kind of makes the strength of your weapon go way up until the tip, not like on the sword, even though you’re putting two hands here on the sword, you’re putting the two hands more or less the width of your shoulders apart. So that means that you can defend the blows very near to the tip of the stuff, which is great. Which means that your hands would really appreciate that because you don’t have a guard. So and all the hits, the blows, are delivered with inertia. So you really have to swing it one hundred and eighty degrees at least. So it gains some inertia to break bones. And what this does is for you to properly gain this inertia, you have to know how to move your hips and to spring them like the boxers do. In the adequate momentum with your arm working and then footwork is so similar to Fiore in the sense that they call acrescere. In terms of language, there’s a lot of matches. And also the stance, the way your weight falls and the way your heels aren’t aligned. And then there’s little details that they go into because it’s a living art, like the hip swing, like the middle steps you have in between the acrescere, the discrescere, because they call it the meio passo, which means the middle step. And in the meio passo, you can still throw in another type of blow. So it really feeds into sword fighting very well. And also, just realising that from the sword, you can really gain inertia with a whole one hundred and eighty degree blow which delivers a lot more power, obviously, but it also takes more time and it helps, at least for me, to organise my mind around different possibilities with the sword. I can also do it with the 90 degrees, but it would have to have a more cutting motion, those kind of things.
GW: Yeah, sure. We’re dependent on the edge.
JG: Exactly. And they also have puntuada, which is a thrusting movement because it’s supposedly blunt or, you know, it’s just the dissection of the staff. You have to think of it as you really wanting to punch with all the force of your body. So it really puts your footwork in check. An interesting thing, though, when they do the turning motions, they turn on their heels.
GW: That’s weird.
JG: It’s weird, but I’d recommend to try it, especially when you’re swinging the sword around, just feel how it goes because I think it works best when we are doing it with a weapon than with the throws, but I haven’t tried this much with the throws just because the turning on the tip of the toes feels a little more comfortable. It’s very exciting because it’s a living art, so there are a lot of active schools or groups that are still in Portugal and not just in Portugal, obviously in Spain, too. It’s bigger than that. It’s Iberian. There’s not just the Portuguese Jogo do Pau. There’s others, you know, and then there’s the ones that stayed in the islands, like in Madeira and in the Azores, which are islands of Portuguese territory. But then you also have the Canary Islands and Majorca and Menorca. And here in the north of Portugal, at least once per year, they try and make a gathering of different schools, not just in Portugal, but they also invite other schools. And it’s this big demonstration. And it’s so cool to see that they still cherish this. More in the north because it’s more present there. And it’s really cool to see that they have differences like they like to work with one hand, which is I think is still a bit scary for me because it feels a lot more like you’re relinquishing the other hand, to gain space. But at the same time, it’s a bit weaker if it receives a blow. It’s really cool to see these different styles.
GW: Wow. So what is the primary context in which Jogo do Pau is supposed to work in?
JG: That’s a good question, because the most recent context that we know is it was every day a tool for shepherds. You’d always have this staff, and then it started becoming very present in the sense that different villages would have parties, which we call feira. And once in a while, guys from one village, would come and visit the other ones and would probably try and show off that they’re better or get into fights. And obviously a lot of people had their staffs and love the opportunity to just a what we call varrer a feira, which means to sweep the fair, which is basically turning it around and distributing chaos, I guess.
GW: So basically it’s a Portuguese party weapon.
JG: I love that description. I think that’s the best description. It’s a party weapon.
GW: You just sold me on it. I need to come over to Portugal and learn some Jogo do Pau.
JG: And yeah, what I know is like until more recently, probably two decades ago, in the more remote villages, the person that was the best Jogodor, the best player, would also assume this responsibility of defending his village. And if something happened, you’d be probably more respected than if the National Guard had to appear. So, you know, it’s interesting. And obviously the oldest texts we have that are more technical about this in Portugal only go up into 18th century and then there’s a lot of extrapolation, a lot of people that saying, oh, yes, but this obviously has to do with the Montanti. And this is obviously people that were poor, that didn’t have money to buy iron swords, they would resort to this. I mean, yes, you never know exactly how it evolved because unfortunately, you don’t have written material about it. You can hypothesize, but you’ll never know exactly how this gained form or expression. And because the staff is like the most ancient available weapon or a club is the most ancient available weapon to man. It’s hard to pinpoint how it started.
GW: Sticks are the first handheld weapon and the thrown rock is the first projectile. So you said something about a shepherd’s staff and also, of course, famously, King David was a shepherd and he used his sling to keep the wolves away from the sheep and then use the same sling to take down Goliath.
JG: We obviously go over the sling without giving it the proper appreciation because it was such a cheap weapon to build and easy to build and it’s so deadly. And I just love the stories of the Romans coming past the island of Majorca and getting their ships wrecked with the slingshot. Since they were small they were taught how to do that. And they had different lengths of the sling. So they would use longer ones around their neck and their waist to reach longer distances and at one point the Romans would actually cover the hulls of their ships with skin, if I’m not wrong, with leather, to protect from those projectiles coming through.
GW: So is there a living tradition of sling shotting in Portugal, that you know of?
JG: No, no.
GW: I think I’ve heard stories about Majorca, a friend of mine called Kevin O’Brien gave me a sling lesson some while ago. And yeah, it’s really astonishing how far you can start throwing things if you just put them in a piece of string first and spin it around. And, you know, there are stories of the Majorcan king of the shepherd saying, see that that opposing king over there riding his horse back and forth? I want you to kill him. And the reply is, which eye should I hit him through, sir? Because they were apparently ridiculously accurate and absolutely lethal. OK, so you have in your club, you do Fiore’s foot combat stuff, you do Capoferro and you do Jogo do Pau. Are you teaching all of these things?
JG: Yes. Yes.
GW: So OK, so here’s a question that I know the answer to, because I teach like ten different systems. And to me it’s quite straightforward. But a lot of people ask me, how do you keep them separate? How do you prevent, for example, your Fiore from messing up your Jogo do Pau or your Jogo do Pau from messing up your Capoferro?
JG: Yeah, that’s interesting. And it’s a very real thing, because in the beginning with Jogo do Pau when we started training, it was like, oh my gosh, now I don’t know how to go back to the sword easily because there are things that stay there. But I think as time goes on, you blend it in the sense that you understand that certain things are basically the same. And there are other things that although aren’t the same, you can decide to integrate because your body is already knowing how to adapt it. But one thing is when you’re doing for yourself, like when you’re sparring or you’re in combat, that that can totally happen. And I think that’s actually interesting that that happens. Your body can integrate it. But when we are giving the lesson or when we are transmitting information, at least, we try and be very conscious and bring that up, say, OK, this comes from this and this comes from that. But we’re doing for example, we’re doing longsword. This is how it’s taught in Fiore’s system. But there are certain parts that we can cover the voids, at least bring to attention that that’s not part of the Fiore system, but integrate things. I don’t see any problem with that as long as you’re admitting to what what’s going on.
GW: Yes, as long as your source is clear. Yeah, which comes back to the trading standards thing. Particularly in the early days, I used to do that quite a lot where I would find some other art, a solution to a problem, because my Fiore interpretation wasn’t fully developed yet. And so I would borrow things. And then as I got deeper, deeper into Fiore, I was borrowing less and less and kind of squeezing the borrowed stuff out until I ended up with something relatively pure. But I don’t think I’d have got there without the borrowings as a kind of necessary step along the way.
JG: Yeah, exactly. It’s quite interesting because we have one of our friends that is also from Jogo do Pau, and he wanted to start training rapier with us. So I said cool. And it’s so funny because you do see this is his baseline. So it’s his preparation. And he does integrate certain things like switching the guards. But he does it in such a quick manner, in such a controlled manner that it seems to be working for him. So it’s really interesting to see somebody with the rapier and once in a while their legs are Jogo do Pau.
GW: Yeah, so long as he doesn’t start holding the rapier by the middle and swinging it around his head.
JG: Yeah that’s totally different.
GW: So. You’ve been doing this quite a long time then. Ten years or so?
GW: OK, so you may be a little bit to experienced that this question to really work, but what advice would you give beginners starting out? For people who are just thinking of getting into this.
JG: OK, contact people around you, get your networking system ready, understand how the laws work in your country. Or how do you want to present the activity that you’re doing? I’m saying this because here in Portugal there are a lot of different groups that practise martial arts under the premise of cultural activities, because it’s something that’s not really instituted in the country. And here in Portugal, we have a lack of certain entities. So that’s why you might find this falling into a whole new area. But HEMA is the same thing, I think, for a lot of countries. Try and understand that if you can create a cultural group or a study group first before you go into the harder phase, which is creating an association or a club. Because that will bring, I think, a lot more legal and bureaucratic things you’ll have to deal with.
GW: So if you’re starting a club in Portugal, at least, if you present what you’re doing as a cultural activity, I guess kind of like folk dancing might be, then you end up with far fewer legal hassles and bureaucratic problems than if you present it as, “We are training with weapons to hurt people.”
JG: Exactly. Because then you have to go into a lot more detail. For example, Jogo do Pau works a lot on the basis of cultural activity. There is a lot of interest in rekindling a previous federation that existed, but that didn’t go too well. There are groups joining and talking about it. They try to organise themselves. But for now, it’s working a lot on this premise. Some of the groups also have associations, but in the association characteristics, they name it as a cultural activity. You could also create an association because, well, fortunately, these days, it’s easy to do it in Portugal as you can actually do it right on the spot. There is the fee you have to pay, you have to get at least two people to do it and then nine people to keep the association running because there are legal terms has to maintain three different areas and each of the three different areas has to have three people in it. So you need at least nine people to run an association. On the beneficial side of the association is that you have more ease working with public entities, with the public schools, for example, with municipalities and even if you are listed as a cultural association, that’s fine. You can later on add sports competition, all of those codes, because we do have codes that you can add. But that’s the bureaucratic side or the formal side of creating a group. When you have to get your hands down onto it, just there’s so much information from HEMA Alliance and like from your side, Guy Windsor, on how to create a club. Safety is important. It’s just it’s important to look into that, to know how to minimally act, you know, if something happens. So first aid is a basic.
GW: I think first aid is a basic, you’re right.
JG: Connect with the people, try and figure out if you want to deal with a lot of bureaucracy right at the beginning or if you want to start something more informal. Because right now, unfortunately, there aren’t many federations backing up HEMA. There is one that is a Kempo Federation that’s backing up our association, but there’s the Portuguese Olympic Fencing Federation that I think is also starting to move in that direction. But the thing is, it will always be a minor discipline, so there will be a lot of breaking ground in the business, a lot of work to do.
GW: I have to ask, what has your proudest, most enjoyable moment been in your fencing career so far? Or you historical martial arts career?
JG: One of my top moments and most exciting, and still so can’t really get my head around how it happened, is being invited to go to Minsk and participate in HEMA in the European Games. It was Ton Puey who on behalf of the Iberian team, invited me and Pedro de Brito to represent Portugal in the opening scene. And it was just amazing, I think, for me, because I haven’t been out much to tournaments. The maximum I’ve been to is in the North, in Galicia. It was just amazing to me to see all of these other HEMAists and there were invitational demonstrations. The stage was set there near a river in the middle of the city of Minsk. And just to see all these people gather around and see our different colleagues showing smallswords, showing longswords, showing with armour, without armour. Me and Pedro did Jogo do Pau. And there was much going on. It was just amazing.
GW: So you’re doing demonstrations, correct? You’re not doing competitions?
JG: There were those too. But I mean, with the demonstrations we were more connected probably with the crowd there. So it was probably a deeper connection for me that I appreciate. And there were competitions too, fabulous combats that were going on. And it was also interesting to learn about the Belarussian culture, because I obviously was very ignorant, so I really enjoyed it. And there was also Gotti’s collection.
GW: Roberto Gotti?
JG: Yes, his collection at the museum. Yeah, and that was so amazing. So for me, it was this full experience of you get to see this and you get Roberto Gotti, because I’ve never been to see Gotti’s exhibition in Italy.
GW: It’s in Brescia, isn’t it?
JG: Yeah, I think so, yeah.
GW: I’ve never been either. I’ve corresponded with Roberto a little bit and I have a copy of Fabris from 1606 and I got it from Roberto. So, you know, we have interacted. But his collection is unbelievable. He has a manuscript copy of Capoferro for God’s sake.
JG: Yeah. All the manuscripts that were there, and then you have the different types of weapons, from clubs to partisans to rapiers. It was like candy everywhere. So after that exhibition they published two books, two different collector’s books. One is a smaller one that has like this reduced version of what was presented there. And then they have this full, complete one.
GW: Well, OK, I have to look that up. So when was this event in Minsk?
JG: So it was about the summer solstice last year, 2019. Yeah, I remember this because the logo was the flower of a fern. Ferns don’t usually have flowers. So it has to do with a legend in Belarus. So that’s why I remember it was that during that time.
GW: Are you a botanist?
JG: Yes. Well I’m a botanist enthusiast because in reality I work a lot with botany and I love botany. I’m a landscape architect.
GW: You’re not! You’re a landscape architect. That’s fantastic. My aunt is a retired landscape architect. OK, if you ever come to Ipswich, then I need you to have a look at my garden.
JG: Oh, OK. I’d love to.
GW: And you can tell us what we’re doing wrong, because my wife and I, it’s the first time we’ve ever actually owned a garden. We bought a house which had a garden last year and it’s the first one where we’ve actually owned a garden. And so we’re doing all sorts of things and we’re probably doing most of it wrong. So it would be very helpful to have some professional advice. I tell you what, you come to Ipswich and we can do some longsword and some rapier. And then you can tell me what I’m doing wrong in the garden.
JG: Oh, I accept, but that’s all just great stuff for me, but I’d be all, “This is a wonderful you don’t have to change anything.”
GW: All right. So getting slightly off track there. But that’s OK. I have a couple of questions that I tend to ask my guests with. And the first of those is what is the best idea you’ve never acted on?
JG: Well, I hope that I have more ideas. The best one is still cooking. I produced a small little dissertation for my instructor’s degree, and the idea was for it to be quite complete, but it didn’t end up being as complete as I wanted it to be. And then later on, I started taking it to lessons and writing down and things that I noticed that were a bit different in terms of interpretation of that. I saw different details of it. And I started thinking, well, this would be great to have like a workbook maybe in the future. But it’s something that actually is quite similar to what you have already produced that I only found out recently because I think Pedro had told me about it. But at the time, you were still working on it. And then I looked at yours and it’s something like this. So that’s like my best idea, I think.
GW: So you’re going to take your dissertation, which I actually have open on the screen in front of me right now. You are going to take that and you’re going to expand it into a book.
JG: Yeah, I’d like to do that, but I’m not sure when. Probably next year I’d start slowly working on it and just let it simmer.
GW: All right. Well, OK, here’s the thing. Any time one of my guests on this show says that they are going to be writing a book, I make them promise that when the book comes out, they’ll come back on the show and tell us about it. Will you come back and tell us all about your book when it’s actually done?
JG: When it’s done, yes.
GW: Excellent. OK, and in the meantime, if you have any trouble with the whole process, I have quite a lot of experience in both writing books and publishing them. So if you get stuck, just send me an email or whatever, and I’ll do what I can to get you unstuck.
JG: I deeply appreciate that because I do get stuck with writing.
GW: And the thing is, it does the historical martial arts community good for us to have more books written by more people. It’s kind of sad that there aren’t really very many people who’ve published on, for example, Fiore. There’s me and there’s Tom Leoni who has produced his translation. And as the Freelance Academy Press series of books. And then there’s Ken Mondschein has produced one. And Robert Charrette has produced a book called Armizare as well. So there’s really only four or five authors who have produced, shall we say, other than just translations, books which have explanation and interpretation and basically our perspective on the manuscript and our perspective on the art that it represents. So that is not nearly enough. We need more points of view, and so anything I could do to help more points of view come to light, then I consider it sort of part of my job to do that. So, so seriously, if you want any help, just let me know.
JG: OK. That’s awesome. Thank you.
GW: No problem. OK, so that’s the best idea that you have not acted on yet. Exactly. Yet. It’s a really important word. OK, now so my last question is somebody gives you a million pounds or dollars or any other currency. It’s imaginary money, so you can pretty much have as much of it as you want in whatever currency you like to spend, improving historical martial arts worldwide. How would you spend the money?
JG: Oh, my gosh, I’m going to say something that probably is like gibberish. I would try and use part of that money, not all of it, to make HEMA a kind of like a world heritage practise. And that would have a base where any HEMA practitioner in the world could go to and just stay for a couple of days or whenever they want, but they’d have to contribute for study or for training and in this space or facility there would be events year round. And a really good library like full packed library with all the copy or facsimiles of the manuscripts that we know of. So it’d be like almost a holy grail place.
GW: So where would it be?
JG: That’s a very sensitive topic. I’m not sure where it would be.
GW: I built something a bit like that in Helsinki because, you know, I have my school and I own the space that the school trains in. And there is a library. It’s not as comprehensive as it could be, but there are like facsimiles of most of the manuals that people would be interested in seeing. Students can come and stay there for free. And if you were coming from abroad or even from parts of Finland, it’s not strictly legal because it’s an industrial space and you’re not supposed to sleep there. But, you know, if people come and they bring a sleeping bag or whatever they can there for free, which is particularly helpful when they’re coming a really long distance and they spent all this money on flights and what have you. They’ve got no money left over for hotels or whatever. So they stay in the salle and they can train all day and interact with the students and either take classes or teach classes or whatever. So and it makes a huge difference to the culture that we’re trying to create, if there is a place like that where people can come and train and it’s not expensive and it’s there to create these kind of connections between people and so that people from different parts of the world can meet each other and people from different training cultures can interact. So I’ve done that on a very small scale and it’s brilliant. It really works. So I think you should definitely take the money and do it. But the question is where? And I would suggest it needs to be somewhere that is cheap to travel to.
JG: Cheap to travel to? I think it’s cheap to travel to Portugal, so maybe we could do it.
GW: Yeah, OK. And if it’s your centre, you can put it wherever you want. So Portugal would make sense.
JG: Yeah. And we would obviously have these lovely gardens where everybody could chill and then that’s amazing. I didn’t know that you had that in Helsinki and if I knew about it before I would have acted upon it. But yeah, I think that the World Heritage thing that I was trying to mention is just to make it easier for beginning clubs too to start. I don’t know if that would help having the status of an activity like a globally protected as cultures. So I think may help.
GW: It certainly wouldn’t hurt, particularly with things like weapons regulations. If we need swords or blades or whatever, and they are restricted in a particular country, if they are part of a recognised cultural activity… If I walk down the street with a foot long, 30 centimetre blade stuck in my belt, and another one in my sock and a shorter one in my sock, people are going to be like, no, I’m sorry, you have to go to jail now. But if I am dressed in traditional Scottish clothing, kilt and jacket on and it’s just part of the regalia and no one looks twice, they’re like, oh that’s cool, that’s totally acceptable. I think you may be on to something there that I never even really thought of, because there must be some process by which a cultural practise becomes recognised as a part of the world’s cultural heritage, I have no idea about anything like that.
JG: Yeah, I guess it has to be proposed by several different institutes from different countries, I think. I have no idea, I’m just imagining it would be like that.
GW: Well, maybe we should look into it.
JG: Why not?
GW: OK, all right, let’s do that. We shall see what needs to happen for that. It would be something like the United Nations that would give out the recognition.
JG: Yeah. I would guess. Much searching to do, yeah.
GW: OK, well, let’s hope that we can get this done. That would be really interesting.
JG: Yeah. All right.
GW: Well, I think that’s probably a good place to finish on. Thank you very much for talking to me today, Jessica. It’s been really interesting.
JG: Thank you. Lovely to talk to you, too.