The martial arts studied at the LSD are according to English principles of art. Some English schools have a system of ranking with grade advancement achieved via a public assault (bout) at a variety of weapons; a description of a prototypical system can be seen at the Company of Maisters site.
The majority of our system is based on the teaching of Sir William Hope and our system of ranking is derived from the way he thought fencing schools should run, i.e. there are no ranks at all. Hope categorised members of his school as the “master,” who has charge of instruction and of running the school and “scholars,” who come to be taught, but these are roles or positions and not ranks; if any within the school were to use a rank or title it would be whatever they used in everyday society; Mr., Ms., Dr. and so on, as appropriate. The reason is that Hope‘s salle c. 1700 was essentially a form of gentleman‘s club, as were the pugilistic sparring schools of c. 1800 or even the Bartitsu club of c. 1900.
Scholars may advance at whatever pace they feel appropriate and there is regular assaulting (AKA “sparring”) in which those who have proven themselves capable in the lessons may participate. A scholar would be considered experienced when the have reached a stage where they may participate competently in the assault at small-sword, back-sword and pugilism. There is no requirement to progress to a teaching position if that is not one‘s particular interest.
The playing of a prize commonly means a grading within English arts, but Sir William used it to mean something somewhat different. It was his belief that each year the master of a school should organise a tournament between all his scholars, where each scholar would fence against all of the others. This is done at the LSD and scholars may use their performance in the “Christmas Prize” to gauge their progress, act as an incentive for improvement or merely for their enjoyment as they see fit.
The prize is played during the last session of the year and all taking part fence all others at both the back-sword and the small-sword. The winners of each of these pools go on to fence with their differing weapons. Small tokens, plus the satisfaction of victory, are available for winning both the initial pools and the final encounter. The rules for these encounters change each year to discourage playing to the rules and pugilism is not currently included in the prize playing (although this may change at some point).
The BFHS offers a certification programme for instructors based on the UK coaching certificate. Due to the differing rank structure and organisation amongst Western martial arts schools this programme helps to provide a means of quality control and assurance. We currently have three instructors qualified under this programme; please refer to the contact pages for details.