The Sword Guy Podcast
Fire and Cauldrons, with Ruth Goodman

Fire and Cauldrons, with Ruth Goodman

April 16, 2021

The Sword Guy Podcast, episode 44

Ruth Goodman is a social and domestic historian working with museums, theatre, television and educational establishments. She has presented and consulted on several highly successful television series for the BBC. She has also written several excellent books we'll be talking about today, including The Domestic Revolution, How to be a Tudor and How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England.

In this episode, Ruth and I talk about some of the lesser known, but nonetheless fascinating aspects of life in the Middle Ages, without what we think of “essential” cleaning products, or temperature controlled ovens. Yet people did get their clothes properly clean, and they were able to bake excellent cakes, pastries and bread. Ruth explains how they did this, and the type of learning that has been largely lost nowadays.

In our wide-ranging conversation, we also cover the importance of sheds, leaving kids in forests, giving knives to toddlers, and understanding fire. Ruth has a special passion for medieval cauldrons. Here’s a picture:

We also talk about how people would have dressed and moved at this time, all of which is very relevant if you are interested in martial arts from this, or any other period of history. We discuss how to research when there aren’t many sources available – as it turns out, there are many ways to skin a rabbit.

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at

And to support the show, come join the Patrons at


What is a Sword?

What is a Sword?

April 12, 2021

Episode 43

What is a sword? When does a dagger become a sword? When does a sword become a spear? Can a boomerang even be a sword?

In a follow-up to my conversation with Australian martial artist and philosopher, Damon Young, this special episode picks up where episode 31 finishes, with a discussion where we try to come to an agreement on what a definition of a sword might be. If you have ever wondered about this very question, or already have your own definition in mind, have a listen and see if you agree with us!

Damon is the author of books like Philosophy in the Garden, and On Getting Off: Sex and Philosophy. He has also edited a couple of books on philosophy and martial arts: Engagement, Philosophy and the Martial Arts, and Martial Arts and Philosophy: Beating and Nothingness.

If you missed the first part of my conversation with Damon, you can find it here. It’s about the importance of the study of philosophy when practising martial arts. How we know the difference between bravery and foolhardiness, how can someone engage in violence and still be a good person. And perhaps, most importantly, however we define them, why are swords so damn cool?

You can also support the show at Patrons get access to the episode transcriptions as they are produced, the opportunity to suggest questions for upcoming guests, and even some outtakes from the interviews. Join us!

Teaching Us to Sit Still with Tim Parks

Teaching Us to Sit Still with Tim Parks

April 8, 2021

The Sword Guy Podcast, episode 42

Tim Parks is a prolific novelist, non-fiction writer and translator and perhaps most importantly from my perspective, he wrote a fantastic memoir on getting into meditation, called Teach us to Sit Still. Those of you that train with me know that meditation is one of the core parts of my practise and in this episode Tim explains the circumstances that led to him going to his first meditation retreat, how it changes people, and how he does it.

Tim has lived in Italy for many years, and we also talk about translating texts and about horribly illegible Renaissance handwriting. Discussing his book, Medici Money, leads us into a fascinating digression about the meaning and morality of money.

To find out more about Tim Parks and his work, visit

For more information about the host Guy Windsor check out his website at

And to support the show, come join the Patrons at

Writing and Walking, with Joanna Penn

Writing and Walking, with Joanna Penn

April 2, 2021

Episode 41

Joanna Penn is a writer (both fiction and non-fiction), podcaster and ultramarathon walker. She doesn’t do swords, or even a lot of history, but she has been a huge influence on my work and this podcast. We don’t talk about martial arts in this episode, but we do discuss physical training, accomplishing goals, and Joanna’s medieval-style pilgrimage from London’s Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. That’s 182 km or 113 miles on foot. This took place in 2020, which was the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, and we discuss cadaver tombs, memento mori, and what taking such a very long walk teaches you. To read more about Joanna’s pilgrimage, see:

And a list of questions to consider when taking a pilgrimage:

For all Joanna Penn’s books, links to her podcast, blog, and support for writers, where you will find resources to help you write, publish and market your book, as well as make a living with your writing:

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at

And to support the show, come join the Patrons at

Your challenge for April

Your challenge for April

March 29, 2021

Eat Well.

Last month’s challenge was very simple: prioritise sleep. While sleep quality varies hugely, it’s still basically the same thing for everyone: there’s good sleep, there’s bad sleep, and there’s enough sleep or not. We all know what we mean by ‘sleep well’. But what do we mean by ‘eat well’? ‘Eat well’ is incredibly varied. Eat well for what? The challenge this month is simply this: pay attention to what you eat and why.

No area of human health is more riven with controversy and ill-feeling than discussions around what we eat. Very few people are actually rational about it, and I’m certainly not one of them.

You can optimise your diet for many different things, and they will all look different. Here are some common priorities, in no particular order:

1. Athletic performance in your chosen field. Should sprinters eat like marathon runners? Probably not.

2. Muscle gain. All serious bodybuilders have pretty strict diets, and are often eating far more than they really want to, to persuade their bodies to store so much protein as muscle.

3. Fat loss. Probably the most common reason people pay attention to their food habits, and also an area where emotions run very high.

4. Pleasure. Many pleasurable foods are contraindicated by other priorities. If only chocolate was disgusting…

5. Ethics. The food you choose to buy has been produced, distributed, and sold by people. All three of those steps have ethical considerations. Animal welfare is one; the environmental impact of crops like soy is another. How far the food has travelled is yet another.

6. Longevity. This usually revolves around restricting calories, fasting, and other unpleasant practices.

7. Social connections. Many food practices have social dimensions. I have dinner with my wife and kids every day. We sit down together for it, no screens. Sometimes what we eat is affected by that priority; if we’re running late and the kids are hungry, I might make something quickly so we can eat together. Making something that is a treat for the kids usually means it’s not good for my longevity, athletic performance, or fat loss. But it’s very good for my mental health to have strong bonds with my children.

8. Convenience. How often have we eaten a less-optimal food because it was right there, instead of taking the time to make or find something better?

9. Cost. Many people can’t afford to buy enough of the higher-quality food that would be better for them. Some people just don’t prioritise food in their budget the way they prioritise other things.

The principles of nutrition are quite straightforward: eat enough of the things you need but not too much, avoid the things that are bad for you, and spend enough time without eating for your gut to rest. Given that we live in a culture of abundance we tend to classify diets by restrictions, and take the “getting enough” side of things for granted. Those restrictions are:

1. Restricting specific foods. Many cultures have a taboo food that other cultures suffer no ill effects from. Most weight-loss diets have some form of ‘don’t eat sugar’. Vegetarianism restricts all meat.

2. Restricting food quantity. You can have this much ice-cream, but no more. For most of my lifetime, most of the popular weight-loss diets have been about calorie counting, and reducing the overall quantity of food.

3. Restricting when you can eat. Most traditional cultures have periodic fasts, and we all fast while we’re asleep. One currently popular form of this (which I actually find very useful for my body and my purposes) is the not-very-well-named “intermittent fasting”, in which you restrict food to an eating window, such as 14 hours of no food, 10 hours of food (so if you eat breakfast at 7am, you need to stop eating by 5pm). Popular versions of this include 16:8 and 20:4.

But my own parents remember food rationing during the war. Perhaps half the people currently alive and 99% of all humans who lived before the 1950s are far more concerned with getting enough food than with being precious about when and how much they eat. There are also psychological costs to viewing food as something to be restricted, so you may prefer to think about how do you get enough of the high-quality food, rather than restricting yourself.

So what should you do?

The Challenge this month is: examine your priorities regarding food, and make choices consistent with those priorities.

I did say that’s a challenge. It’s really, really, hard for most people.

I would start by asking yourself what your priorities are. Are they even on my list? Then look at what you are actually doing, and decide how closely your actions match your priorities. It might be better to do that the other way round- look at what you are doing, and from there deduce your priorities.

Some priorities are mutually exclusive. Generally speaking, dietary practices associated with longevity are not associated with muscle gain, or pleasure. But most people have many conflicting priorities. So prioritise! Which do you want more? And can you balance your priorities in a practical way?

Then look at the downsides. Swordsmanship is awesome good fun: until someone loses an eye. So we wear fencing masks. What can you do to minimise the downsides of your priorities?What are the ethical implications of your muscle-building diet? What are the longevity implications of your pleasure-focussed diet? In all things, you want to cap the downside. Can you minimise the ethical problems of some of your choices, by choosing a different brand or supplier? Can you minimise the health problems of your pleasure-focussed diet by for instance intermittent fasting?

With your better sleep, and your ability to acquire or drop habits, you should have the internal resources you need to make whatever changes you want, for your priorities.

My only specific advice is this- leave virtue out of it. Deciding you want pleasure in your life does not make you a bad person, and deciding you’re going to cut out meat and fast every week does not make you a good one. Any extreme is self-indulgent: It is no less self-indulgent to starve yourself than it is to stuff yourself.

If you are looking for ideas about how to proceed, then you may find my other posts on nutrition helpful:

Eat Right for Fight Night

The Myth of the One True Diet

Skittles Beat Watermelon 

How I lost 10kg in 3 weeks without effort or hunger

Jousting with Callum Forbes

Jousting with Callum Forbes

March 26, 2021

Episode 40

Callum Forbes is an extremely experienced martial artist, having got into sports fencing in the late ‘70s, and Hapkido from 1982. But then HEMA drew him in, both from a love of Dungeons and Dragons, and from a disillusionment with the ruleset of sports fencing.

In this, our 40th episode, Callum tells us all about jousting – how it works, how he trains, what sort of horses you need and how competitions are held. Since the mid ‘80s, Callum has been building up jousting tournaments in his native New Zealand, to the point where he hosts international tournaments. We discuss the challenges that brings, particularly when you are not a multimillionaire and can’t fly your own horse around the world with you. He also explains what a fantastically all-inclusive sport jousting is, so long as you can ride a horse!

We also talk about recreating Fiore’s highly dangerous (and effective) mounted combat plays, and Callum has kindly agreed to film them for us. Watch this space for those.


Callum’s YouTube channel is here, with lots of videos of jousting training:

And for The Wellington Hapkido Academy, where Callum is chief instructor, see here:

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at
And to support the show, come join the Patrons at


An unconventional approach to HEMA, with Lauren Ings

An unconventional approach to HEMA, with Lauren Ings

March 19, 2021

The Sword Guy Podcast, episode 39

Lauren Juliette Ings is an assistant instructor with the Stoccata School of Defence in Sydney, Australia, and is also a circus performer, a burlesque dancer and an actor.

In this episode we chat about making HEMA more appealing to women, the LGBTQI+ community, and people of different physical abilities. Lauren is hugely passionate about making HEMA more accessible, friendly and fun for all and her style of teaching is rather different from the “middle aged white dudes” of traditional historical fencing schools. We talk about what we can do to get that first woman in through the door, and how important representation is in our schools, books, and materials.

You can find Lauren on Instagram @La.Petite.Morticia. (Nudity warning!)

The Stoccata School of Defence:

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at
And to support the show, come join the Patrons at
Portuguese Party Weapons with Jessica Gomes

Portuguese Party Weapons with Jessica Gomes

March 12, 2021

The Sword Guy Podcast, episode 38

Jessica Gomes runs her own club, the Velha Guarda Marcial, in beautiful Sintra, Portugal. She focuses on Fiore’s system, Capoferro rapier, and Portuguese staff fighting, Jogo do Pau. Jessica explains what this Iberian “party weapon” is all about, and how it influences and complements training with other systems.

There are some pictures of the Portuguese staffs here, with English translation:  

We talk about teaching different weapons systems alongside one another, such as Jogo do Pau and rapier, and how you keep them separate… or not. There is also lots of advice in this episode for anyone thinking of setting up their own club. We discuss the cultural side of HEMA and how we could get it recognised as a world heritage activity, with the aim of making it easier for new clubs to get started and to help with weapons regulations.

For more information on the Roberto Gotti exhibition in Minsk that Jessica attended in 2019, see here:

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at
And to support the show, come join the Patrons at
Medieval swords and research, with James Hester

Medieval swords and research, with James Hester

March 5, 2021

Episode 37

James Hester has been involved with HEMA since the age of 15, when he began performing fight shows throughout New England. He then set his course as an academic and educator, working in museums before completing an MA in Medieval Studies in the UK. He then joined the Royal Armouries Museum, rising over five years to become Curator of Tower Collections at the Tower of London. In 2015 he was awarded the Arms & Armour Heritage Trust Studentship to complete a PhD focusing on late medieval martial arts at the University of Southampton. A summary of the PhD thesis is here.

In this episode we talk about James’s exciting research, particularly about matching up the treatises and other sources we have from the period with the notches and dings found on weapons and skeletal evidence from battlefield graves to work out whether the techniques detailed in the fencing treatises were ones that were actually used at the time. Is it possible to extrapolate from a fencing treatise that this is how people actually fought? Click on the link for a video lecture on some of James’s research into damage on arms and armour.

We also talk about the passage of arms events James has organised, and his attempts to make the armour at these events as historically accurate as possible, i.e. not what we would think of as “safe” by modern standards. To read more about the 2018 passage of arms at the beautiful Château de Castelnaud in the Dordogne, France, see here: A brief write-up of the 2018 Judgement of Mars with some photos. For more photos, see this link from Facebook: Photos by La Mesnie du Blanc Castel of the 2019 Judgement of Mars on their Facebook page.

In the introduction I mention photographs of the treatises at the Fencing Museum in the U.K. You can see these here:

For more information on James and his work, see:




Twitter: @schoolofmars 

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at
And to support the show, come join the Patrons at
Historical Medieval Battle in New Zealand, with Dayna Berghan-Whyman

Historical Medieval Battle in New Zealand, with Dayna Berghan-Whyman

February 26, 2021

Episode 36

Photo by Keane Chan.


Dayna Berghan-Whyman is the President of the New Zealand Federation for Historical Medieval Battle and Buhurt. In case you haven’t heard of it, Historical Medieval Battles (HMB) are full contact sports fighting, where defensive and offensive weapons of the Middle Ages are used. It includes historical fencing, buhurts, melee, duels, small-group battles, mass field battles, professional fights, etc. In our conversation Dayna explains her involvement in getting this sport recognised in New Zealand.

In this highly entertaining episode we talk about the challenges of competing in tournaments on a world stage, when you live SO FAR away from everywhere else. Dayna explains what it’s like to get off the plane after 30 hours and realise your armour hasn’t arrived, or what to do when the Italian medics cut your armour off you when you get knocked out in a battle. It’s very costly in terms of time and money doing this sport at a top level, especially in Covid-19 times with the potential for lengthy quarantines. She also talks about the challenges facing women in the sport and how hard it is to get experience when you simply don’t have enough opponents.

Listen to this episode for a hilarious anecdote involving Dayna’s mouth guard and bird poo (yes, it’s as bad as you think) and why a bloody knife made Dayna late for a seminar with Guy.

Please note that this conversation was conducted in December 2020 and the details of some 2021 competitions have since changed.

To find out more about HMB and Buhurt, visit:

Buhurt New Zealand

Historical Medieval Battle International Association

For more information about the host Guy Windsor and his work check out his website at
And to support the show, come join the Patrons at
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