We are the Brotherhood of Steel, Inc
"Never shall I fail my comrades, nor leave any to fall
for we are not separate persons, but Guardians to All"
- Brotherhood creed
“What do you mean we don't do choreography?”
As told by Greybeard the Pirate, VP in charge of PR for the Brotherhood of Steel, Inc and in real life a husband, father, performer and a retail manager. This series of articles appeared in Nov, 2014 Issue of Pirate Nation Magazine and Dec, 2014 Issue of Pirate Nation Magazine.
One of the biggest difference with our troupe compared to most others is that we don't do any stage choreography. Our fighting is about as real as we can make it and still be safe. That being said we still get cuts and bruises and even on occasion need stitches (yea I had to visit the ER a couple years back during a show...4 stitches). So training is seriously important for our own safety and that of our patrons.
Our new intermediate fighters learn first hand the difference between stage choreography and live steel fighting and the lessons they learn will last a life time. Once testing promotion to intermediate is over, our new fighters will grab steel and start training with it. They will still work on the 4 points that many sword choreographers teach but will also start doing a bit of free style blade work with our house trainers. This training will basically teach the new fighters how to attack, defend, parry and even feint with their weapons while still looking good doing so...we are after all a performance group.
The freestyle fighting is exactly just that, Freestyle. Just a few rules, no head shots, nothing below the knees and no thrusting. Other than that we just fight. We do work hard on teaching different attacking and defending techniques but it is still just slinging steel. Our new intermediate fighters love getting the opportunity to fight against a master fighter. It gives them a taste of what performing with real steel in front a real crowd is like. One of the perks of intermediate status is that you now get a chance to perform in front of real patrons. Granted its with a bamboo shinai but it is still performing which gives us a better idea of the new fighters showmanship. We will work on this as well as their fighting techniques during practice as well.
This training can go on for months and even years if needed. There is no way to judge how long a member will take before they are proficient enough to perform in front of a crowd and by no means will we rush them either. The worst thing you can do is rush a fighter before they are ready and get someone hurt. Once we feel the fighter is ready and THEY AGREE we will then allow them to test for potential promotion to master fighter. This test has to be a show quality (3 minute) fight against one of our veteran master captains. This fight will also be judged by a member from each household. If found worthy they are then announced as a master fighter. This rank is not taken lightly and is a honor to become a master in the Brotherhood of Steel.
I have mentioned the hazards of what we do and I do so for a reason. We are not a group that does any choreography in our shows...we WILL do some bad humor though...but who doesn't?
I'm trying to stress how what we do differs from a lot of the other shows across the country. Minimal armor and bladed weapons can be a bad mix in the wrong hands and we work rather hard on one simple principle...Green stuff is on the outside, Red stuff is on the inside...any mix of the two is bad news...
Now stage choreography, WHEN DONE RIGHT is fun to watch and totally entertaining...but when not well practiced or well planned just looks lackluster and "off". I have witnessed both in my years as a performer and cringed when I saw a block thrown before the attack was even started. Those of you who do stage choreography and do it well are amazing and myself and the crowd appreciate all our work to get it just right.
I am often asked...”Greybeard, why dont you all do choreography?” and my answer is just this. ”WHY? There are tons of groups already doing that and The Brotherhood of Steel isn't like other groups” We are proud of our fighters and even prouder of the dedication it takes to master the weapons that they perform with.
One of the things I love about what we do is that unlike stage choreography no two of our shows are the same. They might have the same set up lines and jokes but the fights and the outcome depends on the fighters and are never predetermined. Every show is different because of the lack of choreography and that makes us stand out in my opinion. Standing out in our business is kind of a good thing and gets you noticed. We are a fairly large group (about 80 members when all together) and can put a lot of members on the battle field. Our grand melees are a impressive sight to behold and can really give you a idea of what a battlefield can look like (on a tad smaller scale, though).
Our living history encampment in all its glory
Through these gates you enter another time.
What is that sound I hear? What is that smell? Did I just stumble into a traveling Renaissance caravan? Why are all these tents here? These are all great questions and I hope that I can answer some of those.
Fighting isn't the only thing the Brotherhood of Steel does in case you are wondering. One of the biggest aspects of who we are is our Living History Encampment. From the Great Hall, the Captain's quarters, our blacksmiths, cooks and living knights we strive to not only entertain but teach.
Entering our encampment the first thing you will notice is our Great Hall and it's hard to miss. This is were our Duke and Duchess call home when traveling from village to village. Once you enter the Great Hall and step upon the carpet, you are greeted warmly as one of the villagers that we have traveled to meet. You will be welcomed by our Grace and his lovely wife as they try to answer any and all questions you might have. You might even get to hear some of our members talking about deeds upon the battle field or stories of our travels or even get to hear a song or two if you're lucky. We promise that we will always try to inform and entertain. Surrounding our Duke will be a few of his select Lords and Ladies who he will be entertaining. There will be other nobility, craftsmen and even possibly his naval commander. Our great hall is a 20 x 30 tent and everything in it is equipped to travel. We also carry with us our memorial table where we have pictures and tokens from those close to us who have passed on.
Once leaving the Great Hall you will notice a few other tents within the encampment. One of these tents is our Countess's chambers. It is set up to show how a noble would sleep while traveling. Luxury meets necessity if you will. This small but comfortable tent is open to the public to view and our Countess Deidre actually sleeps on site in it. This is just one of the few tents that our members use for sleeping chambers.
Next you might hear the sound of steel on steel. No this isn't our shows but our blacksmith Gabriel, who works his forge every day, all day during faires making great products like knives, forks, spoons and other items. This is a interactive demo and we encourage the patrons to pick up the hammers and actually make a piece that they can take home with them. The blacksmith is always busy and his forge is quite popular. You will recognize him because his forge leaves him quite dirty.
Now onto our retired Knight Herr Karl. Herr Karl is a retired 1500 Century German Knight who travels with us teaching kids and adults alike that honor and chivalry isn't dead. His “Dress a Knight” show has quickly become quite popular and has been well received every where we go. Karl is one of the few knights that will let the patrons try on his armor, actually letting them feel the weight upon their shoulders so to speak. His show is on how to actually dress a knight in their armor. He and his squire will dress him in his armor and explain the order and reason that each piece goes on and why. He explains what the use of each piece is as well as how it was made. This is a great show and our patrons will return to see him multiple times each faire.
Let us not forget our nautical friends as well. If you look around you will see a few of “our type” of people hanging around a tent. This is were I set up my quarters within the encampment as well. We will display maps, nautical devices, weapons, flags and even letters of marque from various countries. My crew mans these quarters and will answer any and all questions that we can about privateering and pirating. This part of our encampment is growing and we hope to add to this soon with more equipment and maps and other piratical wares. Please stop by and say hi to the crew. Most of them have been at sea too long and need company (and possibly showers).
An army travels on its stomach they say, well so does an encampment. My cook is also the cook for the group and he usually does this over a open fire (when permitted), cooking period correct as much as possible while still keeping us as healthy as he can. This is probably one of the hardest parts of what we do. If you have never fed 30-40 rennies I am glad for you, cause its a challenge at best. Cookie usually gets help from our 2 Aide de camps and other voluntolds (volunteers who are told what to do...lol). They have been known to set over the open fire in the worst conditions and still produce great meals.
We have many other craftsman within our group. Leather workers, chainmaile makers, wood workers, puzzle makers, weavers, and seamstresses. Every member brings something to the encampment being either fighting skill or skill of another sort. Our non-coms are as big a part of what we do as our fighters and we couldn't do this without them. From canon to canon we try our best to constantly entertain the patrons on the field or in the encampment and I am proud to be a member of such a great group and The Brotherhood of Steel.