Graham Meyer plays with swords every Sunday morning in West Philly. He carries them there in a golf bag, en route to a gathering of the Philadelphia Common Fencers Guild – students and teachers interested in learning the finer points of Historical European Martial Arts.
Most of the swords in the bag are a mixture of wood and plastic. Only a few students, including Meyer, have actual bladed weapons. Meyer’s favorite is the steel competition blade called the Federshwert, a type of German fencing weapon. He also knows how to wield a rapier, sabre, and spear.
On Sunday, despite chilly winds and melting ice soaking parts of the park, Meyer gathered his group of six disciples, urging them to grab a sword that they felt comfortable with. Instead of a quick warm up, Meyer went straight to drills.
He started off with basic hand positions and footwork this weekend morning. His path to this point with his class is anything but straightforward.
A Portland native, Meyer moved to West Philadelphia just three years ago, and has always been interested in knights and mythological lore. He started the Guild nearly a year and a half ago, and has been studying HEMA for about six years.
“It has kind of, always been a part of me,” Meyer said. “When I was six, there was this library right next to the elementary school that I attended. I could barely read but I remember finding books about the middle ages, knights, and stuff like that and I would always look at the illustrations.”
Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia journalist. He is one of the founding editors and writers of the North Philly Metropolis, blogger for The Huffington Post and contributing writer to numerous online publications. Click here to learn more about Peak.