The Dawn Duellists Society (DDS) is a non-profit fencing club and was formed in Edinburgh in 1994 when a small group of fencers decided to study historical fencing as a martial art rather than continue with modern sport fencing. Their aim was, and still is, to study the use of the sword not as a sporting implement for scoring points but as a martial instrument in context of its original purpose.
The concept of the sword as an implement for the defence of honour may be familiar to those who have studied Eastern martial arts but it is not something that is part of Western sport fencing. A desire for older, more traditional fencing values and frustation with an ‘unrealistic’ fighting style inspired our founding members to leave sports fencing behind for pastures new.
Core to the Dawn Duellists’ philosophy was, and still is, the the undertaking to train and practice as if they would have to duel for real and with the understanding that defence is paramount. There is little point in ‘winning’ if you are also ‘dead’ in a duel!
A society or club is nothing without its members and since our humble start all those years ago DDS membership has grown, attracting many new students who share the desire and enthusiasm to learn more about the use of the sword in Europe and historical European martial arts (HEMA) in general.
The Dawn Duellists now number around 30 regular members from widely differing backgrounds, all united by a common interest in the understanding and practice of the art. Our camaraderie doesn’t end with our sessions, but extends into our social lives – sword and spirits make for a heady cocktail and firm friendships are formed as we laugh and cry about our exploits.
We also have a number of old members dotted around the world, many of whom continue to study and practise historical fencing. Visit our fencing groups resource to find out more about other fencing groups in Scotland and around the world.
What we do
The Dawn Duellists continue to study the martial art of historical swordsmanship and have expanded into other related HEMAdisciplines over the years. The aim of the DDS is, after all, to allow its members to study the aspects of historical fencing and European martial arts that appeal most to them. We are fortunate that the group has grown during a wider global revival of the study of historical fencing and Western martial arts in general, facilitated greatly by the rise of the internet.
This has enabled us to study treatises and manuals that, even 15 years ago, were almost completely inaccessible because they were only to be found as original copies in a worldwide network of private collections, museums and libraries. Now that a lot of them have been made available electronically, we and others like us across the world can study manuals and discuss the techniques within them freely.
The study of the written word of the old masters is only the start of what the DDS does. We strongly believe in training regularly and properly in order to put our knowledge into practice in a manner as closely resembling the training of the duelling arts of the past as possible.
To accomplish this, we hold weekly classes and frequent workshops, and many or our instructors and senior members travel to receive training from experts across the world. The Dawn Duellists also run and host national historical fencing events, attended by novices and experts from all over the UK and sometimes from even further afield.
The ultimate expression of our art is freeplay (or duelling) with the aim not of victory but of showing a true understanding and application of the art. This may take many years of study, practice and training to achieve but when it is done, we believe it is as beautiful as any other artistic endeavour.