One of the few major European events dedicated purely to the use of the sidesword and its companion weapons, The English Sidesword Open (ESO) is always an eagerly anticipated international affair. With a great following of competitors and participants from around the globe, the ESO brings together, not just the best this art has to offer, but a really tightly knit community of familiar as well as new faces.

(Jacopo Penso teaching a workshop – Image courtesy of Sally Rutherford)

2020 has only emphasised this feeling. Hosted in the ancient city of London, our busy delegates found time to tour the most important Elizabethan landmarks – including a range of 15th and 16th c. pubs, surviving architecture, museums and of course Sir Francis Drake’s flagship The Golden Hinde. A ‘must see’ for any enthusiast of the period, our partnership with the Hinde museum has allowed us to stage displays of Elizabethan combat on the main deck, to the delight of the public, and to raise awareness of the ongoing survival of our art.

(Image courtesy of The Golden Hinde Ltd.)

The ESO hosts at least four separate competitive categories every year, and listing all the winners here would be a lengthy and tedious affair. So congratulations to the winners of the Sidesword Alone category: Gold – Jonathan Middleton (UK), Silver – Dorian Canham (France), Bronze – Paolo Luca (Italy). Sidesword & Dagger: Gold – Domenico Fichera (Italy), Silver – Paolo Luca (Italy), Bronze – Tim Fuke (UK). Sidesword & Rotella: Gold – Domenico Fichera (Italy), Silver – Jonathan Middleton (UK), Bronze – Alexander Makarov (UK). Nylon Sidesword: Gold – Kristian Barlow (UK), Silver – Simon Swainson (UK), Bronze – Iason Tzouriadis (UK).

Awards already being prepared for ESO 2021

Winners at the ESO were awarded prizes and sponsorship that amazed onlookers. Organisers were told that winners of the bronze medals were being given prizes worth more than would be found at championship levels elsewhere. Prizes included personal portraits by famed artist Katja Hammond, custom swords from such top bladesmiths as Bellatore in Spain, paid tickets to further competitions around Europe, and, for Tim Fuke (UK) the winner of the ESO’s vaunted technical award, one of the first production pairs of the long awaited ProGauntlets by Dutch manufacturer Crossguard.

ProGauntlets by Crossguard

With all respect to the winners of our competitions, the real honour of this event is reserved for our lecturers. Every year the ESO invites two of the world’s leading experts on the combat arts of the 16th century, as well as two promising instructors from the UK, to help develop and promote national talent. We also run presentations from further guest lecturers on important aspects of civilian or military life, relevant to our interests. This year’s lecturers and experts included Ton Puey (Spain), Jacopo Penso (Italy), Rob Jones (UK), Mike Prendergast (Ireland), James Barker (UK) and Steph West (UK). These delegates form a panel and select, from all the participants of the event, the winner of the English Sidesword Open’s technical award – a prestigious distinction awarded to the combatant displaying the best understanding of the principles upon which our art is founded. Our panel of delegates were awarded gilded images from the Opera Nova (the 1536 seminal work by Achille Marozzo) by our sponsors Ser Ocelot, as well as portraits of Achille Marozzo (this year’s ‘patron saint’ of ESO) by sponsor Rui Ferreira.

Unique editions, gifted to the delegates in appreciation

The number of clubs and people training in this ever growing martial art dramatically increases year on year, leading to our partnership with Sala d’Arme Achille Marozzo in Italy, and the second European Sidesword event ‘The Italian Sidesword Open’. In September of 2020 this will be held in Desenzano, on the shore of Lake Garda, in the mountains of northern Italy. To further this art and support its growth, it is our intention to begin adding further European Sidesword events in coming years; something we are actively scouting for in 2020.

The harbour at Desenzano