The Guild


The origins of the Guild go back to the 1950s, when John Waller, The Guild Master started to bring history to life, by following the ideas, "If it could have happened, how would it have happened?" That was to bring to life the past through practical experiments, puttings one's self and much as possible in to the situations of the those from the past and finding out how it might have been.

This lead him archery and then to founding the Medieval Society in 1963 with a groups like  like minded friends he had met through archery. This group  the first of its kind,began to make weapons clothing armour and looked to research and recreate the clothing, armour and weapons of the past as well as how they may have been used. He also looked at the wider context of history of the periods the studied.

This lead him to not only working as a professional archer but also as a fight director for theatre Films and TV, he also developed friends ships with people such as Ewart Oakeshott and the develop links to the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London. Links that would have long lasting and influential impacts on what we would now call Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). With Ewart, John was a member of a group called The Swordsmen, a varied group of collectors and specialists in historical arms and armour.

In the late 1960s as a working Fight Director he was a founder member of the Society of British Fight Directors, the first susch organisation in the world. There was a wary appreciation of this new approach to understanding Historical Combat styles and making that the basis for the work of combat for, theatre,  film and TV.

In the 1970s John was approached by a number of Drama Schools in London to teach their actors in training stage combat, this had previously been heavily influenced by contemporary fencing skills. 

The concept of combat as being both based in physical acting and drawing on proper weapon use and historical technical application wa a new one. Teaching at leading drama schools in such as the London Academy of Dramatic Art, The Guildhall School of Music and Drama as well as many others, brough the approach into contact with thousands of students. The 25 + years since John stopped teaching in those schools his methods and approaches have been used an built upon by others, also teachers in the Guild and all this has offered a chance to work the many factors in teaching the subject.

The late 60's had brought John in to contact and had him involved in the early stages of English Civil War Reenactment and the founding of the Sealed Knot.

John had met Robert Hardy in the 50's and this connection lead to friendship association and involvement in Hardy's History of the Longbow, the book and BBC Documentary, one of the earliest to feature dramatic enacted sections to bring the story to life. This had lead lead to Archery test Taking place, for the first, though not the last time under scientific conditions at the Royal Armaments Research and Defence Establishment.

The late 70s saw John involved in the film How a Man Shall be Armed, for the Royal Armouries, this film, a first for The Armouries would then lead to the ground breaking film., Masters of Defence,

From the Late 70s through the 80s and beyond John had been involved in the initial work with the Archery finds from the wreck of Henry VIIIs warship the Mary Rose, this continued until his death and The writing of the book of the ship and associated finds, The Weapons of Warre and included work on the reconstruction of archery equipments and use as well as reconstructed cannon and firearms.

When the need to move the bulk of The Royal; Armouries collection out of the Tower of London to a purpose built museum rose in the late 80s, Guy Wilson b y the then the Master  the Armouries and friend of John. Guy brought John in to the project, as a key stone of Guys vision for the new National Museum of arms and armour, was that there be a strong and vital interpretation department, bring the collection to life with realistic reconstructions of activities associated with the objects in the museum.

This was ato include deeply researched interpretations, combats and work on horses. Also of this to be based on research before and ongoing once  the museum was open. Guy knew John was the only man for the job.

As part of this goal was to insure that clothing armour and weapons, horses and etc. should be accurate as possible based int he practicalities of production and research.

These endeavours in a national; museum were unique and groundbreaking and lead the Armouries to be the model on many programs around the world

  • Founded in 2000
  • Research and training back to the early 1960s
  • Founding of the Medieval Society 1963

Creating the Guild

Once the idea for an organisation was in place, the decision needed to made what format that should follow.

The initial  difficulty was that Johns teaching had always been done in small groups or personal training.

As the initial goal was to offer the training to people  already in more formal martial arts training. It was felt that Guild needed to offer something similar. IA structure that people were familiar with. Structure, syllabus, grades etc. 

We also felt that we need to maintain as much as possible the freer structure and learning that had been part of the approach.

Also keeping with the historical precedents, the structure of the Medieval and early Renaissance Trade and Craft Guilds.

From that we drew upon the division of levels of skill as a practitioner and teacher. The levels of Scholar and Teacher and their Sub divisions.

As well as the idea of separate Chapters and Study Groups

  • Guild;  noun.

    an association of people for mutual aid and the pursuit of a common goal

  • Guilds are associations of artisans or merchants who control the practice of their craft in a particular town or region. They were organized in a manner something between a professional association, trade union, a cartel, and a secret society.

  • Humans form groups to perpetuate the the group or to complete a further task.
  • While perpetuate the Gaols and philosophy, Principles and Concpets fo the Guild, it must also develop those individuals who can beifit from it to achivee their own potentail in The Ongoing Process of developing a structure for learning and skill development.

Expansion, changes and stabilisation

The only constant as they say, is change. The Guild has changed in many ways over those years.

The core, training withappropriate mind set with the right people under the guidance of the Prnciples stays the same.

The Guilds rapid expansion with a increasing numbers of Chapters in various countries.  Thi sunfortunately lead to the infuence of politics from external organisations and attitudes toward the process of training.

However the people that left often times created their own organisations, to follw thier own approaches to pursuing the study of the Historical arts.

KDF,  Svardkrieg, Combat Archaeology, can all to be said to have had their origns in some ways to the Guild, to a greater or lesser extent. 

  • The Guild Rapidly expanded, with over 10 Chapters across 6 countries and well over 200 members
  • Annual Seminas held at The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds UK
  • Differeing ideas of approaches 
  • Spawning of other groups 
  • Contraction and Stabilisation
  • Quieter Times
  • Return



Contact Guild

Contact the Guild Secretary, the options for possible memebrship can be discussed and should it be felt that mebership would be benificial further arrangements can be made


Initial Assessment

Prospective mebers willbe assessed t see whether memberhsip wil be beinifcail for both sides. Then a physical assement willbe made to the persons function movment


Training Begins

Introduction and development through the Guilds core programs


Ongoing Process

Through an on going process of assment and guidance memebersdevelop their skills and practice


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