I’ve been using the same e-mail address for a long time, and plastered it across this site, and just about everywhere else I write online, because of this, I get a lot of very weird spam. Consequently, when a message landed in my inbox with the subject ‘PRIEST TRAINING’, I wasn’t too surprised, I simply assumed it was from one of those odd American churches that let you perform wedding ceremonies for your mates, and deleted it… or at least I would have, but just before I did, I noticed it was from HeyUGuys editor, David Sztypuljak.

As it turns out the e-mail was an invitation to a day being taught to fight like the characters from the film Priest. Given my fear of being attacked by vampires this seemed like a sensible idea. More to the point, normally these affairs usually involve me either getting up very early, or being awake very late at night, and ending up somewhere cold, damp and far away, so the chance to cover an event in a park in North London on a summer’s afternoon was too good to miss. With little hesitation I agreed.

Arriving slightly late I was greeted at the gates to Abney Park in Stoke Newington (which is actually an old cemetery) by a chap dressed in monk’s habit. This was something of a surprise for me, but much more so for the tramp leaning up against a gravestone after a hard morning’s drinking. Walking past, I watched out of the corner of my eye as he incredulously inspected the bottle he was holding, before taking another swig.

The monk escorted me to a dilapidated  chapel, where he introduced me to our instructor for the day, Dave Rawlings of the London Longsword Academy, who was also wearing robes. It was at this point that I, along with the other journos taking part, were told we weren’t going to be taught the same fighting style as characters from the film – primarily because throwing crosses and weaponised rosaries were, a) sacrilegious, and b) fictional. Instead we would receive instruction on the closest real-world equivalent, ancient swordsmanship, as practiced by medieval warrior-clergy.

Dave familiarised us with the equipment we’d be using – a longsword, which is somewhat self explanatory, and a buckler, a small round shield designed to protect our hands from harm. While Dave had metal versions, ours were somewhat more tame – a leather buckler, and a plastic sword. Much less dangerous, but a little less exciting. He then began teaching us the basics.

‘There are’, he explained, ‘seven basic positions [also known as ‘wards’] everyone uses to fight from’. He demonstrated each, and had us practice them, one at a time. He then went through a series of counters to some of these attacks, giving us the basic tools with which to fight. Shortly afterwards he also gave us some safety equipment – a facemask that could double as a cheese grater and some gloves – and set us upon one another.

The sparring began tamely enough, one of us moving into an attack, the other countering, the attacker changing position to defeat the counter and the defender reacting. Everything moved slowly at first, but as we became more familiar with the weapons, and confident in our new abilities some of us got a little carried away, and more than once the facemasks and gloves proved essential.

Then things got a little more interesting.

The plastic swords, being made of plastic, weighed much less than their metal equivalents. This meant that handling them was a slightly different experience, so to give us an idea of the way medieval warriors truly fought; Dave suggested we practice with the metal weapons.

I’m not sure what happened after that, everything just seemed to escalate, and we all got a little carried away. We ditched the face masks first – they were just getting in the way – then the gloves. Then we donned our own sets of robes, and then…  well, below is the last photograph of Cassam Looch from Yahoo. We were playing around and I got a little carried away. His decapitation was a genuine accident, but it seemed like a sensible idea to skip the country anyway.

I’m currently writing this article from a small village in Eastern Europe. I’ve spent the last few weeks putting my training to use, helping the people of Romania deal with their vampire problem. It’s a hard life, but a good one, and I have my Priest training to thank for it.

Priest is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now. For more information, check out their Facebook page, and if you’d like to learn to fend off vampires with historically accurate swordplay yourself, get in touch with the London Longsword Academy, where they’ll be more than happy to teach you.