Our valuesPromoting excellence and personal development
The Fencing guild promotes values that have endured the test of time. We see them as fundamental for personal development and building character. Interviews about values and character are part of the testing process.
Prudence & wisdom
We embrace personal judgement and wisdom. This is the foundation that guides us in pursuit of all other values. Wisdom means making informed decisions with the virtues as a guide. Included in this concept are also intelligence and knowledge.
Justice & honesty
Being honest, righteous and truthful are foundational for proper behaviour in play, competition and life in general. Justice also means respect and compassion for others.
Strength, courage & discipline
Strength relates to the old adage of a sound mind in a sound body. This is naturally important for fencers, and within this concept, we include physical strength and good health, but also competence, discipline, courage, and valour.
Moderation & balance
We strive to achieve balance and moderation in life and training. This includes self-control and temperance in all aspects of our persons.
A brief history of the cardinal virtues
The Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance, and they are fundamental ethical principles deeply rooted in classical philosophy. The term ”cardinal” is derived from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge, signifying that all other virtues pivot on these four virtues.
The Cardinal virtues originate from Plato’s Republic and were then systematically expounded by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. Throughout antiquity, they played a central role in people’s minds and were embraced by Stoics such as the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Cicero who was an Academic Skepticist. They were widely accepted as fundamental for leading a good life by the Romans.
When the Roman world became Christian, additional Theological virtues were added to the cardinal virtues. Church Fathers, such as St Augustine, were classically educated Romans and they saw the good of the virtues as part of the natural order of God. But for Christians, this also meant that they came to man through God, and to lead a virtuous life meant to be Christian, so they included Faith, Hope and Charity, known as the Theological virtues.
In the medieval world, Christian virtue ethics were firmly established and part of what it meant to be a good person. They greatly helped shape the ideals of Chivalry and became even more important through the works of theologians such as Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. In essence, they were the guiding principles for moral behaviour throughout the time periods of our martial studies and particularly as part of Chivalry. Chivalry, in turn, was the necessary moderation of a warrior class with a great responsibility and ability to perform acts of violence. It was understood, that a warrior class which isn’t guided by virtue, will create chaos and havoc.
The virtues are habits that form character
But what are the Cardinal Virtues? The cardinal virtues are in a sense both values and characteristics of a person. The “value” behind the virtue is the desire to increase in that virtue, but the only way to increase in a virtue is to practice and create a habit of it. In other words, the value is the love, knowledge, and desire towards a virtue. These values guide us towards acts and habits that are virtuous, which form our character. A virtue is not an opinion or a belief, it has to be manifested in action. In other words, it’s not possible to just hold the value of justice while not being just in action, and still be considered virtuous. Instead, we grow in our virtuousness by practicing the habit of the virtue, and we decline in it by acts contrary to that virtue. You are what you eat, and you become what you practice. In essence, the virtuous habit forms the character of a person.
In practise, we exercise the habit to lead good, moral lives in the various ways that is relevant to each of the virtues. Just as we increase in strength by exercise, we increase in our moral strength by practicing courage; that is, to act in a virtuous way even when it’s costly to us and there’s a price to pay. We become temperate by practicing temperance in our food and drink, and strengthening our minds to lead a temperate, healthy life. And we become just by paying our dues, being fair and loyal. And we diminish our justness by acts of infidelity, disloyalty, and unfairness towards others. All of these virtues are then guided by our Prudence. They are also interconnected, so that all of them increases by the practice of each part. Our Prudence increases, for example, by the practice of Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. And when we practise the virtue of justice, we become more courageous, and when we are courageous, we can stand up for justice. All of the virtues are linked in such a manner.
WHY ARE VIRTUES IMPORTANT?
Is this really important today? In the Guild, we believe that the benefits of the pursuit of virtues isn’t limited to a warrior class of a bygone age; that there is much to be benefitted from promoting the cardinal virtues for all of society and for us as individuals. People who are virtuous facilitate good order and human flourishing. In contrast, the person who engages in acts that diminish virtuousness creates frustration, disorder, and ultimately human destruction. By striving for these ideals, people can flourish and be a positive force in a world that has been lost in confusion, disorder, and relativism.
“Thus it behooves a knight to be well-stocked with good habits and manners. Every knight ought to know the seven virtues which are the source and root of all good habits and are the path to everlasting heavenly glory. Of these seven virtues, three are called ”theological” or ”divine” while the remaining four are ”cardinal.” The ”theological” ones are faith, hope and charity. The ”cardinal” ones are justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude.”
Raymond Lull (1232–1315), The Book of the Order of Chivalry.
“One should take no pleasure in such delights; do not concern yourself with being knowledgeable about good dishes and fine sauces nor spend too much time deciding which wines are the best, and you will live more at ease. But if it so happens that you find good food and drink, partake of them gladly and sufficiently but not to excess, for men of worth say that one should not live in order to eat, but one should eat in order to live, for no one should eat so much that he is too full, nor drink so much that he is drunk. And one should do all these things in moderation and so live without too much discomfort.”
Geoffroi de Charny (1306 – 1356), The book of Chivalry.
“And so the human virtues are habits.”
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Summa Theologica
Chivalry and virtues today
Jungk ritter, lere
Gott lieb haben, fröwen ia ere, so wöchse dein ere.
Übe ritterschaft und lere
kunst, die dich ziert,
in kriegen zu ern hoffiert. Ringet gut, fesser
glefen, sper, schwert und messer manlich bederben.
Haw drin hart dar! Rausch hin:
triff oder las farn
daß ihn die wysen
hassen, den man sicht brysen. Daruff dich fasse:
alle kunst haben lenge und masse.
Chivalry rose to prominence as a way to moderate violence while also integrating the knightly life into a code. It can be seen as an amalgation of secular high culture, religious/philosophical beliefs and martial practise. And in the periods we study, chivalric culture played a significant role. Throughout the fencing sources, there are many references to chivalry and chivalric ideals. They are part of a martial culture that is aimed at guiding those who train for combat towards a moral path.
The path of Chivalry in history meant that you were part of a warrior elite, and that’s not applicable for most of us today. But in the guild, we still see these ideals as a practical approach to life and training. This entails embracing hardships and challenges as a means to become stronger, better and more useful to others. Resilience and determination are key elements for both fencer development and for being a dependable individual for society, friends and family. If nothing else, the chivalric ideal can be a source of inspiration for all of us to better ourselves.
In a very pragmatic way when pursuing historical fencing today, these virtues guide our behaviour in the fencing hall, in our interactions, when competing and so on. Justice teaches us to play fairly, we strive to increase our Strength, we practise and promote Temperance to be healthy, and we aim to take control of our lives and be good leaders in accordance with Prudence.
By striving to embody chivalric virtues both on and off the training ground we naturally seek to cultivate individual responsibility. With this comes a deep sense of respect for our opponents, emphasizing the importance of treating others with dignity and fairness, in life and in our martial exploration.
Each guild member is expected to strive to embody these ideals, including values associated with learning how to fence, as promoted in the original sources and historical guild bylaws. The guild places a significant portion of responsibility on the members in the pursuit of their own development. We do not expect perfection–as we understand that no man is perfect–but for our members to approach their own shortcomings with humility and make it a note of honour to strive towards bettering themselves. It should be noted, that we do not require any participants in the guild to hold any specific religious beliefs.
It is self-evident that the goal of the guild is primarily to promote martial excellence and provide a path for the martial artist to follow. Fostering and promoting martial excellence is therefore at the core of our values, and we are committed to creating an environment that encourages growth, skill development, and a deep appreciation for the art of historical fencing.
We understand the importance of setting clear goals and milestones for guild members. Through our structured ranking system, we provide a roadmap for progression, allowing individuals to track their journey and witness their own improvement over time. By striving for higher ranks, our members are constantly motivated to push their limits, explore the Art of fencing, and expand their knowledge of historical European martial arts.
Credibility and legitimacy are important to us. Our guild ensures that rank advancements are based on objective criteria rooted in demonstrated skill and proficiency. This approach establishes a standard of excellence. By maintaining a high level of credibility, we not only honour the traditions of historical fencing but also contribute to the wider recognition and appreciation of these fencing arts.
13th century knight fighting the seven deadly sins. From the Summa Vitiorum or ”Treatise on the Vices” by William Peraldus.