We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Brittany Saint Leafy. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Brittany below.
Brittany, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Any thoughts around creating more inclusive workplaces?
Sword fighting is a niche hobby that is quickly growing and gaining ground in Arizona. Did you know that there are currently at least six schools dedicated to the study of Historical European Martial Arts in Arizona alone? Did you also know that half of those schools are co-founded and run by women? When people think of sword fighting in a historical context it is usually exclusive of women, but much like today, there were many women who participated in martial arts throughout history. One of the earliest manuscripts written about sword fighting depicts a woman instructing sword and shield techniques, another text shows a duel between a man and a woman. The historical evidence suggests that women participated in the study and practice of martial arts throughout European history, and the sword fighting women of Arizona are proudly continuing the tradition.
Allow me to introduce Mordhau Historical Combat; a martial arts school in Mesa, AZ, dedicated to the study and practice of Medieval and Renaissance weapons. I am Brittany, and I am the co-founder and Head Instructor of Mordhau Historical Combat. After several years of competitive success against men and women, I took up the mantle of coaching the next generation of sword fighters in Arizona. Doing so brings me great joy, especially when I can help folks of different backgrounds, identities, and expressions find joy too. Sword fighting is for everyone. It can be a means of exploring the capabilities of your body and mind, it can provide a social outlet with like minded people, or simply be a way to indulge in something a little bit nerdy. Everyone has different reasons for falling in love with sword fighting, and my job is to foster an inclusive community that lets everyone explore this hobby safely and comfortably.
By nurturing a welcoming environment that encourages inclusivity, Mordhau Historical Combat has become home to a horde of swordswomen. We host beginner friendly classes that anyone is welcome to join, but we also offer monthly women’s classes to help ease women into a hobby that might feel a little intimidating at first. Some folks might feel compelled to ask why it’s even necessary to do it. It’s okay to ask that, and I’m happy to answer. By being explicit about welcoming women and creating space for them makes women feel like they will be safe and allowed to participate in an activity unhindered. Having diversity in a martial arts club is generally beneficial overall. Having diverse people to work with and learn from creates unique experiences a student might otherwise never get. Fighting people who are very tall, very strong, very heavy, very light, very timid, very focused, differently abled, neuro-divergent; are all important matchups to gain experience.
With that said, you, yes you, are very welcome to join us for a class!
Brittany, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I started sword fighting as a university student in Canada in 2011. I transitioned to being a coach and instructor in 2018 after founding Mordhau Historical Combat with my sword fighting husband. Together we offer classes in Mesa, Arizona covering tactics and techniques for medieval weapons including longsword, dagger, polearms, and short swords with shields. While sword fighting is a niche hobby, it has been growing steadily in Arizona, especially with the rise in popularity of things like Game of Thrones, the Witcher, Vikings, and other media diving into history and fantasy genres. While we love those TV shows, nothing we do is based on Hollywood sword fighting. Everything we teach is actually based on historical research and extent source material. No spin moves, unfortunately. Medieval manuscripts detailing sword techniques have survived for hundreds of years in museums and private collections. We use those manuscripts to recreate the martial traditions of the time. However, we have modernized a little bit. We don’t wear medieval clothing, in fact, we prefer comfortable sports wear, and we use steel swords, but utilize modern protective equipment.
Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?
Meeting my business partner is definitely a unique story, and one I love to share! My business partner, now husband, was a competitive sword fighter. Coincidentally, so was I, but we were based in different countries and came from rival schools. We had met as rivals at an international competition in 2015 but it took another year or so for a spark to emerge. After competing independently from one another on the tournament circuit for a while, we ran into each other once again, and it was from then on that we decided to take a stab at romance. I left my home country for Arizona in 2018, and once I was settled we ventured into founding Mordhau Historical Combat; our jointly owned sword school. It’s been a wild ride, but it’s never dull.
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
As a small martial arts club trying to thrive in a niche hobby, getting new folks in the door is so essential. Word of mouth has been a driving force in gaining new people and retaining long term members. It can be a little daunting to try something new, especially something a little outside the norm. The best way to ease any doubts is talking to someone who has experience with it already. We encourage our members to bring friends with them to try it out not only to help us grow, but also because sword fighting is better with friends.
- Website: www.swordfightaz.com
- Instagram: @mordhauhema
Photos by jon Murray and Holly Magnusson