General Info on Combat Trainings at Haithabu

If in the past you have considered to sign up for one of my living history shield fighting trainings (here is a video), then you may want to take a look at the info supplied below which I have originally compiled for attendees of the very first Hedeby Viking Combat Class on 13/14 April 2019. 

As you will see, this is designed to be a very special experience in a number of respects. If you feel like this is exactly your kind of thing, then I would be delighted to time-travel with you into the Viking Age for some intense training. Find dates of up-coming events here.

Like myself, the direction of the Wikinger Museum Haithabu is intrigued by the idea that our training is not just a show but an actual living history experience and experimental archaeology. However, while there may very well be tourists visiting the museum, this is your personal training, not a performance staged for the public. Of course you are expected to answer questions if anybody approaches you during breaks, yet this is first and foremost a martial arts class. Your class.

Atmosphere & Authenticity

The whole point of combining martial arts and living history is for us to have a great and unique experience. I assume that this is at least partially what you come for. Thus – other than at many classic re-enactment festivals – we will keep up the atmosphere for each other even after opening hours. I know this is an effort at times, but it is worth it. So please keep modern stuff out of sight, even before and after opening hours: no spectacles, no plastics, no modern shoes, no chocolate bars etc. Store away modern packaging and bottles and fill your beverages into authentic containers where no-one can see.

Avoid modern sounds, too, please: no beeps and ring tones from electronic devices. If you have to make a call, please go where no-one can hear and see you. 

However, as this is still a modern museum, there are facilities at your disposal: toilets, showers and a kitchen (even a smoking area).

Photos & Video

Despite our striving for authenticity, you are allowed – and welcome – to shoot photos and record video. After all, we want to capture, keep and share some of the magic moments that we create. Please always remember to put back your phones/cameras into your bags or pouches after use. If you want to share material online, ask the portrayed persons’ permission first. 

I have no objections against you taking photos or video at class. You are free to share and up-load any footage showing myself teaching, as long as the according post, website or platform has no political, ideological or religious connotation.

Fire & Fire Hazard

After confirmation of your registration, you will be sent the house rules. I take it that you become familiar with them. At any rate, when you arrive on site you will have to sign your name that you are, and that you accept the rules. Please adhere to them at all times, in particular in regards to handling fire. Note that if the museum direction spots an unattended fire in a house, all house occupants will have to pack up and leave instantly – this is not a joke! Note also that in two succeeding winters, a house burned down in the History Park Bärnau. Fire hazard is real with historically built edifices! It is a danger to belongings and the health and lives of people and animals.

Sleeping on Site

If you are bringing an appropriate tent, you will be assigned a place to put up camp. If any modern stuff is visible inside, your tent has to be kept closed at all times, not only during opening hours. Your tent is the only place where it is acceptable for attendees of my events to use modern bedding or a modern sleeping bag. 

If you have signed up for staying in the Viking houses overnight, then note that sleeping berths are padded with heather only. Make sure to bring abundant authentic bedding to keep you warm: sheep skins, woolen blankets etc. No modern sleeping bags or insulation mats, unless you keep them completely concealed in an appropriate fabric cover that is closed on all sides. 

Baggage, modern & historical

Note that space to store items is fairly limited in the houses, and you cannot store anything in the excavation barrack at the museum entry. There are neither any lockable chests for you to use, unless you bring them yourself. So I advise you to only bring a minimum of modern stuff into the houses. It will have to be kept concealed at all times anyway. Avoid modern packaging if possible. What you do not bring, you do not have to dispose of. I am aware that sometimes it is hard, however, this is only one single weekend! I would appreciate it if you would make an effort. Thanks.

Note that there is no security personnel, neither at the museum nor at the car park. Keeping stuff in your cars is all at your own risk, I am afraid to say.

Food & Drink

Our little time travel weekend is a great opportunity to enjoy authentic food and beverages. For lunch on both days and for dinner on Saturday night, the Viking chef Bernd Jacobs is going to provide us with his excellent cooking, and I will bring oak casks with fresh beer. All other meals (dinner on Friday night and breakfast on Saturday & Sunday) you will have to make for yourselves, and I am looking forward to seeing what you prepare! In regards to beverages: No alcoholic drinks during opening hours. Whatever you bring in modern containers has to be filled into authentic ones where no one can see. No littering a party site! If in the morning herbal tea is not to your liking and you need your coffee instead, you are welcome to use the kitchen for any such modern amenities.

Costume & Armour

If this is your first time as re-enactor at the Hedeby Viking houses, please send me a photo of yourself in kit, in case you have not done so yet. 

During the training, we will exclusively wear authentic costume, so no modern shoes or the like. We will not use any unauthentic protection, so no modern fencing masks, knee pads, arm or leg guards required. We will neither use the kind of fantasy leather gauntlets or arm guards that are popular for re-enactment combat sports. Leave all such items at home, as we do not need them and space is quite limited in the Viking houses. 

If you enjoy wearing your authentic armour or a replica helmet, you are welcome to do so. However, it is not required for our purposes. If in doubt regarding authenticity, you are welcome to check with me at any time.

Weapons & Shields

Ideally, we would be training with either sticks (or wooden wasters) – or with sharp weapons. For the sake of safety, we will confine ourselves to steel blunts for now, even though it is dubious that blunted steel training weapons ever existed in the Early Middle Ages. For some exercises, I will supply willow twigs. Or we simply cut them on site.

Note that the closer your steel weapon simulator is to an original Viking Age one, the better. The same goes for shields. Naturally, historical combat technique could be expected to work best with historical weapons. I am aware that only very few Viking re-enactors possess sword simulators that are true to originals in terms of length and proportions. So it is okay for now, if you bring your standard re-enactment blunts.

You do not have to bring spears if it is a hassle. However, if you do bring them, they may come in handy for some demos or exercises. Hand axes are very welcome. You can actually use a hand axe instead of a sword for the entire workshop, if you wish. However, we will not cover combat with Birka style fighting knives or the Anglo-Saxon scrama seax.

There will be a limited number of spare shields and weapons, but I would very much prefer you to bring your own, please.

Fitness & Strength

Like with any physical activity, it helps to be in shape. If you have any health issues or limitations, please tell me before class commences, so I can address any special needs. I will do my very best to make this a pleasant experience. Yet make no mistake about it: It will be tiring. However, in my experience, mental fatigue is often more of an issue than physical exhaustion. Of course you are welcome to prepare yourself, some shoulder work out might be helpful. But do not worry. My weekend classes are inevitably designed for average people with average fitness. (Finding out which muscle groups need special attention will be a side-effect of the class, and if you so wish, you can launch an according training regimen afterwards.) You will not have to wield a shield the whole time, there are plenty of exercises that do not even require weapons at all.

Goals & Aims

To participate in my classes, no prior martial arts experience is required. My seminars are designed to make you understand the under-lying principles that make martial arts work. While there is not a single combat technique that could be learned and mastered within the course of a weekend, it is very well possible to grasp the concept and gain understanding. With this knowledge, I hope to put you in a position to continue your training independently at home, if you so wish. So I do not teach a collection of cool tricks which you would have forgotten two days later, but much rather use a given technique and the training thereof to convey the martial arts principles that make it work. Even if you will not pursue a regular training in the future, you will better understand why historical weapons and shields were made exactly the way they are.

Looking forward to seeing you all for a great experience and a unique event at Hedeby.


By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 297 exclusive posts
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 297 exclusive posts