Is it like Eastern Martial Arts?
It is similar to the Eastern counterparts in the sense that it is a Martial Art, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends. The term 'Martial Art' means the study of warfare and combat. European Martial arts is exactly that, the study of the styles developed and practiced in Medieval Europe.
What will I gain from it?
Besides the fitness and strength aspect of swinging a sword around, weighing in excess of 2kg, for an hour or so at a time, you will learn control and stability. Not to mention muscle tone and suppleness.
How well organised is it as a sport in general?
Over the last couple of decades, there has been a marked move from it being a purely theatrical institution to now where it is practiced world wide as a form of Martial Arts and practiced as a contest sport on a national and international level. Here in South-Africa we have formed a national body of affiliate clubs called EMASA and our inaugural Nationals were held in and hosted by Durban Sword & Shield Club in 2006.
Is there a grading or ranking system within the Guild?
We have defined a ranking system within SAGMCS. As a novice, you will be assigned to the rank of squire, no rank insignia on display on the belt. From there, after successfully grading in a series of practical and theoretical tests, you will be assigned the rank of Man/or Lady-at-Arms (Red tassel). And so on to Sergeant-at-Arms (Red & Green tassel), Master-at-Arms (Red, green & blue tassel) and finally to the rank of Knight(Gold tassel). In conjunction with this, excellence will be recognised in specific weapons handling and skill, by the wearing of medallions, inscribed with the emblem of that particular weapon.