Fior di Battaglia of Fiore dei Liberi, c. 1409-1420,
J. Paul Getty Museum.
The SSG's structured curriculum is anchored in the SSG's interpretation of Fiore's l'arte d'armizare--literally, the "Art of the Use of Arms". Students usually begin with our 15-week structured course in unarmoured combat, which gives kinesthetic foundations, the sword and its dynamics, poste (guards), and six exemplary zhoghi or "plays". Students then test, proceeding then to the next block of instruction. There are eight levels, each denoted by a color, usually (but not always) marked with a belt. This structure allows different SSG groups to speak the same language, with students learning skills at similar pacing, though according to their own abilities and experience. Such recognition is neither a rank nor a recognition of fighting effectiveness, but rather of demonstrated knowledge. All SSG members are lifetime students.
Unlike many HEMA-type schools, the SSG is focused on military culture, not the city-oriented culture in which many of the treatises were likely produced for. Therefore, we emphasize full body power generation, and encourage our students to wear armour, both as a courtesy to others (that they might "finish" their blows), and also to help frame the chivalric--as opposed to modern sporting--atmosphere.
We feel that the fighting treatises represent only one expression of medieval martial arts, and one that diverged quickly from its military roots. Hence, students study also medieval literature, artwork and chronicles in order to gain a better understanding of the art and its context.
Finally, we test our interpretations with considerable sparring--focused, open and competitive. The height of competition is of course the tournament. The SSG runs our own medieval-style feats of arms, informed by nearly three decades' experience with the pas d'arms challenge format. SSG members often test their skills with a variety of "fellow traveler" communities--HEMA tournaments, the SCA, or within the Armoured Combat League.