Taranaki knights

Justin Stockbridge puts his sword skills to the test.
Justin Stockbridge puts his sword skills to the test.

During the day, Matthew Poehler helps educate pupils at Kaimata primary school. Away from the classroom, he assumes the role of medieval character Oskar der Drachen.

Mr Poehler is the Taranaki Medieval Society's "hall captain" and the boss of the show is on a recruitment drive to mark the group's recent move to new headquarters at the Westown Scout Den.

"What we'd like to do is an encampment at the hall, possibly around the middle of the fourth school term," he said.

"People from the community will be welcome - families, scout groups, anyone who has an interest.

There are about 30 medieval enthusiasts in the group that meets every Tuesday night for training, which includes strength exercises and weapons handling.

The group's communal weapons cabinet holds arms of all shapes and sizes for use in full-contact combat, including staffs, swords, axes, bows and hammers. Many members also make their own armour and weapons based on 15th century designs.

Mr Poehler, who adopted Oskar der Drachen as his period character, became involved with medieval re-enactment in the United States Army and joined the Society for Creative Anachronism.

As part of the American group he commanded several squadrons of archers and batteries of catapults against an opposing force in the Pennsic War, an annual event in the US with up to 10,000 participants.

"I was second-in-command of the East Kingdom Siege, about 20 siege engines and a couple of hundred archers. After an experience like that you really understand what it feels like to raise the flag and see 20 bolts launched at a castle," he said.

A similar event, the multinational Battle of the Nations, will be held in Warsaw in April and May next year and it is hoped a New Zealand team will compete for the first time. Mr Poehler has been offered a place in the Kiwi squad and trained with the team in Hamilton two weeks ago.

"It's like any sport, really. You have to go through tryouts if you want to go. Like if you play rugby, you start at local level, then regional, all the way up to international as an All Black.

"There's a series of selections where you are judged on quality of your gear and combat ability," he said.

The Taranaki society is not solely about combat, with members expected to conduct themselves in a way that reflects 15th century practice.

The next event the society plans to attend is the National Association of Ancient and Medieval Arts encampment at Tahora over Labour Weekend, where combatants from around the country will meet on three fighting fields. Zac Yates is a Witt journalism student

Taranaki Daily News