The ranks within the Hotspur School of Defence are historically based on those used by the Company of Maisters of the Science of Defence, an organisation formed in England during the reign of Henry VIII to regulate the teaching of the arts of fencing and defence.

In order to progress through the ranks at the Hotspur School of Defence you are expected to play for a number of “prizes”, in which you are tested to demonstrate your knowledge and ability with various weapons taken from our Corpus of Arms.

Ranks are differentiated by a ribbon to be worn below the left knee. This ribbon symbolises a garter (a tie often used to hold up breeches in the middle ages and beyond) that was sometimes used as a badge of rank or office. A clear example of this can be seen in the work of Fiore dei Liberi, where he denotes superiority amongst the figures depicted in his manuscripts using garters and crowns.

The colours used at the Hotspur School of Defence are white (Fellow), red (Scholar), blue (Free Scholar), and gold (Provost), denoting innocence, blood, knowledge and mastery.


All ranks are precipitated by a short verbal exam given by the Marshal of the School or your Chapter Master. This is to ensure you understand the fundamentals of the actions you will then go on to perform in your Prize Play. This takes the form of an intensive series of bouts with each specific weapon.

After each Prize Play has been passed and each stage of rank progression occurs a student will be awarded a certificate to mark their achievements within the school.

The ranks are Fellow, Scholar Aspirant, Scholar, Free Scholar Aspirant, Free Scholar, Free Scholar Adept and Provost. Historically only the ranks Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost and Master were used, however we have added “aspirant” ranks to demonstrate the continued progression from one rank to another, and “adept” ranks when a student begins to reach the higher levels. This provides a recognisable and achievable sense of progression.


A new student to the school will be formally recognised when they have met a very simple set of criteria, usually by officially joining the school with an annual subscription and beginning to put together the club uniform.

Scholar Aspirant

A a student who has played for one of the two Prize Plays (Longsword and Messer) required to become a full Scholar.


A student who has played for both Prize Plays required to progress to this rank within the School. A Scholar may choose two further weapons to study from the Corpus of Arms and has earned the Privilege of Free-Fencing, i.e that they may bout with another qualified student without the oversight of an Instructor.

Free Scholar Aspirant

When a scholar begins their journey towards Free Scholar and they have played one of their four Prize Plays required to progress to Free Scholar they will be known as a Free Scholar Aspirant.

Free Scholar

One of the highest ranks in the school and requires Prize Plays to be completed in four weapons from the Corpus of Arms. Permitted to study a further two additional weapons.

Free Scholar Adept

When a Free Scholar exhibits mastery of six weapons from the Corpus of Arms they begin their progression become a Provost within the school. Free Scholar Adepts must have an Instructor Level certification via the British Federation for Historical Swordplay.


The highest rank attainable within the Hotspur School of Defence which requires not only knowledge of the entire corpus of arms but a number of prerequisites.. The student must be teaching or assisting with teaching at a chapter regularly and they must be engaging with the Western Martial Arts community on a regular basis. They should work to promote both the Hotspur School of Defence and Western Martial Arts on a regular basis, and they must be actively researching and improving themselves as a martial artist. For many students, Provost will only be an achievable rank when a teaching position opens up and after many years studying the art. The award of a Provost’s rank is purely at the discretion of the Marshal of the School.


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