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Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times


A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, is using a combination of visual, martial and culinary arts to bring medieval history to life.

Suits of armor, sharp swords and shields are displayed in the European Martial Arts Academy, or EMAA. Grandmaster Thomas Booth, owner of EMAA, is introducing European martial arts practiced more than 700 years ago to his students.

In Booth’s academy, students taking a beginner class using plastic swords to learn the techniques, and they do not need to wear suits of armor. Booth corrects their form and tells them about the history of swordplay.

Ashley Mills, a student at EMAA, attends the class with her friend, Belle Bredehoft.

"It’s been a lot of fun, something different,” Mills said.

Bredehoft used to study taekwondo and said the basic footwork involved in European martial arts “is the same. It’s just [with] one you are using your fist, and this, you have a sword in your hand.”

The European Martial Arts Academy teaches both the martial arts technique and discipline to give students confidence. Booth gives his students an opportunity to put what they have learned into practice.

On a recent day, two of his top students, Knight Albert and Knight Conan, each wearing chainmail weighing 13.5 kilograms (almost 30 pounds), dueled with swords in an arena. Albert moved smoothly and scored a couple of times. Viewers close to the competition drew back a bit as the swords clicked.

Booth's medieval-themed tavern integrates all elements. Every weekend, the tavern hosts “Medieval Madness,” where customers can have dishes made according to Henry V's favorite recipes. And the waiters, along with the boss, host a medieval-themed play.

“So what we’ve done is to take a look at the culinary arts, the visual arts, the martial arts, the winemaking arts, the brewing arts, the performing arts, modern and ancient, we’ve joined them all together to make a tremendous package," Booth said.

The two-hour "Medieval Madness" ends with a storm of applause, with customers feeling stuffed and satisfied.

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