“The association consisted of, first, the “Scholler,” an absolute beginner who has on his probation and did not yet as rank as a member; the next, the “Free Scholler,” the junior grade; then the “Provost,” or assistant master; and, lastly, the “Maister.” From the “Maisters” was chosen the governing body, known as “The Four Ancient Maisters of the Noble Science of Defense.” To become a member of the association, the simple “Scholler” had to pass an examination, which usually took place in one of the schools kept by the “Maisters.” This consisted of bouts at certain weapons, in which he had to encounter a given number of young men who had already passed that ordeal. It was known as “Playing his Prize”; it was, in fact, his matriculation, and when successful he was received as a Free Scholler.” – Alfred Hutton, The Sword and The Centuries, p261.
There are few rankings within the AES system. These are taken partially from Mediaeval and Renaissance systems of martial arts, and have been modified or created to suit our modern society in light of our heritage. All AES members are students, regardless of rank. Associates are admitted to AES without rank, then attain named ranks following testing. Only those who have completed certain tasks may be given other ranks or titles. Each rank level must be attained prior to the next being granted. There are two types of ranks to attain, scholastic and martial. Scholastic and Martial ranks separate from each other, excepting the rank of Master. Certain levels require a specific level of commitment and an oath to be sworn along with them. Martial ranks must be re-certified every three years.
These are attained based on martial skill. There is a scholastic rank required for all but the Initiate ranking in these. The AES offers martial ranks in hand-to-hand, dagger, short sword, long sword and pole-arms.
Initiate: This is the first attained rank, with each weapon is tested separately. The student must be able to present a display of skill in the weapon chosen. This includes demonstrating an understanding of the weapon itself (make, structure, parts, history) through a brief oral exam. There will be a free-play in each weapon the student wishes to attain ranking in. This allows the instructor(s) to assess student skills.
Savant: One who has shown exceptional skill in the weapon as well as understanding of martial application and history of European Swordsmanship. Capable of beginning to teach students the rudiments and able to discover new insights into the martial use of a particular weapon. Each weapon is again tested separately. Brief oral exam on weapon form and history. One must do a prize-play in order to complete this rank. Requires completion of Initiate and Scholar ranks.
Provost: This is the highest currently held ranking. Demonstrates understanding of the history and relevance of weapon use and form within the overall context of European Martial Arts and able to explain significance of several historical Fechtmeisters through an oral exam. May become certified to lead a particular College and teach other students. Must complete teaching certification seminar in order to teach AES methods. Requires completion of Savant and Senior Scholar ranks.
Master: Is a rank that has yet to be attained by any members. A Master is one who demonstrates both Scholastic and Martial excellence. Currently we have set the level of attaining Free Scholar rank, and Provost ranking with at least four weapons, which must include one sword style, dagger/knife, Ringen, and one other weapon of the student”s choice.
These are attained purely for one”s scholastic and cultural contribution to our knowledge of European Swordsmanship. There is no martial skill required to attain these ranks.
Scholar: The first level to attain. This demonstrates a commitment to the art and an ability to analyze and interpret materials. Each AES member must complete a translation, essay, or presentation that contributes new ideas, interpretations and insights to the field of Western Martial Arts under the guidance of a free Scholar, Senior Scholar or Docent. The subject may be chosen by the writer.
Senior Scholar: Is one who has contributed a significant amount in the scholarly aspects of the martial art, including, but not limited to: at least three articles or translations as per Scholar qualification.
Free Scholar: One who has completed significant individual works, without guidance, beyond the Senior Scholar ranking. Such work can include the developing and running of workshops and demonstrations, articles and translations, a book, or significant community education work regarding European martial arts.
Senior Free Scholar: The highest level of scholarly rank. Has completed all lower ranks, in addition to significant public works, including published articles and/or books. Guides students and scholars in their work.