15 November 2016, by Jan Mikolajczak
First day at a new job is not all that hard to imagine. Most of it is what you would expect: a bit of admin work, introduction to the new team and the wider company, setting up your workstation, kicking off with a few training exercises. But on my first day, between emails with links to handy materials and those telling me about welcome drinks, I found something I would have never guessed would be there: an invitation to a sword-fighting event. …what? Feeling as if I was back at the University Freshers’ Fair again, I obviously signed up straight away.
And I was right to! Who wouldn’t want to look like this for a few hours?!
But I’m getting ahead of myself – can you tell I’m excited? Back to the beginning though. What is actually going on?
It’s really quite simple: Softwire has a morale scheme designed to bring ideas like this to life. Anyone can come up with one, get it organised and Softwire will cover or subsidize it. Moreover, each employee gets a yearly allowance of holidays solely to be spent on such activities and outings. In the past those have included theatre plays, climbing and laser tag, etc.
Now, sword-fighting. …what? Yeah, “…what?” pretty much describes all of my initial attempts at figuring out what this will be. It hasn’t really cleared up all that much until the day of the event (one of the them, as the interest was so high that this happened twice!), when a bunch of us got up from our desks half-way through the day, grabbed weapons provided by our about-to-be-teacher and set off to parade down through the streets to the nearby Hampstead Heath. There, we were given a quick introduction and soon enough were whacking each other with the newly obtained items of friendly destruction.
The weapons themselves were a very surprising combination of softness, making them completely safe and sturdiness, allowing proper fencing work. Plus, they were realistically looking to boot! We had swords, daggers, shields of different sizes, batons, maces, axes, spears and, best of all, complete freedom to mix-and-match and try out whatever we liked. This meant we learnt the basics of actual fencing (much as would be done with real weapons); we could go all out without worrying we’ll hurt each other; and we looked AWESOME doing it! But don’t take my word for it:
The event itself consisted of a series of different games, some promoting teamwork and cooperation, others more focused on the individual skills. Amongst them we’ve played weapon-equipped variations of British Bulldog and tag, as well as a re-enactment of the Battle of Thermopylae (with rather devastating results for “Team Greeks”).
One of the best things about this event was that it was joined by people from across company; “newbies” like myself, directors, seasoned employees and managers all alike, all equally tired and happy at the end of the games, yearning for more! It was a great chance to get to know everyone better and well, from a perspective one doesn’t get to see in the office. Surely, some people were hooked on more than others; some have done it before, others, myself included, will try to do it again, but at the same time I’m super excited about the next thing that Softwire will surprise me with!