What Oakeshott Teaches, part one: Honor

Oakeshott Summer Camps are a blast.

Kids of all ages love learning about swords, spears, axes, shields, military tactics, how to make helmets, and throw axes.

But that’s not all we teach our campers and students at The Oakeshott Institute.

Our approach is much more rounded than just bashing each other with foam swords, or tossing javelins at each other. We also work on the inner warrior.

In this series of short articles, I will cover some of the key ideals that we work to instill in all of our campers.

First and foremost, is HONOR

While the virtue seems to be lacking in our modern culture, in the middle ages it was extremely important.

There were not ‘credit scores’ to speak of, or Yelp reviews to prove your truthfulness, or your loyalty, or honor. Your reputation could mean the difference between life and death and it was guarded with great care.

At the top of the list of virtues was Honor.

To be known for keeping one’s word, doing what one had committed to doing, was essential if you wanted to live in society. To break your honor often meant a break with your social group. You might be cast out as an out-law.

Death sentences were rare in Viking society, and even in later periods, but to be banished from the group meant that you had to make a living in the wild, and that you had no protection from your social group from other outlaws or other social groups.

At Oakeshott, we take the virtue of Honor sincerely.

At every camp, we talk about honor, what it means, what is honorable, and what is not. And then we hold our campers to that code. We keep track of honorable deeds: looking out for their fellow warriors, playing within the rules, paying attention to their elder warriors, following instructions, etc.

And if they break that code, that is tracked, too.

At the end of the week, one warrior wins the title: Most Honorable.

viking camp oakeshott

Garrett the Grisly, winner of the Viking Honor Award for 2016!

During the week, the kids always ask me, “Who’s winning?”

To which I reply, “Probably not you, since you had to ask. Honorable warriors don’t have to ask if they are honorable, or care if they win. It’s not about winning.”

Then I tell them, “There will be ONLY ONE winner. No second place will be announced, or last place.”

Okay, it’s kind of about winning, but the way to win is to forget about winning and focus on being honorable.

Since I’ve been working with the Oakeshott, there’s never been a question at the end of the week, who the winner was. It’s always clear. And the campers invariably agree with our choice. They know, deep down. They can feel it.

But winner, or no, they all walk away with a new appreciation for the virtue of Honor.

To sign up your young warrior for Oakeshott’s Adventures in Cold Steel, Summer Camps


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