Citylife Duels with Miltos

 |  June 2, 2015

Game of Thrones fans don’t have to be reminded of the importance of a good sword trainer. It was Syrio Forel, First Sword of Braavosi, and expert in the ways of Braavosi Water Dance that trained Arya Stark, crafting her into a deadly force whose skills soon posed a threat to even the burliest of Lannister knights.

But a change of scene was due for Syrio, and last week the man behind the character, Miltos Yerolemou, found himself in the northern city of Chiang Mai (but still safely south of the wall, fans), to teach us clumsy, cack-handed locals how to execute a perfect Braavosi swing – all in the name of charity.

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Slowly peddling a hire-bicycle towards me, his distinctive curls blew awkwardly in the first of the rainy season’s wind, and I couldn’t deny I was a little disappointed that he had no actual sword with him, strapped to his side.

“It’s always interesting when a student brings their own sword” he half-joked with me after I enquired to the absence of his own.

London born and Shakespearian dramatist Yerolemou wiped sweat off his brow while he explained what he was doing so far north, which I thought must be rare for a Braavosi. “In 2013 I came to Prem and took part in the Artist Residency offered by the school,” he said. “Now I’m back for more.” Prem invites a wide range of artists to the school through their residency program which is the only one in the world with three distinct levels, offering genuine space for the artist, professional development and activities that help artists gain skills in working with children and students of all ages.

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Of course, after my initial ‘oh-my-god-I-met-a-famous-person’ feelings slightly subsided, I had to ask about Game of Thrones. “How did you get involved?” I asked sheepishly.

Turns out, a good friend from his university, Nina Gold, was the casting director for HBO’s Game of Thrones, and she contacted him, asking him to come and audition for a part in the series. “My audition was 3 and a half minutes long,” Yerolemou said, “Which is a really long time.” Needless to say, he got the part, but as auditions are usually less than a minute, the only response he received from the director and casting directors was “Wow! That was long!”

GoTWith his sword fighting skills already under his belt from his time at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Yerolemou was asked, with the skilled guidance of William Hobbs, one of the world’s best choreographers who worked on the eloquent and flawless film the Duellists, to develop a style of fighting “unseen in the knights of Westeros.”

“Hobbs was a fantastic mentor,” said Yerolemou, “he basically invented the Braavosi Waterdance” – the sword fighting technique founded in the city across the Narrow Sea, Bravos.

Now a master at the fictional Braavosi sword fighting technique, Yerolemou chooses to stage sword fighting classes in place of sitting at a table signing photographs at every convention. “I once was invited to a medieval convention,” said Yerolemou as we began walking to our own sword fighting arena. “I arranged this sword fighting class and when I arrived, I was sent to a genuine pig hut. Straw on the floor and a smell of farm animals wafting in, people begin to arrive, dressed in full armour, with actual swords!”

Yerolemou admits he is not a professionally trained swordsman. “The best thing about this is that if anyone questions my moves or there is something missing, I can just make it up.” He said while he selected a piece of bamboo from a pile on the floor. “We [Yerolemou and Hobbs] invented it, so we can do what we like with it!”

The sword fighting class begins. 30 people stand around short but stocky Yerolemou, eager and ready. Moves were introduced and blocks were discovered as we learned through trial and error, while attempting to avoid a heavy piece of bamboo being swung at our gullets.

Miltos (3)Soon we all got the hang of it and things got a bit more intense. Yerolemou tried to highlight the parallels and differences between actual sword fighting and film choreography – with the end result looking fierce, violent and genuinely life threatening, while remaining safe, and perfectly orchestrated, even during an improvisation scene.

It’s well-known that Yerolemou will be starring in the upcoming Star Wars films, and despite all efforts to get a name or even a race, he remained tight lipped. I asked if his sword fighting skills would play a big part in his role in the Star Wars films but Yerolemou replied as expected; “No comment.”

After several sword fighting pairs had a chance to display their mighty power and strength by artificially slaying their opponent, the training was over and I felt as if I could take on The Mountain!

But despite all the stargazing and sword fighting fun, the real reason for this session was to raise funds for Nepal, which has recently suffered two devastating earthquakes within a week of each other.

All money raised was donated to the Thangpalkot Children’s Fun Tents, working in partnership with Committed Nepal who are a local crew of people supporting and building temporary housing and rebuilding the small village of Thangpalkot, 1700km above sea level, populated by rice and vegetable growing communities.

Fun tentMany homes, three schools and four libraries completely collapsed, with an estimated 1.5 year plan to rebuild the area. The Thangpalkot Children’s Fun Tents has set up a centre in the village that will provide therapy through arts and crafts, sport programs to combat stress relief, sanitation, a temporary library and one-on-one counselling sessions by local volunteers.

Not only does Yerolemou fully support the charity, but all who attended were happy to donate what they could to Nepal and together we raised 41,000 baht, which was donated right into the hands of the villagers – bypassing government and creating a direct contribution to the village.

After all the fighting was over, I asked Yerolemou if next year we could organise a Lightsaber fighting course. He smiled at me professionally and then said the one thing that was sure to put smiles on all our faces… “Who wants a beer?”

Find out more or make a donation to the Thangpalkot Children’s Fun Tents at