Sparring and Fighting

Keith Farrell and Yvain Rit fencing with longswords at TaurHEMAchia 2017. Photo by Andrea Boschetti, 2017.

This is a guest article by Duncan McEvoy. Duncan and I have had several discussions over the last year or so, on the topic of sparring and fighting, and how we think these elements fit into the ways that we each conceptualise HEMA and martial arts. Since Duncan has some different points of view to my own, I asked if he would be willing to write some of his thoughts for a guest article, so that the website can show another way of looking at HEMA. He kindly agreed, wrote this article, and sent it over to me for hosting on the site.

Do you spar in your club? If you do why do you do it? My guess is there will be some common answers like “it’s fun”, and “it helps me to prepare for competitions”, and “it helps me to pressure test ideas and techniques”, etc. Of course there will be many none standard answers too, maybe almost as many answers as there are people sparring out there. I’m certain they are all good answers as they are your answer, and whatever works for you … works.

So we all know what sparring is, what we use it for etc, but do we have any mis-conceptions that could be doing us more harm than good? Maybe, so it could be worth looking into sparring a little deeper and its relationship to learning how to fight. This is worth thinking about and looking into as one of the most common answers I see is along the lines of “it helps me become a better fighter”, or “it’s how I can pressure test myself to fight better”, or variations on that theme. Basically what we are saying is it’s a way to train to become a better fighter. So… Here is the question. Is that correct?

For the purposes of this article we are mostly looking at one on one encounters.

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Some thoughts on corporate sponsorship for the development of the HEMA community

Sparring Gloves and an Albion Meyer
Sparring Gloves and an Albion Meyer. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2015.

Recently there was a Facebook discussion about corporate sponsorship for individuals in the HEMA community, which was quite an interesting topic. James Conlon posted the following question:

“Inside the world of Longsword Fighting” by The New York Times was posted on YouTube over 3 1/2 years ago. To quote Jake Norwood “We need about a million dollars, is what we need. To actually pay for staff… hey Red Bull, right?”

With the exponential growth seen in HEMA over the last couple years is corporate sponsorship a reasonable expectation at present or within the upcoming years? Is corporate sponsorship something that HEMA as a community even wants or needs? What would the foreseeable pros and cons of corporate sponsorship entail? Could corporate sponsorship lead to more of a sportification of HEMA or would HEMA potentially lose its close knit aesthetic that so many of us have come to love?

My thought is that any funding or corporate sponsorship that leads to general development and improvement of the community is a good thing, whereas any funding that leads towards polarisation or isolation of communities, clubs, events, activities, etc, is probably best avoided.

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Should I have siderings on my feder?

“2013 Tournament Feder” with siderings. Image from Regenyei Armory website.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 13th November 2015. It has been modified for reposting here.

“Should I have siderings on my feder?” is a common question that people ask when contemplating the purchase of a new feder, especially if it is their first such purchase. Previously, I wrote an article about what to look for when buying your first feder from Regenyei Armory, and this article will hopefully be a useful companion piece to expand upon the subject of siderings.

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Book Review: Sport and Physical Education in the Middle Ages

Sport and Physical Education in the Middle Ages by Dr Earle F. Zeigler.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 4th March 2016. It has been modified for reposting here.

A while ago, I bought what promised to be a fascinating book with great relevance to the study of historical fencing: Sport and Physical Education in the Middle Ages, by Dr Earle F. Zeigler.[1] Unfortunately, I have very little positive to say about the book, as it was full of glaring problems and issues. This review is going to explain just how poorly the book has been put together, and will attempt to show why proper attention to editing and adherence to reasonably high standards are important, even in self-published works.

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Synthetic and steel, or a question of intensity

Liverpool HEMA lesson
Jodie and Ben performing an exercise during a lesson at Liverpool HEMA. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2018.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 5th June 2015. It has been modified for reposting here.

When HEMA practitioners discuss protective gear, and for which kind of activity it is most suitable, someone usually says that a piece of gear is “suitable for steel” or “good for synthetics but not for steel”. However, I believe this is the wrong way to look at the use of training swords for historical fencing, and the protective equipment that must be worn, as it forces a certain dichotomy that ignores the most important aspect of risk when fencing: intensity.

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Buying your first feder from Regenyei Armory

feder in a field
A feder in a field, at the AHA Loch Lomond 2013 event. Photo by Elliot Howie, 2013.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 17th April 2015. It has been modified for reposting here.

Many longsword practitioners choose to buy their first feder or training sword from Péter Regenyei at Regenyei Armory. These swords are now ubiquitous throughout the longsword community in Europe, and are becoming more popular across the world. One of the greatest strengths of Péter’s feders is the large number of standard options that you can choose when ordering your sword, to make it just right for you – but this can also lead to confusion if you have not had the opportunity to handle swords with some of the different options.

I have had the pleasure and the opportunity to handle many variations of Péter’s feders. Since I have received many requests for advice from people looking to buy their first feder, I have put together my thoughts on the issue and have produced this article as a point of references for people going through the dilemma of deciding what to order.

A feder is a good option for training tool, as opposed to a “blunt longsword”. The weight and flexibility can make them safer tools – it does not always make such a huge difference for you, but it really does make quite a difference for the people who will be receiving your strikes and thrusts!

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Review: Stryker singlestick from Purpleheart Armoury

The Stryker singlestick by Purpleheart Armoury.

The Stryker singlestick is a rattan stick with a plastic basket for fencers who want to train with singlesticks. Leather baskets, although traditional, can be prohibitively expensive, and don’t always provide enough protection against impacts to the hands. Similarly, ash sticks are traditional, but require much more maintenance than rattan.

This singlestick from Purpleheart Armoury is a good solution. With a 3D printed plastic basket, it is easy to produce and keep in stock without the difficulties that come with working with leather: a good thing both for producers and for customers!

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Responsibility to our training partners

Liverpool HEMA lessonMarc and Alex performing an exercise during a lesson at Liverpool HEMA. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2017.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 27th February 2015. It has been modified for reposting here.

We often take our training partners for granted. However, we should not be so blasé – our training partners are important people, who help us learn, and who deserve our respect and care. We have a duty and responsibility to look after our training partners, to keep them safe, and to help them develop their skills just as they help us to develop our own.

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