Approaching the study of Viking sword and shield

Viking sword and shield against Viking axe. Image from

Many people are interested in the practice of Viking sword and shield, and expect that other HEMA clubs will share their interest in this system. It can result in surprise and confusion when other people and clubs then have very little interest in the system, and perhaps do not even consider Viking sword and shield to be an example of HEMA. Why might this be? And how can we approach such a study in a constructive fashion?

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How to begin working with a HEMA source

Folio 29rfrom the Goliath manuscript. Image from the Wiktenauer.

HEMA is an activity that relies on sources; but what does working with a HEMA source involve? Although it may seem obvious to people who have involved in HEMA for a while, it is not the simplest process, and there are many things to consider at each stage.

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The future of HEMA tournaments

Keith Farrell and Robert Schwartz
Keith Farrell and Robert Schwartz fencing with the longsword at Edgebana. Photo by Thomas Naylor, 2015.

Everyone has a different point of view on the future of HEMA tournaments and their role in the development of the community. There are regular posts on Facebook discussing how the tournament scene might develop as the community grows larger.

I feel that it is important to look at the tournament scene in the long term, and to consider what we might want it to look like several years from now. My real hope is that as the community develops and grows, the tournaments will also develop, without stagnation.

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Making footwork lessons work for you

Folio 54r from the MS Dresden C.93 by Paulus Mair. Image from the Wiktenauer.

There are two broad kinds of footwork lessons: technical lessons and integration lessons. You need both of these types of lessons before your footwork will begin to work for you in sparring, and you also need to be training the right thing before it will begin to work for you!

This is just the same as for striking techniques, where there are technical lessons to teach the mechanics of the action, and then integration lessons to help integrate the technique into everything else that you are doing.

This article will give a brief introduction to my point of view on the matter.

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Initial thoughts about the proposed Offensive Weapons Bill 2018

Since October last year, Matt Easton and Keith Farrell have been working hard to mobilise the UK HEMA community to respond to the government consultation on the proposed Offensive Weapons Bill. Now that the wording of the proposed bill has become available on the government’s website, here are our initial thoughts on specific parts of the bill, and some conclusions that we can draw from it.

The government has moved forward with its proposed legislation (the draft Offensive Weapons Bill) to ban the delivery of bladed articles purchased online to residential addresses. The Home Office has released the first draft of the new Offensive Weapon Bill on 19 June 2018.

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How I keep fit while working from home

Keith Farrell cutting with a sharp longsword. Photo by Daria Izdebska, 2017.

I am often asked how I manage to keep fit while working from home. I am also often asked what I do to train myself to do HEMA better. It is the same answer to both of these questions! Hopefully by sharing my thoughts and approach, it will help other people both to keep themselves a little healthier during the working day, and to see more opportunities to do relevant training for HEMA.

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HEMA – A Systematic Approach

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

This is a guest article by Nial Prince. The subject is one about which Nial has been writing quite often recently, in answer to people’s questions on Facebook. So that the ideas and points of view would be easier to find again in the future, with a permanance that Facebook just cannot provide, I asked if he would be willing to write a guest article. He kindly agreed, wrote this article, and sent it over to me for hosting on the site.

When you are thinking about starting to study HEMA, what is the first thing you do? Usually, people out and buy a sword (or a sword-like object) of some description. Then what? Well, maybe you haven’t thought this far. You might find yourself standing in the garden, sword in one hand and mobile phone in the other, following the first couple of YouTube videos you managed to find when searching for “Longsword cut how to”. After doing this for a little while, you might become pretty good at moving a sword around, but you will begin to notice things in the videos you are watching – one fencer might start their cut from the shoulder, while another may hang the sword down behind them before a strike. Why?

Because they have all done something which you have not: they have chosen a specific system to work from! This means that while everyone in these videos are all showing how to do the same thing (“longsword cut how to”), each has their own individual interpretation of different texts, which all have unique approaches to performing the same technique. The worst thing you can do at this stage of your development is to try to learn a dozen different methods of cutting. You need to choose a system!

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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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