The importance of books 06: Fran Terminiello

Image by Thomas Kelley, from

This is a series of interviews with well-known HEMA practitioners from around the world. The subject is the importance of books in the HEMA community. Personally, I think books are immensely important to the community (and in general!), but I am interested to find out more about how other people see the issue.

This week’s interview is with Fran Terminiello, who is an instructor at the School of the Sword in England, and who is one of the organisers of the Esfinges movement.

1) Do you feel that modern publications are valuable for the HEMA community? Whether yes or no, can you explain your answer briefly?

Yes I do think modern publications are valuable. People are always keen to see a new treatise transcribed or translated, but apart from these, most people’s HEMA study consists of learning from an instructor rather than a book. The texts can be quite daunting, and are subject to much interpretation which requires a thorough understanding of the art. There’s definitely room for modern guides and handbooks to aid study.

2) Was there a book that inspired you to become involved in HEMA, or that inspired you to study HEMA more seriously than before?

I discovered the books after attending HEMA classes, but it was after spending some weeks with an instructor working on Manciolino’s close play I took an interest. And when I saw Tom Leoni’s translation of Fabris that I was just in awe.

3) Can you list between three and five books that you feel are invaluable to your study of HEMA, and say something briefly about why each book is so important to you?

The Complete Renaissance Swordsman – Manciolino translated by Tom Leoni

This was the first book I worked from, and I continue to recommend it to this day to new students at The School of the Sword. There is always something new and useful to be discovered and it covers all the basic terminology.

Meditations on Violence by Rory Miller

Context is essential in understanding a lot of martial arts, and HEMA is my first experience of fighting. I think many people struggle at first with the concept of recreational violence. This book comprehensively covers responses and behaviours in a variety of situations.

Giganti’s Lost Second Book – translated by Joshua Pendragon and Piermarco Terminiello

I was involved in this book from discovery to publication so it’s very important to me. My first teaching experience at an international event was working from this book, and I also believe it changed a lot of people’s preconceptions about rapier fencing: that it was in fact as visceral and direct as many other systems, depending on the circumstances.

4) Are there any kinds of publications you would like to see become available to the community?

The more translations of treatises the better a picture we have of how people in particular periods fought. So of course the sources must flow. But to go back to the first point, even though our community’s understanding adapts and changes as we learn over time, some regularly revised general study guides for all the various popular fighting systems in HEMA would be very welcome.