The importance of books 09: Emma Fowler

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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 Emma Fowler, who trains with the Swordfighter club on the Gold Coast in Australia, and who is a regular tournament competitor.

Hi Keith

I am happy to provide some answers. Your questions really got me thinking about how I want to approach the rest of this year with my training, so thanks for that. One thing I would like to say first is I am not a very big book person when it comes to HEMA. I’ve been spoilt by great instructors, so it has only been over the last 6 months or so that I have actually started hitting the books in search of a becoming a more well-rounded fencer.

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

I do think so. Obviously the source will still be king, but there are valuable different niches that modern works are much better suited for covering. Not everyone (certainly not me) is cut out for reading translations, often using odd terms and ambiguous language. Then, after reading the translation, turning those words into a useful action can be very difficult. For new fencers and for fencers that are perhaps not so inclined towards reading, modern publications that break down the old manuals and present them in a much more accessible way are a great help. They are also wonderful for intermediate fencers, who might have gaps in their fencing. A modern book, laid out with easy to read layout with clear chapters, headings, a glossary, allows a busy person to quickly skim to exactly what they need.

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 don’t think a book has inspired me to study more, and it certainly didn’t lead me to become involved in HEMA. The closest thing would actually be your book, the German Longsword Study Guide. I went to Swordfish last year, and the quality of fencing (well for Longsword anyway) was far above that on display here in Australia. Swordfish got me really excited to push my fencing forward. About a month after Swordfish however, I had a major surgery, and with a month and a half of not being able to fence, I turned to your book to keep me sane. I was able to identify a lot of the gaps in my technical skills, research how I was going to train once I was better, and kept my drive to improve alive while I was recovering.

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 three books I am currently working from are the German Longsword Study Guide, the Liechtenauer gloss compilation, which was published by Wiktenauer, and Meyer’s Art of Combat. I honestly could not say they are invaluable, but they are handy resource to help keep myself on track with implementing the full range of techniques described in the source.

I will be looking at picking up rapier books next, as that is the next area of focus for me and the school I train at.

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

As someone who doesn’t really keep up with all the available books, I personally can’t think of any books that I would like to get that I don’t have access to. A “study guide” or similar for I:33 would be awesome but with so many interpretations it potentially would be a far more difficult to do properly than say your longsword book in my opinion.

One thing I would love to see a website or a directory somewhere that has a list of all the available HEMA related books with links to purchase them. Maybe there is one somewhere online but a quick google only delivered incomplete lists.