The importance of books 13: Carl Ryrberg

Carl Ryrberg. Image from the Örebro HEMA website.

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 Carl Ryrberg, who is an instructor at Örebro HEMA in Sweden, and who is a regular and well-decorated tournament competitor.

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. Videos and articles are all good and does an important job in making the Arts accessible and easily digested, but there’s a clear need for books that don’t have to make their point in two minutes and can go deeper on relevant subjects.

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 have a couple of books that I’ve read a lot of times, but the book that’s been with me the longest is The Swordsman’s Companion by Guy Windsor. I got it back in 2005 and it was invaluable for me in the early days of my HEMA career.

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?

Il Fior di battaglia di Fiore dei Liberi da Cividale. Il Codice Ludwing XV 13 del J. Paul Getty Museum by Massimo Malipiero

The book itself is in Italian, so I haven’t really read that part, but it contains a beautiful scan of the Getty manuscript and I’ve used that in training a lot. Even though Fiore no longer is the primary source for my HEMA studies I think his treatises have great merit in illustrating basic principles for beginners, and having a print of physical paper is very useful.

Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence by Rory Miller.

Since fencing is about violence in a way that is easy to forget I have had great use of this book, since it gives good examples and thoughts about how the human body reacts to a life-threatening situation. I think it’s important to keep that perspective in mind.

Understanding Fencing by Zbigniew Czajkowski

There’s so much knowledge in the modern fencing community about how to apply the principles of the older masters. This book puts modern phrases on things that were just as true 500 years ago and gives good tool on how to work with the strengths and weaknesses of individual students, and how to use HEMA competitions to develop your fencing.

Sigmund Ringeck’s Knightly Art of the Longsword by David Lindholm

A bit outdated now, but very good when it came out and a good starting point for my studies in the Lichtenauer tradition.

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

I would love to see more books about the historical context of the treatises. We need to know more about in what world the treatises existed and for whom and what they were written to get a deeper understanding of the fencing described. I would also love to see more books on how to get started with a weapon and build solid basics.



Keith Farrell is one of the senior instructors for the Academy of Historical Arts. He teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events, and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. He has authored "Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick" and the "AHA German Longsword Study Guide", and is one of the regular contributors to the Encased in Steel online blog. He has been a member of HEMAC since 2011, and was awarded a HEMA Scholar Award for Best Instructor for research published in 2013.