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 Alberto Bomprezzi, who is the director of Asociación Española de Esgrima Antigua in Spain, and who is a well known instructor at events across Europe.
1) Do you feel that modern publications are valuable for the HEMA community? Whether yes or no, can you explain your answer briefly?
Modern publications are not only very helpful but necessary for HEMA as they help to spread the activity making it more understandable and accessible either to practitioners but in the end also to the general public.
Obviously not all of them have the same quality or interest, but they fulfil a need, the good ones will last in time and become classical knowledge.
2) Was there a book that inspired you to become involved in HEMA, or that inspired you to study HEMA more seriously than before?
Not really. My interest on historical fencing came directly from my interest in the swords and on the will of learning how to properly fence with them. What motivated me were treatises and so I spent a lot of time in the national library in Madrid looking for them, and getting as much information I could from the internet.
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 internationally published books that help me more were Luca Cesari and Marco Rubboli book on Filippo Vadi – Arte gladiatorial dimicandi, Christian Tobler’s book on German Longsword, Jeffrey Forgeng’s book on I.33, and more recently your book the German Longsword Study Guide. From a different point of view, but of not less importance, the French books on history of the duels and violence in the XVII century Croiser le Fer and la Lois du duel en Espagne and the Spanish book Justicia y Criminalidad en Toledo y sus montes en la Edad moderna.
The technical books were very helpful to me as I do not read German and I needed information for the study of the longsword, so the transcription of Vadi’s treatise with the images were very helpful as well as the translation and considerations on German longsword of Tobler in his book. The same can be said of the I.33. Your book was also very useful to me because explains in order the concepts and approach of the German method.
I know that there are also great books for the rapier but with this weapon I have always preferred the original treatises as I can read them and understand them perfectly either in Spanish, Italian, or French which are the main schools for the rapier, sidesword and small sword and in practical terms I understand pretty well these weapons. That is why I have always been more interested in understanding the social and technological context of the era than in modern day interpretations of techniques.
Also I have interest in modern day coherent theoretical methods of any european historical weapon, for example deeper insights in the German longsword traditions, Italian, French or German rapier, historical context, analysis of different authors and treatises etc.
4) Are there any kinds of publications you would like to see become available to the community?
I think that the community has very valuable people all over the world that are already working to publish in the two main directions:
a) Technical resources, either, translations, technical comments, transcriptions, modern practical methods, of an increasing quality
b) Books on historical context on the use of weapons in the different societies, ages, areas, military use of the weapons, the biographies of the most important fencing masters etc.
Nowadays publications are much better than those that appeared 15 years ago, and I am sure they will still improve. The birth of SHEMAS is a good new, the community, is more mature and demands more quality, and this is good.
Summing up, we need to make our activity as big and known as we can. I think we are all in the same boat, and the blending of a serious and well established practical experience with serious research and historical knowledge can be a fantastic combination that will put together Sport, Martial Art and History; hopefully this will help to get for our activity a higher social consideration and it will bring larger number of practitioners.
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.