The importance of books 18: Steven Hirsch

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 Steven Hirsch, who is an instructor at Athena School of Arms in the USA. He runs the blog “Fight With All Your Strength” and both teaches and competes at events in America.

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

I assume that modern publications can be useful for HEMA, but I haven’t read anything new for a couple of years, so I couldn’t say much more.

My assumption is based on the idea that there’s always more to learn and room for improvement. Heck, sometimes, change for it’s own sake is even worthwhile.

But also the nature of the publications should change over time. In many areas we’re in a period of filling in details and adding depth rather than just getting the basics worked out.

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

No. The Higgins Armory inspired me. And books and movies from my earliest memories inspired me. I knew what I wanted to do when I was 6. I just didn’t know what it was yet. Finding the Higgins was the last piece that enabled me.

I did start with the Lindholm and Svard translation of Ringeck. Which is when I moved onto trying to understand an original source.

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?

Picking 3 to 5 books is weird for me. Because I don’t usually pick favorites of anything. And because I don’t tend to re-read thing either.

But the two books I’ve gone back to most are: Meyer, the 1570, Forgeng’s translation. And Hutton’s Cold Steel.

Both for the same reason. They cover so much more than just a bunch of techniques. They also address how to train and how to fight.

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

This question is easy to me. Books on how to train and coaching. My passion for the past several years has been in taking the material and developing how to make people excellent at it.

This passion also dovetails well with my schooling and vocation. It’s also the sort of material I would be most able to contribute.

It’s easy for me to conclude that what I can provide is what’s most useful. But there are a lot more people doing HEMA these days. Lots of folks who aren’t in it for the scholarship. I want those people to be trained well.