The importance of books 23: Marek Helman

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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 Marek Helman, who is an accomplished instructor and competitor.

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 think that modern publications are valuable for the HEMA community. I think that is what makes our work different from more sportive or reenactment approaches. We study historical manuals, translate them, we interpret, describe them, make cross references… and share our research to community. This helps us to better understand our martial arts heritage, improve our knowledge and skills.

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

In Poland I’m well known for my dedication to master Joachim Meyer and his “Kunst des Fechtens”. At the beginning, before I started to read original text, The Art of Combat by Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng was my very first book. I had the opportunity to read his draft translations before his book was published. This work has had the greatest impact on me.

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?

As mentioned before, Dr. Forgeng’s Art of Combat (I have three copies, the draft, first and second edition) and The Art of Sword Combat (the “Von Solms” version of Meyer’s work). I love Joachim Meyer’s work, I devoted the last 15 years to studying his treatises and I still have the works of Dr. Forgeng at hand.

I think Destreza of Sebastien Romagnan was also valuable. When I started to work on Montante sources, Sebastien work appears to be helpful in interpretations of terms and movements.

The Longsword Teachings of Master Liechtenauer of Grzegorz Żabiński is another important book. Since I was devoted to master Meyer’s work I didn’t want to spend too much time on interpretating earlier sources. The book of Grzegorz Żabiński is mainly on the “Goliath” treatise, but the glossa contained therein are compared to “Nurymberg manual”, Peter von Danzig, and Ringeck’s works. This helps me to save a lot of time.

As a Pole, I’m interested in reconstruction of Cross Art. Polish Saber by Richard Marsden was important for me for two reasons. First, it can’t be that some foreigner is expert on polish saber and not a Pole! 😉 Second, since there are no manual on cross art, Richard’s work is important for me because of his research of sources that refers or describes early polish system of saber.

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

I think there are too few works on pole arms and wrestling. I would like to see more of them on my bookshelf.

There are also DVD publications that I found valuable, also I bought few .pdf translations.

For me personally most interesting part of publications are not interpretations, but cross-references and transliteration and translation. I like to make interpretation on my own.

In Poland we put much effort on training program. We also started license courses where methodology of training was taught by sport fencing trainers and most experienced polish HEMA instructors run classes and workshops on how to apply those methods to HEMA. I would like to see publications on methodology of HEMA training, fun and games dedicated for HEMA classes.