The importance of books 32: Daniel Jaquet

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 Daniel Jaquet, who is a well-known international instructor and researcher.

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

Modern publication are vital for the HEMA community. There are different kind of books though, some are less important than other. As an historian, I’d argue that each publication produced today is a potential source for the study of the HEMA movement. So the more the better, for the sake of the future generations of historians.

There are scientific publication, documenting a research endeavour into ancient practices, or the associated material culture or technical literature. These are relevant because they use to “stay” and are well distributed and indexed. If well done, such publication are also helpful to get a better understanding of the martial heritage today. Especially useful for research are source editions or work of reference such as bibliographies and encyclopaedias.

There are what we can call “modern methods” of HEMA. Such books are less helpful to get an objective access to ancient material, because it would struggle with the same issue as the ancient authors have (limits of transmitting embodied knowledge through books), moreover they usually add another layer of complexity. However, they are valuable because they document the modern approach to HEMA, as well as some form of research.

There are public outreach publication intended at explaining what HEMA is to a larger audience. These are less useful for historians, however they would document a state of knowledge as well as the author’s vision of the activity (modern and ancient).

Not included in this limited picture are the digital contributions. I have noticed over the years that such media tends to become the preferred way to communicate research. However, these might not survive the years. Modern HEMA authors, please do publish on paper!

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

My first encounter with HEMA was the dissertation of Hans-Peter Hils on the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer (published in 1985). That was very dry and difficult to read (old German academic style). It almost turned me away from HEMA, but I soon turned to ancient manuscripts. My first try out was the reading of the so called “Wittenwiler Fight Book”. I did my master thesis on this in 2004, that was the beginning of a love story, since I’m still working with HEMA both professionally and for leisure.

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?

Difficult question, since my shelves are full of those. I’d say that good editions of source are a must have. When I say “good” edition, I’m talking about state of the art scientific edition. Usually they comprise a thorough codicological analysis, a study of the tradition of both the image and the text, a transcription (or edition) meeting the highest academic standards, as well as a fac-simile… and no translation (since translation are never objective). I understand that this is not really accessible for the HEMA practitioner who does not have the linguistic skills to get into the material, but that’s the best way, except consulting directly the original.

I know a few of those, here’s my short list:

Hans Czynner. Würgegriff und Mordschlag: die Fecht- und Ringlehre des Hans Czynner (1538): Universitätsbibliothek Graz, Ms. 963. Édité par Ute Bergner et Johannes Giessauf. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 2006.

Cinato, Franck, et André Surprenant. Le livre de l’art du combat (Liber De Arte Dimicatoria) : Édition critique du Royal Armouries MS. I.33. Sources d’hstoire médiévale 39. Paris: CNRS-éd, 2009.

Bauer, Matthias Johannes, éd. Langes Schwert und Schweinespiess: die anonyme Fechthandschrift aus den Verschütteten Beständen des Historischen Archivs der Stadt Köln. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 2009.

Welle, Rainer. … vnd mit der rechten faust ein mordstuck. Baumanns Fecht- und Ringkampfhandschrift: Edition und Kommentierung der anonymen Fecht- und Ringkampfhandschrift. München: Herbert Utz, 2014.

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

Yes, all scientific contribution should be freely accessible to the people willing to research and practice HEMA (for me one does not go without the other). That is why I spend so much time with the Journal Acta Periodica Duellatorum, because we publish open-access, but at the same time we do have physical copies that are meant to stay (indexed and saved in national library).

Sadly (or hopefully) scientific contributions are not for money. It is pretty rare than authors publishing with a scientific publisher would make a living out of their publication. Independent researchers, as well as the anyone with an interest, should have access to it. By the way, a reader card in an academic library usually does not cost much!

Keith Farrell

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 have authored Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick and the award-winning AHA German Longsword Study Guide, and maintain a blog at where I post regularly.