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 Alen Lovrič, who is a well-known international fencer and reviewer of fencing equipment.
1) Do you feel that modern publications are valuable for the HEMA community? Whether yes or no, can you explain your answer briefly?
Absolutely. I am unsure what to count as “modern”, but if translations of manuscripts are included, that is the backbone of HEMA – sure, if you’re dedicated enough, you’ll try and learn the language of your manuscript(s), which may be different than its modern version, but that would leave us with a very small community. A step further along are the author’s interpretations, which give us insight into ideas that might be different from our own and thus help us refine our own style. Research into the old masters gives us a small glimpse into their minds and the era that surrounded them.
One thing I do believe we are lacking are sports science books on the topic. If historicity is the skeletal system of HEMA, the science of actual movement is the muscular system. How to train to get the most out of your movements and why, which movements you should avoid due to them causing long-term damage to joints, the most efficient way of striking, etc., etc. As HEMA grows, I’ve no doubt we’ll get such books – and probably the associated outrage – but in the end, it’ll benefit HEMA as a whole greatly.
2) Was there a book that inspired you to become involved in HEMA, or that inspired you to study HEMA more seriously than before?
When I started my HEMA training, there hadn’t been many English books on HEMA, except a few tidbits here and there. There were a few online translations of Lichtenauer, however his cryptic writings were of no help to a newbie – a lot of it felt like it said “if he attacks you, deflect his blow and kill him.”
There was a translation of Meyer by Forgeng, however. Meyer, being a later master, was more verbose and started me off on the path of analysis which I have followed to this day. Effectively, I could say that it was Forgeng that made me into a coach. Later on, Luis Preto’s books got me even deeper into trying to figure out the hows and whys of HEMA techniques.
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?
Here we go:
Understanding Footwork by Luis Preto – This one is pretty simple, yet so important to understand. Luis is formally educated in sports sciences, and though he doesn’t follow any traditional branches of HEMA (Jogo Do Pau is an uninterrupted tradition), his blend of personal expertise in weapon fighting along with the sports science education makes for a very important book.
Understanding Physical Conditioning by Luis Preto – Strength and speed matter in swordfighting, and to a large degree. Not in the way people understand it usually, but if you can be very fast when you try to be fast, it also means you can be fast when you want to focus on technique. I am glad to see that HEMA has been acknowledging the importance of physical conditioning more and more, and this is a book that tells you how to achieve what you want to achieve with your strength training.
Optimizing the Teaching Curiculum – by Luis Preto – Not much to say here. I teach HEMA, and want to have a well-structured program. Guidelines are always a good thing.
AHA German Longsword Study Guide by Keith Farrell – The best HEMA reference book up to date. This is the first book I recommend to my students, way before actual manuscripts, because it gives a wonderful overview of what we do.
Forgeng’s translation of Meyer – I wouldn’t call myself a Meyerite, but Meyer is definitely the master that started making sense to me first. Not only that, his Stucken are both a good exercise as well as inspiration for other exercises.
4) Are there any kinds of publications you would like to see become available to the community?
I would like to see more science-based publications, whether they be in text or video. Something that would not only describe what the masters say, but also delve into the things that often remain unsaid – the minutia of how to have a proper stance or strike that has the best effort/force applied ratio, and guidelines on how to avoid long-term damage to our bodies. There have been many interpretations of techniques and how they are done, but not as many thoughts on the very basics that make up those actions.
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.