Does HEMA have a place in historical re-enactment?

Keith Farrell
Keith practising armoured combat in the snow. Photo by Reinis Rinka, 2012.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 12th August 2011. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

I used to be involved with a historical re-enactment group before I began to practise HEMA. More recently, I have taught workshops and seminars on the subject of swordfighting for an audience, sometimes with re-enactors in attendance, and sometimes exclusively for re-enactment groups.

In my opinion, both HEMA fencers and historical re-enactors are trying to do a similar thing, but with quite a different perspective: re-enactors are usually trying to recreate the look and outfits of the time, whereas HEMA people are trying to recreate the fighting methods of the time. This leads to inevitable compromises: to recreate the look as authentically as possible, re-enactors cannot wear modern protective equipment such as fencing masks, and therefore must change how they fight for reasons of safety; HEMA people are trying to recreate the fighting as authentically as possible, meaning that the look and clothing are often sacrificed in favour of modern protective gear such as fencing masks.

With these major differences, does HEMA have a place in historical battle re-enactment? This is a contentious issue with various different schools of thought. Opinions are often entrenched and debates can become passionate, and so my intention is to take a neutral point of view and discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of the different points of view.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Thomas Page and Timothy Buck

singlesticks

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 22nd July 2016. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

While searching for something else, I came across an interesting small article about broadsword author Thomas Page, published in The European Magazine and London Review in July, 1782.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

A chronology of the books by D.A. Kinsley (version 3)

D.A. Kinsley is a researcher and author who has been of tremendous service to the HEMA community. His area of interest is that of first-hand accounts of British military engagements and civilian encounters during the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and his published works have compiled thousands of these first-hand accounts.

These compilations are immensely valuable for researchers and practitioners of historical fencing, as they provide primary sources to describe the use and effects of the swords that we study, along with significant amounts of context and supporting information to guide our study and understanding of our subject.

D.A. Kinsley has been extremely industrious in collecting and publishing these accounts, and this has led to a rather confusing chronology of his books as they come into print and then go out of print, becoming available or unavailable at the drop of a hat.

Personally, I am interested in how all of Kinsley’s books fit together in sequence, since the edition and version numbers appear to be somewhat arbitrary and are not straight-forward. Since in my own work I will doubtless be citing the book by Kinsley that is on my shelf (and probably others in the future!), I wanted to be able to provide a correct bibliographic information for it – but because it is the first book with that particular name, yet supposedly third in a series, that poses a problem that is not easy to solve!

At least if the chronology of his works could be set out in a blog article somewhere, then it would be possible to look at that article and timeline and work out exactly how best to cite any of his books in a bibliography. My intention is to do exactly this task in this blog article, and to suggest a possible bibliographic reference for each of the books mentioned.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Approaching the study of Viking sword and shield

Many people are interested in the practice of Viking sword and shield, and expect that other HEMA clubs will share their interest in this system. It can result in surprise and confusion when other people and clubs then have very little interest in the system, and perhaps do not even consider Viking sword and shield to be an example of HEMA. Why might this be? And how can we approach such a study in a constructive fashion?

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

How Scottish is the broadsword method of Roworth and Angelo?

singlesticks

A common question in the study of broadsword sources is how Scottish is the method of Roworth and Angelo? How much of it is merely labelled as Scottish, but in fact comes from elsewhere? It is quite fascinating to trace the development of this method over the course of the 18th century.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

What sabre system should you study?

Liverpool HEMA lesson
Singlestick play at Liverpool HEMA. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2018.

If you have been intrigued by the idea of starting to fence with the sabre, then a common question is what sabre system to study? There are so many different systems that have been written about, so what sabre system is good for a beginner? Read more

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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

What is a “Claymore”?

Albion Chieftain
Is this a “claymore”?
Short answer: no, it is not.
Nonetheless, it is a very pretty sword.
Photo by Søren Niedziella from Albion Europe ApS.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 6th February 2015. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

A question that appears regularly is “what is a claymore?” There is a persistent misunderstanding about what the term means, where it comes from, and to what kind kind of sword it refers.

This blog article will attempt to provide some answers and to be an easy point of reference whenever the subject is discussed.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

6 books to help learn the context of medieval HEMA

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 18th December 2015. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

There are now many publications dealing with the nuts and bolts of different medieval HEMA systems, which is a wonderful step forward from where the community was a decade ago. However, while many practitioners can reel off a list of HEMA authors, translators and researchers who produce HEMA-related works, perhaps fewer individuals are well read on the subject of the context that surrounds the medieval HEMA systems.

This is a brief list of six excellent books that would be worth acquiring to support your library of HEMA books, to help you learn more about the context of your medieval discipline of choice.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Short Biography: Johann Justus Runkel (1751-1808)

Signature of J.J. Runkel. Image from the Swords Collection blog.

I am interested in working with antique swords, since studying the original items can tell us much about the construction and use of swords in history. I have a small (but growing!) collection of antique swords, and some of them bear a signature on the spines of the blades, indicating that a “J.J. Runkel” had something to do with the manufacture or sale of the swords. This was an avenue for research, and so I endeavoured to find out more about this person, so that I could understand the antique swords in my collection a little better. This article presents my findings as a short biography of this interesting character from history.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

What is HEMA to me?

Codex icon. 394a, folio 113v. Image from the Wiktenauer website.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 10th June 2016. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

We all have different motivations behind our practice of HEMA, and we also tend to have slightly different understandings of what HEMA is exactly, what all it covers and describes, and what it excludes. Rather than try to answer the question of “what is HEMA?”, this article will look at what I personally understand to be HEMA, and where I draw my lines.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Ethical considerations with antique swords, part 3: storage

A typical 19th century Indian tulwar, from the Triquetra Collection.
A typical 19th century Indian tulwar, from the Triquetra Collection.

This is going to be a short article, presenting an ethical consideration. Previous articles in this series discussed the problem of people sparring with antique swords, or using antique swords for cutting; in this article, the focus will be on storing antique swords.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Ethical considerations with antique swords, part 2: cutting

A 1796 pattern British light cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.
A 1796 pattern British light cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 12th February 2016. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

This is going to be a short article, presenting an ethical consideration. The previous article in this series discussed the problem of people sparring with antique swords; in this article, the focus will be on using antique swords for test cutting.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Ethical considerations with antique swords, part 1: sparring

An 1885 pattern British cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.
An 1885 pattern British cavalry sabre, from the Triquetra Collection.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 29th January 2016. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

This is going to be a short article, presenting an ethical consideration. Some HEMA groups who study sabre have collected antique sabres, filed them down and blunted them for safety, and then have used these antiques for their training and sparring activities. Perhaps this was more common a decade ago than it is now, but every so often I come across references to the idea when people are discussing where to buy a good training sabre.

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.

Preservation, cleaning, and restoration of blades – historical and otherwise

Albion Talhoffer
Albion Talhoffer in a DOHEMA sheath. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2017.

This is a guest article by Adam Severa. Originally, Adam posted this to Facebook, and I asked if I could host it on my blog to help preserve the article for posterity and for more easy reference and access in the future. He kindly agreed, and gave the article a little editing before sending it over to me for hosting on the blog.

I’m going to preface this article with a disclaimer: I’ve restored and repaired a fair number of vintage and modern knives and blades over the years, but I make no claims to be a restoration professional by any means. What follows is based upon my personal experiences and observations – you should always consult an actual professional if there is a chance your blade has historical or personal significance.

Now that that’s out of the way, chances are you have a blade in front of you. Maybe it’s a sword, feder, knife, or some other previously pristine sharp object that isn’t so pristine anymore. You want to do something with it, but you’re not sure what. The purpose of this article is to explain what comes next and the differences between preservation, cleaning and restoration.

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Sometimes, people write a thing that has some value, and would like for it to be somewhere on the internet with a little permanence, so that it can be found again later. These guest articles can provide a variety of different points of view that I might not normally write about myself. If you have an idea for an article that you would like to see hosted here, please contact me with your suggestion.

Shelf numbers for books in archive

Real-size facsimile of the Codex Gigas. Image from Wikipedia, by Michal Maňas, 2007.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 24th February 2017. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

You may have observed that when discussing original source material, people will sometimes refer to sources by their shelf numbers: a series of letters and numbers, rather than using a more readable name. This much more common with medieval sources (particularly handwritten manuscripts) than with printed books, as printed books usually have their own title, whereas manuscripts often exist without a title.

What do these combinations of letters and numbers mean, and how can we understand them?

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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 www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.