More thoughts about tricks and systems (in real life too!)

dussack sparring
Keith Farrell and Daniel Montoro sparring with dussacks. Photo by Daria Izdebska, 2018.

The discussion about tricks and systems in HEMA seems to be recurring quite regularly at the moment. I recently saw something while reading an article about business productivity that gave me a new avenue of ideas to pursue, so I’d like to share these new thoughts.

I have written previously about tricks and systems, and why I think it is important to pursue a system rather than just building a collection of tricks. Furthermore, Nial Prince has written a guest article for the site about the importance of having a systematic approach to HEMA.

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The experience of running a full-time HEMA school in Glasgow

sparring with singlesticks
Keith and Jamie sparring with singlesticks at the Vanguard Centre. Photo by Jonathan Spouge, 2018 (edited by Keith Farrell).

Although I’m currently based in Liverpool, I am responsible for all the paperwork and business admin for a full-time training centre that teaches HEMA in Glasgow, as well as offering archery and blacksmithing activities. The Vanguard Centre is located just south of the city centre in a railway arch beneath the train lines leading into Central Station, and it is a very cool place to spend some time!

Running a full-time venue like this is a lot of hard work, but it has some very rewarding moments too. Since many people toy with the notion of becoming a professional HEMA instructor at some point in their future, I thought it would be interesting to share some of my experience.

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Initial thoughts about the proposed Offensive Weapons Bill 2018

Since October last year, Matt Easton and Keith Farrell have been working hard to mobilise the UK HEMA community to respond to the government consultation on the proposed Offensive Weapons Bill. Now that the wording of the proposed bill has become available on the government’s website, here are our initial thoughts on specific parts of the bill, and some conclusions that we can draw from it.

The government has moved forward with its proposed legislation (the draft Offensive Weapons Bill) to ban the delivery of bladed articles purchased online to residential addresses. The Home Office has released the first draft of the new Offensive Weapon Bill on 19 June 2018.

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HEMA – A Systematic Approach

Liverpool HEMA lesson
Marc and Jodie performing an exercise during a lesson at Liverpool HEMA. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2018.

This is a guest article by Nial Prince. The subject is one about which Nial has been writing quite often recently, in answer to people’s questions on Facebook. So that the ideas and points of view would be easier to find again in the future, with a permanance that Facebook just cannot provide, I asked if he would be willing to write a guest article. He kindly agreed, wrote this article, and sent it over to me for hosting on the site.

When you are thinking about starting to study HEMA, what is the first thing you do? Usually, people out and buy a sword (or a sword-like object) of some description. Then what? Well, maybe you haven’t thought this far. You might find yourself standing in the garden, sword in one hand and mobile phone in the other, following the first couple of YouTube videos you managed to find when searching for “Longsword cut how to”. After doing this for a little while, you might become pretty good at moving a sword around, but you will begin to notice things in the videos you are watching – one fencer might start their cut from the shoulder, while another may hang the sword down behind them before a strike. Why?

Because they have all done something which you have not: they have chosen a specific system to work from! This means that while everyone in these videos are all showing how to do the same thing (“longsword cut how to”), each has their own individual interpretation of different texts, which all have unique approaches to performing the same technique. The worst thing you can do at this stage of your development is to try to learn a dozen different methods of cutting. You need to choose a system!

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Some thoughts on corporate sponsorship for the development of the HEMA community

Sparring Gloves and an Albion Meyer
Sparring Gloves and an Albion Meyer. Photo by Keith Farrell, 2015.

Recently there was a Facebook discussion about corporate sponsorship for individuals in the HEMA community, which was quite an interesting topic. James Conlon posted the following question:

“Inside the world of Longsword Fighting” by The New York Times was posted on YouTube over 3 1/2 years ago. To quote Jake Norwood “We need about a million dollars, is what we need. To actually pay for staff… hey Red Bull, right?”

With the exponential growth seen in HEMA over the last couple years is corporate sponsorship a reasonable expectation at present or within the upcoming years? Is corporate sponsorship something that HEMA as a community even wants or needs? What would the foreseeable pros and cons of corporate sponsorship entail? Could corporate sponsorship lead to more of a sportification of HEMA or would HEMA potentially lose its close knit aesthetic that so many of us have come to love?

My thought is that any funding or corporate sponsorship that leads to general development and improvement of the community is a good thing, whereas any funding that leads towards polarisation or isolation of communities, clubs, events, activities, etc, is probably best avoided.

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Your organisation on Facebook: do you need a page or a group?

Most people who run a club or community of some description realise that they really should have some kind of presence on Facebook. But what kind of presence? Is it a “page” you need, or a “group”? What is the difference?

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The value of HEMA in the modern world

Keith Farrell and Jacopo Penso at TaurHEMAchia 2017. Photo by Andrea Boschetti, 2017.

What is the value of HEMA in the modern world? Why is it worth spending so much time (and so much money) in the pursuit of this activity? Why do we undertake such physical and mental exertion to do what we do? Why not just go to the pub directly and cut out the middle-man of training?

I believe that the answer to all of these questions is that the practice of HEMA is incredibly valuable to everyone who participates, and it helps us all become better people. That is why I spend so much time, effort, and money in the practice and teaching of HEMA, because I believe it enriches my life and the lives of those around me.

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Doing it right, or just doing it

Mark Wilkie and Keith Farrell
Mark Wilkie and Keith Farrell fencing on the banks of Loch Lomond. Photo by Daria Izdebska, 2012.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on the 1st of January 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

One of the ideas that causes problems for a lot of people across the world is the idea that whatever you want to do has to be right, or perfect, before you begin.

People delay opening a business until the “perfect” moment, and then never quite manage to open up. People keep planning their novel, adding more and more detail to their world, but never quite end up writing the story. People decide that they don’t want to put themselves forward as an instructor of HEMA until they understand it properly – and so clubs never quite take off.

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5 business lessons from studying longsword

Ben Kerr and Keith Farrell
Ben Kerr and Keith Farrell posing for a photoshoot, with suits and swords. Photo by Reuben Paris, 2010.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 27th March 2015. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

For the last several years I have been running my own business. For a few more years, I have been learning Liechtenauer’s longsword fencing methods. Recently, I have noticed several parallels between my studies of longsword and the business lessons I have learned from being an entrepreneur. The same lessons would also be valuable for someone considering the idea of opening up a new martial arts club, perhaps even with the idea to run it as a business.

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