Is your art really “a killing art”?

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

Back in September, Kaja Sadowski posted quite an interesting question to Facebook for discussion by her friends and colleagues:

Honest question for my HEMA friends: if you consider the totality of the sources you work from, to what extent is the art you practice really “a killing art”? 100%? 75%? 50%? Less?

Follow-up: what do we gain/lose by framing it exclusively (or primarily) as such?

This is an excellent question, and I’m grateful to Kaja for posing it and giving me the opportunity to consider my thoughts. I think it is a rather important question for practitioners of any martial art (especially those with swords) to ask themselves, so that our practice is framed properly and is placed firmly within its proper context, as best we can understand it.

What follows is an edited and improved version of my original response to her question on Facebook.

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Using lighter swords in training

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

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 25th March 2016. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

I often hear the advice that you should train with a heavier sword, in order to improve your strength, balance, coordination, stamina, whatever. In fact, this notion is recorded as early as Vegetius, who wrote about Roman training methods.

In this article, I will argue that lighter swords are in fact more beneficial for beginners, and that people should not rush into using a heavier sword before they are ready.

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Some thoughts about tricks and systems in HEMA

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

I believe that there is a difference between a system and a bag of tricks, where historical martial arts are concerned. Both are effective, and both are important to have in your repertoire; the greatest skill, however, the greatest skill comes with recreating a full system, and being able to incorporate a variety of tricks into that system without making it any less systematic.

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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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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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Should I buy a Viktor Berbekucz feder?

Question: Is a Viktor Berbekucz feder worth buying?

My verdict: Yes – it’s not bad, you can’t go too far wrong with it.

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Should I buy an Albion Meyer?

Question: Is an Albion Meyer worth buying?

My verdict: Yes, if you live in North America; otherwise, unfortunately, probably not.

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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

Should I buy an Albion Liechtenauer?

Question: Is an Albion Liechtenauer worth buying?

My verdict: Yes, definitely, if you live in North America; otherwise, unfortunately, probably not.

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Should I buy an Armour Class longsword?

Question: Is an Armour Class longsword worth buying?

My verdict: Yes, if you buy a custom-made piece.

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Should I buy a Regenyei Armory feder?

Question: Is a Regenyei Armory feder worth buying?

My verdict: Yes, do it.

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Should I have siderings on my feder?

“2013 Tournament Feder” with siderings. Image from Regenyei Armory website.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 13th November 2015. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

“Should I have siderings on my feder?” is a common question that people ask when contemplating the purchase of a new feder, especially if it is their first such purchase. Previously, I wrote an article about what to look for when buying your first feder from Regenyei Armory, and this article will hopefully be a useful companion piece to expand upon the subject of siderings.

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Should I buy a Tinker Pearce longsword?

Question: Is a Tinker Pearce longsword worth buying?

My verdict: Yes, if you are interested in using them for solo practice; unfortunately, for practice with other people, probably not.

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Synthetic and steel, or a question of intensity

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

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 5th June 2015. It has been edited and improved for posting here.

When HEMA practitioners discuss protective gear, and for which kind of activity it is most suitable, someone usually says that a piece of gear is “suitable for steel” or “good for synthetics but not for steel”. However, I believe this is the wrong way to look at the use of training swords for historical fencing, and the protective equipment that must be worn, as it forces a certain dichotomy that ignores the most important aspect of risk when fencing: intensity.

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Should I buy a Hanwei federschwert?

Question: Is a Hanwei federschwert worth buying?

My verdict: No, definitely not. Just don’t.

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