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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Review of “Cutting with the Medieval Sword”

Cutting with the Medieval Sword: Theory and Application.

I have been looking forward to the publication of Cutting with the Medieval Sword by Michael Edelson, and now that it is finally in print, I bought a copy immediately. It arrived a few days later and I immersed myself in it over the course of an evening.

In summary: this is a fantastic book, and you should have a copy of it in your bookcase. If I were to list everything I like about the book, my list would have more bullet points than the book has pages. There is nothing to dislike about it.

Read more

Fencing with mixed weapons

Keith Farrell and Yvain Rit fencing with longswords at TaurHEMAchia 2017. Photo by Andrea Boschetti, 2017.

An idea that seems to be enduringly popular is to see what happens when fencing with mixed weapons; if one person as a longsword and the other a messer, or sabre against rapier, or spear against sword and buckler, for example. Some combinations are of course quite far-fetched, but others are quire reasonable, and there are even some sources that discuss fencing with one weapon against a different type of weapon.

So why don’t we see people fencing with mixed weapons more often? This article will attempt to answer the question from my point of view.

Read more

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 modified a little for reposting 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.

Read more

Curved Swords and “Polish Sabre”

Keith Farrell with a Polish sabre. Photo by Miri Zaruba, 2013.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on 24th June 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

I have a curved sword. When I fence with it, am I practising Polish sabre?

The reconstruction of 17th century Polish fencing with the sabre has been gaining in popularity for a few years now, with various researchers and interpreters working to improve their own understanding of the issue, and teaching their ideas at events and gatherings. Several items of research have been produced and published, including translations, articles, books, and sword typologies.

However, along with the surge of interest among scholars and the publication of research, it is becoming more common to hear people state that they “do Polish sabre”, or to make assertions that this or that kind of guard or technique “can be found in Polish sabre”. In fact, it is quite possible to see some people “doing Polish sabre” and for the resulting fencing to look no different from how they “do British sabre” or indeed how they “do messer”. There are of course people who put incredible amounts of time and effort into training a fencing system that could well be an excellent reconstruction of 17th century Polish fencing with the sabre, but there are also people who dabble, and so “doing Polish sabre” has become a relatively common refrain.

Read more