Features of HEMA Events

This survey is now closed. Thank you for the responses, and the results are discussed below. The summary was written on the 5th of January 2018.

A cup of coffee helps the work flow!


I ran a very similar poll back in October 2013, asking about the features of HEMA events that people enjoyed or appreciated the most, when ignoring competitions. The majority of respondents (over 60% of all people who answered the question) indicated that scholarship was their most valued feature of events. Admittedly, only about 30-40 people responded to that survey, as the community was significantly smaller at that time. I’m hoping to see more than 100 responses to this new survey on the same topic!

When the survey is complete, by the end of September, I will compile the results into an article to be posted on this website. Your responses will remain anonymous and only the number of votes for any given answer will be visible. You do not need to sign up to any service to participate in this poll.

Once you have given your response to this poll, please do share it with your friends and club mates. It would be very interesting to see what the opinions of the community are now, in August and September 2017.


In total, there were 1627 votes cast. Assuming an average of 3 answers per person, this suggests roughly 542 unique people responded to the poll, from across Europe and North America at the very least, potentially further afield as well. This is a significantly larger number of people than the 30-40 who responded to the survey back in 2013!

The six most popular features, each scoring more than 100 responses, were:

  1. Lessons / workshops (with 264 responses; 16.2% of the total votes cast)
  2. Non-competitive sparring with people (with 234 responses; 14.4% of the total votes cast)
  3. Socialising / discussion / meeting new people (with 188 responses; 11.6% of the total votes cast)
  4. Experiencing how other people and clubs train, teach, and solve similar problems (with 139 responses; 8.5% of the total votes cast)
  5. Becoming inspired / motivated to train harder back home (with 130 responses; 8.0% of the total votes cast)
  6. Scholarship (lectures, presentations, antique handling, etc.) (with 117 responses; 7.2% of the total votes cast)

Since each of these scored over 100 responses, this means that at least 100 unique individuals out of the ~542 participants said that they find at least one of these features to be most enjoyable about a HEMA event.

It is interesting to see that out of ~542 participants, the most popular feature received 264 votes, so 48.71% of participants cast a vote for “lessons / workshops”.  About 43.17% of participants cast a vote for “non-competitive sparring”, and about 34.69% of participants cast a vote for “socialising / discussion / meeting new people”. Even though “scholarship” was only the the sixth most popular feature, about 21.59% of participants still cast a vote for it, so slightly more than 1 in 5 people indicated that “scholarship” is one of the most enjoyable features of HEMA events.

Between them, the six most popular features received 1072 votes, out of a total of 1627. Therefore, these six options together account for 65.89% of the total votes cast; even though the most popular feature by itself received just 16.2% of the total votes cast, virtually 2 in every 3 votes went to at least one of these answers.

For event organisers, it is significant that each of these six features is clearly of importance and enjoyment to a large number of people, and a good event should try to incorporate each of these features in order to achieve greatest satisfaction and enjoyment amongst attendees. Perhaps organisers could consider different and innovative ways to include these features in HEMA events?

Needless to say, tournaments are the elephant in the room, that this survey has ignored completely. I chose to ignore tournaments for a good reason: it is too easy an answer, and I wanted to know what OTHER things people enjoyed most about events. I often run events without any tournaments at all (I also run events that include tournaments, or that focus entirely on tournaments without any lessons or workshops), and so it is valuable to find out what else people enjoy about events when tournaments are removed from the discussion.

Personally, I find it quite surprising that “experiencing how other people and clubs train, teach, and solve similar problems” was such a popular feature (4th most popular, with 139 responses). I enjoy this about events myself, although it wasn’t actually one of my own votes in the survey. Now, as an event organiser, I am wondering if there is anything I can do to highlight this sort of thing in my own events, to help people gain this experience and the learning points that clearly result from it. I am definitely open to suggestions from the community about how I could implement this in my events!

I find it heartening that “lessons / workshops” was the most popular answer, followed by “non-competitive sparring”. There is clearly a strong demand for opportunities for learning and skill development, outwith tournaments, and it would be good for events to continue to provide lessons, workshops, and non-competitive sparring time for participants.

It is interesting that “socialising”, “experiencing how other clubs train”, and “becoming inspired” received so many votes. Personally, I see these as rather “soft” activities or elements of an event, as opposed to the “harder” and more physical activities of training and sparring, but they are clearly very important to a large number of people.

Although it was the sixth most popular answer, “scholarship” was still popular, and it reflects a strong demand in the community to find out more about the context and history of the martial arts that we study. There is clearly demand or desire for this sort of thing at events, and so I believe event organisers should take note and try to schedule some kind of scholarship at their events. It could be a lecture, or a handling session with antiques, or a visit to a museum, or whatever; but there is clearly plenty of interest in scholarship activities at events.

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the survey. Your responses have been valuable, and I think the survey gives a fairly reasonable picture of what the community enjoys about events. It is good for us to have snapshots of the community, like this; it lets event organisers think about their events, so that events remain relevant and are more enjoyable for more people; and it also lets us look back on this period in the community at a later date, to chart development and progress over time.

I will be running other surveys soon.