Showing posts from 2014

Great posts on historical fencing

Wow, people are on fire this month.

This is one of the clearest and most concise explanations of Aristotelian physics from a German tradition HEMA perspective. It would certainly get my vote for the best post on historical fencing I've seen this year.

Likewise, this post summaries well how it could be seen as a fallacy to get too "purist" in defining HEMA practice: "If the end result can be presented as a credible format using every relevant source at its disposal to practice the art : it is HEMA"

I wrote a while ago lamenting the lack of open and intelligent information sharing in HEMA "community" at that time. Beyond politicking and people generally throwing their weight around on the established forums there was little activity. It's great to see new blogs springing up with people finding channels to get their ideas and information out there.

Kit mod: heavy sparring glove 2

Updated for 2018.

So the below post is very old now and was written in 2014. This post still gets a lot of hits so I just thought I'd clarify that the below idea was put together before many (if not all) of the heavy gloves currently on the market really hit. Now in 2018 the below should be considered a curiosity that illustrates the time before dedicated HEMA suppliers came along rather than something to guide your thoughts. Personally, for the last few years or so I've been using SPES Heavies pretty much exclusively.

Though I still think the idea of a protective unit of hands, forearm and elbow all joined up would be a quite good idea.


This is a follow on to heavy sparring gloves and SPES arm protectors.

Finally: a pretty good HEMA glove.

Essentially I've created this final stage by removing the cuff from the gauntlet and attaching Velcro so the SPES arm & elbow protection attaches to the gauntlet. The Velcro attaches under the lip of the arm protection providing…

How to effectively train the Master Strikes

To teach the master strikes it is important to keep in mind one truth: the strike itself isn't masterful it is how it is done that is masterful. Therefore to teach them you cannot remove them from the context but must use the context of the fight to show how awesome they are. 
I created this loose play to provide context within which to train the strikes:
1.Participants separate completely out of measure 2.Patient adopts a position with their sword 3.Agent steps through a guard to strike the strongest opening (they may make only one action to strike but they can vary the line in mid strike depending on the Patients reaction) 4.Patient can parry the strike (they may make one action to parry) but must do so at the correct moment or the Agent will redirect and land the strike 5.When the Agent touches the Patient the Patient can make one offensive action with one step, the Agent must withdraw out of measure
This is run at ¾ speed and it doesn't stop for actions, so if the patient does…

Does "gentlemanly conduct" bias your practice?

"They utterly ignore the rules and customs of gentlemanly fencing, and betake themselves to mere fighting of a nature scarcely creditable to a Whitechapel rough" - Alfred Hutton, Cold Steel pg 43

The rules and customs of "Gentlemanly" fencing as outlined in Hutton and presumably ubiquitous in later fencing treatises has been hugely influential for setting HEMA custom. The format of entering measure, touching blades/saluting, then taking one step back and adopting a guard before starting an exercise or bout is deeply ingrained in many fencers practice and is clearly visible in historical fencing culture, particularly at tournaments. 
"To ENGAGE. Having performed the salute, cross the blades, and tap them smartly together twice; then draw back the left foot so as to be out of distance, and come to guard." - Alfred Hutton, Cold Steel pg 42

However I wonder if many people consciously consider the impact this is having on their practice? When you consider the era…

Attack & defend drill

Attack & Defend Drill

Partner up, find measure so that you require one step to strike your partner. Taking a short step forwards (i.e. a lunge) strike at your opponent who will defend with the appropriate parry. Defender can either remain still or withdraw the front foot when they parry. For this drill follow this cutting pattern using flicks to start with:
Cut 1: crown strike (starting from your right but ending straight down) Cut 2: diagonal strike from your top right Cut 3: horizontal strike from your right Cut 4: under strike from your right
Cut 5: under strike from your left
Cut 6: horizontal strike from your left
Cut 7: crown strike (starting from your left but ending straight down)
In this drill you take turns and you both follow this pattern so it ends up looking like this: 1.Person1 lunges and performs crown strike, person2 parries through high guard 2.Person2 then lunges and performs crown strike, person1 recovers into high guard 3.Person1 lunges and performs diagonal str…

Offensive v's defensive in Historical Fencing

"[be] ready to receive any Throw that he shall think fit to give; but wait not for it, it being safer to attack than be attacked" - Thomas Page, The Use of the Broadsword, 1746 page 46
"Avoid, if possible, making the first attack against any adversary, more especially a stranger, it being advantageous to act on the defensive" - 
Alfred Hutton, Cold Steel page 42
In historical fencing there is obviously a spectrum between systems that favour offensive actions and systems that favour defensive actions. Much like the discussion between the merits of the point and the edge it is not a case of one approach being objectively wrong and the other objectively right but about subjective personal preference. They are both just different flavours in the rich soup of historical fencing.
However both approaches do advocate fencing “securely” which means covering/protecting yourself while you act. I've not seen any treatise that advocates attacking without any concern for your d…


Oh dear

Epic example of someone who is very skilled at individual actions/techniques but who doesn't understand how to get into measure to use them. If I was to give a HEMA lesson from the above vid it would be to consider the guy doing Capoeira as someone who usually trains by starting the bout within measure skipping the entire onset phase and as a result doesn't really know how to safely get into measure. While the MMA guy, clearly, is someone who perceives this and then does the boxing equivalent of a Wrath strike :)

Kit review: SPES Forearm and Elbow Protectors V.2


"The forearm protectors help to lessen the threat of injury during frequent historical fencing training. Additionally this model has elbow protection. Made of sturdy fabric and super-hard profiled plastic inserts, gives you high level of protection during fight. The elbow protection, an extension of the forearm protector, is specially shaped to provide the most protection for the elbows possible without impeding movement." 

Ordering review
I ordered these from the HEMA Shop rather than directly from SPES. This had the main advantage that I could pay with credit card rather than bank transfer. The HEMA Shop has an automated messaging service that does a really good job communicating the status of your order. Postage was reasonably priced and arrived within a week from the UK.
These provide significantly better levels of protection than simple motocross/skateboarding arm protectors, particularly the fact tha…

How long to train someone in sword fighting?

I'm curious about how long it takes to achieve any accomplishment in weapons mastery when the motivation is purely to have competency as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the moment the club I'm involved with is revising and putting together an updated training regime with the idea to bring a more organised program of development for the members, rather than the ad hoc instruction that had been the norm for some years.

One of the many interesting parts of this discussion is hearing the many views around how long a course of basic instruction should take to bring someone up to competence. Based on my experience I've been putting forward the view that we should be looking to produce a good level swordsman after a year's training.

Out of curiosity I also did a little research about training in the military and interestingly there seems to be a fairly consistent time periods for "basic" training from the Roman army to the modern military:

2-3 months for ba…

Kit review: Arms and Armour "Fechterspel sword"

"Fechterspiel translates to "assault of arms"—an apt name for this western martial arts training weapon. Combining quality and historical accuracy, this sword is an excellent piece for the longsword practitioner looking for a period style and handling." The fechterspel sword from Arms and Armour.

I originally bought this sword on sale from "The Grange" back in 2009 but they have since stopped selling HEMA goods. It has remained in my arsenal through many sword culls and reorganizations.

At the time I bought this sword there were two feders on the market, this and the Hanwei.


Of all the blunt steel or nylon sword trainers I've used this feels closest in weight and handling to a sharp sword, which is cool.  It "swishes" through the air far more like a sharp than the thick edge of a more substantial steel sword or even thicker nylon sword. It's great to keep a perspective in training with what a "live" sword is like.

As a train…