Showing posts from 2017

It's no Art.

"It's no art to perform a textbook technique in a textbook situation. The Art is to spot an opportunity in a messy sparring/fighting conditions." 
Anton Kohutovič

HEMA Hack: Self cleaning sword scabbard

A simple hack idea this one. So, I'm assuming that everyone keeps their swords in plastic tubes? If you don't, you should. They're cheap, they're light and they stop your swords getting bent out of shape when you transport them. You can pick them up at the hardware store for around $7 here in New Zealand and they're already the right length.

This is a little idea to improve the storage of sword in these tubes. The goal is to create a self-cleaning and superior storage environment.

Firstly, cut out a piece of sponge about a 1/4 again as large as the hole in the pipe. Then stab a hole through the middle. Next glue it securely into the mouth of your pipe. That's it. Now soak the sponge in 3 in 1 or the oil of your choice.

The result is that every time I draw or sheath my sword it gets a light coat of oil and hopefully takes any of the dust/finger oil I've missed off the blade.

The final step in this hack is too throw in a bunch of the silica moisture absorber p…

HEMA expectations

"The volunteers of HEMA, those of us who execute and not just ideate, have had two primary goals in mind:
1. Foster HEMA as a culture and a community across the globe, based on passion for the arts and compassion for each other.
2. Build HEMA as a collection of arts that will endure through time, just as the Asian Martial Arts have."

This is mostly some thoughts sparked by this article.

Are the bulk of HEMA participants really that internationalist in outlook?
Firstly a minor quibble, I'm pretty sure that the bulk of the "volunteers of HEMA" that do things and don't just "ideate" are probably not that internationalist in outlook. The people, in my experiece, who worry the most about the big picture and the "HEMA Community" tend to be those who ideate.

For those doers you could probably, more accurately, replace these goals with:

1. Foster a culture and community in your club, your city and possibly your country based on a passion for the art…

The pre-fencing

The Zufechten is the phase for setting up attacks, seeing openings and generally preparing our win, but if you want to fence from the Nach it’s also the time to show the opponent the openings you want them to attack into, to prepare your counter ahead of time, and to make them uncomfortable enough that they’ll throw a poorly executed attack that will be easier to defend.

Tournament 2017 Thoughts

So, my Club has just completed their 2017 open tournament. This post is a summary of my thoughts around this experience and follows from this post from 2016 tournament.

A bit of background, the tournament is open to all other Clubs or individuals in New Zealand and sometimes further afield. It usually attracts around 30-40 people. Many of those are from my own Club but there's usually about a third comes from other Clubs. Last year I organised the tournament and spent most of the time marshaling and judging. This year I managed to duck out of organising altogether and spent most of the time training in the run-up. I also did a small amount of judging at the event.

The rules for the tournament are based on the Fechtschule New Year ruleset, or a round-robin style with each engagement limited to the first blow. You have three lives and different weapons have slightly different scoring and restrictions. Given the need to cater for a wide variety of practice in terms of safety equipme…

The idea of a situation

One who can comprehend the idea of a situation can know much better what is really happening within it, and the reasons for it. Accordingly, one can derive corresponding reasons for selecting a particular course of action subsequently.
Harold Hayes 

Antonio Manciolino says strike that hand

The wounding of the hand, not of the enemy, is registered in the account of blows in play. Because the hand is the chief in exposing itself, thus in combat for earnest it is the most singular wound, because that member of the enemy must be offended which offends more than others, and this is the hand.  Antonio Manciolino, Opera Nova 1531

Better Drilling.

"I see techniques as illustrations of the real learning, principles. Students must understand the principle of what they do. I find techniques can be dangerous as the student can obsess about getting that one thing right and never understand the application." Rob Runacres

Over the years if there's one thing I've not done as much as I should and that is drilling. I should define what I think "drilling" is, as it's a common term and therefore probably understood differently. To my mind to drill means "to practice something." Simple right? However, I'd say that drilling tends to be as understood as practising a specific move or technique by rote, but that is only the most fundamental understanding.

For many people I'm sure, including myself at many times, their training has only had two modes: rote learning (solo drill and isolated specific techniques) and completely free-form sparring. But the most important thing to my mind is that as s…

Halberd Waster

Several times through my historical martial arts career I've got it into my head that I'd like to do halberd. However, the issues with a suitable waster have tended to put me off, specifically creating anything that can be used at something approaching full intention. The issue is that if you make the head from the usual materials (steel, aluminium, wood, leather etc) you have to exercise extreme caution at very slow speed because all you've made is a giant heavy mace on the end of a 6ft lever.

Recently I was working on making foam swords for another side project and while doing this it occurred to me that foam was the obvious solution to the halberd head issue. Pretty quickly I developed this simple waster.

The head is cut from EVA foam matting. This material is importantly both ultra light and pretty robust. To get a good strength I cut two head shapes out and stuck them together. The bracket to attach the head to the pole is just PVC piping with a slot cut into it for th…

Michael Chidester - Guards are what other people do

Putting the guards before the strikes, for example, will teach you something very different from Liechtenauer. In Liechtenauer, guards are what other people do to make themselves easier to attack." - Michael Chidester

Kit review: Leon Paul HEMA BOH Protector

"The latest back of the head modification for the X-Change mask - lightweight and durable - will help you achieve a higher level of protection against thrusts to the head. This system replaces the Contour Fit disk but requires the Contour Plus strap. Ships with the additional forehead pad that is used for padding."
You can find this here.

Firstly, lols for "protection against thrusts to the head" ...


I ordered this directly from the Leon Paul website. Cost wise this was just under 60 pounds including postage to New Zealand. Postage was, as always for Leon Paul, very fast and it arrives in about 5 days.

I've had this protector for a couple of months now.


It's pretty much everything I'm looking for in back of head protection. In fact the guys from Leon Paul obviously sat down and went through the same thought process that I did for my slimline back of head protector. There are a few minor differences, mainly that the Leon Paul BOH protector is…

Some more thoughts around Meyer's Longsword and thrusting

This is a follow on from this blog post previously, with some ruminations on the whole Meyer and thrusting issue.

So, one viewpoint that I came across recently during a Meyer Longsword class was the whole idea that thrusting was not "allowed" in the fighting schools because it was too dangerous. That prescription of thrusting came about as a kind of Health and Safety measure. There is also an idea that thrusting itself was considered to be dishonorable or unsportsmanlike.

Now, one observation that I made to this was that this seems inconsistent with the treatise itself: Dussack, Rapier, pole-weapons etc all include hefty amounts of thrusting. Other people who, like me, stray beyond the longsword section of the treatise, have also often noted this. If thrusting was considered so dangerous and dishonorable, why so much thrusting in all the other weapons?

To my mind these days the strongest theory is the following: that off all the weapons in the treatise the Longsword is the …

How'd I get hit?

"Every wrestling must consist of three things. The first one is skill, the second one is speed, and the third one is the proper application of strength. Keep in mind that the best of them is speed as it prevents your opponent from countering you. It is also important to attack a weaker opponent first, an equally strong opponent at the same time as he attacks you and a stronger opponent after his attack. When you attack first use your speed, when you attack at the same time as the opponent use your balance and when you act after your opponent pay attention to his knee bendings." Otto Jud
So for the last wee while I've applying my swordsmanshp theory to assessing the weaknesses in my technique to understand where I need to work on. A large part of this revolves around answering the question: "how'd I get hit?"

Usually getting hit once is no big thing however if I'm consistently getting hit then I've got a problem. Fortunately having a good theoretica…

An excellent Master

"An excellent Master is esteemed by his knowledge and by his character. He possesses his art in all its extent and the order in which he has put his ideas and his principles is so natural that he is always ready to give the reason for it and to speak of it with great precision and ease. Interest is his long-term view and the progress of his Students obliges him as dearly as his reputation. Always occupied with their advancement, he studies their aptitude and their character in order to use the most appropriate means to make them succeedd. He does not change the order of his principles but he is ingenious in presenting them under the forms most intelligible and easiest to retain." The Art of Fencing Reduced to a Methodical Summary, Jean De Brye (1721)

A stable and strong foundation

"First of all you want a stable and strong foundation. That means your body. If you’re not physically able to train HEMA, you won’t get much out of training HEMA. You’re better off using your limited free hours to get strength, mobility, and endurance up to scratch. Then they stop holding you back in class. As a coach, I’d rather have a blank slate of a student who can train well for two hours in class than someone who knows the basic cuts but can’t last a class." Peter Smallridge

Counting on the stupidity of your attacker

"This technique assumes the attacker has a “dead” arm and is unable to move it. What’s more, he’s dumb enough to both leave his knife way out there and forget all about using his other arm, footwork or evasion to handle that kick. Counting on the stupidity of your attacker to make a technique work is not a winning strategy..."Wim Demeere, Are you really an expert?

Sword fighting isn't about knowing it's about doing.

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me after studying historical European martial arts for the last ten plus years is that raw knowledge in of itself is not very impressive. As we get more and more published source material of ever better quality translation this is a trend that will only increase. In my current training sessions it is not uncommon for a typical conversation to involve discussion and comparison between up to four or five sources ranging from 1.33 to the 19th century. Raw knowledge is not the scarce resource that once it might have been.
Likewise, with the more you read the more you become aware that between the 13th century and 19th century there was little invented that was new and in fact generally you see the same body mechanics reinvented over and over, adapted to different technological and cultural circumstances. Therefore with a grounding in the underlying principles of sword fighting you can comprehend and digest new sources relatively quickly and ea…