I am a believer in protective gear whilst HEMA sparring (or free-play, etc: the exact termimology can be quite a debate in some circles and is perhaps the subject of another blog post). Plenty of people seem to agree with me, judging by the amount of different stuff I have seen worn at events over the years. Again, you will occasionally hear arguments to the effect that “protection shouldn’t be worn”, but I will control myself and address that another time.
Protection, not armour
When I am refering to protective gear, I am meaning gear to protect you whilst engaged in unarmoured unco-operative drilling and simulated fighting. The assumption is that nothing larger than a longsword of good-quality steel is being used. Great-swords and pole-arms by general concensus require SCA-style armour to deal with the life-threatening mass involved.
Fast rather than hard
I am further working on the assumption that the minimum amount of protection should be worn to allow the combatant to continue fighting after vigorous, full-speed blows have connected, and to be functioning at work the following day. Doing this for simulated weapons larger than you habitually use adds to the cost and complexity of the project and provides an uneccessary distortion to our attempts to recreate unarmoured fighting. Armoured fighting is a different subject and there are plenty more informed than I to post on it.
So here in Glasgow we have been busy preparing for HEMAC Glasgow this weekend and so I have spent much of my day today building a cutting stand in preparation for the cutting class being ran on Sunday. This has made me consider further the role of cutting as a training exercise and I wished to share my thoughts on the subject and my reasoning for it being an exercise practised in the AHA.
Today, many of the most notable female celebrities are actresses, or performers of some other kind. However, this is a moderately new development. That women were not allowed on the stage in Shakespeare’s time is ‘common knowledge,’ and the subsequent expectation is that the only role women played in theatre at this time was that of audience member. This is not entirely true, though women were not hailed as actresses and patrons at this time due to the societal expectations of female modesty they did make some contribution, but the progression from the expectation that a pre-pubescent boy would play such extravagantly female roles a Juliet, and the widespread acceptance and adulation for actresses today, was not an easy change.
Although the great Empires of Greece and Rome had enjoyed a theatrical tradition, these sinful performances had been banned by the early Christian church. This was all to change when, in an attempt to spread Bible stories despite widespread illiteracy in the general population, the Church itself resurrected the tradition of theatre with the Miracle Plays. These plays were simplistic retellings of Biblical texts and Christian morals and were performed in public areas, such as town squares, by members of the Clergy. Naturally, these performances did not include women, but there is some evidence to suggest that similar types of plays were performed within female only convents by a female cast, even in the Middle Ages, usually seen as time where women were oppressed in terms of ability to express themselves. Even by 1603, despite having had a female Monarch for decades, English women still had extreme political and societal restrictions, even to the point of being encouraged not to speak their mind freely for fear of being labelled a ‘scold.’ Shakespeare’s habit of having his female characters masquerade as men is considered an attempt to bring realism to the stage as these parts would have been played by boys anyway, but it is also true that the shield of masculine clothing allows these women to deliver passionate speeches and condemn the actions of others in a way that, acknowledged as women, it would be unseemly for them to do so.
For quite some time, I’ve debated two questions with myself: what should our main goals as HEMAists be, and what is the main use of tournaments? While some people would argue that these questions don’t necessarily have much to do with each other, I would argue that these questions are in fact highly related.
First, what should our goals as HEMAists be? For a long time I couldn’t decide if it should be historical accuracy or martial effectiveness. Yes, the H in HEMA stands for historical, so therefore we need to make sure that what we do is historically accurate, otherwise we are not being honest with ourselves, and we may as well do something other than HEMA. However, the MA is also an important part of HEMA, and my thinking was, what kind of martial artist would aim for anything less than the maximum possible combat efficiency?
Continuing our recent theme of tournament articles, this week Keith Farrell is writing about the issue of power in tournament, and what constitutes the greatest danger when entering a hard-hitting tournament.
This is an interesting question that has come up in discussions recently. It is related to the topic of women-only tournaments, yet is also very valid when considering the level of different open tournaments. Everyone can agree that the Swordfish open tournaments are of much greater levels of both skill and power than more local tournaments, and indeed of greater levels of skill and power than other international tournaments.
People are scared of entering tournaments with a higher level of power, and rightfully so. The question that I would like to ask, however, is whether the level of power is the greatest danger in these tournaments, or if the greatest danger is in fact people entering the tournament unprepared to handle the level of power?