Ben Kerr in his harness, giving a demonstration of medieval armoured combat at Glasgow University.
One of the best ways to advertise your club and what you practice is to go out into the world and perform a demonstration. This can have the advantages of attracting new members for your club, of educating the public about Europe’s martial history, and it can be a fun and positive event for everyone involved. However, it can also have disadvantages: if a demonstration is poor, then the public can walk away with an incorrect but negative perception of what HEMA is about, and it may generate bad publicity for your school.
This article will address a few points to keep in mind when planning a demonstration so that you can have the best possible chance of making a positive impression with the public.
This week I will be looking at the development of a pattern for a Scottish Highland style shoe. Before that though I want to apologise for the late posting. WordPress sites have come under a large attack this year and our host implemented a safety measure to protect us which unfortunately activated itself before I could post yesterday and has only just deactivated. We remain commited to our regular Friday posting schedule and will continue to maintain it barring circumstances such as these.
The article for today is a very brief introduction to the history of crafting, and has been written by Catriona Hogg, one of our crafting instructors.
The crafting aspect of the AHA is not one which gets a lot of press. There is only one club which has any crafting instructors and there are only three of us. Now that we have more people who are interested in the crafting and we are increasing in number it seemed like a good idea to increase the number of crafting blogs on Encased in Steel. To give people a little bit of background about the crafting aspect of the Academy: it started alongside the combat when Ben Kerr and others set up the society now called Glasgow University Historical Arts Society away back in 2007. It has been running in the Glasgow group ever since but we haven’t quite managed to expand outwards to other groups yet. There are only three of us full crafting instructors with a couple more joining the ranks within the forseeable future. Throughout the years we have tackled many different crafting disciplines, most of which includes basic crafts like sewing, knitting and chainmaille but we do teach complex crafts like making crossbows and different kinds of armour. Obviously the more complex the craft the more time, money, materials and equipment have to go into making it.
There are many skills that are important to a good teacher. Obviously, a teacher should have various teaching skills, and there are a lot of articles on this blog that talk about this. However, today I would like to briefly think about research. Research is traditionally seen as a being separate from instructing. Obviously, most HEMA instructors will (hopefully) at least have read some manuscripts or books relevant to what they’re teaching, but not all instructors will do much (or anything) in the way of serious research, which I believe is a problem.
It is true that researching and instructing are separate skill sets, and that being good at one does not make you good at the other, in much the same way that simply being a good fighter does not make you into a good instructor. Someone who is good at research would still need to spend lots of time developing their teaching skills through both theory and practice to be a good teacher.
In most martial arts, not being a good researcher is not as problematic, because there isn’t as great a need to follow any one particular method of doing things, nor do they need to research any contextual issues (although there still are research topics they would benefit from like physiology or teaching theory). For HEMA however, it is a greater problem, because an instructor who does no research at all can either only teach what they have been taught, or they can teach things that may or may not be in the manuals, and they risk stagnating and moving further away from the H in HEMA. If an instructor does research, they are better equipped to check and recheck their own interpretations or to uncover new information that may help them or their students better understand the techniques they know, principles or mechanics behind those techniques, or contextual and historical contexts behind those techniques. Additionally, moving further into research is an excellent reason to challenge yourself. By doing research, you also help other instructors and researchers, as they can build on or use the research you produce, furthering the entire discipline. On a different level, doing research will let you present new techniques to keep your students interested. For example, if you frequently teach the same workshop, then by doing research, you can find new techniques to teach, or new areas to focus on, giving people who’ve been to that workshop before a reason to stay interested.