Cut & thrust in Ringeck’s longsword gloss

The cut and the thrust are two basic attacks that can be done with a sword. Different sword systems will make use of these attacks to different amounts, so while a rapier system might include the use of cuts, we might expect there to be more emphasis on thrusts than on cuts. A smallsword or epee system might focus entirely on thrusts, and not make use of any cuts at all. Other systems, such as singlestick or mensur, instead focus entirely on the cut.

The longsword is a weapon that is capable of both cutting and thrusting effectively, and so the degree to which cut or thrust is preferred might be decided by the exact configurations of a longsword, or the stylistic elements of whatever method of fencing you’re using. I’ve heard people say that the longsword is a primarily cutting weapon, and generally in sparring, longsworders will often make far more use of cuts than thrusts. However, I believe that if we are studying early Liechtenauer longsword, then the idea that we should be cutting much more than we are thrusting is not supported by the sources. While later sources such as Meyer may have placed more focus on cutting, the earlier sources show quite a lot of focus on thrusting.

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Lessons about gear: thoughts about quality

An Albion Meyer and a pair of Sparring Gloves.  Photo by Keith Farrell.

An Albion Meyer and a pair of Sparring Gloves.
Photo by Keith Farrell.

 

Since 1999, I have been training with a large assortment of different makes, models and items of protective gear and training weapons in my pursuit of martial arts. Since 2010, I have been involved with managing an online shop selling martial arts equipment. From these experiences, I have learned some important lessons about gear, especially with regard to quality.

 

It is the intention of this article to discuss some of these lessons. Hopefully it will help guide students to avoid the mistakes I have made, and hopefully it will be of interest to designers and manufacturers of equipment.

 

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The Emergence of Historical Technique in Modern Tournaments

Edgbana 100

One of the criticisms that is often leveled at modern competitions for historical fencing is that the fighting seen in the bouts does not look like what is described or illustrated in the Fechtbücher, and that the style of fighting is more like “sport fencing” or “playing tag” than “proper fencing”.

 

Many people bemoan the state of the current HEMA movement, especially with regard to the medieval weapons such as longsword, messer, and sword and buckler. However, I believe that we can see something more interesting, and much more hopeful in the general trends.

 

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Questions on what is, and what is not, HEMA

Last week I posted an article called On Armoured Combat and Battle of the Nations. This article generated some discussion, particularly on the HEMA Alliance Facebook page, and something that several people said was that the article shouldn’t have been shared there, given that it was not about HEMA.

So I thought it might be worth writing a follow up article to ask: exactly what is HEMA? Before I start, I am less interested in giving a definite answer to that question, and more interested in problematising how the term HEMA is used and raising questions about what is HEMA, so that everyone can come to their own conclusions.

It is worth looking at definitions of HEMA that have already been written.

“Historical European martial arts is a neologism describing martial arts of European origin, used particularly to refer to arts formerly practiced, but having since died out or evolved into very different forms. Modern reconstructions of some of these arts exist and are practiced today.”
Wiktenauer, Historical European Martial Arts

“Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) refers to documentable methods of armed and unarmed personal and group combat of European origin. The term HEMA is most often used for the reconstruction of medieval martial arts, because no systematic manuals for combat have been discovered earlier than the late middle ages. However, the scope of the HEMA alliance extends to all martial studies that come from historical Europe, from the Roman gladius to the Fairbairn-Sykes knife of World War II.”
HEMA Alliance, About HEMA

“Europe produced a remarkable literature of combat, from many countries, over the course of several centuries…Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is founded on the premise that although these systems fell out of use, or mutated into something different, it is possible to reassemble them. This is approached through scrupulous attention to the texts, physical experimentation, and study of their cultural context; without dismissing insights from elsewhere, such as modern training methods, pedagogy, biomechanics, or other martial arts. There is no dressing up – the central aim is to understand the historical systems. Therefore fighting with historical weapons by itself is not HEMA. By definition HEMA is practice based upon historical sources, hence the fundamental importance of the texts.”
London HEMA Open, What is HEMA?

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On armoured combat and Battle of the Nations

One of the activities which HEMA practitioners are likely to be exposed to is that of Historic Medieval Battles, or HMB for short, a sport in which people fight each other while wearing full plate armour. The most famous HMB event is Battle of the Nations, or BOTN, and some examples of BOTN matches can be seen here:

Battle of the Nations, 2013, 1 vs 1

Battle of the Nations, 2014, 5 vs 5

Battle of the Nations, 2013, 21 vs 21

As can be seen, this sport involves using the edges of swords and axes to strike armour-clad opponents, the goal being to strike them hard enough that they are knocked down. This type of approach is frequently criticised by HEMA practitioners, who often claim that armoured combat would only have involved the use of the half-sword to thrust at vulnerable targets not covered by armour, and that striking against a man in armour is not historically accurate. As can be seen in the videos above, plate armour is very effective at protecting the wearer from percussive strikes, so focusing on thrusting into areas not protected would seem to make a lot more sense than striking them.

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