Bringing Encased in Steel to its Conclusion

We opened Encased in Steel on the 17th of February 2011, meaning that the blog has been running and posting on a weekly basis for slightly more than six years. However, we are now going to draw the blog to its conclusion, and will no longer be posting on a regular weekly basis. There may still be some new updates from time to time, but it will not be a regular thing.

We will continue to host the blog, and the better quality articles will remain accessible and free of charge, although we may take down some of the older, less relevant and lower quality articles.

I fully intend to keep writing my own thoughts and articles on my own personal blog, over on my new website. Again, it may not see regular updates, at least not in the near future, but I will be continuing to write and to make my thoughts on martial arts available to the community.

It has been a pleasure writing for the community over the last six years, and thank you to everyone who has engaged in discussions resulting from our articles. It has helped us come to terms with our own understanding of HEMA and history, and we hope the blog has helped others in their own journey too.

Buying HEMA Gear

This week’s guest article is courtesy of Tea Kew, from the Cambridge HEMA club.

One of the most common questions on HEMA forums and Facebook groups, perhaps the most common after “Where’s my nearest club?” and “What sword should I get?”, is some variation of “What protective gear should I get?” or “Is this piece of equipment worthwhile?”. Normally this is asked by new fencers, who are looking for the best balance of cost and effectiveness to equip themselves for safe training.

The general answer is always basically the same: buy the de-facto standard HEMA gear, from reputable HEMA-specific manufacturers.

In this article, we’ll look at some general principles to use when buying gear, that help explain why to buy the standard kit instead of alternatives. Depending on your local situation, some of this standard equipment might be difficult to obtain, but understanding these principles means you can make much more informed decisions about how to select replacements if necessary.

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How should a new club set its attendance fee?

A photograph of a group exercise about range and distance, taken at one of the practices at RMAS in Dundee.

One of the most difficult decisions you have to make when setting up a new club is to decide how much to charge for participation in your training sessions. If you set the rate too low, then you will have difficulty paying for hall hire and meeting your financial obligations. If you set it too high, then people might not be willing to pay that much, and you will have difficulty finding and retaining members.

Nonetheless, it is my opinion (based on significant experience teaching at both an amateur and professional level) that it is better to set a higher price than a lower price.

Rather than picking a number out of thin air, it is important to consider the matter carefully, and to choose a number that works for you and your club. It is not necessarily helpful to base your choice on what other clubs in the area may charge for sessions, since they may have advantages (or disadvantages) that you do not have.

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Lessons about gear: thoughts about quality

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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Recommending Gloves for Longsword Fencing

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


It is easy to spend a long time discussing gloves for longsword fencing. Each make and model has advantages and disadvantages, and every practitioner will have their own preferences and needs.


This article lays out the brief comparisons and recommendations that I give to my students when they ask me about what gloves they need for lessons in the clubs at which I teach.

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Fork You!!! Event Budgeting 101

This week I am going to take a look at event budgeting. Now I know for many people a collective groan was just heard as you were hoping for a post about swords or other fighty things. The reality is though that budgeting for events is an important skill and a habit any event organiser should get in to. For the purpose of this article, I will use a fictional HEMA event to help illustrate the method I use for preparing to budget. I will use follow up posts to deal with excel spreadsheets and other aspects of budgeting but this post provides the foundation.

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6 Fears for Starting a new HEMA Club

This week I would like to present a short post answering some of the fears people have about starting a HEMA club. As I am moving house at the moment I have recently come across many of my documents from when I started my first club in 2007. Amongst the documents I found a pros and cons list regarding my feelings towards starting a club. Eight years on I would like to answer those cons and hopefully in doing so I will be able to give encouragement to some of you who are considering taking the leap into founding a club.

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10 pieces of advice for new HEMA clubs!

This week I am going to continue on my series of posts about starting a new HEMA club. I will do my best to keep it generic with suggestions that are non-geographical but please keep in mind every country is different and my experience is with Scotland.

Seven years ago I started the GUCDS, the club from which the Academy of Historical Arts grew. At the time it was not a HEMA club specifically, and over the years much about it has changed and developed as it transitioned through different stages. The other day I was looking through some old paperwork and came across my initial plans for the club and how I was going to set it up. I realised just how naive most of these were, but I fumbled along and with some help from friends the club was started, and went on to become an extremely successful organisation.

With HEMA growing at an incredible rate and getting more and more media attention, I felt there may be some people who really want to start a HEMA club but are afraid to take that first step. This post is for you.

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The Characteristics of your Students

Earlier this year, Mike Smith from the Macdonald Academy of Arms in Edinburgh posted a message to the group’s Facebook page that I found to be rather thought provoking:

“Remember what the Academy is famed for, its control and composure. Don’t let these standards slip.”

I would be very happy if my school and my students were famed for their control and composure. This started me thinking about what I would like my students to be famed for, in an ideal world, and gave me the inspiration to write this article and propose this question for other instructors to consider:

If your school and students were to be famed for one or two characteristics, what would you want them to be?

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Planning a HEMA Demonstration for the Public

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.

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