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 www.keithfarrell.net 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.
The “Mutieren” technique, shown in the Goliath manuscript: MS Germ.Quart.2020, folio 17v.
One of the common problems faced by many practitioners of historical fencing is that while we know and have learned many cool techniques from our source materials, we may not be able to apply these techniques in the heat of sparring. How can we work towards being able to apply all of our techniques at will, even when under pressure? It requires a little bit of thought and effort, and perhaps needs a change in your typical sparring and training habits.
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.
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.
Keith demonstrating a technique with John during a training session.
One of the ideas that causes problems for a lot of people across the world is the idea that whatever you want to do has to be right, or perfect, before you begin.
People delay opening a business until the “perfect” moment, and then never quite manage to open up. People keep planning their novel, adding more and more detail to their world, but never quite end up writing the story. People decide that they don’t want to put themselves forward as an instructor of HEMA until they understand it properly – and so clubs never quite take off.
When HEMA practitioners discuss protective gear, and for which kind of activity it is most suitable, the phrase often appears that a piece of gear is “suitable for steel” or “good for synthetics but not for steel”. However, I believe this is the wrong way to look at the use of historical fencing swords and the protective equipment that must be worn, as it forces a certain dichotomy that ignores the most important aspect of risk when fencing: intensity.
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.
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.
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.
You can’t go wrong with suits and swords, even if they are not longswords.
For the last four and a half years I have been running my own business. For the last seven years, I have been learning Liechtenauer’s longsword fencing methods. Recently, I have noticed several parallels between my studies of longsword and the business lessons I have learned from being an entrepreneur. The same lessons would also be valuable for someone considering the idea of opening up a new martial arts club, perhaps even with the idea to run it as a business.