Category Archives: Running a Club

Learning to apply a difficult technique in sparring

The "Mutieren" technique, shown in the Goliath manuscript: MS Germ.Quart.2020, folio 17v.

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.

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Buying HEMA Gear

mask and swords

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.

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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Doing it right, or just doing it

Keith demonstrating a technique with John during a training session.

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.

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Synthetic vs Steel, or a Question of Intensity

Digimax A50 / KENOX Q2

 

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.

 

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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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Recommending Gloves for Longsword Fencing

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.

 

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

Fork You

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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5 Business Lessons from Studying Longsword

You can't go wrong with suits and swords.

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.

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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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