An interpretation of some broadsword and targe tactics, where the targe allows the user to perform actions that would otherwise be inadvisable without a shield...
The purpose of this article is to discuss “interpretive” systems of HEMA, and to look at what advantages and disadvantages are associated with such study. For the purposes of this article, the working definition will be as follows:
“interpretive” systems of HEMA
– styles and disciplines of any of the many historical European martial arts where we know that a particular weapon or fighting system was used in history, but where there are no (or very few) sources to describe HOW to do the martial art. Due to the lack of sources for a particular system, HEMAists or enthusiasts who try to reconstruct the system need to be much more interpretive and open to ideas, experimentation or alternative sources of information.
Some examples of interpretive systems would be styles such as Highland broadsword and targe (very few sources), warhammer or mace (virtually no sources), pankration (no comprehensive written source to say HOW it was done), and Viking sword and round shield.
Some examples of styles that involve interpretation work but do not meet the definition above for an interpretive style include Liechtenauer’s longsword (difficult to interpret, but lots of material and sources available), sword and buckler (again, difficult to interpret, but there are sources to describe how to do it), Italian or Spanish rapier styles (maybe confusing and difficult to understand, but lots of sources), and 18th/19th century sabre styles (lots of sources, not very difficult to interpret). If a discipline is supported with a lot of source material to explain how to fight in that fashion, then it tends to be accepted as “normal” or “mostly normal” within the HEMA community, and so this article will not discuss these systems further.
The purpose of this article is not to say that interpretive systems cannot be reconstructed, nor is the purpose to say that such systems should not be reconstructed. This article is not an attempt to pass judgement on what counts as “good” HEMA or “correct” HEMA, since these concepts are very personal and subjective. If this article can help people to think about what disciplines they study, and the advantages and disadvantages inherent in such study, then this article will have achieved its purpose.