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.

Belfast Bladeworks 2016 Review

Me fencing against Andrzej Rozycki. Photo copyright of Michael Barbour/2nd Shooter, 2016.


On the 3rd and 4th of December, I participated in Belfast Bladeworks 2016, which was, as the locals would have said, good craic. Belfast Bladeworks was an open longsword tournament, and was the fourth tournament of the Irish Historical Fencing League 2016.

I hadn’t been to any of the previous league events, so I didn’t have the chance to rank high in the league, but I’ve always enjoyed my interactions so far with the Irish HEMA community, and wanted to get a chance to fence with some of them again.

The original plan for the event didn’t quite work, as numbers were lower than expected, possibly due to how close the event was to Christmas. The Saturday had meant to be taken up by the tournament, to be followed by a Fechtschule on the Sunday, although the lower turnout meant these activities didn’t take as long as the time allotted to them.

There were 14 people participating in the tournament, and I understand the previous events in the I.H.F.L.  had a much higher turnout. The venue was on the smaller side though, so I think the number of participants was about right for the amount of space available.

The quality of the fencing was high through-out. In several of the pool fights I had to remind myself after the first exchange to keep focussed and not to under-estimate my opponents. I was very proud of my fencing overall though and ultimately won all but one of my pool fights, and so advanced to the eliminations stage.

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Review of Edgebana 2016

Medals and prizes from the Edgebana 2016 competitive event.

Last weekend, I attended the Edgebana 2016 competitive event, the fourth such event in Dundee. This will be a brief review of the event and my own learning points from the competitions.

There were three tournaments over the course of the weekend: open synthetic longsword, invitational Franco-Belgian, and open steel longsword. I entered all of these tournaments, and will give some brief thoughts on each.

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Review of the Titan X-Change HEMA Mask by Leon Paul

The Titan X-Change HEMA Mask

One of the most important pieces of safety equipment that we can own is our fencing mask, and for this reason it is often worth spending more money on the fencing mask compared to other items of safety equipment. A head injury is simply more likely to present a serious problem than an injury than to many other parts of the body.

We are now seeing more masks being developed specifically for HEMA, such as the masks by Gajardoni, or the Titan X-Change HEMA mask by Leon Paul which I’ll be reviewing today. I would argue that there is no true, mass-produced mask built for purpose. In an ideal world, a mask built for HEMA would have integrated back of head protection and an overlay above the mesh, or using solid plates instead of just wire mesh around the top and sides of the head. This would prevent us needing separate masks and overlays; in the mean time however, this isn’t a huge problem and we can continue to use masks and overlays, as long as the masks themselves of sufficient quality.

The Titan X-Change HEMA mask is part of Leon Paul’s Titan Range, which is mostly based off of SPES’s range of HEMA equipment. The Titan mask is an upgraded version of Leon Paul’s prior X-Change masks, featuring several enhancements.

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Gloves for Longsword Fencing (April 2016)

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 is an updated version of the article; the first version was published in April 2015, and since then, I have had more experience with some of the types of gloves mentioned here, and have remembered to include one or two others!

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A Review of HEMAC Glasgow 2016

This week’s blog article is a review of the HEMAC Glasgow 2016 event, written by Tea Kew, an instructor in the Cambridge HEMA group.

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be one of about 50 fencers gathered in Glasgow for an exploration of Style in Longsword Fencing. We were treated to an excellent event, with a generous programme of classes, sparring time, and local bars.

We began on Friday, meeting at the Vanguard Centre (the AHA’s new dedicated training facility in central Glasgow) for sparring and discussion, followed by a short presentation on linguistics in HEMA by Dr Daria Izdebska (AHA). This was a very interesting opening to the event, and helped remind us of the twin aims of the weekend: to fence with new people, and to learn new things.

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Five Years of Encased in Steel

Encased in Steel began in February 2011, meaning that this blog has now been active for 5 years. Our first ever post (Welcome to Encased in Steel) was published on February 17th 2011, although our first substantial post, a review of a joint event we ran with the Glasgow Company of Duellists, was posted the following day on February 18th.

In these 5 years, we have posted 272 posts to the blog (this being the 273rd), with 22 authors having contributed to the blog. When we first started the blog, we could not have imagined that it would run for this long, or that it would be this successful.

Going back through the archives really reminded me of how much Encased in Steel, and the Academy of Historical Arts, have accomplished in that time. As mentioned before, one of our first ever posts was a review of an event we ran with the GCoD, the first ever inter-group event we ran. The following week I posted a review of SWASH 2011, my first ever international event. On May 20th 2011, I wrote another review, this time of an event we ran with the Renaissance Martial Arts Society, or RMAS, based in Dundee. RMAS would later go on to affiliate to the AHA, and become a very important branch of our organisation, as well as having provided us with some truly excellent instructors, sparring partners and friends.

Another major landmark in the history of Encased in Steel was the publication of the Encased in Steel Anthology I, which we published in March 2015. If you have been a follower of the blog, and have enjoyed our posts, then I would urge you to support the blog further and pick up a copy of the anthology, as sales like this are what help to keep the blog running. The anthology contains many of our best articles from the earlier years of the blog, albeit with significant editing and in some cases expansion to improve the printed versions of the articles over the versions posted online. The anthology also contains several new articles written especially for the book, which are not available online.

In time we will of course be publishing an Encased in Steel Anthology II, but in the meantime, I thought it would be worth celebrating our fifth anniversary by looking at some of the posts that were written too late for inclusion in the Anthology, or were written after its publication entirely. This is not necessarily a “best of Encased in Steel” post (although I do believe the posts singled out are among our best), but rather I wanted to highlight the variety of topics on which we have posted.

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A Review of IGX 2015

A review of IGX 2015, written by Ben Hawkins.

It was a cloudy, drizzling New England day when I arrived at the Danvers Indoor Sports to attend the 2015 Iron Gate Exhibition. Over three October days, 2nd -4th, I competed, coached, judged and taught with a generous side of socializing. Though I failed to attend any classes or lectures myself, I have no regrets and greatly enjoyed my time. I want to give a very heartfelt thank you to Jeff Tsay and his staff that ran and organized the event; I very much look forward to attending in the future.

Like most all HEMA events, IGX 2015 held a series of tournaments this year. Said tournaments included dagger, mixed weapons, basic and advanced longsword and a women’s tournament that combined mixed weapons and longsword. I arrived too late to see any of the dagger but competed in the mixed weapons, coached in basic longsword and judged in the women’s. The tournaments ran quite well from my experience and as is the case where new rules are tried out, the judging improved as the event progressed.

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Review of a Rapier Seminar with Rob Runacres

Rob Runacres demonstrating a technique with Sam Booth.

On the weekend of the 19th and 20th of September this year, the Academy of Historical Arts hosted Rob Runacres for a weekend in Glasgow, to teach a seminar on rapier fencing.

In the last year or so, there have been a growing number of people in the Academy of Historical Arts who have wanted to begin studying the rapier. So a few months ago, we bought in a box of rapiers, in order to provide loaner swords for people to begin studying the art without needing to invest in their own swords immediately. The second part of our efforts to facilitate the study of rapier in our organisation was to invite Rob to teach a weekend seminar, to give people an introduction to the fundamentals of using the rapier effectively and safely.

I asked Rob to focus heavily on the mechanics of using the weapon, to emphasise the proper way to do the basics. Any beginner can pick up a rapier treatise and begin to interpret the pictures – but a healthy study of the discipline would benefit from input on details such as exactly how to hold the sword, how best to form stance and posture in order to achieve an effective lunge – and, of course, how to lunge properly, to achieve success with the action and without hurting yourself!

Rob is a superb teacher. He stuck to the brief and focused on mechanics, fundamentals, and low level details. Not only did he manage to cover these difficult and complicated subjects, he managed to do so in a manner that was engaging and entertaining. One of the things that I appreciated most of all was that over the entire event, Rob spoke loudly and clearly, so that everyone in the room could hear him and understand what he said. Too many instructors possess great information, but cannot express it loudly and clearly enough to be heard by their students; but Rob made sure that every participant could hear him clearly.

We did not look at any single treatise in isolation. Instead, Rob synthesised salient points from different sources to provide a sensible and coherent introduction to the discipline. By giving a reasonably wide basis to the introduction, discussing and comparing some of the Italian ways of doing things and some of the Spanish methods, he was able to show that different masters and schools had different ways to approach the fight, and that each method had its advantages and disadvantages. Rather than teaching us to follow a single treatise, he equipped us to make sensible choices about what sources to go ahead and study, and showed why we might come across seemingly contradictory advice between sources.

The theme that ran through everything Rob taught was that of personal safety. He was not teaching a sporty, point-scoring method, nor was he teaching an overly-theoretical, image-interpreting method. Instead, he taught a safe and secure method of fencing where the focus was on “not being hit”. There was no room for ego. The fundamentals all involved personal safety, and security when acting. This was exactly what some of the participants needed to hear!

I would encourage anyone to get in touch with Rob about arranging a seminar, if you and your club are interested in learning about the rapier. His knowledge is extensive, his teaching skill excellent, and his ability to demonstrate and put into practice what he teaches is admirable. Not only is he a great instructor to have teach at your event, he is also a very friendly fellow and is a delight to have as a guest.

Rob’s club is the Renaissance Sword Club in Reading, Surrey, and you can contact him through their website:

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