Art, Science or Sport Sword Press: News for November 2015

While not yet plethoric, HEMA in North America is benefiting from a richness in new and established salles and their scholastic approaches to traditional western swordplay.  The community is truly in a time of having "something for everyone".  Consequently, we are – for the most part – leaving behind our niche status, moving instead into the mainstream of our respective cities' holistic martial arts communities.

But now that we've reached this point, where do we want to go from here?

This article about a budding kendo school (included again in the "snippet" section below) poses an interesting question – where do HEMA scholars and practitioners want to take traditional swordplay? The so-called "kendo conundrum" could just as well be our "HEMA conundrum":

...kendo, unlike other martial arts like judo or taekwondo, is wrapped in a mystique that few other marital arts have. It is not an Olympic sport, and there's a contingent of kendo practitioners who want to keep it that way. While the Olympic spotlight would give kendo more visibility, many within the sport think it would degrade and violate the martial art spirit that animates it. It would become mere sport, not a martial art [emphasis added].

This is a question worrying HEMA practitioners today. Do we preserve HEMA within our own small groups as a serious study of the art and science?  Or do we move it further into the public consciousness with competition rules, leagues and... commercial sponsors? (HEMA athlete trading cards, anyone? Or perhaps longsword-master ones like these?) The MMA community seems to be embracing full armour/full contact medieval combat with a vengeance – but as a "sport".

How far do we amend our serious study of fight books to the requirements of becoming a fully acceptable martial art like our socially established peers?  Are we content remaining a niche interest?

Silver-Tongued Silver Cord

CBC (Vancouver, BC). 31 October 15. Game of Thrones and other shows drive popularity of swordplay in Vancouver.

Provost Greg Reimer was interviewed recently on the CBC news program "Our Vancouver" about the effect of recent films and television shows on the growing popularity of swordplay classes. He also briefly explains the art of solving the "problem" of people hitting you with swords.

Little Salle on the Prairie

Farmer Duel by LindyGrim and at
Farmer Duel by LindyGrim and at

GLOBAL NEWS (Toronto, Ontario). 09 November 15. Medieval sword fighting made modern by Winnipeg group.

And further east, the up-and-coming Historical Combat League is doing its bit to bring "weapons-based combat" to western Canada.

Co-founder Les Pattison agrees with Greg’s (above) sentiments that television is fueling interest in medieval swordplay.  He also segues nicely into the question of how better to grow the art and achieve further recognition for historical european martial arts.

Get Reading about... Italians

GET READING (UK). 03 November 15. Reading gets a taste of Italian swordmanship with Berkshire Sword School.

Berkshire and Surrey's decade-old School of the Sword continues to find enviable success in teaching 16/17th century Italian swordplay to Englishmen.  The School of the Sword has been in the enviable position of being featured in a popular documentary on social media and seems to have no problem both attracting recruits and keeping a dedicated and serious cadre of longer-term members.

Students of the Sport

THE TIGER (Clemson, S Carolina). 02 November 15. Organization of the Week: Clemson Longsword Society.

And where does one find students for a new HEMA school?  Well, within a university’s established student body of course!

Clemson Longsword was established to practice Liechtenauer-based longsword both as a historical study effort and as a sport.

It’s interesting that these martial artists are sometimes mistaken for members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) – which is not a bad thing, given that there is often an interesting overlap between swordplay martial artists and SCA groups – some people having "un chausseure sur chaque piste" [a boot on each track], so to speak.

The Right to Smite

ASBURY PARK PRESS (Neptune, New Jersey). 23 October 15. Armored Combat League to get medieval in New Jersey.

The Armored Combat League held a "donnybrook" last month, which helped them to decide which combatants have the right to advance and represent the USA at the International Medieval Combat Federation world championship in May. (No pressure here, eh?)

Sigusmund Sword meets Agincourt’s Arrows.

MINSTER FM NEWS (York, UK). 31 October 15. Famous York sword on display at the Tower of London.

Sigusmund Sword from
Sigusmund Sword from

The City of York’s Sigusmund Sword and scabbard will be on a rare display in London in support of the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt celebrations.  This c1416 blade is still used on civic or related special occasions… though only in a ceremonial role.  The York sword will have an important place in a Royal Armouries exhibition of the weapons and history of the Agincourt battle.

A Model of Swordplay

GQ (New York). 27 October 15. The Real-Life Diet of the Baddest Sword Fighter in the World.

So, you’re going out for a day of donnybrook; you’re trained, armoured, motivated and… fed?

Miles Chamley-Watson, fencing champion and male model (aren’t all swordfighters models?) reveals the nutrition regime that keeps him in top form for competitions. The difference between our chosen swordplay preference and his nonwithstanding, his comments about what he eats prior to a match and why certainly merits attention.  Also of note is the practice of boxing to break up the monotony of training routine, functioning as a method for conditioning the body while still doing something to improve skills essential to swordplay.