Popular media is pushing people towards an interest in historical swordplay. But how do those same people find a school in which they can explore their new interest?
Chances are, they’ve seen a demonstration of swordplay on television or at a local event — an event that is not necessarily dominated by swords or swordspersons.
Public demonstrations are a wonderful, often inexpensive way to entice those with an interest in blade work to actually come and walk through our doors in the future. How we present ourselves, our interests, our knowledge and our level of professionalism can greatly affect the number of people who will actually seek out our salle from among a growing list of swordplay training options.
But public demonstrations also have the potential to go wrong, with embarrassing gaffes going live — or worse yet, a bystander being seriously hurt — due to a participant’s mistake or moment of sword-specific inattention.
The very best of intentions among everyone involved notwithstanding, in a demonstration — be it in studio or on stage — there are a whole variety of factors that have to be considered in order for any swordplay event to come off in an entertaining but safe fashion.
Weapons control is a significant factor.
Know beforehand: is your interview host expecting to swing your weapon… and if so, under what circumstances? And are you, as a professional martial artist, satisfied with how safety for onlookers (yourself, cameramen, audience) is being addressed? Are you maintaining control over how your weapons are being used?
And for field or stage demonstrations, the same safety issues remain, but with additional dimensions. Now, along with the criterion above, new questions must be answered. Is the venue appropriate to the space and stability needed to safely display arms, let alone use them? Is the weather appropriate? Is the audience sufficiently back from the display so as to not to be vulnerable to a demonstrator’s misguided (or deflected) blow, a broken weapon part flying amok… or worse?
And if crap does happen, what’s the remediation plan (based on the severity of the incident)? Carry on?
Public demonstrations of historical swordplay do result in new people joining our salles. However, we owe it to our art, ourselves and the public to ensure that all presentations and sword handling by anyone associated with our event are conducted in the most safe and professional way possible. This should be considered our duty — not only for the sake of maintaining generally good ethics and avoiding a lawsuit, but also to preserve the reputation of our now-mainstream HEMA practice.
Equal Face Time for Everyone!
CTV. (Vancouver, British Columbia.) 06 April 16. Swordplay academy slays fantasy, revives lost art of knighthood.
National press returns to Academie Duello to report on the latest initiatives there, and to explore why swordplay continues to maintain high interest, participation and visibility within the Vancouver area.
The interview also touches on the continuing “popular media” interest in all things sword-like by… let’s say, non-traditional audiences… and what to expect when you first decide to pick up a sword for some actual training. A respectful nod also went out to Vancouver’s Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly and their unique initiative.
If it’s not Scottish, it’s… 
KINGSTON REGION. (Ontario.) 13 April 16. Teaching ancient sword fighting to 2016 Kingstonians.
For three years Jake Hodgson has been mentoring all ages in Highland Broadsword technique as part of the Kingston Broadsword Academy curriculum. Like Academie Duello, the Kingston school flourishes thanks to the popularity of fantasy series like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Hodgson also credits local interest in the television series Outlander as a source of inspiration to some to undertake Scottish swordplay.
Teaching a purely military style of swordplay in accordance with the requirements of the international Cateran Society, Hodgson believes that Highland Broadsword use is a straightforward, all action, easy-to-absorb technique originally designed to quickly train large numbers of young recruits who expected to be in battle soon.
Western Wrestling and More
CALGARY HERALD. (Alberta.) 27 April 16. Stepping into The Forge’s fire: Historic European Martial Arts club empowers enthusiasts.
The three-year old HEMA group The Forge is burgeoning in semi-southern Alberta, with a small core practicing longsword, Renaissance wrestling, and more.
One always has to concern themselves with quotes taken out of context when perusing press, but I found it a bit startling that the journalist here considers The Forge as an “esteemed martial arts facility.” I would like to know, according to whom and what standards? I also object to the stance that HEMA is an “underground” martial art. Fair questions, perhaps, for their next well-received, public demonstration.
A Blow of Reality
VISALIA TIMES-DELTA. (California.) 18 April 16. Tulare County Renaissance Faire returns.
Iron Gate Swordfighting Club of Visalia is adding some significant medieval reality to the usual sort of Renaissance Festival offering. Tracy Mellow and his troupe demonstrate “authentic” Armizare fighting techniques at the nearby Tulare County Renaissance Faire… when they’re not practicing to compete in full-contact competitions within the USA and overseas.
“At the Renaissance Faire we do demonstrations, we do sparring throughout the day for people to see, and also, we just get bored and want to fight each other.”
Students of the Art
THE TIGER. (Clemson, S Carolina.) 14 April 16. Going Medieval: Why You Should Check Out HEMA.
And while you can’t get a liberal arts or physical education degree in HEMA (yet), Sword Carolina caught the eye of Clemson University’s HEMA club Clemson Longsword, and lured their students (and others) to the annual Study in Steel longsword and shortsword event. Purpleheart Armory gets kudos for sponsoring this joint workshop and competitive tourney!
Hefting Hanseatic Halbards
DEUTSCHLANDRADIO. (Berlin, Germany.) 24 April 16. Fechten und Schießen für die Tradition.
Bremen’s eight-year old, ten-member Hanse-Garde practice the usual HEMA disciplines, augmented by some modern combat training — and base their training and ethics on a close professional tie with the current Vatican “Swiss Guard” in Rome. Meeting twice weekly, they practice sword and poleaxe, hand-to-hand, riding and shooting — bow and powder. In addition to serious HEMA study and training, the Hanse-Garde are active in their community by putting on demonstrations for their citizenry — and providing a real-life, trained “castle guard” for Erbhof Thedinghausen.
Clashes for Caballeros
LA NACIÓN. (Buenos Aires, Argentina.) 10 April 16. Juego de tronos en versión real.
A detailed article and interviews with our Argentinian peers whom are getting themselves and their teams ready to participate in competitions sponsored by the International Medieval Combat Federation… and even some words from a few headed to the Battle of the Nations.
I found this item refreshingly honest, with one of the Federation’s officers being challenged as to the “medieval authenticity” of techniques being employed in the group combats. His reply: “that medieval manuscripts depicting combat illustrated only a few duelling situations, and there was virtually nothing period available to guide modern fighters as to how to conduct themselves in multi-fighter combats.” You do what you can with what you have!
Oh, yes! Argentinians come to HEMA because of the same influences that we up north do!
Double Your Coverage
AUGSBURGER ALLGEMEINE (Köln, Germany) 21 April 16.
Beatings in the Bohurt… with the emphasis on hurt
RT : TV-NOVOSTI. (Moscow, Russia.) 18 April 16. Watch 360 video of Russians in full medieval armor battering each other.
I can’t describe this better than this item’s opening sentence: “The annual Valor & Honor tournament in Moscow over the weekend saw Russia’s best sword and shield fighters engage in full-contact combat in front of a baying crowd.”
Not just Bashing with Bulavas in the Bohurt
НЕВСКИЕ НОВОСТИ. (St Petersburg, Russia.) 28 March 16. “Вызов Петербурга” по историческим боевым искусствам: триумф петербургских спортсменов.
Russian HEMA-types sport is not all “bashing” — there is serious practice of traditional swordplay going on in St Petersburg. The recent “Challenge of St. Petersburg” saw over a hundred competitors from at least three nations contest for honours in four swordplay disciplines.
Safety and Professionalism… and more Sword Handling Safety… please.
DAILY MAIL. (London, UK.) 11 April 16. Squealing Susanna Reid cowers away from Piers Morgan as he waves a blade in her face….
Though this is not HEMA-specific, it is our segue into this month’s theme, and this is the sort of potential event that could happen to near any one of us interacting with the public or press. How do you maintain control of your demonstration… and sword… and still have that desirable “interactive interview” that will result in an entertaining and educational feature on television or on stage?
- Looking for Excalibur?
- Sword supporting Society!
- Sword supporting Society II!
- Rattling the Rapier
- Lorica Mk II Smart Armour
- The Future of Footwork?
- Not Your Great-Great-Grand-Daddy’s Wooden Gladius
- Swords in Modern Regalia
- “By setting the hilt against his own chest, the student uses his body weight to force his point into his opponent’s armpit and into the chest cavity… [after Sigmund Ringeck, late 15th century.] A particularly deep thrust could penetrate the mediastinum or central area of the chest, containing… the heart… with potentially fatal consequences. An injury to the heart or surrounding tissues could cause a cardia tamponade, when blood collecting in the pericardial sac compresses the heart, preventing it from beating.” 
1.Apologies to Saturday Night Live!
2. Tracey, L. & DeVries K. (ed.) Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture. Koninklijke Brill NV. Leiden: The Netherlands. 2015. p.134