HEMA

Posts about Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)

HEMA: Protective Gear

HEMA fighter in full sparring kitYou may be familiar with the all-white kit worn by sports fencers. Historical combat, however, demands greater protection against hits from heavier metal or nylon weapons.

HEMA clubs and competitions will each set their own standards for protective gear; the amount of protection worn in classes, and training sessions will also vary according to the intensity and the weapons used. …

HEMA: Safe conduct of classes

Catling and Pritchard practising sword and bucler at May Melee 2014Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is the serious study and live application of combat techniques from the early Medieval period, through the Renaissance, to the late Nineteenth century.

HEMA is not a fantasy activity like LARP (Live Action Role-playing), it is not historical re-enactment, nor is it choreographed stage fighting. It should be treated the same as other martial arts such as boxing, karate, ju-jitsu and the like. This means a constant and strict regard for the risk of injury, with appropriate steps (instruction, donning protective gear) to mitigate and minimise such risk. …

HEMA – is it safe?

Messengers class training longswordStudying historical combat techniques with heavy weapons is rewarding and fun, but, like most other martial arts, inherently risky. We all have proper jobs to go back to, families to look after, bills to pay; things that are difficult enough without the added burden of trips to A&E, bandages, splints, crutches and the long-lasting effects of concussion (genuinely no laughing matter). We are not 24/7 Medieval or Renaissance warriors. This is a hobby more than a lifestyle choice. …

WDS at Super Sporting Sunday – 16th July

West Devon Swords at the South West Youth Games 2017West Devon Swords will be at Okhampton Sports and Fitness Festival’s Super Sporting Funday on July 16th at Simmons Park. We’ll be there with plastic fencing for the juniors and the chance to try some historical swordplay with longsword and rapier.

“Great chances to take part in archery, fitness sessions , swims, tennis, putting, fencing, runs or walks, badminton, table tennis, putting, trampolining and even a climbing wall- all at Parklands or with us at OCRA .

There’s also lots for children and adults of all ages to do also, so people can come along on their own and with family and friends. Refreshments are available.”

 

 

A Matter of Honour: The Duelling Tradition

Duel after Capoferro
Duel after Capoferro

by Victoria Pritchard:

If someone insulted your family, what would you do? Cast a glove at their feet and challenge them to a duel? Probably not. Yet, for gentlemen living between the eleventh and nineteenth centuries, duelling was the only way to defend your family’s honour. Men who didn’t ‘throw down the gauntlet’ were seen as cowards. …

The Secret Thrust…

Le Bossu 1997 Film PosterThe fact and fiction of the attack that never fails

by Robin Catling:

Duelling became the pre­occupation of many swordsmen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Fencing masters of the many academies published complex manuals of fencing technique, most hinting vaguely at the master’s knowledge of a “botte secrète”, or secret thrust a special attack which could not be parried, guaranteed of absolute success every time.

In the 1997 movie Le Bossu (“the Hunchback”), the secret thrust becomes a central plot device. In the movie, Danielle Auteuil plays an ambitious chancer and man­ servant to an arrogant nobleman – the Duke of Nevers. The Duke’s skill with a sword saves him from ongoing assassination attempts by his villainous half­-brother. After one such attempt, the Duke teaches Auteuil the secret thrust. It is a complex disarming move which relies on the element of surprise and on the opponent being completely predictable.

When the Duke is killed, Auteuil rescues his baby daughter and goes into hiding for sixteen years.

Attacked by brigands, Auteuil teaches the girl the Nevers secret thrust, which exposes her identity when she kills a corrupt nobleman. The hunt resumes, Auteuil strikes back, disguised as the hunchback of the title, despatching each of the assassins using the Nevers secret thrust.

As a signature move it is bold, complex and outrageous. Against a straight thrust:

  • parry in seventh (expect a riposte from seventh)
  • envelope in quarte
  • beat to forearm (which forces the opponent to withdraw their bent arm)
  • take the blade as you change guard
  • close in with a passing step
  • disarm the opponent
  • thrust to the forehead

In real life, however, things are rarely so predictable. The physical style of fencing, the technique of a particular school and the conditions of the fight – each can dramatically alter the reactions of  the opponent so as to render the secret thrust a dangerous liability.

Michael York almost gets himself  killed using the D’Artangnan family’s secret thrust in the 1974 Three Musketeers. This is why a keen beginner can score hits against an international ranking  fencer and why actual duels could quickly degenerate into brawls when each fencer’s carefully drilled tactical plan fell apart at the first exchange.

Of course, no secret thrust ever stayed secret for long as fencing masters devised counter­measures.

As   always, there is no substitute for hard work, sound technique and practice!