Is this martial art for me?
European Martial Arts (HEMA) are for anyone who is in generally good health and wants to engage in vigorous
physical activity. You do not
have to be an athlete, and you do not have to be interested
in competitions. It is for people who want to train hard and
don't mind the occasional scrape or bruise.
Perhaps you, like us, have trained in Asian martial arts before-- but felt a lack of connection to a culture that is not the one from which you descended. If this is you, then you should consider HEMA.
What is this? I've never heard of it.
A: It is a very common thing for practitioners of Asian martial arts to say that Europe has no martial arts of it's own. This is untrue-- wrestling, boxing and fencing have always been taught in the West. Admittedly, these are only the sportive descendants of their combative predecessors, but the ancient martial traditions have always been available for study. Books were written by fight masters in Europe as early as the 1300's. This pre-dates even the oldest documented Japanese system of martial arts. Popular martial arts like Judo and Aikido were invented only in the 1800's.
There are hundreds of ancient texts available for research. For the last 20 years there has been some very serious research by very competent martial artists to re-establish these methods to their former glory, and make this information available to the public, and to them we are indebted.
It is equally common for practitioners of Asian sword styles to claim that European sword methods are clumsy and crude. If people get their information from hollywood movies, then this opinion is understandable--but it is far from the truth.
I used to train under Ken Harding years ago,
and I want to come back. Is my old rank still good?
You are welcome to come back, of course! The nature of the training is rather different though, and the idea of rank has changed as well.
Q: What is expected of me?
A: You need to pay close attention, and to train with safety
in mind. You must act seriously without horseplay. Furthermore,
while you still will inwardly benefit from prior martial arts experiences,
you must "empty your cup" so that this new art may pour into you.
Do you practice traditional martial
A: What is meant by the word "traditional"? To us, "traditional" means fighting systems
that were intended for actual combative purposes--
not watered down for spiritual enlightenment, or altered for sports.
Traditionally, martial arts were used on the battlefield
to kill people. A traditional martial art therefore must be
combat worthy-- in every sense of the phrase-- otherwise it is
neither traditional nor is it a martial art.
Too many so-called "traditional martial arts" are
in fact pretend martial arts, relying on cooperation
and unrealistic techniques. Many martial arts schools are simply
day-care centers that babysit children, having nothing whatsoever
to do with actual martial arts. Many old-style systems
have evolved into historical reenactment-- so ritualized that
it no longer bears any resemblance to actual combat.
We say we are traditional because we respect the culture and
ethos of the countries from which our systems came, and adhere
to the historical forms and methods - and we
strive to practice what is contained within them in accordance with their original intended purpose. In order to ensure our students' abilities
are real, we test our martial arts under as realistic
conditions as we safely can.
What is important is the expectation. We don't expect we'll use what we know primarily in a sporting situation. Or for 'enlightenment'. Or for re-enactment. It is our expectation that we will someday have to use what we know in order to survive a life-threatening confrontation. That's what we train for.
Q: Do you do live action role playing (LARP)?
A: No. Our focus is studying serious historical martial arts to understand their original combative purpose.
Q: I did fencing in the past. Is your fencing the same thing?
A: Not at all. It is a very different thing. If you've done fencing and wish to take up renaissance swordsmanship, then it's best to set aside what you have learned before.
Q: Is it dangerous?
A: Not really. Much of what we do is done at slow speeds and soft contact. When we do freeplay with speed and intent, we do not try to beat each other down through brute strength, and both our weapons and our protective equipment are designed to allow safe contact. In the last few years, we’ve had more injuries from playing football, cycling, or making cups of tea than sparring. That said, bear in mind that this is a martial art; a few small bruises now and again are practically inevitable.
Q: Why don't you allow children?
A: Owning and maintaining one’s own weapons requires a certain amount of personal responsibility. In addition to this, it would not be practical to have a child drill or spar with an adult; both would be inconvenienced, and neither would find the excercise very useful. While most of our members cultivate a life-long obsession with all things sharp and shiny from a very early age, we have to limit our membership to people who are 16 or older.
Q: Am I too old to join?
A: We practice fencing as a martial art, not as a sport; technique beats physical strength and speed, so as long as you are comfortable with the excercise, there is nothing to stop you from practicing. For obvious reasons, you should inform the instructor of any medical conditions.
Q: I’m out of shape. Can I do this?
A: None of the current members are professional athletes; in fact, most of us work in normal desk jobs which involve a lot of sitting down. We’re in pretty average shape, so you’re definitely not out of place. While you may feel some mild discomfort after the first session or two (especially if you’re unused to excercise), you’ll be able to practice without any trouble.
Q: There’s a lot of equipment involved. Isn’t it really expensive?
A: While there is indeed a whole lot of equipment, you won’t be needing it all at once. The minimum equipment you will need to start practicing is quite cheap, and you can build up your equipment over time. Most of our members build up their equipment over two or three years, so the cost is spread out.
Q: Do you have competitions?
A: No. We spar to test and improve our technique and to condition ourselves, not for the sake of hitting our opponent. Using a scoring system would make us think less about our technique and more about scoring points. What we do would lose its historical importance. But this does not mean that competitions do not exist--they most certainly do. If you are interested in competitions, we can help you find them.
Q: Do you have grades/belts/levels?
A: We like to keep a flat structure; you’re either a student or an instructor.
Q: Can women join too?
A: Yes of course. We give equal opportunities and training to whoever wants to learn. There are a lot of benefits for women who join our classes.