• T.P. O'Dúnín

Swordplay

I’ve mentioned HEMA previously, as one of my interests, and I’m occasionally asked, “why?” Firstly, for those of you who may not have read my previous blogs, I should tell you what HEMA is. HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts and is the study and practice of Martial arts originating in the continent of Europe. There are numerous disciplines that make up HEMA, these include; Longsword, Sidesword, Saber, Rapier, Pole-weapons, Ringen (a form of wrestling), Sword and Buckler, and numerous others. The techniques associated with each discipline can be found, written down, in various treatises’ by various masters. These treatises’ usually need to be translated to modern English in order for them to be useful. Once translated, people all over the world try to make sense of what is being described. From there the techniques are disseminated down through various clubs and organisations throughout the world. From a personal standpoint, I was totally unaware of this process when I first joined my local club. I was concerned with only two things, I get to hit people with swords, and it’s a legitimate martial art!

Once I had started training, I found a few muscle groups that, up to that point, I had been blissfully unaware of, and I also discovered that I loved working with Longswords. At the start the classes were very small, as my local club was only just getting off the ground, so occasionally I was the only student there. Those early training sessions were long, exhausting, and utterly enjoyable. Before long, the club began to grow, and today it’s one of the largest in the country and still growing. The classes involve demonstrations of techniques, drilling, more drilling, sparring, and an inhouse league, where once a month we gear up fully and compete against our fellow clubmates. We participate in a national league and also host a leg of it, as well as hosting and travelling to various seminars. I’ve made many friends through HEMA, be they clubmates or people from other clubs near and far. So far I’ve not made any mortal enemies! So why do I practice HEMA? Firstly, I enjoy it thoroughly, and secondly, as a way to keep physically fit, it excels. In relation to writing, I like to know how to handle a weapon and how it responds, and when I write about it, how it should be used and how it shouldn’t. It’s a small thing, to be sure, but hopefully the added detail makes my worlds feel a little more real. In some oft imagined distant future, I’d love to incorporate HEMA into movies and TV shows, as most of the weapon-based combat you see these days is not historically accurate and designed purely to look flashy. As several clubs have shown, just because it’s accurate, doesn’t mean that it can’t also be flashy! For an example of this can be found at this link - https://youtu.be/Cn36Pb8z3yI If, after all this you think that HEMA sounds interesting, you should search for your nearest club. If you have any interest in Martial Arts and in wielding a sword, I think you’ll have a lot of fun, and who knows, perhaps you’ll turn out to be my nemesis! T.P.

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