• Andrey Kiselyus

KINDRED SPIRIT: HEMA


We are happy to give this section to our colleagues, representing related activities. Be it martial arts, power sports, living history... Any activity in the center of which a person, in one way or another, who overcomes himself, an opponent or circumstances – is close to iron people, not to mention the fact that with the heroes of this section we often see each other, literally, at neighboring sites of various events.

In pursuit of the victory on the knightly arena, we do not always have time to look around, and meanwhile, the passions of athletes close to us in are in no way inferior to medieval sports. And today we will find out how the fencing of the Renaissance lives and breathes, and also how adepts of piercing weapons perceive HMB.


Now I can even use the phrase “you must have already seen them,” because HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) fighters have increasingly become not only spectators, but also participants in events organized under the auspices of HMBIA. Almost always their corporate style is strict black equipment, lightning-fast strikes of steel sabers and the rapid movements around the site, a sharp bend of a rapier neatly tucked into an opponent's armpit who has overlooked at an extra 20 centimeters of distance, wide arcs of attacks and the sound of air knocked out from that the swordsmen paving their way to self-improvement, fame and truth. And healthy enthusiasm gazing through a fencing mask.


Why fighters strive for self-improvement, I will not speak, as it is obvious for everyone who once took a weapon in his hands and began to visit the gym more than once a week. Regarding glory, as well, everything is more or less clear. And what's with the truth? The fact is that one of the main components of the NEMA is the study of the materials left by our ancestor swordsmen. And these historical sources were devoted not only to fencing, but also to wrestling, mounted and dismounted fighting.

A brief guide. The first books on fencing appear in the 13th century — this is a fully-fledged manual on how to use a sword in combination with a small fist shield, which is called a buckler. The sword and buckler - probably the main weapon of self-defense of that time, it is not surprising that it was precisely these weapons that served as the theme of the first fechtbuch – the old textbooks on fencings are now called in German manner. “Old” are considered to be sources that illuminate various schools and styles of fencing up to the turn of the 19th-20th centuries — until fencing became more of a sport than an applied discipline. For seven centuries in Europe has been written a huge variety of books on the use of a variety of weapons. The interpretation of the techniques described in fencing books is an important part of HEMA. Initially, it was the desire to understand, how people actually fenced 200, 300, 400 years ago and became the reason for the emergence of this discipline.


But, naturally, any theory is dead without practice. Gradually, along with festivals and conferences, tournaments began to appear - competitions at which it was possible to try how effective this or that technique was in a free-fight setting. Currently, HEMA is an exciting competitive discipline, in which fencing tournaments with sword and buckler, the Renaissance rapier, rapier and dagger and so on are held. The saber is especially popular in Russia, and the long sword - federschwert is the hallmark of HEMA all over the world.


In our country, HEMA as an independent direction appeared later than in Europe and America. The first HEMA clubs and schools in Russia, at the moment, are, probably, not more than 7 years. In the West, the HEMA movement has been around for 30 years. Nevertheless, our compatriots have already declared themselves loudly enough. Let’s take Swordfish 2018 (a tournament in Sweden, which many consider to be the unofficial European Championship), for example - all the gold in fencing nominations of this competition went to Russia.

In the world HEMA ranking, diligently updated by Finnish colleagues, where the results from, probably, most of the tournaments in HEMA are gathred, a lot of high positions are occupied by fencers from Russia: Sergey Kultaev (3rd place from over 3800 long sword fighters ), Elena Muzurina (the first of more than 400 women with swords), 6 of the top 10 fighters with a rapier and dagger, including the first place winner, Ivan Novichenko, as well as 6 of the top 10 saber fencers in the world, including the fighter with the best the result Dmitry Gibadullin.


It has already become clear, HEMA is the reenactment of old fencing techniques and competitive practice. Of course, modern tournaments can not give a complete picture of the "real use" of authentic techniques. At least because at competitions all actions of fencers are subject to the rules.

At present, it is difficult to single out a set of rules in the global HEMA community. Tournaments in Sweden can seriously differ from tournaments in Italy, tournaments in the USA - from tournaments in Russia. The scoring system may vary, this or that technique is evaluated differently, and so on. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify some common (or rather, the most common) features. For example, almost everywhere, both strikes and thrusts are allowed (which essentially distinguishes HEMA from HMB, where thrusts are included in the list of prohibited techniques), it is possible to strike and thrust into any part of the body, head, arms and legs (excluding the groin, back of the skull and feet ). In almost all tournaments, the duel is interrupted after the performance of the effective action, the judges evaluate the fencing phrase and award points to the athletes. A characteristic feature of the HEMA rules, which is probably spread all over the world, is the concept of afterblow. It is a rule that states that, even after receiving a strike, a fighter has the right to make another fencing action, which will also be counted if he has time to hit the enemy in response before the stop command. This rule was introduced as an attempt to make the HEMA competitions more realistic, and also to make it impossible for the fencers to rush into unprepared attacks, trying to just outrun an opponent for a split second.


An important question to be answered: “What do you need to get started?” Much depends on what is most attractive for you in HEMA. If you are interested in the historical research of ancient techniques as a theory, then probably a computer with Internet access will be enough. Now there is a huge amount of materials. Many even manage to do without the knowledge of foreign languages, using translation software. The result, of course, turns out to be strange, but this is a completely different story. Another thing, if you want not only theory. Here you can’t do without finding any club that specializes in HEMA. The fact is that no martial art, including fencing, can not be learned from a book, without an instructor. If you really want to comprehend fencing, this requires a trainer, partners for paired exercises, etc., that you can only find in a club or school of historical European martial arts. At first, almost in any club you will be given the opportunity to use public equipment, therefore at this stage financial investments will be very small. It is clear that if you want to do it seriously, you will have to buy equipment - now the choice of manufacturers is large enough, as well as the range of prices. From the point of view of physical condition - HEMA classes are available to anyone. If a person does not have any particular contraindications for practicing in sports activities.


Toward the end - a few words about how the HMB and HEMA communities interact in Russia. In many ways, of course, we exist in parallel realities, where the main points of contact are large-scale events, in the program of which there are competitions in both disciplines. However, gradually our universes begin to intersect more and more. I am sure that most of the HEMA fighters are following with great attention the successes of our HMB team, at least in our school there is a tradition to organize joint viewing of broadcasts from the Battle of the Nations! It is worth noting that the Saint Petersburg fencers of the Tramazzone school were especially lucky. Our relations with the world of HMB have always been quite strong - after all, the project manager and senior instructor, Sergey Myasischev is the head of the HMBIA Marshall Committee, and indeed is a person with extensive coaching experience not only in HEMA, but also in HMB – both with adults and children's nominations. One of our instructors, Alsu Sayfutdinova, was recently certified for the qualification of HMB Russia marshal. In the gym of the school, Maxim Yun, a well-known fighter from the Old Friends team, is successfully mastering fencing on a duel saber; Ali Askerov, a long sword fencer, is the head of the Russian HMB Soft committee... Perhaps we are more than close in spirit!


If we talk about the situation as a whole, HEMA, being a relatively new area attracts the attention of many HMB fighters. Probably the most vivid example is the performance of the most famous Russian fighter Sergey Ukolov at the Fechtterra tournament in 2016. Sergey immediately reached one of the top places and demonstrated an excellent technique with a long sword.

I think that, in turn, there are fighters in HEMA who would be willing to discover a new fencing and competitive space for themselves. Here you don’t even have to go far: for example, I can personally identify myself as someone who is interested in the HMB and more and more each year. I even think about putting on armor and trying myself in the longsword nomination when my daughter grows up and I have more time for my own lessons. Of course, it will be necessary to seriously revise the system of preparation - after all, the disciplines are very different. But the more difficult the task, the more interesting it is.


In conclusion, I would like to wish all the fighters - both HEMA and HMB - success on the chosen path, interesting fights and bright and beautiful victories!

Written by Elena Muzurina

#kindredspirit #HEMA #eng

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