Monday, 17 January 2011

A bit of background...

“I think it’s fair to say that, when you start teaching something, you’re expected to master it" - John Danaher
For the last couple of years, I've studied, practiced or whatever something called HEMA. In essence, it's trying to re-learn the old martial arts that existed in Europe, by examining and working from the sources and evidence that its practitioners left behind. At its worst, it's a bunch of neck-beards pretending to sword fight, at it's best, I think that it's a very respectable martial art.

You're doing it wrong!

That's better...

In terms of categorization, it's somewhere around Kendo, Olympic Fencing, Re-enactment, Wrestling, the Society for Creative Anachronism and so on, but in its own way is distinct from each of them. I don't want to bash those other past-times and I have nothing against people who do practice them (or practice them alongside HEMA), but I do think that they should be kept seperate and distinct. I love bacon, and I love ice-cream, but the two together don't make a meal.

That said, most people reading this will already be involved in the HEMA world, and so I won't go on. I got involved in HEMA after rage-quitting Olympic fencing a few months before hand. Now, there are plenty of things that I like about Olympic fencing; - the intensity of training, the professionalism of the competitions, and the theory behind it. However, there were also things that I disliked about my time in that sport; - the mindset that it seemed to pander to and foster, the pseudo-history of sword fighting and the way in which a valuable training tool had become a srs-business game of tag.

I became involved with the group now known as The Iron Door Collective in Exeter, after significant prodding from my brother who had been involved in the scene for a while. The IDC is quite a laid back group, perhaps reflecting the West-Country pace of life. At FightCamp  last year our members took home trophies for the spirit they showed, rather than for achieving high places in the competition.

Which I think is admirable. There's a real sense of comradery in the group, (well, we are called the Collective), and I think that to a large extent that's down to the two guys who have been leading classes, Johann and Jon. (I think I'm going to stick to first names in this blog, if I name people). They were both good instructors, working mainly from the treatises of a bloke called Fiore Delli Liberi. More than that, both of them are quite honest about not being all-knowing - HEMA is a collaborative enterprise of research, experimentation, interpretation, triangulation and personality clashes...
The Ancient Medieval Nuggie
Unfortunately though, Jon unable to practice with the IDC any more, on account of moving across the country and everything. Which leads me back to the quote at the top. From what I can recall of Jon's leaving party (there was beer, vodka and a great time), it would be good if I could help with the lerninatin' process in the club, or whatever the diplomatic way of putting that is.

Ok, so I admit that I'm not about to start teaching Georges St-Pierre BJJ, but I agree with the sentiment that's being expressed in the quote at the top. When you present yourself as being worth listening to on a subject then that had better be the case. Now, I'm not the world's most knowledgeable guy, or an excellent coach. But I hope that by being honest and self-critical about what I'm doing and how everyone else is getting along then I can give people a hand in becoming better HEMA-ists.

That said, this blog way prove to be superfluous - there's already an IDC Facebook Group, but not all the members have Facebook. There's also a IDC Blog that Johann runs, but that's his baby (at least, at the moment). So this place will be more of a personal things. My own opinions, views and mistakes.

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