“Interpretive” Systems of HEMA (part 3)

Broadsword and targe in use in a melee (or group combat) scenario, along with combat archery.

This article is continued from part 2 posted yesterday. Today the article provides a set of guidelines and suggestions for how one might approach the issue of recreating an interpretive discipline, to gain as many of the advantages as possible, while minimising the risk of falling foul of the negative aspects as described yesterday.

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“Interpretive” Systems of HEMA (part 2)

An example of German longsword; not an interpretive discipline, and certainly not representative of "Scottish longsword"!

This article is continued from part 1 posted yesterday. Today the article focuses upon the negative side of studying an interpretive discipline – not to put people off the idea, nor to put down the whole idea, but to make practitioners aware of the potential pitfalls and disadvantages of undertaking unstructured and poorly thought out interpretive work.

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“Interpretive” Systems of HEMA (part 1)

An interpretation of some broadsword and targe tactics, where the targe allows the user to perform actions that would otherwise be inadvisable without a shield...

The purpose of this article is to discuss “interpretive” systems of HEMA, and to look at what advantages and disadvantages are associated with such study. For the purposes of this article, the working definition will be as follows:

“interpretive” systems of HEMA

– styles and disciplines of any of the many historical European martial arts where we know that a particular weapon or fighting system was used in history, but where there are no (or very few) sources to describe HOW to do the martial art. Due to the lack of sources for a particular system, HEMAists or enthusiasts who try to reconstruct the system need to be much more interpretive and open to ideas, experimentation or alternative sources of information.

Some examples of interpretive systems would be styles such as Highland broadsword and targe (very few sources), warhammer or mace (virtually no sources), pankration (no comprehensive written source to say HOW it was done), and Viking sword and round shield.

Some examples of styles that involve interpretation work but do not meet the definition above for an interpretive style include Liechtenauer’s longsword (difficult to interpret, but lots of material and sources available), sword and buckler (again, difficult to interpret, but there are sources to describe how to do it), Italian or Spanish rapier styles (maybe confusing and difficult to understand, but lots of sources), and 18th/19th century sabre styles (lots of sources, not very difficult to interpret). If a discipline is supported with a lot of source material to explain how to fight in that fashion, then it tends to be accepted as “normal” or “mostly normal” within the HEMA community, and so this article will not discuss these systems further.

The purpose of this article is not to say that interpretive systems cannot be reconstructed, nor is the purpose to say that such systems should not be reconstructed. This article is not an attempt to pass judgement on what counts as “good” HEMA or “correct” HEMA, since these concepts are very personal and subjective. If this article can help people to think about what disciplines they study, and the advantages and disadvantages inherent in such study, then this article will have achieved its purpose.

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How to make a fustibola (staff sling)


So this week I am going to take you through the process of making a fustibola of your very own. I have decided to show a rather simple design and will do my best to clarify material options that should be available no matter where you are. This project should cost around £5 ($8) if you were to buy the parts new, but there is no reason the parts could not be sourced easily from within the average home.

If you do not know what I am talking about when referring to a fustibola then I suggest you read my historical analysis of this weapon here.

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Muscular imbalances in the hip, part 2

Last week I posted a basic introduction to muscular imbalances, focusing specifically on the hips: http://encasedinsteel.co.uk/2013/07/05/muscular-imbalances-in-the-hip-part-1/

As promised, I will now be looking at a few different exercises, as well as a few guidelines for thinking about exercises, that you can use to help correct anterior pelvic tilt.

Core strength

Core strength is something I’ve talked about before in a blog post: http://encasedinsteel.co.uk/2013/01/18/the-nervous-system-and-isometrics/

As I mentioned in that article, the rectus abdominis (the so called six pack) is not the only muscle in the abdominal cavity. Far more important for our purposes here is the transversus abdominis. The transversus abdominis’ role is to provide inwards pressure on the abdominal cavity. When you suck your stomach in to fit into a tight pair of trousers, you’re using the transverses abdominis. Why is this relevant to anterior pelvic tilt?

If the pelvis is tilted forwards, the lumbar spine will curve excessively, but vice versa, if the lumbar spine is curved excessively, then the pelvis will tilt forward, so if we reduce curvature of the lumbar spine, we will also reduce anterior pelvic tilt. If you imagine someone pushing hard on your stomach, that would force your spine to straighten a bit, so if we have a strong and constantly active transversus abdominis, we will have the same effect. We will help to fix excessive lumbar lordosis, and with it, anterior pelvic tilt.

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Muscular imbalances in the hip, part 1

This week, I want to talk briefly about muscular imbalances within the hips. Muscular imbalances are an important topic, because many of the people reading this, as well as many of their students if they have any, will likely have some muscular imbalances. At best, imbalances may make our movement patterns less efficient, at worst they can put as at greater risk of injury or chronic pain. Many of my new students have done very little before starting HEMA in the way of sports, and are typically rather sedentary, with all the muscular imbalances and failings that a sedentary lifestyle brings. I know I was just as guilty of this as they are. As a HEMA teacher, I need both to work to correct my own muscular imbalances so that I can fight better, and I need to help my students to overcome their own muscular imbalances, both for the sake of their fighting ability and their long term health. I’ll be concentrating on the hip for this post because addressing all possible muscular imbalances across the body would take far too long, and in my experience many physiological problems seem to originate from imbalances within the hips.

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