Asymmetric Warfare

This week I have had more time than usual in Glasgow University’s fantastic library while I work on my McBane reproduction. I felt like visiting the War Studies annexe and following up on some of my older ideas. I hope you enjoy my study of why asymmetric warfare was only intermittently effective during the Early Modern period. This is a bit heavier than our usual light tone so perhaps save it to read after you have collected piles of Halloween candy to keep you going. On that note Happy Halloween and I hope you all enjoy!!!

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Choosing a new source for study

If you’re starting your own HEMA group, you will need to decide what sources you’re going to study, and if you’re a more advanced practitioner who wants to start studying another discipline, you’ll also need to decide what sources to base your study on. Of course it should be held in mind that there might be either few or no sources for any weapon you want to study. If you want to study something like Viking sword & shield or Polish sabre, then I would probably recommend studying a weapon or style that is better documented first, and then you can later apply what you learn to less documented styles.

How clear the sources are

Some sources are simply easier to read and understand than others. For example, 19th century broadsword and sabre sources are far clearer than sources on 15th century longsword or 17th century rapier. Later sabre systems are often designed to be taught to beginners, and generally have very clear instructions (written in readable English), whereas earlier sources often assumed a lot more knowledge on the part of the reader in terms of how to cut, how to move etc. Sabre therefore can be an excellent entry point into HEMA. Read more

Review of IGX 2014 by Benjamin Hawkins

IGX 2014

From September 26th to the 28th, I attended the 2014 Iron Gate Exhibition, IGX, in Danvers, Massachusetts U.S.A. Of all the many tournaments, classes and lectures offered I was only able to partake of two.  Nonetheless, I had an enjoyable time, due in no small part to the social aspect of HEMA events that brings people from different schools together. As much fun as I had, it must be said that IGX ran into some difficulties this year that tried to dampen it. To me, these difficulties came from overly ambitious planning on part of event organizers.


The first sign of ambition at IGX this year was the 14 tournaments available. A cutting tournament, separated into basic and advanced, a dagger tournament with three weight classes, a women’s longsword, rapier, side sword and mixed, an open mixed side sword, rapier and single hander, an open longsword and an invitational longsword. Of these I only took part in one, the cutting tournament that I will discuss later, but was able to watch quite a bit of the others.

Another show of IGX’s ambition was the new experimental rule set used for all of the tournaments, save the cutting and invitational longsword. This was a “counted blows” rule set with only 20 seconds bouts that ended at time or when either both fighters had thrown three blows, had a ring out, completed a takedown or disarm. In addition, there was a “star” system where a fighter would lose one of their four starting stars per hit taken, to a max of two per a bout, or gain one if they did not get hit during a bout. Fighters were organized into four man pools in which they would all fight each other where score and stars would be cumulative across all fights. The score would be both number of hits landed and the number of stars left. If a fighter had no stars after a bout then they would not get any score regardless of the number of hits landed.

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10 pieces of advice for new HEMA clubs!

This week I am going to continue on my series of posts about starting a new HEMA club. I will do my best to keep it generic with suggestions that are non-geographical but please keep in mind every country is different and my experience is with Scotland.

Seven years ago I started the GUCDS, the club from which the Academy of Historical Arts grew. At the time it was not a HEMA club specifically, and over the years much about it has changed and developed as it transitioned through different stages. The other day I was looking through some old paperwork and came across my initial plans for the club and how I was going to set it up. I realised just how naive most of these were, but I fumbled along and with some help from friends the club was started, and went on to become an extremely successful organisation.

With HEMA growing at an incredible rate and getting more and more media attention, I felt there may be some people who really want to start a HEMA club but are afraid to take that first step. This post is for you.

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The Importance of the Gorget

I have only been wearing a gorget or any form of separate throat protection for historical fencing practice since February 2014, although I have been training for a few years before that. I never used to think a gorget was important, and that my jacket’s collar or the hard plate in the throat of my Trinity overlay would be enough to keep my neck safe. However, over the course of a few months in the second half of 2013, I suffered a few “near misses” that could have gone horribly wrong, and now I would like to explain why I think wearing a gorget is very important for historical fencers.

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