Five reasons to study Judo

This guest article has been provided by Tea Kew, of the Cambridge HEMA club. 

It’s very common for historical fencers to cross-train in other martial arts. Sport fencing and various other forms of swordsmanship are perhaps the most common, because of their obvious application for the use of swords. The value of training in wrestling is often overlooked. However, most of our early longsword manuals are clear about the importance of wrestling for fencing, and so dedicating some time to studying a form of wrestling can be extremely valuable (see an argument for wrestling on this blog). Judo is one of the most widely accessible forms of wrestling, and therefore is a particularly good candidate for cross-training.

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Historical Research using Archived Material

Today’s blog article is courtesy of Andy Lawrence, who studies HEMA with us in Glasgow, and who makes frequent research trips to museums, libraries and archives.

It is a common idea that “research” involves going to a dusty library and poring over old documents. However, so much information is available online, why might someone actually need to visit a library? What sort of research tasks can be accomplished by visiting a library, and how might one go about arranging this kind of research visit?

This short article relates to my experience of conducting research using various archives that have digitised documents to make them available on-line, and also how I have used reading rooms at archives and libraries where the information is currently only available offline, on paper.

Significant amounts of time may be saved by knowing before your visit what it is that you would like to find out, rather than searching randomly for information. Searches can then be filtered to try and find any documents or images that may be relevant. In my case, the purpose of the exercise was to try and find a date and location for a particular photograph. The photo in question is that of my great grandfather, Charles Lawrence, who was rumoured to have been photographed in Japan whilst he served in the Royal Navy in the late 19th century.

Charles Lawrence, who was rumoured to have been photographed in Japan whilst he served in the Royal Navy in the late 19th century.

Charles Lawrence, who was rumoured to have been photographed in Japan whilst he served in the Royal Navy in the late 19th century.

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Starting with HEMA: A Personal View

An artistic "still life" collection of HEMA gear!

An artistic “still life” collection of HEMA gear!

Today’s blog article is courtesy of Alex Davis, who is relatively new to the study of HEMA, and who wanted to share some of his thoughts on beginning in this activity. He attends lessons with Schola Gladiatoria, in the safe hands of Lucy and Matt Easton, and makes occasional visits to the English Martial Arts Academy with Martin “Oz” Austwick.

Are you new to HEMA, or to any martial art? Here are some of my experiences and my reactions to HEMA, touching on different aspects of the activity that a beginner may experience. I think of them Challenges, along with one Requirement, not necessarily to overcome them but to meet and react to them, and to show how rich and varied HEMA appears to be. I could think of them facets or principles, but the word Challenges seem fine, because they call for me to achieve something and change or improve myself. It seems that with each class, something develops that raises further questions for assessment and refinement. It is probable that I may want to change some of below in another six months time.

These experiences are my own. I do not suggest they are shared by everyone, though I am hoping they may create some thought or discussion. I expect some things may strike a chord and some things may not. We are all different.

I am very grateful to all the instructors and fellow students who guide and share as I learn and practice HEMA. Without them I would not feel able or willing to contribute.

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Buying HEMA Gear

mask and swords

This week’s guest article is courtesy of Tea Kew, from the Cambridge HEMA club.

One of the most common questions on HEMA forums and Facebook groups, perhaps the most common after “Where’s my nearest club?” and “What sword should I get?”, is some variation of “What protective gear should I get?” or “Is this piece of equipment worthwhile?”. Normally this is asked by new fencers, who are looking for the best balance of cost and effectiveness to equip themselves for safe training.

The general answer is always basically the same: buy the de-facto standard HEMA gear, from reputable HEMA-specific manufacturers.

In this article, we’ll look at some general principles to use when buying gear, that help explain why to buy the standard kit instead of alternatives. Depending on your local situation, some of this standard equipment might be difficult to obtain, but understanding these principles means you can make much more informed decisions about how to select replacements if necessary.

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A Review of HEMAC Glasgow 2016

This week’s blog article is a review of the HEMAC Glasgow 2016 event, written by Tea Kew, an instructor in the Cambridge HEMA group.

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be one of about 50 fencers gathered in Glasgow for an exploration of Style in Longsword Fencing. We were treated to an excellent event, with a generous programme of classes, sparring time, and local bars.

We began on Friday, meeting at the Vanguard Centre (the AHA’s new dedicated training facility in central Glasgow) for sparring and discussion, followed by a short presentation on linguistics in HEMA by Dr Daria Izdebska (AHA). This was a very interesting opening to the event, and helped remind us of the twin aims of the weekend: to fence with new people, and to learn new things.

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A Review of IGX 2015

A review of IGX 2015, written by Ben Hawkins.

It was a cloudy, drizzling New England day when I arrived at the Danvers Indoor Sports to attend the 2015 Iron Gate Exhibition. Over three October days, 2nd -4th, I competed, coached, judged and taught with a generous side of socializing. Though I failed to attend any classes or lectures myself, I have no regrets and greatly enjoyed my time. I want to give a very heartfelt thank you to Jeff Tsay and his staff that ran and organized the event; I very much look forward to attending in the future.

Like most all HEMA events, IGX 2015 held a series of tournaments this year. Said tournaments included dagger, mixed weapons, basic and advanced longsword and a women’s tournament that combined mixed weapons and longsword. I arrived too late to see any of the dagger but competed in the mixed weapons, coached in basic longsword and judged in the women’s. The tournaments ran quite well from my experience and as is the case where new rules are tried out, the judging improved as the event progressed.

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A Brief Introduction to the Smallsword

Today’s article is by MEversbergII, and is a reposted version of his original article on Imgur. He has given his kind permission for the article to be reposted here for posterity. Editor’s Note: I have taken the liberty of correcting two or three small spelling mistakes, such as replacing “braodsword” with “broadsword”, but no substantial edits have been made to the piece to change the meaning of the article in any way.



I’ve mentioned in a few comments about being a student of the sword, and a few people were interested in knowing more. In that vein, I have created this album to spread a bit of knowledge out there for any other interested folk. Let us begin! Years ago, I started to get into something called Historical European Martial Arts – HEMA. HEMA is the study of various martial arts, both armed and unarmed, from pre-modern Europe. I have experience with severral forms of it – unarmed wrestling, dagger/knife combat, sword and buckler, quarterstaff, longsword, and messer. Recently, however, I began to study the smallsword, and that will be the focus of our album here today.

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Longpoint 2015 Review

A review of Longpoint 2015 from Benjamin Hawkins.


Over four sunny July days in Maryland, Longpoint 2015 was held. This year it was the largest HEMA event in North America with over two hundred registered attendees; the open longsword alone had over one hundred sign ups. Nine tournaments including open longsword, women’s longsword, rapier, sword and buckler, ringen, cutting, harnischfechten, pair techniques, a rookie training event and the meta tournament triathlon that took scores from longsword, cutting and either ringen or pair techniques for an aggregate score. As great as the sheer scale of the event was, it made it hard, if not impossible, for any one person to get more than a glimpse of each event. I myself only caught a few fights of rapier, sword and buckler and harnischfechten, while completely missing women’s longsword and paired techniques. Fortunately, I was able to see quite a bit of the open longsword, cutting and ringen.

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Degeneration of Chivalry in 1 Henry VI and 2 Henry VI

Today’s post has been written by Reinis Rinka, on the depiction of chivalry in Shakespeare’s Henry IV parts 1 and 2.


Henry VI part 1 and 2 are set at the end of the Hundred years war, the war that many believe ended the age of the chivalric style of warfare (Williamson 1919, p. 333). In a similar way the increasing widespread use of firearms was also changing warfare in Elizabethan England. Through these historical parallels the two parts of Henry VI explores the nature and disillusionment of warfare in both time periods, as Semenza puts it,

‘Shakespeare’s attention in the trilogy to the degeneration of chivalry into realpolitik – apparent in the shift of focus from the Anglo-French wars in I Henry VI to the petty civil squabbles of the subsequent plays – should be examined within the context of contemporary anxieties about war having become less noble and, to a certain degree, less justifiable’ (2001 p.1254)

The world of 1 Henry VI is in a flux. It attempts to hold on to old ideals about combat, while it is also inevitably faced with a, disillusioned approach to war. Nonetheless not all characters are aware of the change. Talbot is a character in the middle. He upholds chivalric values, however he understands and sees how warfare is changing. His ultimate end might be because of his inability or unwillingness to change. The world of 2 Henry VI can be seen as having already changed. It resonates with part 1, but mostly to show how far the degeneration of chivalry has gone.

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The “Real Fighting Stuff” conference was real solid stuff

Photo of the Kelvingrove Museum by Andreea Dee.

This week’s article is a review of the recent “Real Fighting Stuff” Conference 2015, held in Glasgow at the Kelvingrove Museum and organised by the Academy of Historical Arts. This review was written by Andreea Dee and was posted originally on her blog, the Art of Swords; she has given her kind permission for it to be reposted here on Encased in Steel.


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