Recently, and by pure chance, I started taking HEMA fencing lessons. What’s HEMA? Great question, as I still consistently have to look it up to really get it, but this wikipedia article should help explain it. HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts. Now, a couple of points I would like to make clear.
Number one. This is not renaissance fair type stuff. Granted, there may be nerds here (meaning me), but it is not like everyone thinks they’re wizards and kings, nor do they give each other nicknames from Middle Earth or pretend to be fighting Orcs. There are no corsets, wenches, jousting, jesters, Thor’s Hammers or mead… at least not during the lessons or competitions. What the fine folks of HEMA like to do in their spare time is up to them.
Number two. This is not like olympic style fencing. You know, the white uniforms and fly-eye masks. Although, they do use the fly-eye masks in HEMA… it’s just smart. I’m also sure there’s a proper name for the fly-eye masks, but we haven’t covered that part yet. But they totally look like fly eyes, right?? I know!!! The picture below is one I found on a fellow wordpress blogger’s page while searching for a good photo example. She explains a bit more about the art of olympic fencing here.
So, how did I come to be involved in an art I never even knew existed until a month ago? A dear friend of mine, M, posted something on her facebook page about recently starting to take ice skating lessons and that sword fighting lessons were next on the agenda. I replied to her that these are two activities I had always wanted to try as well. By chance, a friend of hers, F, noticed my post and immediately sent me a private message telling me all about HEMA and asked me to join the group “Esfinges” (the all female HEMA). I had no idea what language she was speaking, but I tried to keep up. She completely bewitched me with her passion for this new, intriguing world, and although I was utterly confused, within two days I was contacting a complete stranger asking if I could get private sword fighting lessons via another total stranger who saw that I was once interested in sword fighting after watching Indigo Montoya repeat his “You killed my father” speech at least 100 times during a two year stint of my “The Princess Bride” obsession.
I imagine it’s a bit difficult for my instructor, H, as I’m guessing most people get into HEMA because of an already existent interest. I honestly, not only have no idea what I am doing, but I don’t even know what the weapons are called. I remember when he wrote back to my original enquiry, asking if he would be interested in teaching me fencing. His first question was, “What weapon are you interested in?” My first instinct was to write… “uhhh…Duh! Sword. Geez…” But then I remembered that strange language F had been speaking, mentioning words like longsword, rapier, dussack and dagger. It then became clear that I might have been in deeper than I thought. I immediately google imaged these strange words and picked out the one that looked most like Indigo Montoya’s. I wrote back with fake confidence, “I’m most interested in rapier”, still not even sure if I was spelling it right.
Now, to be fair, we’ve had a bit of a rough start. My first lesson, although extremely informative and actually life changing, was still kind of a “trial” to see if it would be for me, and to see if H and I felt comfortable enough with each other for him to be able to deal with my complete and total ignorance on the subject and zero experience. Ok, so basically, it was mostly for him. Probably more due to my charm, than the skills I presented after the first lesson, he agreed to begin teaching me. Unfortunately, between illnesses and a cancelled lesson, it was hard to get into a groove.
This week though, I think we were both a little surprised that I actually managed to pull off quite a few of the rapier moves, and pull them off kind of almost sort of well! I mean, I’m not ready to fight Indigo yet, but give me a one armed, no legged Anakin Skywalker, and I might be able to get in a jab or two. With that majorly minor accomplishment under our belts, we started with a new weapon to mix it up a bit. This time, we were playing with the dussack.
I actually really enjoyed fake slicing H, and things around me with this new piece of equipment that reminds me of a saw, a giant sewing needle, a bird skull and one half of a pair of scissors. I was too animated in my moves though, and not properly focusing on “the target”. H, desperate to find a way to explain this to me in a way that I could relate, remembered what a hockey fanatic I am and asked me which hockey player I really can’t stand. Well, that’s a no brainer. That whining little pretty boy, Princess Sidney “Cindy” Crosby. I cannot stand the bad attitude that this douchebag exudes on the ice.
“Yes! Pretend that Crosby is your target!”,he exclaimed and then proceeded to mime holding a hockey stick in a face-off position and mumbled something about the Flyers under his breath (the Flyers are MY team, and he knows this). Well played, sir. Well played. You are a genius.
While I definitely need to practice my new moves this week, I now have my target visualized and my eye on the prize of literally wiping that smartass smile off of her…I mean his face.
Disclaimer: This is in no way an actual written threat to Miss Sidney Crosby. I’m sure he understands, as an athlete, albeit one with no sportsmanlike qualities, that I need to do what is necessary to become a master HEMA fencer, and I’m sure, as an athlete, he would encourage my continued visualization of his face when practicing.
I’m a big supporter of physical activity of anykind. Fencing isnt just a physical sport, it also works the mind. You’ll be doing a total workout. And of course mixing in the hatred of Crosby is always a plus. Way to go!
I’m having a really great time with it, although I am noticing that only one arm is getting huge while the other is like a piece of spaghetti, hahaha. Guess I have to start some one arm weight lifting to even it out. Hatred is such a strong word, though… let’s go with thorough disgust and extreme dislike. 😀
That new weapon is totally Klingon! There might be nerds here. Might?
Hahahaha. I didn’t want to assume anyone was a nerd besides myself…and obviously you, Michela 😀
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Fencing is so quick! I used to fence with a friend………..nah, we didn’t fence……we played Pirates~ But he was a competition fencer and worked me over thoroughly~
Nice shot…………En Garde
Thanks, Richard! Yes, it is definitely not an easy hobby to have taken up, but I feel so good after I do it and get inspired to do so much afterwards. I can’t see myself competing anytime soon…or even comfortable enough to play pirates yet (although that is very cool), but practice makes perfect. There’s a Flyers/Penguins game tonight, which will give me the extra fuel I need for an extended practice tomorrow, picturing Crosby’s face 😀
I like this kind of articles. I’m a french Hema player, from Lille, and i often wonder if it is that much known, on the other side of the ocean. (I mean Hema)
I also started up with a single handed sword, two years ago (this was a messer, which you basically handle like a dussack) but i currently practice longsword, which i recommand you, this is far more funny than dussack, and a bit easy to strike with.
Anyway, continue to practice, and someday, if one of us crosses the atlantic, maybe we could practice a bit 😉
Thanks for stopping by Mathieu! I’ve actually been practicing for 4 months now and I’m hooked on rapier. We’ve tried longsword and it’s definitely something I’d like to explore more. I’m intrigued by the messer now that you mentioned it, though. I like smaller weapons, as I’m quite small myself and feel I’m quicker and less clumsy when the weapon is smaller, with more control.
I’m not as far away as you think…in Stockholm at the moment, but tour with bands for a living and I’m in France all the time, so you may just get that challenge accepted sooner than you think! 🙂
besides your fencing ‘trial and errors’ might I add that your penning skills are quite exquisite!!!!
Oh, I also want to add that I am currently every now and then attending a Viking group (you might have seen posts fly by on facebook) where I actually mostly do fiber arts with a group of people (we are called the hearth) but the rest of the group are very serious sword fighters in different styles (eastern and such, I am not familiar with the terminology)
So what am I trying to say….well there actually ARE some people here in the USA that do serious, none renfair, kind of sword fighting and I might add they are quite serious about it too!!! They do have a lot of links with groups over in Europe btw, I think in connection to that our group is one of the larger ones in the USA and we get requests from all over the USA if they can attend or on how to set up their own group.
Btw this might be the more coarse one handed sword fighting, they also do some ax wielding and well…..no rapiers in sight, also never saw one of those darning needles *giggle* they look pretty awesome!
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