History of the current HEMA movement

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Michael Chidester
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History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Michael Chidester » Fri May 09, 2014 10:54 am

Someone on the FB page asked if anyone was chronicling the history of HEMA, and in response I put together this rough sketch by decade over the course of a boring afternoon at work which I'm posting here for posterity.

    I chart the current HEMA movement as going back to Ewart Oakeshott's "The Archaeology of Weapons" (1961) and "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry" (1964), Martin Wierschin's publication of "Meister Johann Liechtenauers Kunst des Fechtens" in 1965, and the formation of the Society for Creative Anachronism in 1966. HEMA exploration at the Royal Armouries begins in this time frame as well.

    In the 1970s, the HEMA torch was largely carried forward by reenactors, stage combat guys, and classical fencers (as far as I know), and the only primary sources reasonably available were a handful of editions from the turn of the century (Talhoffer, Fiore, Silver, etc.), Martin Wierschin's edition of Ringeck, and James Louis Jackson's "Three Elizabethan Fencing Manuals". (Does Aylward have any actual treatises in it?) The SCA developed their own rapier program in this decade, finally formalizing it in 1979.

    Then in the 80s Hils offers "Master Johann Liechtenauer's Kunst des Langen Schwertes", basically an update and expansion of Wierschin that gives Talhoffer more attention than he deserves, and Studer wrote a little booklet on the Solothurner Fechtbuch. These were both in German, so I don't know how much they influenced the English-speaking community. By the late 80s, Patri Pugliese was active photocopying 16th and 17th century treatises from local libraries in Massachusetts and mailing them to all takers for the price of postage. There were proper HEMA groups in this period (groups entirely focused on HEMA, rather than groups that included HEMA in their activities), but I'm not sure which, if any, of them persist to the present.

    In the 90s we have the early, steam-powered internet beginning to connect people together through bulletin boards and list servers, as well as offering early online resources like William Wilson's site. Hank Reinhardt founded HACA in 93 (which John Clements took over in 94) and that website became a useful source of online material for a while. Patri was still acting as a distributor and finding more and more print treatises to copy. Christoph Amberger operated the Hammertz Forum magazine from 94 to 99, a major source for new research. A scattering of dubious books on HEMA-related topics were published by guys like Gaugler and Clements, and Chivalry Bookshelf became the first dedicated HEMA publisher in 99; Purpleheart Armories became the first dedicated HEMA gear distributor in the same timeframe. And, of course, the number of new clubs started to multiply and the first large HEMA events were organized (including WMAW).

    And the 2000s were characterized by HEMAC (founded in 2001 by Matt Easton) fostering cooperation and growth in Europe, and ARMA (HACA rebranded in 2001) and SFI fostering divisiveness and stagnation in America. It was the era when online forums and email lists tied far flung groups together into a dysfunctional community. The number of groups exploded, and with it the number of big regional and international events began to multiply; this decade also saw the first proper full-time HEMA instructors and schools appear, and the number of HEMA publishers and gear manufacturers multiply. Too many books came out to name (though I do have a bibliography tracking them all), including a variety of quite decent translations and a like number of interpretive works (books and videos) that seemed innovative at the time but were obsolete almost as soon as they hit shelves. And, most importantly of all, Wiktenauer was founded in 2009 and the world was changed forever. :P This decade also saw a slow shift in weapon technology from wooden wasters to nylon wasters, and the appearance of proper foils (aka feders).

    Which brings us to the 2010s, whose overall shape is still hard to see. Lots more groups popping up each year, more small regional and large international events, more diversity in weapons and traditions being studied. The decline of message boards and the rise of social networks in their place has affected HEMA as much as any other online community. HEMAC is still going strong, and the HEMA Alliance and WMAC have both popped up in America attempting to foster the same sort of cooperation over here (through very different methods). National HEMA federations are beginning to organize all over Europe (there was a long lag between the creation of the first federation in UK in 1999 and the creation of any others), and the first international federation was organized in 2014. A proper tournament circuit has begun coalescing, and with it an explosion in dedicated gear manufacturers of all sorts, and a consequent reduction in cost for that gear. And there have been some interesting developments in sharp play, including an increased emphasis on developing effective striking mechanics through test-cutting (pushed by Michael Edelson) and a rise in the still-controversial practice of using sharps in partner activities (advocated by Roland Warzecha, Guy Windsor, and others).

    This is all mostly an American-centric history, though. Europeans who've been around for a while would need to chime in to fill in the gaps in the HEMA timeline over there, including what FISAS contributed. And I was never close to the SFI scene, so they may have done things I forgot to mention.

Since the poster also asked about the history of the Alliance, here's what I wrote about that:

    The history of the HEMA Alliance is fairly simple: in 2008 four senior members of ARMA (Jake Norwood, Stewart Feil, Brian Hunt, and Eli Combs) decided that changing that organization from the inside was impossible and resigned as a group, taking their study groups and associates with them. They reached out to other American HEMA instructors and began working on creating the Alliance in 2009 (with Jason Taylor and Jon Mayshar), ultimately launching it in 2010 with Jake Norwood as interim president. It evolved during its creation from a basic anti-ARMA to an org more similar to Hank's original vision for the HACA, an umbrella organization to facilitate cooperation and collective action between disparate HEMA groups (primarily in North America, though a few external groups later joined). The first elections were held, IIRC, in mid 2010. It's grown each successive year since then, and at the present is still going strong.
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Jonathan Waller
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Jonathan Waller » Fri May 09, 2014 11:59 am

Dad founded the Medieval Society in England in 1963 and were working on finding out how weapons may have been used from that time. He was friends with Ewart from around 1966 I think, both being members of a group called the Swordsmen, which was a group of sword collectors and enthusiasts. His connection and links to the Armouries started around 1967.

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Michael Chidester
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Michael Chidester » Fri May 09, 2014 12:08 pm

Cool. Which sources was he using?
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Mike Edelson
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Mike Edelson » Sat May 10, 2014 8:42 am

Michael Chidester wrote: and SFI fostering divisiveness and stagnation in America.

You should write a more comprehensive history in which you name names. People should know.
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Michael Chidester
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Michael Chidester » Sat May 10, 2014 9:13 am

Like almost everything else in that sketch, my knowledge is mostly third hand based on hearsay. Someone else will need to write that chapter.
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Jonathan Waller
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Jonathan Waller » Sat May 10, 2014 10:57 pm

At that time it was very hard to get hold of or access to the MS. etc that are taken for granted now, I know he had seen Talhoffer, and some of the later stuff in the 60s, and I.33 early in the 70s. Otherwise most of it was making stuff and using it and experimenting. Ray Monery of the Med Soc was making armours by the late late 60s early 70s, Lots of visits to Teh Armouries and Wallace, Dad still has one of his, an A21.

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Phil C
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Phil C » Sun May 11, 2014 12:30 am

As taken form the last thread on this topic-http://hemaalliance.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3303

Scotland's HEMA history starts something like this (and even then it's debated as we were very young, and mostly drunk at the time...)
Professor Bert Bracewell teaches throughout Scotland, he has a knowledge of historic styles of fencing (mainly singlesticking) that he imparts to Paul Macdonald, Milo Thurston and Guy Windsor over the years that he teaches them to fence while they are university students in Edinburgh. He still teaches the older styles of Olympic fencing over in Linlithgow today.
He also taught fencing to numerous drama and dance students through various Scottish universities which led to Guy, Paul &c doing several theatrical fencing courses out of interest and gaining contacts there.
Paul Macdonald, having moved to Edinburgh for university (?’92), establishes a Napier University fencing club and team, ending up as a champion (Full Blue) and teacher before retiring formally in 1995 at the Castlelaw Competition, Ireland. Guy Windsor studies and teaches Olympic fencing for the Edinburgh University team as a student. They meet during competitions and talk about how that type of fencing is no longer their interest.
Jeff Burn and Mike Loades are also in the Dumfries area teaching and training in skill-at-arms and jousting.
They set up the Dawn Duellists Society intending to study the older forms of swordplay. Since the first book they discover by looking at the library catalogues is Hutton’s book of that name, plus Mcbane’s treatise. DDS recruits others from their university fencing peers- Bob Brooks, Gareth Hunt, Katie Murray, Jo Calise and they fence each other using foils as rapiers, until they discover Denbigh rapiers. Then they do sword and buckler after Marozzo/Hutton.
Tim Ruzicki, a student on exchange from the US, discovers them and practices a little. Paul and Gareth are making cash by doing historic swordplay demos for ghost tours, historic sites and even SNP broadcasts.
Andrea Lupo-Sinclair is on holiday in Edinburgh. He wanders into the swordmaker shop that Paul works in and they get chatting about fencing. It turns out Andrea is a professional fencing teacher with several salles in Italy (the fledgling FISAS). They stay in touch.
Tim has access to this new thing- the internet! Paul and Gareth discover the Martinez Academy and email them asking if they’d like to join forces with the DDS and Andrea. Martinez politely declines but they stay in touch.
Milo Thurston moves to Edinburgh for his studies. Practices with the DDS and Bert Bracewell.

The DDS do a demo at the local RPG convention. I am doing security for the convention, meet them and wander along to a practice. By this time there is also Nic Harrison, Tim is back on another exchange briefly, and numerous other “new” people wander along from the RPG society. The DDS realise they will have to formalise their classes as they will have to teach people to fence from the beginning rather than just how to teach them the old ways. Guy tends to take on.
Paul and Gareth go to Italy to do historic swordplay demos for Andrea. Various DDS folk , through Bob’s contacts, start doing historic swordplay demos at Alnwick Fair, and throughout the UK.
Paul opens his armoury and goes fully independant.
Andrea visits the DDS AGM and teaches. Dussack unveiled that same weekendby Paul and Gareth.
DDS discover medieval re-enactment and do historic fencing demos and displays for the EMA and Plantagenet events across England, as well as entering various sword tournaments they hold. Consistently won by Bob Brooks, Paul Macdonald and Keiran Robb. Meet Chris Bruce- stay in touch.
Milo discovers Hope, moves to Oxford, forms the LSD.
Mark Donnelly gets in touch and arranges the first ever Tontine event. Many of us trundle down to North Yorkshire and discover many other groups from the UK, most notably the SRS, who are doing what we do but we knew nothing about.
Having discovered others the first BFHS meeting at Warwick Castle to see if such an organisation is feasible. Plans are made.
Paul and Gareth travel to New York to do historic swordplay demos for the Martinez Academy.
DDS moves indoors due to local problems with fencing in the streets (mainly ghost tours getting annoyed that we were drawing a bigger crowd) and a need for insurance.
DDS meet John Clements in the UK. Don't stay in touch.
Jared Kirby moves to Edinburgh to study with Paul and the DDS, having heard of him through Tim Ruzicki who formed the New DDS in Michigan upon his return there.
The international Paddy Crean Conference is held in Edinburgh. The Martinez’s come over to teach there and we finally get to meet them. Jared meets the Martinezs, moves to New York to study with them full-time. Becomes an Instructor under them. Paddy Crean also leads to connections with John Lennox who, with Jared, manages the Lansing event for ten years, that has now become Combatcon.
Nic Harrison moves to Skye- forms Highland Freebooters fencing group, members of which are still floating around there in limbo to this day.
Paul passes his exam and is declared a founder member of IMAF along with Andrea, Ramon and Jeanette. Also develops connections with the Manusardi salle, Lorenzo pops over to visit often to fence with us.
Steaphen Fick- having heard of the DDS via Lansing- comes over to visit for a year and study with the DDS. He returns to Santa Clara to set up his full time salle, returning every other year or so to train and catch-up with the DDS.
BFHS holds an annual meeting, with Paul as president.
Guy also goes self-employed and teaches fencing in Edinburgh to those of us that want private lessons
DDS do demos at Costumecon event, York- leads to further contacts in the theatrical field.
Guy leaves to set up a fulltime school in Finland.
Paul established Academy as well as teaching at DDS.
I attend Academy for three years.Chris Lockie trains with Chris Bruce as a skill-at-arms rider and jouster
Paul, Gareth and I travel to FISAS AGM. Meet and work with James Loriega. Meet Ken Mondschein. Stay friends.
Paul established Backswording events at Highland Games through contacts with Wullie Baxter. Leads to involvement in a Glasgow Conference on Backhold and Gouren wrestling.
Chris Lockie becomes a pro-jouster at the Royal Armouries
Aberdeen Swordsmanship Group is founded in Aberdeen by Michael Cromarty with help by Paul.
(?)Tom Leoni teaches a workshop on rapier at the Academy- stay in touch
DDS effectively teacherless as all the established instructors move on to full time elsewhere or have life-changes. Ian, Gareth and I take over as de facto Instructors.
Travel to WMAW- I meet and work with Pete Kautz and Anthony de Longhis. Stay in touch.
Highland Games events continue.

Re-enactment activities separate from DDS into a separate entity called CoDDS
Ian and I officially deemed Instructors by DDS.
Celtic Exchange established- longsword tournament. Smalslword/backsword tournament (I win)
Phil wins Glorianna Cup

(?)BFHS BGM in Aberdeen- last event the RN Master of Cudgels attends before his death
I move to Brighton to train with the SRS, and Durham to train with the SSS. Gain Instructorship with the SSS.

Gareth Hunt Becomes DDS President
(?) DDS alumni George Davidson forms Glasgow Company of Duellists. George has to give up due to back injuries but Historical Fencing is established in Glasgow as a result.
(?) CoDDS becomes entirely separate entity, though with marked membership crossover, as CoSM.
Black Boar Swordsmanship School formed by Ian to teach a group in Fife
Ian Macintyre becomes DDS President
Steve Huff teaches a workshop in Edinburgh. Stay in touch.
Stuart Peers founds Bon Accord Fencers in Aberdeenshire
John Lennox teaches in Edinburgh. Stay in touch

Black Boar takes opportunity of a room offer to form in North Edinburgh, Phil Crawley joins as Provost
Martin Page becomes DDS President
Andy Taylor Founds Storks Beak in Edinburgh
DDS Alumni
Paul Macdonald- Macdonald Academy
Guy Windsor- SESH, Finland
Jared Kirby- SUNY Purchase salle
Milo Thurston- Linacre School of Defence
Tim Ruzicki- Schola St George, Seattle
Steaphen Fick- Davenriche School of Defence
Nic Harrison- teaching in New Zealand
Phil Crawley- Black Boar School
Ian Macintyre- Black Boar School
Stuart Peers – Studying i.33 in Aberdeenshire
Matt Noel – Studying spear in Edinburgh/Fife
Greig Watson – in the process of setting up another professional school in Edinburgh
Andy Taylor – Storks Beak
Bob Brooks – Hotspur School
Mike Brownsell- Company of St Margaret

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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Jane W. » Thu May 22, 2014 12:56 am

You should write this in some other place than forum. Maybe some small website?

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Erik B
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Erik B » Wed May 28, 2014 4:21 pm

Jane W. wrote:You should write this in some other place than forum. Maybe some small website?

...or wiki? ;)
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Christopher Lee
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Re: History of the current HEMA movement

Postby Christopher Lee » Sat May 31, 2014 2:06 pm

Fine, a wonderful project. Well worth the doing. Would be interested to see how the progression has developed. (Yes, this post has been edited to remove anything that anyone might find in the least bit offensive).
Last edited by Christopher Lee on Sat May 31, 2014 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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