Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

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Joel Norman
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Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Joel Norman » Sat Oct 20, 2012 6:29 pm

Today I was at a big BSA (Boy Scouts of America) training event in Seattle; I work for them as my full-time job. We were graced with the presence of Wayne Perry, the president of the nationwide non-profit organization. He mentioned the efforts that are being made to bring back some of the old merit badges/activities as well as some of the new ones that are coming out (which are mostly technology based). He wants there to be so many different options for activities that no boy will ever be able to do them all. I had a few minutes to talk with him, and asked him how he felt about bringing back Master of Arms (which hasn't been earnable since 1910). I was expecting a lecture about how it's unsafe, blah, blah, there's a reason it was retired, blah, blah, etc. As it stands in the safety regulations, the only martial arts allowed to be taught in Scouting are judo, tai chi, and personal self-defense.
To my surprise Wayne looked at me and told me he'd love to bring it back, and explained that there are many old badges that haven't been brought back yet simply because there isn't anyone in the national office who understands the curriculum (they are probably understaffed over there, and concentrate on things they know for now). He told me that if a legitimate organization puts forth a curriculum that is safe for kids, there's no reason it can't be done. He mentioned how he sees it as similar to allowing Scouts (particularly the Venture crews, who are generally older and can do more stuff) to use Airsoft guns.
So here's the challenge: let's put together a curriculum for HEMA in Scouting! The old material on Master of Arms included singlestick and quarterstaff as well as classical fencing, boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, etc. No reason other kinds of martial arts/combat sports couldn't come in, and we could emphasize different kinds of HEMA in an updated version of the original. (No reason other martial arts couldn't count, too, but I don't have a connection to them). A merit badge for the mainstream program would have to be geared for kids as young as 12 or so, but then a separate, more advanced version of HEMA/martial arts could exist for the older teen programs. There are actually some Venture crews that focus on a particular athletic event, be it cycling, mountain climbing, whatever. I would love to one day see a Venture crew that is based around doing HEMA as their main activity.
I was really surprised to get the go-ahead; sometimes I lament the loss of the old-school stuff that seems to keep disappearing from Scouting. So please chime in if you are interested in this project, have experience with HEMA in youth programs, etc. I have the connections to push this through if the HEMA Alliance or some other organization produces a youth martial arts curriculum, and I know people have wished for this badge to come back for some time. And Scouting is realizing they need to have more cool stuff to keep kids in.
Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;
7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;
Psalms 149:5 - 7

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Richard Marsden
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Richard Marsden » Sat Oct 20, 2012 8:35 pm

Just wanted to say I think it's a good idea!

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Tyler Brandon
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Tyler Brandon » Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:09 am

That's a great idea. That's definately a badge I would have foamed at the mouth for back when.
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Alex Spreier
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Alex Spreier » Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:33 am

I know that I've brought it to the attention of the Crater Lake Council (my home council in Central Oregon) before. I would say to that I like the way it was: Quarterstaff, single-stick, foil, wrestling/jiujitsu, and boxing. All of that seems a very good introduction to HEMA to me. Maybe replace the boxing and wrestling portions with Bartitsu.
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John Harmston
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby John Harmston » Sun Oct 21, 2012 7:54 pm

This would be awesome!
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Jeffrey Hull
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Jeffrey Hull » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:24 am

As a former Boy Scout, I think that is a splendid idea. :)

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Keith P. Myers
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Keith P. Myers » Mon Oct 22, 2012 12:26 pm

I think it sounds like a great idea as well! I can see some logistical problems. First...in order to be implemented widely it would have to be something that the local Scout Leaders can take the boys through. Since there aren't that many Scout Leaders familiar with HEMA...... So it would necessitate a very good training manual with accompanying DVD instruction. And you can't get too enthusiastic. After all, you can't expect the equivalent of 3-4 years of HEMA instruction as a requirement for a merit badge! ;) So I would think it would have to start off very simple with something like Singlestick or Quarterstaff. Singlestick would be safer. Not many 12 and 13 year olds are going to be able to complete EW Barton-Wright's curriculum with a side study on Alfred Hutton! :o

So I guess the question becomes.....what are the typical requirements for a merit badge in terms of time invested, level of commitment, time to completion, equipment/resources the scout is expected to provide on his own, etc? I really don't know much about Boy Scouts. I was Cub Scout and a Webeloe, but the Boys Scouts folded in my little town by the time I reached that age.
Keith P. Myers
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Joel Norman
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Joel Norman » Mon Oct 22, 2012 1:04 pm

Merit badges are really about familiarizing a kid with a subject (albeit a sport, hobby, or something academic). A modern group that sticks closer to traditional, Baden-Powell style activities in Britain has the following requirements for the badge:

Demonstrate proficiency in 1 of the following: Single stick, Quarterstaff, Fencing, Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, Archery or any recognised Martial art.
In all the ‘contest’ events, Scout must have taken part in an encounter under proper ring conditions and be able to demonstrate the correct methods of attack and defence.
Give evidence of being in training for the scheduled item for a period of not less than 3 months.

Pretty simple stuff. (It is for young boys). The biggest thing is to get a 12 year old to stick with the activity on a regular basis for at least 3 months. As far as "demonstrating proficiency" goes, the definition of that would be up to the merit badge counselor, using the guidelines in the curriculum offered, who would not be the regular scoutmaster. Regular people not necessarily affiliated with Scouting can sign up to be merit badge counselors (and usually just have to state what qualifies them to teach it). The BSA does a background check on you to make sure you aren't a creep, and voila! you are now a counselor. Then kids or their adult leaders looking for a counselor come to you and set up when you can teach it. You renew your status of being a counselor every year. And you feel good about helping kids learn about something. Part of what would be good about HEMA groups endorsing the badge is presumably many of us would sign up to be the counselors. It wouldn't be any Scout leader trying to pick it up from scratch.

Now, the simplicity of the merit badge is why I mentioned there are programs for older boys, who get to do more mature stuff. Part of this stems from the insurance coverage that comes with membership in the BSA. But it's balanced against the need for more exciting options as a boy gets older. For example, Venture scouts can go hunting, whereas traditional troops can not. You can earn separate awards in the Venture program, which means we could also have a program that is a little more advanced than "keep at it for a few months." I've heard there is a Venture Crew out there that revolves around LARPing (haven't seen it, but it's supposedly out there). It's pretty open-ended as far as what can be done with Venture Scouts, which means that HEMA could come to be an option for them.
Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;
7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;
Psalms 149:5 - 7

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John Harmston
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby John Harmston » Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:55 pm

I'm willing to help out as needed.
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Keith P. Myers
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Re: Master of Arms, Scouting, and HEMA

Postby Keith P. Myers » Thu Oct 25, 2012 10:47 am

Thanks for the response Joel! That seems more workable and more reasonable. So it sounds like it wouldn't have to be something standardized for all scout groups. It would be done on more of a local basis. So a kid that was already working toward his blackbelt in TKD could get the merit badge for that? A kid already doing some sport foil fencing, or judo, or BJJ, etc. could get the merit badge for that? And so a kid working with John Harmston's HEMA group could get the merit badge for that? It sounds very do-able that way!
Keith P. Myers
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Affiliate: Bartitsu Society & Cateran Society
Friend: Meyer Frei Fechter Guild
Rockville, Maryland


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