“This you should grasp: All arts have length and measure. Whatever you undertake, use deliberation. In earnest or in play, be of good cheer and vitality, so you may be attentive and with good courage ponder what action you should take, so that none may touch you, since good courage and strength make your enemies hesitate.”
– Johannes Liechtenauer, The Zettel
The art of the sword is alive and well in the modern era. Small revivalist groups—mostly eccentrics and academics—found a renewed interest in medieval martial arts as recently as the 19th century, when swordsmanship was still a vital tool in the repertoire of military men and aristocratic gentlemen alike. The Victorian obsession with medieval aesthetic brought such interests into vogue, if not mainstream popularity. Though once a niche interest, the advent of the internet in the 1990’s allowed HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) to really take off, undergoing a renaissance that endures to this day. HEMA groups can be found across Europe, North America, and Australia, and are comprised of dedicated teachers and students who exchange a working knowledge of late medieval fighting manuals, with the earliest dating to the latter half of the 14th century.
The interplay between HEMA and mainstream academia is only growing stronger as the discipline (sport for some, practice for others) continues to produce passionate experts who have dedicated their time to furthering our knowledge of a raft of late medieval and Renaissance texts. It is in this spirit that we are pleased to announce that Kent’s own Thanet Fecht Schule will be running a workshop at MEMS Festival 2018. In addition to the hands-on, hour long introduction to longsword and dagger, Jason Hulott—the club’s leader—will be giving a lecture on German combat manuscripts from the 13th to 15th century.
We visited Jason at their weekly club meeting in Broadstairs and asked him a couple questions.
For the uninitiated, what is HEMA?
Jason: HEMA—Historical European Martial Arts—is a collective name for weapon based and unarmed based training systems that have been documented and taught from as early as the early medieval period. As much as most people know there are eastern martial arts, there is now documentary evidence from across Europe that systems were developed for military, courtly and civilian use. There are systems from Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the UK.
HEMA has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, what do you think attracts people to the practice?
Jason: I think the fascination with swords combined with the access to manuscripts has really opened up this area. It is huge and growing every day as people research and recode these manuscripts and then try to interpret them. There is something for everyone. There is the historical aspect, the research, the training and the combat elements.
Could you describe the disciplines you train in at Thanet Fecht School?
Jason: We follow the German historical tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer. This is the early part of the German system and dates from around 1380. Weapons-wise the system covers longsword, dagger, staff, poleaxe, messer (long knife), sword and buckler, and ringen (wrestling). Our main practice is longsword, then dagger and messer.
What can people expect at the workshop you’ll be running at MEMS Fest?
Jason: At MEMS Fest I want to give participants a look at the systems and how it would work in real terms. As it is a small workshop it will be single practice, learning how to cut and parry. We will explore the five meisterhau and four hangings which form the cornerstone of the system.
The tentative date for the Thanet Fecht Schule HEMA Workshop is Saturday, June 16th. There will be room for fifteen participants on a first come, first served basis when registration opens. In the event that the workshop spaces fill up, seating will be provided for audience members.
You can learn more about the Thanet Fecht Schule at their website.