Archives for category: Historical swords


This year, the event was renamed to:

Fourteenth annual Raymond J. Lord Symposium on historical European martial arts
in honor of Jeff Lord’s Father. Jeff hosts this event every year and we rarely miss one. There were no outdoor demonstrations this year (sadface) but the Center has been hosting workshops on the following Sunday. Unfortunately, this is the last Sunday of practice before we perform at the Center’s Faire  the following weekend., we could not attend.

 Program was as follows:

9:00 Reception
10:00 Welcome
Opening Remarks – Jeff Lord

Daniel Jaquet “Inscription, description or codification of fighting techniques. Towards a typology of fight books”

Daniel, started his presentation with a cat video and a page from “The Art of Manliness” so he clearly has a sense of humor and understands the power of the internet. He then launched into a very well put-together study with statistics and graphs. (Which my partner loved)

Some sample questions/ideas about fight manuals
Talk about intent
Why were they written?
How were they circulated and used?
Are they representative of actual practices?

It was intensive and I hope that it is posted because I was torn between taking it in and taking notes -and my notes don’t do the diagrams and flow justice.  But the gist is we need to take a hard look at our sources and shouldn’t be afraid to say “this is less a fight manual” and a coffee-table book or self-promotions brochure (which many are) In short, even before his second lecture, I was already a fan.

12:00 Michael Chidester “Syllabus vs System: The Legacy of Johannes Liechtenauer”

I always enjoy his lectures and you may recognize him as one of the founders of Wiktenauer, a tremendous sword resource online.  He focused on Liechtenauer and some of the work done to try and sort original works from derivative, if some items were even bound together initially and even some pieces that we have no way to connect to other manuals or sources:
An intriguing book that has alchemical formulas, recipes and a lone page on swordplay.

I guess there is a theory in circulation (not substantiated) that Lichtenauer, may be a construct of a band of mercenary group/ fraternity -who created him as a figurehead for their own works.


We had a nice lunch and many thanks to the Garden Society and Jeff Goodhind.

Some of us also pester Jeff for a look at the library to see what new books or other items have been added in the past year. He was accommodating as always.


We had a glimpse of a portrait of Arthur C Kinney (For whom the Center was recently renamed) and we agreed that the symposium was not the same without Arthur taking an unabashed catnap in the front row during lectures.

1:00 Panel Discussion “Revisiting the H in HEMA.”

This discussion was taken outside to the gorgeous grounds and was a lot of fun. I don’t think anyone left in total agreement but that wasn’t the point.

Donald La Rocca_01

2:00 Donald La Rocca “Some essential books from the sixteenth century to today for understanding European arms and armor”

Some samples:
Kunst Historisches Museum Waffensamlung Vol. 1
Kunst Historisches Museum Waffensamlung Vol. 2
Studies in European Arms and Armour: The C Otto von Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Imperial Austria: Treasures of Art, Arms and Armour from the State of Styria

He did say that Oakschott was not the reference we should be using as –“at the end, many of the pieces were found to be fakes”

And he redirected a set of books to the Center, available for reading so we hope to take advantage of that.


3:00 Daniel Jaquet “The Flügelhau. A case study of an essential martial technique of early 16th c. German fighting competitions with the longsword, as documented in the fight books

This is another great lecture where S=Daniel’s notes were extensive enough that I cannot recreate them but came away with another book recommendation;

What a body Can Do -Ben Spatz 

And some new I.33 interpretations to investigate.

Le livre de l’art du combat. Liber de arte dimicatoria. Édition critique du Royal Armouries MS. I.33, par Franck Cinato et André Surprenant, Paris,

Daniel mentioned that although some plays in early study (according to a friend) seem impossible (have encountered some of these) with continued physical work-they can be achieved.

 After that, we had to leave and did not join them for supper.  It’s not that we weren’t SUPER interested, it’s just that in New England at this time of year, it’s a RACE to get things done.



When we were at the symposium a few weeks ago, Roger Norling told the attendees he became interested in HEMA because he’d seen a fencing demonstration at a Renaissance Faire.  He’s not the first person from whom we’ve heard that and it’s good thing to keep in mind of you are doing sword demonstrations at a renfaire. It made me think of some things we keep in mind before we go out on stage.

People go to faires to have fun-it’s a good way to hook in anyone. People are receptive, they are in a good mood and if you sneak in some education under the radar-even better. One of the things I have to hold back on is overpowering the questioner. I try to let them lead the questions, tell me their story and then do a sub-conscious set of calculations to see what it is that *really* interests them. And be interested in them- If you are reciprocal then you learn some cool things as well. I’ve talked to veterans, active soldiers, survivors of gang violence, dojo runners, martial artists, other HEMA folks and just plain interesting individuals.  In many cases, we aren’t the sort of thing the person is looking for and I am happy we’ve taken the time to keep a set of links on our website to guide them on their journey.

We let people touch things. Humans are visceral creatures who like to work that instinct of feeling a thing to explore it. Often, just before our shows, we walk around and let the audience hold the longsword or one of the falchions. (As an inside fact, this is a good way to kill some time before the start and when people see non-performers with a sword, they too, want a sword. Audience magnet!)  We do sword lessons with kids at some shows (for pay) depending on our agenda for the day and we see recurring faces year after year. We talk about how swords “touch back” which is important. Just like fire it’s not “if” but “when” for getting a little reminder that there is danger involved with handling these things. People are amazed by the clearly used edges, the weight and yes if it’s a wet day…the rust.

Be casual and not preachy, exclusionary or elitist. I won’t lie, some people can pull off the “I’m am just that cool” vibe but that shine wears right off if you denigrate your audience and don’t keep learning yourself. There is a certain woman, media famous in the HEMA community that I used to admire. She still does good work but chose to make fun of tourists in her blog.  First-“if ya can’t say something nice…” Secondly, she was no doubt supported on this tour by someone who probably didn’t look like her but was vicarious with her by sponsorship.  And third, it was supposed to be about her sword studies, meetings etc. so off-topic. I am delighted to let folks of all stripes and abilities touch and learn about swords because “don’t be that guy.”  I won’t lie, I’m enjoying some of the folks side-by-side with me start to realize that perhaps scholarship is not just there for the younger folks to rip off and you too, will catch “the old.”

If you don’t get it out there, no one will know.  I’m not going to tally the number of times that I have calmly swallowed down some fury and carefully explained our position of research, that we don’t know everything and that maybe it’s not such a good thing to be bombastic and insulting to peers in the sword community. I often find myself mentally quoting our friends in Mystic Mercs.
“You do you.”
So yes, you may the most amazing swordsperson and scholar ever, but if no one else knows or you don’t share for review, well, it’s going to stay your special secret. Sure we wear silly costumes and are in a context of fantasy but do get it out there and do open that portal for someone who would only think this sort of stuff happens in movies or media with no connection. And you need to hustle- I won’t lie, I keep a public list littered with the names of dead and defunct sword performers, strictly for informational purposes of course.


And Reenactors/historians, I’ve posted what I have to say about renfaires vs reenactment and, you’re welcome that I directed people your way.  We freely admit that history is cool and wish HALF of what we learn in our exploration was in public school textbooks. (George Silver and his call-outs to Italian fencers, Or Talhoffer versus Pirates on the Rhine) Many people want their sword show and their turkey leg. Others would like to know more and we are happy to direct them to more.  So sure we’re a little sketchy in our mixed-material, brightly colored outfits and we make jokes that encourage groaning but we do get out there and we do bring that first taste of history.   And if we can get them to bite down on that first bit, maybe we’ve just addicted them to some more education.

Or just made fabric-holics and clothes horses but *shrug*