Grin Sessions: The Beauty of HEMA

Disclaimer: I am just guy from the internet. I have no special talent. I’m not a professional athlete. I haven’t studied under world famous martial artists. I don’t have a degree in history or anything close to it. I do, however,  have an internet connection and a few books. I study the words of dead people and flail about trying to recreate what their ghosts are telling me.

The beauty I have found in HEMA is that anyone can participate. Any person with an internet connection can access the original treaties and make an intimate connection with people who died 446 years ago. By studying these texts, we are able to reenact their, encounter the same challenges, struggle with the same techniques, and have the same “ah-ha!” moments they did. HEMA gives you those moments with a consistency I have never encountered in a martial art before.

At Bold City Longsword, we hold an open study session each Monday. At open study, members are invited to bring in any material they’ve come across and would like to study as a group. Members are encouraged to bring their own challenges to the session. It’s like playing with life-sized action figures.

We follow a format close to what is described in this excellent article: Fighting Successfully. First, we deconstruct the movement and practice without resistance. If a drill doesn't already exist in the source, we figure out what triggers the technique is implying and create one. Maybe it consists of fühlen; are you feeling for hard or soft pressure? If it’s hard you do what? If it's soft you do what?

This gamifies the technique. You have a drill now! When the trigger is felt, then react with the technique. If the trigger is not felt, then do an alternative. Once you have the general idea it’s time to get in quality repetitions. Repeat it as many times as possible. At the same time keep in mind to validate the drill, validate the technique, see what kind of insights develop, and adjust the drill accordingly.

Finally, it's off to practice varying intensities of free play. We encourage each other to try to execute the studied techniques. Together, we have had many collective “grin sessions.” Watching a formerly incomprehensible technique fall into place during drills or sparring is a rewarding experience, deserving of the highest of fives all around.

Our open study takes us from book to battle in a nice gentle arc, one ah-ha moment at a time. Or put much more simply, just a bunch of people from the internet grinning over 446 year old simulated violence.