Saturday, 13 September 2014


Last week in my '8 Bookish or Not-So-Bookish Thoughts' post, I mentioned my sword-fighting classes had started again. In the comments I got a lot of questions about that hobby of mine, so I thought I'd make a post about it.

Sword-fighting classes? What do you do there exactly? 
So yes, I take sword-fighting classes or training. I started in January and I really enjoy it every week. Many people think I do fencing, but no, this is really different. The correct term is probably Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), a modern sport which recreates combat techniques from the Medieval and Early Modern Period. In the group where I train, we focus on late Medieval swordfighting techniques. While more 'official' HEMA schools often have 'winning matches' as a goal, my trainer is really focused on recreating techniques and fighting as 'pretty' as possible. We also don't do full contact fights, but check ourselves and point towards openings in the oponent's defense. 

We usually start the training with wooden swords, learning new techniques and routines and perfecting techniques we already learned. Then, after the break, we take the steel swords and do a free-fight. Next to sword-to-sword fighting, we've also been working with sword-and-shield, sword-and-dagger or even fighting with sticks (which was practised by the poorer people in the Middle Ages). For me, sword-fighting is a combination between a sport which trains my condition and just a fun way to experience something of history.

My trainer (left) and me during a training

Isn't sword-fighting a guy's thing?
Well, the other's in my training group are all indeed men and boys. But in HEMA, there are quite a lot of women training as well. In fact, an Open World Championship last year in New-Zealand was won by a women!

Samantha Swords (though I guess that's not her real last name), the World Champion

And how about Eowyn from Lord of the Rings? I couldn't ask for a better role model than her!

Alright, but that's modern women or women in fiction. How about the historical accuracy? Did Medieval women ever really learn how to sword-fight?

There definitely are some examples of historical women who were known to fight. The most famous example of these is Joan of Arc, but there is also for example Joanna of Flanders (1295-1374), who took up arms in the War of the Breton Succession to fight for her husband's cause (and who might have been an influence oyn Joan of Arc). There is also Agnes Randolph (1312-1369), a Scottish countess who defended Dunbar Castle against a siege by an English nobleman. In the 12th century combat manual Royal Armouries Ms. I.33, a women is seen training with a sword in some of the illustrations.


  1. Yay! Thanks so much for posting this! I've been so curious since I read that in your last post. :) And wow! It sounds like it would definitely help keep you fit. I imagine were I to try it, I'd be quite sore afterwards. At least at first. Also, I can see where there's a beauty to it. While watching certain movies, I thought before that the fight scenes actually had kind of a beauty to them. So if you're actively trying for that, then I bet it's really fun to watch!

    And Eowyn? Definitely an awesome role model!! :)

    1. You´re welcome! I was quite sore after I could first fight with a steel sword: it's heavy! And I was sore when I had my first lesson after the summer break....

    2. I'm with Kara! Wow! This just sounds like so much fun...and very informative at the same time! Thanks for sharing!

    3. Thanks! Really glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. I would love to do something like this! When my kids are older and I have time, but before I get too old and infirm, lol. This does sound like such fun, and you clearly enjoy it!

    So, new question: does this make you more critical of movie sword battles?

    1. Yes, I definitely look differently at movie sword battles now. In fact, we often discuss movie sword battles during the break!