It’s been an interesting past few years for the Group. We’re growing as a club, branching out with our Instructors and all is generally good with the world. We’re doing more research, planning more outreach, even writing bits and pieces (hence this blog!).
We’ll be posting more in the coming months and years with random thoughts on classes and training, technical articles on the detail in sources, maybe a few translations, general guidelines on training, and anything else that takes our fancy. For the moment, though, this seems like a good point to look back at everything that’s slipped by in the past few years with only a few photos and comments on Facebook to show for it. It’s felt busy enough that we reckon everything deserves a more permanent home.
In hindsight, 2013 is more or less where the outreach part of the group started gathering a bit of momentum : we ran a series of booked-out beginners longsword workshops at Q-Con, putting the Mandela Hall in the Student’s Union to a use we’re pretty certain that it had never seen before.
Later that year, we had a repeat performance in much more scenic venue : demonstrations and taster classes on Derry City Walls, Playhouse Theatre, and at Dunluce Castle for European Heritage Open Days. Unfortunately the winds along the north coast closed down Dunluce Castle for any taster classes, but we braved the elements for a while (because it’s a castle, and we had swords, and were there…).
That October saw some of us travelling to Dublin for a meeting of instructors and reps from the scattered HEMA community in Ireland, for what would become the inaugural HEMA Ireland meeting. We all pondered long and hard over such important questions as ‘So, what will we actually call this?’, ‘I like the idea of coloured gambesons, what colour should they be?’, and ‘Is that your tea or mine?’. Along the way HEMA Ireland also picked up a chairperson, secretary, treasurer, and health and safety officer.
Hallowe’en of 2013 had us out in the elements demonstrating more longsword (with a little bit of messer this time) at Carnfunnock Country Park.
The New Year rolled around, with the Group still growing, and in February some of the group ventured forth to HEMAC Glasgow, which turned out to be an exceptionally good event. Particularly since the news that HEMA Ireland had officially been launched came in partway through the proceedings, possibly whilst everyone was in the process of a post-training drink.
Spring of 2014 saw a visit from Keith Farrell of the Academy of Historical Arts which resulted in a day of excellent longsword training focussing on the five key words of Liechtenauer’s longsword. We were also joined at the event by various brave souls from other groups around Ireland that made the hideously early trek to get to Belfast in time for the training.
The Autumn brought two more events : more beginners workshops and an on-stage demonstration at the Game of Thrones themed convention TitanCon;
and the next weekend was then spent with a full six hours demonstrating, sparring, and entertaining the crowds at Culture Night in Belfast. (Culture Night also marks the first time we had a professional photographer around to take some publicity photographs for the event!) We were quite hoarse by the end of the night from shouted explanations of what was going on, but the crowd enjoyed it every bit as much as we did, and as the night wore on and we started fencing by floodlight, the low light and need to rely on the feel of the blade in the bind more than sight resulted in some beautifully technical bladework from all concerned.
November saw the inaugural Féile na Gaiscígh event by HEMA Ireland, with workshops by instructors from clubs all over the island, and steel and nylon tournaments to boot. Matt’s workshop on the German longsword led people down the path of working from the bind and reactions to pressure, whilst Ross gently introduced people to the fun of grappling and counters from Leckuchner’s messer.
All of which brings us quite neatly up to 2015… So far we’ve had Francis pass his HEMA Ireland Instructor’s assessment and formally introduce unarmed ringen and dagger work into the class, which has become a regular part of class content. We’ve also had the pleasure of demonstrating for the Borderlines XIX conference at Queen’s University here in Belfast.
It’s not often we get to demonstrate to a group of Medievalists, or bring a real sense of the academic challenges in HEMA interpretation to the fore, so it was enormous fun for us to be able to showcase problems with translations, physical interpretations, fuzzy descriptions from the manuscripts, and in a nice range of weapons from longsword, through messer, to dagger, and with an incidental bit of montante thrown in during questions at the end.
This pretty much brings us up to date… Féile na Gaiscígh 2015 is looming, and we have a workshop to prepare and kit to assemble. Other plans are looming on the horizon, and this next year or two promises to be just as eventful for the Group as those that have passed!