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Instructor Spotlight: Omar Rodríguez Zaragoza

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by Meg Floyd

It was with great pleasure I interviewed one of Mexico’s top HEMA fighters, Omar Rodríguez Zaragoza. The HEMA scene in Mexico has been booming for the last few years, rapidly growing with several Mexican fighters—Omar among them—becoming well-known internationally. He founded a HEMA group called Hermandad de Guerreros (HEGUE), also known as the Brotherhood of Warriors. He later went on to co-found and become a lead instructor at the Elite Fencing Club México (EFC). Omar will be teaching at several events in 2013, including Encuentro de Artes Martiales Europeas in February, Fechtschule America in March, and at Schwertkampf México 2013 in August.

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HN: Let’s start off with simple questions. What club are you affiliated with, and how long have you been studying HEMA?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: I’m part of the Elite Fencing Club (EFC), and I’ve been involved in HEMA since 2008.

HN: What got you into HEMA originally?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: I am an epic movies lover, so I wanted to start doing what all the actors do on screen. So we started as a choreographic historical-based club. We studied HEMA to have [choreography] for shows. Then I saw that HEMA was completely different from [choreography], so I loved the martial part of it, so here I am.

HN: What weapons are your primary focuses of study?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: We try to study all kind of weapons. Actually, we have developed training techniques for: German longsword, Italian rapier, Spanish rapier, English rapier, English saber, Bartitsu, Dussack, Macahuitl (which was originally developed by Roberto Martinez Loyo), I.33 [sword and buckler], and we are starting with some classical training also (foil).

HN: That’s pretty cool. Do you study out of a specific tradition or manual primarily?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: Of course, as we are three different instructors, we study and try to understand from different manuals such as the ones written by [these] authors: Joachim Meyer, Ridolpho Capoferro, Joseph Swetnam, Gerard Thibault, Pacheco, Alfred Hutton, William Barton-Wright, etc.

HN: What is the HEMA scene like in Mexico?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: We are trying to grow very fast. We know that we are a lot of years back from the U.S. HEMA, and of course from the European HEMA, but I think we are [heading in the] right way, trying to standardize protective equipment, weapons, rules, etc.

HN: As an instructor, what do you find most fulfilling about teaching HEMA?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: When your students start to study and investigate outside the training hall, when they ask you a variety of questions about techniques, the history of the weapons, and the masters…that’s when you have to study more and more, and that helps you also as an instructor. Of course, watching them winning a tournament also counts.

HN: What are your biggest challenges as an instructor?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: I would love to have some of our students well prepared to make a great showing at some of the best international events, have it recognized that they are showing great techniques, and why not—winning some tournaments. Having a lot of people interested in HEMA, and [also] starting with a new generation of students interested [in the sport].

HN: Is there anyone within the HEMA community you look up to and find inspiring? If so, who are they, and why?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: At EFC (Elite Fencing Club), we have a lot of inspiring people. Actually, we have a tradition in our club, when we have a person who had inspired us in our training or even at the personal level, we give them a patch from our club. You can see our Elite “FRIENDS” Club in our Facebook gallery. But some people who had inspired me personally are Scott Brown, who was the first international instructor that I had, [who] showed me the potential of the HEMA world, Lee Smit, who was my first rapier instructor and taught me that a rapier could be more deadly than a longsword, and Robert McPherson, [who] taught me my first sabre class. Since then I think that’s my favorite weapon. Matt Galas is an inspiration, and [has] shown me a lot of different techniques. Axel Pettersson is one of the fiercest fighters I’ve ever known, and that’s inspirational also, just to mention a few.

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HN: What, if anything, does HEMA in Mexico have to offer that is unique and special?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: Different cultures give their special touch to the fencing. You can see the type of fencing of the U.S. guys, and the trademark fencing of the European HEMA fencers. And I think we are starting to show our own style of fencing. Even that we are very close to the U.S., we are starting to develop our own Mexican style of HEMA.

HN: If there was any advice you could offer to someone just starting out in HEMA, what would it be?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: Do it seriously, be humble, read, research, and practice, practice, practice!

HN: What’s your favorite HEMA event?

RODRÍGUEZ ZARAGOZA: I´ve only [attended] the three years of Fechtschule America, and the last year’s Combat Con, but definitely FA 2012 was my favorite right now. I would love to have the opportunity to go to Kriegschule 2013, FA 2013, Longpoint 2013, SDF, Boston Sword Gathering, Swordfish, Fightcamp, and PNHEMAG, but I’m not a millionaire, you know?

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