By Meg Floyd
I went to do some roadwork tonight at the indoor track at the recreation complex where my club holds our fencing classes tonight. Somewhere in the middle of running laps and doing pushups, I realized how refreshed and happy I felt—in a sense, deeply relieved. Why could this be, I asked myself. What am I relieved about?
And truthfully, I was relieved to be away from my computer and my desk. I’ve been putting in some long days at the desk lately, mostly dickering on Facebook and working on trading cards. I’ve spent a lot of time on Facebook for much of the last year, and it’s been amazing in a lot of ways. I’ve forged friendships with some really excellent people—some of whom I’ve never met in person—and been able to spend more time with people I only briefly met at tournaments. Facebook is a great way to deepen relationships with fellow fencers, especially across borders and oceans, because people in HEMA are so scattered. The internet—Facebook and forums included, is what makes our community so internationally close-knit, for better or worse. In 99% of cases, I think this is for the better.
And in this year, I’ve been able to watch and (and even be a part of) the sport taking off in some new ways: communication and promotion of tournaments, recognition of our community’s leaders and scholars, HEMA magazines of various ilk (including this one), trading cards, and even a tabloid. It’s been like watching HEMA blossom into new and multiple forms. We have memes. We have jokes and videos, and we’re communicating in ways we never have before. This is amazing. It’s so great to be in touch with the rest of the community. For some reason HEMA mostly brings out the best in people, I think, and I will admit being biased in thinking that HEMA people are slightly elevated above the rest of the human race at times. However, as enjoyable as all of the extra frills are, it is wise to remember they are just that—frills.
There are many reasons people get into HEMA. For some, it is the Art (with a capital “A”) they seek to discover. For some, it is the mystery of elucidating the true meaning of combat in the old manuals, and the joy of scholarship in translating and pondering and arguing. For some, it is for the athleticism and sportsmanship. For some, it is the community and camaraderie. For some, it is to compete. These are all equally valid reasons, and people with different aims truly do balance the community out.
But you’ll note a common thread in all of these reasons. All of them are about personal fulfillment through effort and hard work, which is how HEMA brings out the best of us. You can’t be lazy, or indifferent, and do HEMA. It’s too expensive, too obscure, and too difficult a sport to enter without committing your heart and soul to it at some point if you stay in longer than a few months. For me, it is the tournaments and camaraderie. I love competing, regardless of whether I win. I love the friends I’ve made in the time I’ve spent in the community. I love pursuing physical fitness and pushing my body to do things I thought it couldn’t, so I can try to be a better sword fighter. There are people in the community whom I look to as examples of the kind of person and athlete I’d like to be. These people are the reason I began making trading cards at all, as a gift, a fun thing in recognition of the examples they set. I’ve been honestly overwhelmed and am very grateful for the positive reaction they have received. But they are a fun extra. That is all they are. Nothing more, and nothing less.
There are deeper, important things we should all be spending more time on. I realized not very long ago that my own training and my own relationships were suffering from too much time glued to the glowing blue screen. I think I am probably not the only one. The hour I spent working out tonight, with headphones, away from the computer, was the happiest hour of my day today. The two hours I spent fencing with my club last night were the best part of yesterday. We need to remember that for HEMA to thrive, we need to actually be out, doing HEMA… not spending too many hours of our preciously fleeting lives talking about doing HEMA instead.
So for tonight, HEMA, I salute you. Stay awesome.