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An Open Letter to HEMAA 2018 Election Candidates

Reposted without alteration and with permission from the original post by Jake Priddy here. 

First of all, I want to acknowledge everyone’s willingness to step forward and run for a largely thankless, “behind the scenes” position of volunteer work in hopes of benefitting the HEMA community. Thank you for that.

As a lifetime member of HEMAA and the owner of an affiliate club, I beg your indulgence for a few minutes to please read this thoroughly, because it comes from a place of love for the organization and the community, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in what I’m going to express.

This campaign season is going to be as it ever was, I’m sure, full of “Star Wars Empire” memes, despot jokes, and basically thumbing noses at the entire election process because, after all, you guys are volunteers right? Hey, you’re willing to do it and no one else is, or they’d have stepped up, right?
Wrong.

Make no mistake, the HEMAA is an organization comprised of people who have a real stake in the decision to be members. Running a HEMA club even more so, for affiliate club membership has some very real consequences for those who choose it. So what I ask is this: within the joke posters, memes and campaign popularity contest tomfoolery, I would appreciate it if you considered your position on some very real issues and have something to say on them. It isn’t enough to be the only one willing anymore, because the choice is not “made for us” to be a HEMA affiliate. We can choose to simply not be a part of it at all.

Yes, I’m being the “Debbie Downer” here, because there are some things that need to be addressed. In the past year, the HEMAA has changed. It has spent time, effort and money on creating a new logo, yet spent its yearly budget for event support in the first quarter of its fiscal term. It has collected yearly insurance monies, and then revised how insurance would work after those premiums were collected. It has revised and expanded its safety requirements, over and above those required by the insurer. It has changed how affiliates are to handle membership – again, over and above the insurer’s requirements – mostly what seems to me to be for the sake of promoting a sponsored website (TidyClub) and as a means of forcing individual membership to be handled by the HEMAA rather than its affiliate clubs. Now, it has changed how the nomination process of determining candidates works so that candidates must self-nominate.

That’s quite a bit of “revision” in an organization that can be called to task on several supposed “benefits of membership” that have been less than consistent. These are issues. They should be addressed. Whether they are looked at in the light of improvements, reflective of the direction the HEMAA wants to go or mistakes that need mending is a position that should be thought about and addressed to the voters. I encourage you all to please, take some time, delve into what has been going on, and please make some part of your campaign a real position on a real reason to vote for you specifically, and what you intend to try and accomplish more than “whatever needs done.”

Do you know what “vote for Tyranny!” and “I’ll do whatever needs done!” tells us?
It tells us you haven’t got a clue of what needs done, and volunteerism does not equal qualified.

Richard Marsden EARNED the “Tyrant” meme by actually accomplishing things and being an organizer and leader, and HEMAA was better for his tenure.

Be like Marsden. Earn your meme, campaign on your reality.
Thanks for listening!
Jake Priddy
Fenris Kunst des Fechtens
Martinsburg WV

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Letters to the Community: James Clark

The HEMA community has exploded in the last four years, especially after the widely-publicized and well-received coverage of Longpoint by The New York Times. Since then, the number of HEMA students and clubs has exploded. This has come with its good and bad parts–the fruition of a dream that many people worked tirelessly for for years. However, it’s also led to a breakdown of communication between the community at large and the people who built it.

This article series is a chance for members within the community to hear from some of the people who built it–where HEMA comes from, what it’s intended for, and why some things are done the way they are, as well as ideas for tackling problems our community currently faces.

This is the first of those letters, from an instructor in the northeastern U.S. named James Clark. James has been studying HEMA for 16 years, and is currently affiliated with Capital KdF and MEMAG Luray. His current focus is montante.

 

Letter to the community, from James Clark: 

Throughout my competitive HEMA career, I have received many, many, injuries. I’ve had my ankle broken by being intentionally crushed by a friend at one event, each of my wrists has been broken twice (two triple-fractures on one, and one double and one triple on the other), my left shoulder’s been dislocated in ringen at another, three fingers broken (my left thumb twice), five concussions, and too many bruises and face-waffles to count. I know that I have also myself dealt out at least two concussions to others I care about.

One thing I’ve learned through this, is that face-to-face voicing of force concerns is something that’s always lacked in HEMA. When it does happen face to face, it’s enough of a shock that feels personal. A friend from Maryland bringing mine up to me face to face one Longpoint followed by a thinly-veiled passive aggressive post after [Longpoint South], is what caused me to take a serious, then more serious, look at my buffalo-ish fencing, as while I was fast, I didn’t think I was hitting terribly strong (I was wrong).

It also got me started paying attention to others complaining about similar things at my home club and other events. Complaints are very rarely directed at the offender, always complaining behind the back after the fact to others, or scowling off on the sideline or to another spar. This was when we in HEMA were still in the knowing-everyone category.

Cultures of excessive force, irreverence, and harm-to-win, form in the school when people choose to save face with someone by not complaining. The harmer learns either that their excess let them win, that taking a hit to give a hit is a good idea, or that someone beating them should be punished. Then that goes into an event, where these new competitive souls can turn off their “this is my school” inhibition button and “let loose” even more for the sake of competition. Someone who has not learned the boundaries of harm is not going to be able to feel when they cross it, and pose a danger to others.

Nowadays in HEMA, this same withdrawn attitude has gone online, with more people who have never met each other and have even less of a reason to care about each other than in years past. On top of that, the faces of HEMA as well as most event organizers and school leaders have a laissez faire attitude of “ignore it and it’ll take care of itself” or “well, others will take care of it, we don’t need to punish anything ourselves” when they see or hear about it in other schools or events.

The internet community of practitioners meanwhile does what it does best, which is get threateningly angry for a week or two, then completely forget about the problem and move on. Rather than the approach of willful, hopeful, ignorance or that of petulant anger, we need to learn to enforce ourselves against both willful and neglectful harm. We need to remove intentional irreverent harm as a possible, redeemable, action for winning a bout or tournament, which unfortunately does mean unintentional breaks of discipline need to be handled similarly to intentional violations.

At events, individuals that who perform actions intentionally harmful, or seemingly intentionally harmful, need punishment at that point of infraction. This operant conditioning is intended to give a visceral response to someone pumping with adrenaline, who can now no longer use it. People remember they didn’t get their reward, people remember when they did something bad in front of their peers. Whether that punishment is a penalty, or forfeiture from the tournament, or expulsion from the event would depend on the infraction.

People with empathy will strive for more discipline after receiving an eye-opener. Someone without empathy will continuously be kicked out, and schools will learn to teach which behaviors are unacceptable, or stop bringing undisciplined people for competition before they’re ready. Groups have very small attention spans, an individual person learns and remembers. When a person is punished, they will take that to their group, and that group will learn and remember from that person more easily. This allows the groups to more easily, readily, and quickly change their internal cultures to self-select people who are too forceful or spiteful and train that out of them.

People will speak out, people will pay more attention to themselves, and the culture of “harm-to-win” will diminish in that club. Without both event culture and school cultures cracking down together, this will probably just steadily worsen.


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Review: Kvetun Armouries Leg Protection Set

Review Methodology

I was handed this set of leg protection at the “FechtTerra 2016” tournament event, when the representatives of the Russian supplier Kvetun noticed how much duct tape was being used to keep my then-current set of knee guards together.

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All images are courtesy of the manufacturer.

Disclaimer: I was given the set for free, with the request to tell my friends in the UK about Kvetun.

Almost a year later, I received a request to make a warts-and-all public review, because Kvetun is now exporting to the EU. Coincidentally, I also finished the “test to destruction” phase at roughly the same time.

Construction

The set comes in two pieces per leg: one shin guard and one knee guard. Each is made of black semi-rigid plastic, with fabric padding and two elasticated velcro straps to secure them to the legs. There is also a velcro patch and tab to attach the knee piece to the top of the shin piece.

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All the fabric fittings are stitched rather than riveted, which means no protrusions pushed into my flesh by hits. There are some flat rivets behind the padding, but I haven’t felt them yet.

My set differed from the photographs in including small instep guards for the top of the foot and front of the ankle, with an elastic loop to go under the foot. I suspect they were removed to make sizing less specific. I don’t regard this as a big issue – mine haven’t taken a hit yet, and they sometimes got snagged in shoelaces.

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I do find the double strap on the knee pieces a trifle more awkward than the single strap on the LeonPaul knee protectors, but it is a minor difference.

Performance

They’re light, they’re comfy, movement has been great, and they reduce the felt power of hits considerably. The plastic isn’t completely rigid, but it reduces an “immanent boo-boo” to a tap and a potential broken shin to a bruise. They curve far enough around to protect the sides of the knee joint and the ankle bone, and the “front face” of the lower leg, but not enough to completely cover the sides of my huge calves. Just humble bragging there.

I now see optional calf and thigh protection upgrades, and a “leaf” for the side of the knee, are available add-ons.

That “Destruction”?

Any piece of kit has a failure mode, from Red Dragon sabres and feders exploding on contact to a sturdy mask gradually dimpling into retirement. In the case of these leg protectors, it was the stitching securing one knee strap, which tore when the protector became tangled in another person’s leg guards in a messy grapple. A simple sewing repair job. Or duct tape, if you are me.

Price and Value

Kvetun Armouries are selling these to EU customers for 80 Euros. That’s roughly twice the “standard” over here in the UK, the Red Dragon re-branded motocross leg protectors or the SPES knee and shin guards, and about the same as Neyman’s leg protectors. I would say that they are more comfortable than the alternatives, and are harder wearing in use and have the lower shin protected, unlike the RDs, and unlike the SPES set they don’t really require additional padding to attach to.

I think I’ll be recommending these to students.


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Free Goodies for the Commonly Aching Joints of the Historical Fencer

by Meg Floyd

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I hope everyone has limped into the holiday season with health and only moderate to severe belly grumbles from excellent Thanksgiving Day feasts. (My condolences to our European counterparts who lack such bounty in their lives this time of year.) Today I wanted to share a few videos that I’ve found helpful for relieving my own joint pain, since lately it seems to be a question of which joints are hurting moreso than if I’m in pain or not. (This may not be universal–I’m dealing with weight problems, which certainly don’t help, and I may just have a predilection for bad joints.) However, I think my issues of common joint pain are far from rare. Chief complaints tend to be elbow pain (tennis elbow), knee pain (of every variety), and foot pain (be it a grappling injury, plantar fasciitis, or what have you.)

So! Here are a few videos, mainly of self massage, that have often served me to get range of motion back in the middle of class when a joint has decided no, it’s not going to work anymore today.

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical doctor or physical therapist of any kind. I cannot vouch for the medical expertise of the people in these videos. All I know is loosening up/stretching/self-massaging in these ways makes my joints hurt less and improves my function. If you’re actually injured, GO SEE A DOCTOR. Employ self massage of any type at your own risk, and don’t be an  idiot. If something hurts you, then stop. 

#1) Guy Windsor’s Free Footwork Course — his videos are about 40 minutes total and include a gentle warmup, some balancing exercises, and a 20 min self massage routine for the knees. I completed it today and my legs feel lovely, so I highly recommend you check it out.

#2) Self Massage for Tennis Elbow

#3) Self Massage for Plantar Fasciitis

#4) Self Massage for Ankle Pain/Shin Splints

#5) Self Massage for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome/Tingling and Numb Fingers

 


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Save Eric’s House

by Meg Floyd

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I usually don’t share these things, even though invariably they are for a good and noble cause. However, this time is different. Eric Wiggins is a really old friend of mine. He’s one of the people I met at my very first HEMA event, Dixie Krieg back in 2009. He’s been around the community for all these years, training new fighters, facing people in the ring, staffing events, generally just being a stand-up guy.

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And, as we all know, Mother Nature can be an asshole. Especially in Louisiana. Eric just closed on his house less than two weeks ago, and as of today the first floor was underwater in a historic flood that’s swept the state. I pray to God he has good flood insurance, but I don’t know. So if you can, if you have anything to spare, throw a few bucks into Eric’s GoFundMe page. It’s hard to imagine how many thousands of dollars of damage have been done to his family’s house and property. Let’s do what we can to help them get resettled once the flood waters recede.

You can donate here at his GoFundMe.