Triangle Sword Guild is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization who's mission is to reconstruct historical European fencing traditions through a combination of scholarly research and martial training. We've been training students in historical combat in the Triangle area since 2009. Our members come from a variety of backgrounds, though no experience is necessary to get started. The one thing we share is a passion for European swordsmanship and a desire to become the best martial artists possible.
Historical european martial arts
Historic European Martial Arts (HEMA) is a fairly new discipline. Most groups have been around fewer than fifteen years. Before HEMA, most modern groups interested in European swordsmanship fell into one of several categories: those interested in later sword forms (sport fencing), those interested in fantasy elements (role-playing groups, LARP gaming, etc.), those interested in theater or choreographed fencing, and recreational medievalists and reenactors All of these are worthy pursuits in their own right, but what distinguishes HEMA is an attempt to train in the actual historical techniques used in Renaissance and Medieval swordplay.
As HEMA practitioners, we are less interested in fantasy or staged swordsmanship, and more interested in spontaneous, martially-sound sword fights; less interested in the swordsmanship of the post-baroque sword masters, and more interested in Renaissance and its predecessors; less concerned with sport swordplay, and more concerned with redeveloping Western swordsmanship as a viable and vibrant martial art. Although our discipline is still fairly young, many dedicated HEMA groups have made great progress in the past decade in being able to reconstruct what was a complex and effective system of European martial arts.
A lost art
With the advent of gunpowder weapons, traditional European martial arts were changed forever. Hand-to-hand combat forms became less important and fighting began to be fought more frequently at distance. As the nature of combat changed, so did attitudes about martial arts. The rich tradition of martial training that was dominant in Europe for centuries began to be replaced with more modern study and earlier forms were soon seen as brutish and primitive. By the 19th century, the stereotypical idea of the medieval knight in heavy armor or the muscled Conan-esque barbarian took hold as the dominant perceptions of the Medieval warrior. Almost all the knowledge of the practical and elegant system of European martial arts had been lost.
Reconstructing an art that has been forgotten is not an easy task. There are no living European martial artists whose discipline has survived the years of modern development. However, beginning in the 13th century, some medieval combat masters did start recording a practical description of their art in manual form. These fight-books varied widely, from step-by-step descriptions of martial techniques, to collections of vaguely described illustrations, to cryptic poems about the art of combat. After years of transcription, translation, and interpretation, many of these texts are available to us and are the key to our ability to reconstruct the lost arts.
reconstructing a lost art
Reconstructing a physical discipline from any text, much less a medieval one, is not an easy task. To best recreate this art, we use a method based on research, experimentation, and revision that is similar to the scientific method. This allows us to best evaluate and revise our ideas in a process that incorporates as realistic circumstances as possible, while still maintaining safety. As you can imagine, our idea of medieval and renaissance swordsmanship is constantly growing, but being at the front of a vibrant and ever-changing movement is part of what makes HEMA so exciting.