The New York Historical Fencing Association is a school of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). Our studies are based on the teachings of the 14th century German fencing master Johannes Liechtenauer. Although we focus primarily on the longsword, our curriculum includes wrestling, dagger, sword and buckler, spear and poleaxe. NYHFA is a member of the HEMA Alliance.

New Location!

NYHFA Longsword Curriculum is now being offered in Manhattan, through Sword Class NYC, taught by NYHFA Instructor Tristan Zukowski. Please visit for all information pertaining to class schedule, class fees, etc.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's all in the grip...

Ok, so last time it was all in your head, but today, it's all about the grip. I was watching you guys cut today and I was wondering, why wasn't it working out for some of you? Sometimes you have clean cuts, sometimes you don't. Something wasn't adding up. As I watched the video, I realized what it was...your grip.

Your grip on the sword is like the tires on a car, it is the most important part of the sword/body unit, the part that makes things happen, translates your body's movement into sword movement. Your grip can slow your sword, ruin your edge alignment, ruin your trajectory. Some of you grip too tight, some of you grip with the wrong fingers, others do things I can't even identify. Practice your grips. Practice using the bottom two fingers, tightening only as much as you need to when you need to.

How do you do this? Sounds hard? It's not. Don't think about the grip except to make sure you use the bottom two fingers. Other than that, worry about velocity, and try to get the sword point moving as fast as it can. Think about how your hands can help you do that through your grip. The rest will come naturally. Practice, practice, practice. There's just no way around it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's all in your head

I've been training for the tournament at Longpoint and doing quite a bit of fighting (thanks to all of your for your help in that regard). One thing that sank in was how much of your fighting performance is in your head.

This is one of those things I've known for a long time, but never really appreciated until recently. It really sank in for me over the last few weeks. With all the fighting I've been doing, I sometimes just didn't feel like it, and my mind wandered. This gave me a chance to see how mental state affects results, and let me tell you, if I had to fight to the death, I'd rather fight hopping on one leg than with a messed up head.

It doesn't matter who I'm fighting, our newest student or our best fighter, if my mind is somewhere else, I get hit. Sometimes a lot. If I get into it, put myself in the zone, then I fight well and rarely get touched. It's almost like a magic switch. On, kick ass. Off, get hit.

What does this mean for you guys? Well, you may want to think about how your mental state affects you. Do you get scared? Confused? Does Crazy Steve intimidate you?:) Whenever you fight, consider it an opportunity to practice. Not just your technique, that's the easy stuff, but your mental state. That's where the real fight takes place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Training for accuracy: thrusting pell

I'm glad that Mike reminded me of an old accuracy training device I used to use when I did Olympic-style fencing: the swinging-ball pell. Mike had us thrusting at one of the handles of his jump rope, but I came up with something a little less ghetto and with a few more targets: a series of wooden beads suspended at heart, throat, and eye-socket height.

The idea for training is essentially the same: to work on thrusting accuracy from Pflug, Ochs, Langenort. At the most basic level, you can stand in a more or less a static guard, thrust slowly towards the targets to teach yourself (that is, your muscle memory) the relationship between the sword, arms, hips, etc. Remember to mix it up between thrusts with a lunge and with a passing step (turning body to present less target and to extend reach).

As you progress, play with distance, and get more dynamic in your movements (as I'm often reminded in free-play, holding a hanging guard for too long ends up with your blade being grabbed): winding and disengaging (e.g. Abnehmen). The target is there to help get a sense of measure, but also you must visualize your opponent's blade: close off lines of attack as you thrust (Absetzen), recover in a defensive guard, especially if you miss.

Particularly for me, this is good for keeping myself balanced when I thrust: in free-play I too often over-extend myself, and end up in a decidedly un-structured position. I have to scramble out of the way, usually while throwing up some "Oh sh!t" parry. Here, I can focus on keeping my body structured before, during, and after the attack has been made.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NYHFA Cutting Curriculum

Our cutting curriculum has finally been formalized and posted to the website. For those of you who are novices and senior novices, start familiarizing yourselves with your cutting patterns and saving up for all those mats you'll need to master them.

Link: NYHFA Cutting Curriculum