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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why It's Easier to Do it Half-Assed

I can talk about this for hours, but there's an easy, and better, way to understand this. Go out into the world and find yourself a child, preferably a teenager. Thirteen, fourteen, not much older. Girl, boy, doesn’t matter. Give this person an hour of training, just the very basics of attacking and parrying, and then fence him (we’ll assume it’s a guy).

Here are the rules. If he so much as touches you with his sword, you lose a point (and the kid has to know this). You, however, will be held to a higher standard. Each of your “touches” must be powerful and direct. Not hard, you don’t want to hurt the kid, but they have to be real cuts, with the edge, with enough distance between the start point and end point that it would work if it were a fight to the death. You can thrust, of course, but you have to pull it out and withdraw (or parry) before the kid whacks you back, or it’s the kid’s point.

How do you think you’d do? If you’re fantastic, you might win. More likely, you’ll barely survive with more double kills than you feel comfortable confessing to.

Well, whatsa matter, tough guy? Can’t beat an untrained kid?

Now make it harder for yourself. Now your cuts not only have to be with the edge, they have to be with the edge perfectly aligned. They have to be powerful enough that you could cut into a person’s body, covered in clothing, deeply, and have your sword cut through rather than get stuck in bone and flesh (don’t worry, we’ve covered the kid in padded armor, he’ll be okay). Your cuts have to be straight, so that they don’t scallop inside the body (and again, get stuck). Your thrusts have to hit vital organs or arteries, and you still have to pull them out, only now you need to make a visible motion of the hips, because that sword won’t come free easily. If the judges don’t see a hip twist to withdraw, you get no point, and the kid still gets to whack you.

Oh, and speaking of the kid, he still just has to touch you to get a point. Flat, edge, hard, soft, strong weak, big arc, small arc, no arc, doesn’t matter.

How do you think you’d do then? Would the kid kick your ass? Would it be double kill paradise? Starting to get the picture?

As the world of HEMA gets increasingly competition-centric, we as martial artists have to keep this idea first and foremost in our minds. The temptation to forget about all that stuff you'll never use and just do it half assed will always be there. Tournaments, free fencing matches, martial challenges, these are all extremely imporant for our art, but there are two ways to do them. The right way, and the easy way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Exhaling with the cut

Last Sunday class, Mike [again] discussed the importance of exhaling with the cut. Last night I realized that I more easily forget to do this than, for example, kiai during karate practice. But more importantly, I also realized why I was doing this, and perhaps I'm not only the one:

We listen to our blades to judge proper edge alignment and tip velocity. No sound = bad alignment, and/or not enough tip velocity. Brief sound = twisting the blade. Sustained "woosh" = good alignment, good velocity, etc. I caught myself holding my breath so I could hear what was going on, because a quick exhalation is sufficient to drown out my Albion Meyer indoors*, and certainly outdoors where there's already plenty of ambient noise.

I don't have a conclusion to this, I just wanted to throw this thought out there. Maybe Mike or someone else has a suggestion..

* EDIT: My Albion Crecy is very loud, but I don't often use it indoors, so I haven't yet determined if it is louder than me or not. :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Swordfest 2011

We have the honor of being invited back to demonstrate at Swordfest 2011. A date has not been set, but it will be sometime in mid-late May or early June. I would like as many people as possible to attend.

This year our demo will focus on how we practice the art rather than its theories or techniques. It will either show the differences and similarities to practicing JSA or just focus on what we do. For that, I need a handful of students demoing along with me.

I can take three people and their gear. Others may be able to take more. If you go with me, it will be a two night trip, and hotel will cost about 80-100 a night. If four of you share a room, that is only 50 dollars each for both nights. I will not charge gas money. You can go for just one night if you're driving yourself (Friday night, then leave after the event). But there is usually some post-event socializing, which is a great chance to meet not only some members of the HEMA community (Bill Grandy, Steve Reich, Dave Rowe, etc.) but also some of the great folks on the JSA side, which makes this event rather unique and special.

I will let you know as soon as a date is set.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Our loaner cutter lives again!

You all know I despise our loaner cutter. I bought this thing, a Hanwei Tinker sharp longsword, thinking it would at least be servicable, but it turned out to be useless.

So, when a sword is pice of crap and you can't get it work, do you throw it away? No! You make it sharper! On the way to my mailbox are the following:

(for my 1x30 grinder:)
320 grit belt
600 grit belt
1000 grit belt
2000 grit belt
leather belt (for the grinder!)
honing paste (for the leather belt)

When I am done with this thing, it will draw blood if you look at it funny. I will also razorize some of your personal swords, once I make all of my horrible grindng mistakes on the loaner and get them out of my system. This is a good day for NYHFA.