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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


As I get ready to attend Longpoint 2013 and compete in open steel longsword, I can't help but think about the temptations of tournaments and how they can be a constant struggle.  I was in Dick's sporting goods look for some thigh armor to avoid the sort of monster bruise I picked up in Fechtschule America and for just a moment, I thought of myself as an athlete.  There I was, in the athletic section of a sporting goods store, picking out athletic gear.  Why not, right?  Except that I am not an athlete.  I am a martial artist.  There is a very clear distinction between the two.  An athlete competes in a sport, and martial artist trains in the arts of fighting. 

Tournaments are great training tools, they test you in ways noting else in HEMA can.  For those of us who take them seriously, they can be a pretty harrowing experience.  But they have a dark side too, one that can hurt your development as a martial artist.  In the weeks or even months leading up to a tournament, it is very tempting to focus on those aspects of your training that will help you win.  Focus on hitting fast and hard, rather than striking with sound cutting mechanics.  Work to make yourself faster by using your arms rather than your body (this backfires in a big way in the long run) be able to strike with smaller and smaller motions than you would be able to cut with.  In other words, to cheat.  "This is what is described in the texts, but don't do it that way, because that wouldn't work in a tournament, the judges wouldn't see it."  Have you ever said or even thought something like that?  I'll admit it, I have, and I felt dirty.

Perhaps that constant struggle with our desire to win and take shortcuts is part of how a tournament challenges us and tests our character.  I don't know what the future of tournaments is, or how it will affect HEMA. Now that cutting tournaments are becoming more common, that temptation to avoid that part of your training may lessen.  In the mean time, I know of no better training tool to test the dynamic application of the art, so I will continue to compete, and to struggle.  I'll let you know how it turns out.