HEMA and Fighting in Books

One of the most disappointing things I’ve found in most fantasy novels is the fighting.  There is a good reason for this because the authors are usually not sword fighters nor have ever been involved in one.  Matter of fact, neither have most people.  But those two items should not dull the need for realistic sounding melee combat within our books.  Throughout my life I have continued a study of the sword and combat with it.  I have studies Asian martial arts for years upon years which have included the use of the katana.  I love the katana and I love the study but in recent years I have moved away from the study after obtaining a 5th Dan rank within.  Recently, I have found a school that studies the art of HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) which is a school that takes old manuscripts and codex’s from the past and translates them.  Through this translation the school re-discovers the fighting arts of the ancient European fight masters.  The primary sources come from the students of a man named Johannes Liechtenauer.  Many of his students which made up the Society of Liechtenauer made their own manuscripts of the fighting arts.  One of them that I study on my own time is Sigmund Ringeck.  Very realistically pictured below.

Currently, I am studying the art of the longsword and I am not disappointed and neither are my aching muscles and bruises.  It took me a long time to find such a group, I am not into LARPing or live action role playing and did not want to get involved with a group that was talking in old English or coming up with fantasy names.  I wanted a group where we would learn to fight in the realistic way and be able to test our mettle against other like minded people.  I do believe that I have finally found this place and the fighting within my books has benefited greatly from this study.  While this art focuses on quick, clean kills, that does not mean that the fights cannot be entertaining.  So, if you are a fellow writer who spins tall tales of battle, please look up some historical references, find a manual and make your fights awesome.  Even better, take part in it if you are physically able even for a short time just so you can get into the mind of your hero or enemy to understand better what they are going through.  Sure, our feelings are a bit muted because we are wearing protective gear such as a fencing helmet and thick gloves but the fear of a steel sword being thrust into your face is still legitimate and will give you some idea of what it was like.  Don’t disappoint your readers with a half thought out fight or just with names of the moves, that does not resonate with your readers.  They most likely did not take sword classes, nor do they understand what you just said.  Make each fight and death memorable and have your readers finish the chapter or paragraph vividly understanding the violence that just occurred.

Thanks for reading,

-c

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