One of the most interesting things that I learned in my four years in college was how to swordfight.  Not fence, not stagefight, but honest to goodness longsword fighting.  I also learned the basics of the spear, the arming sword, the dagger, the arming sword and dagger, the arming sword and buckler, the rapier and some basic grappling techniques.  All of this was in a club called the European Martial Arts Program, or EMAP.  This club was effectively a local branch of the larger martial art HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts.  The long and short of it is that Europe, unlike Asia and some other countries, completely lost a lot of its martial arts and fighting styles when it transitioned rapidly into the age of guns.  For hundreds of years no one at all really new what to do with a longsword or spear since the arts were no longer practiced and their was no master to learn from.  Then in the late 1900s European scholars interested in the martial arts they were reading about began to revive the things.  While there are no living teachers of the historical european martial arts, there are several books on the subject that had been written by masters of these arts from the earliest around 1400 to the latest in the 1650s or later.  These books are somewhat written and somewhat drawn, with illustrations showing how different attacks and blocks should be performed and work out. 

From these “Plates” as they are called, scholars became practitioners of a lost artform and over the last 40 years ago, the European martial arts have been growing in popularity and knowledge.  I knew nothing at all of this when I went to college, and still nothing for the first year, only finding out about it because of a friend who told me about it.  I soon became fascinated by it however and it took over as the subject I was dedicated to the most in school.  I got a lot of bumps and bruises and learned much about the psychology involved in fighting as well as the technique.  I studied and learned with several other people for three years, and became, if not the best modern sword-fighter, at least a competent one, passing the test to become a scholar, which is one of the ranks in the art, below provost and master.  Anyways, long story short, European Martial Arts is a really cool thing to learn and the grappling part at least is very practical and useful.  The swordfighting part is equally practical, assuming you carry a sword with you at all times.  I encourage all of you to try to find a Historical European Martial Arts organization in your area and try it out. 

Another note.  HEMA is very different from Larping or the SCA.  While both of those things are done for fun and their goal is fun, HEMA is a real martial art in which you are learning the most efficient way to maim or kill someone.  It is still a lot of fun to learn, but that fun must be tempered with the understanding of why this was created and in what sorts of situation it would become practical


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