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Meddelanden - Axel Pettersson

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What is a fencer?

by Anders Linnard Posted on May 16, 2013   

The four cardinal virtues

I know I am not the only one who feels fencing is more than training, research, techniques, sparring, and competitions. Being a fencer means something—but what, exactly?

Some of the best people I know are fencers, and their personalities are a part of their fencing. Their greatness as humans carries over to their fencing and vice versa. I have witnessed students and teachers grow and better themselves as a result of their commitment to these arts. I certainly feel that I have made a positive personal journey over the last decade. Much of it can be attributed to this art.

I do not mean ‘good’ here as in someone who altruistically makes the world a better place, but rather, ‘good’ as in personal growth. That distinction is counter-intuitive for the modern man because the ideal historical swordsman is a far more violent creature than what is acceptable today. He would use his sword to defend even minor infractions on his honour, which seems rather excessive by today’s standards. Likewise, practising HEMA raises a few eyebrows once people understand the level of contact that we allow. “Why on earth would anyone want to do that?“

But there is no way around it. Fencing is anachronistic. Regardless of the fact that having a propensity for lethal violence or training for it is considered bad in today’s civilian world, I still think there is value in accepting it as part of our endeavour. We cannot recreate historical martial arts without trying to understand the true meaning of what we do, which is why I don’t think it is such a bad idea to celebrate injuries, scars, and broken bones to some degree.

This martial approach to life is a recipe for personal growth. It is obvious when I watch my students and fellow fencers. If someone steps into GHFS with an attitude, they will be humbled. If they are too nice to hit someone over the head, they will toughen up. Learning to stand up for yourself, as well as understanding that you don’t need to push people around when you know who you are, are lessons inherent in fencing. There is perhaps also something less tangible, the recognition that life may not always fit the box that we try to squeeze it into.
You have to pay the price

These lessons of personal development have to come at a cost. You do not learn them in your comfort zone. Fencing is about putting your life at stake, and that is perhaps the least comfortable thing you can do. Fencers used to know this, and still preferred to risk their lives rather than accept even an insult. I believe we have to embrace some of this attitude. As modern people we may not have to rely on fencing to defend our lives, nor do we generally settle disputes with duels, but we should still recognise that core truth about what we do. This means that at the very least you have to face your fears, even if it means taking the risk to lose a fight, break some bones, or receive a few scars. You have to push yourself further than you are comfortable with if you want to develop.

And it has to hurt. If you put yourself through hell regularly, you will grow as a person, because by doing so you confront whatever flaws in your character that tell you to quit. It makes you a better fencer and builds character. If you do it right, it will spill over to the rest of your life, since you have learned how to commit to something.

Making a decision

I don’t care if you approach this in a stick fight, boxing, Battle of the Nations, or whatever flavour of HEMA you prefer. Your choice is your choice, and that is all that matters. Stepping outside of your comfort zone has to be a personal decision. It defeats the purpose of the act if you require someone to hold your hand.

All of the best fencers I know have an inner drive to train hard, fight hard, and read the sources without being told to do so. They have no excuses. Besides, it is important to remember that stepping out of your comfort zone cannot be quantified by anyone but yourself. After all it means different things for someone young and someone old.

My point is that you have to fully dedicate and immerse yourself to get the most out of being a fencer. Of course, it is possible to train a little on the side and do twenty other things without full commitment, and still enjoy all of them, but that will never truly test your mettle. There is room for fun and games, but at the heart of our fencing, we must commit entirely and take it seriously. Dedication is the only way to enjoy anything on a deeper level.

Qualities of a fencer

There are also certain values that are intertwined with fencing. One example is loyalty. Today there are very few consequences for doing your friends an injustice, turning your back on them, or abandoning them, since you do not rely on them to defend your life. Modern people can come off as immature teenage girls who trash talk each other as soon as the other person is absent. However, if you really want to be a fencer, then loyalty is not such a bad thing. Pay your dues and be loyal to your club, your fellow fencers, and your instructors! Be there for them when they need you, and back them up, even when you do not fully agree. If you disagree with them, you can always tell them face-to-face.

Another trait of the modern man is the need to define himself in opposition to others, rather than by his own achievements. In this digital age we can express exactly how we feel about other people’s work without much consequence. We are brought up with such a conflated sense of being unique snowflakes that we think that our opinions hold as much value as other people’s deeds. I have also been guilty of this, and it is unbefitting a fencer. Looking back at times when such behaviour could easily end in a duel, it was prudent to be open-minded and showing a bit of temperance. Although today’s world may not offer the same lethal outcome, it is still prudent to be polite, well mannered, and open-minded. As fencers we should consider it our obligation.

Carry yourself with pride

The way we dress and carry ourselves is important. If you look at historical images of duels, you will see that not only the fencers, but also the seconds and other officials, dressed for the occasion. These are honourable affairs where life is on the line, and you had better show up in formal attire. Dressing well is a sign of respect and shows that you take fencing seriously. This is also why I personally do not like to see historical clothing at HEMA events, other than possibly in certain displays. They usually add a feeling of escapism and dorky dress-up party, instead of something profound and serious. Carrying ourselves well and dressing like we understand the underlying sober reality of fencing is an important aspect of what we do. For that reason escapism is counterproductive. If we don’t look like we take this seriously, how can we expect outsiders to respect us?

To be loyal and fair, to have some back-bone and not step down from a fight, to show restraint, to commit and take HEMA seriously—these are excellent things to strive for. After all, they fit the cardinal virtues rather well. For me, this is the heart of what we do, the glue between the drills, techniques, sparring, academic work, and competitions.

The reason for posting this is to encourage the community to continue on that positive journey where we use HEMA as a way to challenge ourselves and to find our own paths. In doing so, I believe there is less interest in polemic argumentation and more focus on sharing and mutual aid. When we understand that we can work together, though our personal goals may differ, everyone will benefit.

Anders Linnard Head Instructor of Gothenburg Historical Fencing School



I must credit Scott Hellroth and Axel Pettersson for much of this article, not only because many of these ideas are a direct result of their influence, but also because they inspire me in my life. Thank you!

A huge thanks to Meg Floyd for proofreading and giving me some valuable feedback. All remaining errors are entirely my own.

Thanks also to Matt Galas, the Godfather of HEMA, for being who he is and giving me some excellent feedback.

Jonathan Wilkins took 2nd place in Örebro Longsword Open hosted by ÖrebroHEMA on Aprile 24-26. Jonathan defeated fellow GHFS members Nico Gallardo (16th finals) and Scott Hellroth (quarter finals) before facing Thomas Nyzell of UppsalaHFS in the final. Besides Jonathan, Scott and Nico GHFS was also represented by Albin Svensson (made it to elimination rounds), Conny Corneliusson, Rakel Fröyen and Fredrik Eiman. 3rd place was claimed by Marcus Pettersson of KungshamnHFS who defeated the energetic Christoffer Holm of Örebro HEMA.

32 fencers from 4 countries participated in the tournament.

Scott Hellroth and Axel Pettersson of GHFS hosted the first judges workshop on behalf of SvHEMAF, the Swedish HEMA Federation, with participants from both Sweden and Norway. The workshop included both fencing theory, practicla know-how of running a tournament aswell as definitions of the roles of the staff, video analysis and practical training as referee, point judge and secretariat during both practice bouts and the tournament itself.

All bouts from the tournament can be found on the ÖrebroHEMA Youtube page:

OOL 2013 Finals - T. Nyzell vs J. Wilkins

I sann trådnekrofilisk anda....

Michel Chidester (Mannen bakom Wiktenauer) har samlat Lichtenauers "zedel"s och "glosses" från en rad olika fäktmästare i en bok som heter "The teachings of Master Liechtenauer". Denna ger han ut som gratis nedladdningsbar PDF-variant på

Skapa ett konto och ladda ner.

Det kan ett bra komplement till de texter vi har på hemsidan för den som vill fördjupa sig ytterligare  i det skriftliga materialet. Den är dessutom i någon mån illustrerad med bilder på teknikerna från en rad olika källor

Wiktenaure är sannerligen kunglig. Glasgowmanuskriptet har flera bilder som kompletterar Ringeck bra, även om man inte ska lita blint på dom, men så är det väl alltid i det vi sysslar med.

kul att Moberg tar sin bibliotikarieroll på allvar, jag ser fram emot att han dyker upp på klubben i fyrkantiga klasögon och håret i bulle och säger "hyyyssssch" när vi blir för högljudda under uppvärmningen :).

Tillkännagivanden / Ingen träning för f-gruppen idag
« skrivet: 2013-04-30, 09:59:21 »
Ingen ordinarie träning idag för fortsättningsgruppen, jag låser upp om man vill träna på egen hand.

Historisk kampkonst / Re: Sword & dagger träning
« skrivet: 2013-04-21, 11:06:34 »
OK. Grymt kul i fredags!

Axel Pettersson of GHFS took 1st place in Sword & Buckler aswell as 2nd place in Open Longsword at Fechtschule America, the largest HEMA tournaments in North America. This makes Axel the first person in modern times to win a large international tournament in three different weapons, having previously won tournaments in Longsword and Dussack. This year Axel was close to repeat his double win from Fechtschule America 2010 when he won 1st in both longsword and dussack, in Fechtschule America 2011 he came 2nd in dussack and 3rd in longsword (1st place in open longsword 2011 was won by GHFS head instructor Anders Linnard).

Further Swedish success came through Dennis Ljunqvist of KungshamnHFS who took 1st place in the Open Longsword after a close fought bout with Axel. Kristine Konsmoe of Frie Duellister (Norway) won 1st place in Ladies Longsword.

In a first for Fechtschule America, the final bouts were streamed live with commentary similar to the Swordfish livestream, the livestream can be found here:

 Fechtschule America 2013 - FINALS all events HQ

Hema News Agency / See the Swordfish 2012 livestream here!
« skrivet: 2013-04-19, 12:53:17 »
The livestream of the worlds largest HEMA-tournament, Swordfish 2012, is now available online here:

Swordfish 2012 livestream

Swordfish is hosted by Gothenburg Historical Fencing School and annually attracts over 200 fencers from more than 20 countries.

Tillkännagivanden / Re: Swordfish uppstarts möte !!!
« skrivet: 2013-04-05, 10:39:11 »

jag kan bara den 11e (vasaslaget och houston kommer ivägen för andra datum), ska vi köra den 11e klockan 18, då kanske fler kan?

det var ingen turnering 2007, den första var 2008.

Henry heter Rhodes. Jag kan ha kommit trea efter Tim. Osäker, åkte ut på skada mot just Tim, varpå han gick till final mot Scott.
Det var du och jag som skulle gått match om tredje plats det året.
Thomas heter Nyzell inte Winzel
Hans Jörnlind inte Jöborn
Tror att Kit kom trea i damernas 2011

2011 var det skarphuggningstävling
1:a Hans Jörnlind
2:a Jake Norwood
3:a Robert Molin

Jag har för mig att skarphuggningen låg utanför Joakim Nilsson Memorial men jag kan ta med den för all del.

Alla tävlingar på swordfish räknas såklart in.

Köp och sälj / Re: Armbågs- och knäskydd
« skrivet: 2012-11-12, 18:51:57 »
De ties sålde är från Grays som gör skydd för hockeybockey och liknande, jag köpte ett par av honom för 40 euro (fanns billigare versioner med tror jag, ner till iaf 30 euro) och de är helt fantastiska, lätta men skyddar bra och framförallt täcker de fotknölarna.

Dock täcker de inte knät så jag har biltemaskyddet över, det funkar bra.

Köp och sälj / Re: Sambestællning av skydd, evt från SPES?
« skrivet: 2012-11-09, 11:21:24 »
Den var OK, lite bättre skyddd men också lite tyngre och lite sämre rörlighet i armarna när man lyfter dom över huvudet. Plastskydden på underarm och armbåge funkar riktigt bra, de på överarm och axlar var jag tvungen att ta bort för att kunna röra armarna ordentligt.

summa summarum: lädret kommer skydda jackan från slitage längre än en vanlig jacka och ger extra skydd, och det är fint med integrerade underarms och armbågsskydd, men om priset blir mycket högre än den vanliga jackan är det inte värt priset. Så mycket bättre är den inte.

Köp och sälj / Re: Sambestællning av skydd, evt från SPES?
« skrivet: 2012-11-08, 15:43:39 »
säg till mig när ni gör beställningen och vem som lägger den så fixar jag rabatt åt er.

Hema News Agency / Swordfish finals Live, November 3
« skrivet: 2012-10-16, 14:26:14 »

Dear all,

On November 3, just like last year we will offer free live streaming of the Swordfish 2012 Joachim Nilsson Memorial Tournaments!

The Swordfish tournaments of 2012 are some of the largest tournaments in the modern HEMA community, with the open longsword alone featuring a record 82 fighters from all over Europe and North America.

To see the list of all fighers follow this link, see if your favourite fighter will participate this year!

Date: Saturday November 3

Time: ca17.30 local time. Fights start around 18.30, preceded by introduction, rules examination and interviews with fighters, organizers, instructors etc.


Tournaments featured:
Grappling (NEW! 3 weight divisions)
Rapier & dagger
Sword & buckler
Sabre/single hand weapons
Ladies longsword
Open longsword

Commentators will like last year be Scott Hellroth and Matt Galas, but this year they will  be joined by specific expert commentators for the different weapon styles.

This years live cast promises to be even more ambitious than last year! We have an even better camera crew on hand, who usually works with live casting top national sports event such as the Swedish Elite hockey series.

We are also working together with the dutch companies Malienkolders and Mblades to provide a professional presentation system for every fight (this will also feature in the pool fights wich will be available for view on youtube after the event).

In order to make all of this happen we would gratefully receive your help!

In order to donate and participate in the competition for a t-shirt signed by all Swordfish tournament winners, see this link!

We hope that many of you will follow us via our live cast as we see some of the best fencers of our day compete in the Swordfish tournaments of 2012!

/Axel Pettersson and the Swordfish crew,
Project Swordfish
Gothenburg Historical Fencing School
Swedish HEMA Federation

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