HEMA – inspiration through perspiration

It seems that a great number of practitioners of the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA – think of them as the Knightly Arts of Swordplay) are also writers and enjoyers of great literature. This seems to be the case for women, anyway. I am a member of an international group of female HEMA participants, called Esfinges, and this question was put forward to the writers in the group:

How many of you are inspired in your art by the things you read, and what in particular inspires you?

I hadn’t really thought about it. I know that attempting to write a novel that included swordplay is what made me seek out an instructor so that I could finally properly study HEMA. But I was already interested. I’d been fascinated with swordplay and the discipline of knighthood for what seems to have been the better part of my life. But I’ve also always wanted to be a writer. So which came first, the sword or the pen?

It’s funny as I think about it, because I think both followed from imagery. I know this, because images of swords have been a part of my repertoire for years. Check out this painting I did in high school. There are swords there. I was trying to capture a moonlit battle. I don’t think I succeeded, but I still like the painting.

Caniberons sword fighting. Acrylic on canvas board. Done back in high school. See? My interest in swordplay goes way back! All rights reserved.

Caniberons sword fighting. Acrylic on canvas board. Done back in high school. See? My interest in swordplay goes way back! All rights reserved.

When I think about the sword, I see pictures. Images of the gallant knight on his steed. The violent battle, ending with the battered and bloodied knight kneeling in prayer over his lifeless opponent. I feel it in my chest – the pounding of my heart. And in my arms and back – the violent shock of steel meeting steel. Reading solidifies these images, as does watching sword fights (especially those that are realistically choreographed), or looking at page after page of photos in knights in armor. Writing is how I try to express these feeling and visual impressions. Actively participating further helps me find that connection between the real and the envisioned.

Then I write and practice more, and rewrite and read books and papers, and I rewrite once more after pondering deeply for a few days.

Both my writing and my desire to participate in HEMA derive their inspiration from the images conjured in my head when thinking about the knightly arts. I have always felt that European swordplay is one of the most elegant displays of art in action. There is beauty in the discipline that crosses over to all arenas of life. I long for that peace that comes from such mastery of the body and mind, that is reflected in HEMA. I struggle to express it in my writing. I hope some day to find it and feel it. It’s there. I know it.

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