Over the course of the past week I have engaged in a number of Reddit debates over the value of ACL style combat and whether HEMA is just simple better in all ways. I have been trying to be polite and fair in my arguments and assessments of HEMA and it is beginning to pay off with people who took very extreme views at least sounding more reasonable. There still appears to be this idea that we are all just thugs in armor who have know skill and don’t know how to fight but at least the discussion has moved to the point where some concessions are being made that it might be a legitimate sport. Complaints abound about our lack of historic accuracy, our “spreading of misinformation,” our ruleset making weapons pointless, and other ideas that I think show no real understanding of the sport or what it’s about. The conversation is beginning though and maybe this pointless rift between the communities can be healed. Getting mutual respect between HEMA and SCA will likely be even harder, but hopefully someday.
One thing that has come out of this though is someone in the HEMA community stepped up to a challenge I’ve offered a few times. I provide him a loan of armor and he’ll fight in ACL rules using HEMA techniques. His belief is he will mop the floor with me. I hold a different view. However I’m glad to see that this can be put to the test, even if I lose. All this talking over the internet accomplishes nothing if we don’t ever put up actions to back our words. If I do well it should show that ACL is not just a bunch of bashing with no skill. If I don’t it should demonstrate that studying the fight books really is the best method and one I will adopt immediately.
We will also be fighting in the traditional unarmored sparring style HEMA prefers but I hold no illusions that I am talented in that regard. While my SCA training has definitely given me some prep, it’s still a very different game and I have fought very little true longsword in SCA. I find it sad that most people there prefer the giant greatswords over what I think is a more elegant weapon but that’s a topic for another day.
To make this fight happen both us will have to travel quite a ways, bring gear, and show up to meet a virtual unknown to spar having no coverage from any insurance or governing body. It’s the first of what I hope is many crossovers between the disciplines. I’m encouraged to know that I am not the only one trying to reach across the aisle. Bill Frisbee of NHKDF is holding an event for both armored and unarmored techniques and has specifically invited some ACL guys to participate. I look forward to that very much as I think there will be some great exchanging of ideas and hopefully some friendships forged. Our hobby is too niche for all this infighting. We are a small community that all love swords and sword fighting, we should be encouraging any attempt for people to get into this in anyway, regardless of how different their goals and methods are from our own.