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Fascists are poisoning HEMA. Here’s one small thing I’m doing about it.

I recently got my latest book, The Theory and Practice of Historical European Martial Arts, back from the editor, and am working through it. There are always last-minute changes to make, but they are usually minor additions or rephrasings. This time, there is one major change: I have decided to stop using the term HEMA altogether. It stands for Historical European Martial Arts, and a sad and disgusting number of white supremacists, nazis, and other scum have latched on to the “European” bit (at the expense of the historical, the martial, and the artistry) and are bringing the term into appalling disrepute. I will not share examples of this behaviour because I see no good reason to spread poison, but trust me, it’s out there.

The Nazis in Germany in the 30s did the same thing to all sorts of elements of European culture, from co-opting Norse mythology, to taking a perfectly innocuous symbol (the swastika, which you will see on monuments and book covers before the 1930s) and making it forevermore associated with evil incarnate.

The principles and practices I cover in the book are by no means only applicable to European styles and sources. They could be used for any art— indeed, my friend and colleague Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani is using the same sort of approach in his reconstruction of historical Persian martial arts. So the “European” bit is entirely unnecessary, and seems to promote division rather than unity. I don’t practice the arts I do just because they are European.

It’s not as if there was any such thing as a general European martial art anyway, other than perhaps gunnery; I teach Italian rapier, Italian medieval knightly combat, French smallsword, German sword and buckler, and so on. Every source comes from a specific time, place and culture; to call them European would be uselessly general.

So fuck them. They can have the HEMA label. The E is redundant. We could call what we do Historical Swordsmanship, but that would exclude the boxers, knife fighters, WWII combative practitioners (the only style I can think of that definitely killed Nazis!), wrestlers, jousters and all the rest that don’t use swords. We could call it Western Martial Arts, though the “Western” is perhaps misleading too; Polish sabre is Eastern European; to me it would feel odd to call it “Western”, though it is when considered in relation to Asian martial arts.

In the interests of specifying the historicity of what I do, its martial nature and its artistic beauty, I’m calling my book The Theory and Practice of Historical Martial Arts, and dropping all references that would seem to imply these arts are valuable because they are European.

In the global fight against fascism that faces us today, it is probably the tiniest, feeblest, blow. But we have to start somewhere. I don’t think we can reclaim the term HEMA any more than we can reclaim the swastika, but it’s just a four letter acronym. It’s what we do that counts, not what we call it.

In case there were any doubt about my stance on this, here’s a photo of a class I taught recently. Race, sex, religion, country of origin? Irrelevant. Community fostered by a shared joy in the Art? Priceless.

UPDATE: There has been a ton of commentary on this on various social media platforms, which can be distilled down to the following stances:

  1. Yay! Glad Guy said that.
  2. Okaay, but we must FIGHT to keep the term HEMA and not yield the E to the fascists
  3. Fascists are bad, but this is not helping at all
  4. There are fascists in HEMA? Where?
  5. Are you calling ME a fascist? (for the record, I'm very carefully not naming anyone)
  6. Guy is a dick.

Let me point out that the only action I am taking is re-naming my book, and adjusting the content to reflect the fact that historical martial arts are not all European. I take the point that my proposed course of action may not be effective (time will tell); and I also understand that many decent people are very invested in the term HEMA. Personally, I'm not and have never been; when I started out we called what we did Historical Swordsmanship, or Western Martial Arts. I think my point stands that HEMA is not a very good descriptor for the Art, and I'm sympathetic to the “don't give the fascists an inch” standpoint. But nothing I've seen so far has lead me to want to change my mind (and undo the last few hours of edits!).

Regarding the last point, I'd rather be hated for who I am than respected for who I'm not. If trying to do something to counteract the far right loses me the respect of some people, then I'd rather not have their good opinion. If you approve of the sentiment but not the tactics, then by all means, let's talk tactics.

I'm sure you have an opinion: do share!

65 Responses

  1. I’m curious what you’ve witnessed to prompt this post, and where. There aren’t a lot of minorities in HEMA (from what I’ve seen), but nothing I’ve witnessed leads me to think it’s anything other than lack of interest on their part. I’ve never seen anyone discouraged from joining a club because they’re not white, and in fact every club I’ve encountered has been extremely welcoming to ANYONE who has expressed interest in taking part.

    1. Sure, most clubs are. And most HEMA folk I know are perfectly nice. But folk only tend to see these things when they experience them directly; I’ve never been exposed to it myself. But enough of my friends have that I take it seriously. And it’s out there if you choose to look.

  2. Is it really such a big problem? I unfortunately spend far more time reading about HEMA online than I get to actually practise, but I can’t say that I’ve come across a huge stream of racist vitriol about it. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right(wrong) places! Certainly there haven’t been any swastika-tattooed skinheads at any of the clubs etc I’ve been to- indeed, as a small-c conservative I tend to feel I’m in the minority at any class I’ve attended.
    The Art certainly didn’t respect the shifting national borders of Europe over the centuries- eg Fabris’ book on Italian rapier was written for the king of Denmark, Thibault’s (a Dutchman) interpretation of Spanish swordsmanship was written in French.
    By all means, take the E out of your book title if you feel so strongly about it- as you say, it sounds like it is easily applicable to recreating martial arts from any culture’s history anyway. But can’t we be at least a little bit proud of the western origins of boxing, fencing etc in the same way the Japanese are about kendo, judo etc or the Chinese about kung fu?

    1. Sadly, too many of my non-white, non-European friends have reported these things to me for me to think it’s not really happening.

    2. Greetings ,
      I think that your first mistake is calling Skinheads to Neo-Nazis without knowing the history or origine of the Skinhead movement that started in Jamaica.
      Second, fascism has spread a little everywhere in Europe and the United States especially since Trump was elected president.
      Third, today the antifascists or even the people who do not share their ideas with this ideology are being victimized and discredited
      And to conclude I declare my full support to Guy Windsor for having the courage to say NO to the barbarity and ignorance that comes from far right ideologies

  3. Sir, I wholeheartedly agree with you that we as practitioners of the Historical Martial Art must take certain steps to not support in any way bigots or white-supremacists.

    But I don’t agree with your solution to the problem at hand. Here’s why;

    The solution isn’t to abandon the term.

    The moment you surrender a term or a word to fascists/bigots/discriminators you lose it.

    Women’s movement did what was right, they took the word “slut” and claimed it for their own with “slut marches” and said “right back at your face!’. Black rights movement did the same and won a battle, if not the war for their rights; they claimed the word nigger/negro, reshaped it and now the word is theirs. They fought over it.

    Now Hema people can stand their ground over the term, and claim it for themselves, or surrender the word altogether to the fascists and let them have it.

    We are learning to fight with sword, it’s not just the techniques that we learn; it’s a martial art. Martial arts gives us certain personal principles and perspectives that are applicable to everyday life confrontations. This is one such socio-political confrontation, and I believe we are equipped to engage in it.

    I implore you to not abandon the term.


    if you wish to further engage in this conversation, and would like to hear the opinion of an atheist middle-eastern Hema practitioner running a Hema club in a muslim majority country, and what I think we may do to promote tolerance and to ease multi-cultural tensions, feel free to contact me.

    1. Thanks for your considered response! I don’t think that there is anything to be gained by fighting for terminology, and I’m not personally invested in the term HEMA, but I can see how you’d think differently.

      1. Mr. Windsor,
        The problem with this view (in my humble opinion as a hema newb who has seen nothing but the positive in hema) is illustrated by the comparison you make to the swastika. The swastika is firmly associated with Nazism despite its earlier history as a benign symbol. Hema is not, thus far, despite what you have said about fringe elements, and to just say “well, there may be a few bad apples so let’s throw everything out” is how you enable bad apples – not to mention slander everyone in hema who is just interested in learned historical European sword techniques. I say fight for what is good against the bigots don’t enable them, instead preserve hema for those of us who want to learn historical european martial arts.
        And that last part of course is important – they are historical European techniques. The “e” in hema is important, not just to distinguish from “martial arts” as normally conceived, namely, Asian techniques, but in terms of where these fighting arts come from, how they developed, and how we learn them.
        If we ignore that these are European fighting styles, we are ignoring their origin, and at the end of the day are not practicing historical swordsmanship. Because the historical part is tied to the history of where and how and why these techniques developed. You cannot ignore the context of the history of something and then insist you are practicing it in context of its history.
        One could eliminate the “e” in hema and still practice swordsmanship, but it would not be historical swordsmanship because you would be ignoring its historical origin.
        In essence, sir, you seem to be arguing we destroy hema, based on the fact that there may – or may not be – a handful of asinine people involved in it. Whether or not there is, I’ve never seen it, but there are jerks and bigots in every group but I’ve seen none in hema so far personally. But while the issue of the degree of bigots in hema may be up for debate the moral panic and drastic approaches taken by some of hema’s practitioners and defenders, is very real, and could essentially destroy the activity, doing far more damage than the alleged handful of miscreants they are attempting to fight.
        As to the statement about “dropping all references that would seem to imply these arts are valuable because they are European,” Mr. Windsor with all due respect they aren’t valuable because they are European, but they are what they are because they were European, and what they are is obviously of value to those who try to learn them.
        Also… There are already plenty of roadblocks to pursuing hema. Swords are expensive, protective gears is expensive, clubs are hard to find compared to modern sport fencing or other activities.
        Do we really want to do even more to discourage people from pursuing hema?
        People who are told, when expressing interest, that those guys “attract a lot of white supremacists”, or anything else of the sort, are not likely to give it a go. Who wants to hang out with racists? Or worse – find themself sparring with one?
        But conversely, no one wants to go hang out with a bunch of people who are so busy trying to self-police over accusations of racism that they are completely intolerant of any other opinion but what they think is safely politically correct at the moment? Who wants to hang out with people who would be willing to denounce their friends, fellow fencers or others in the hema community at the drop of a hat?
        I abhor racism but I also don’t want a hema where you have to be firmly left of center to not be run out of town on a rail.
        Mr. Windsor I am sorry for the long post but as someone who enjoys swords and history this is something I feel very strongly about, I don’t want to concede the field to bigots of any type, racist or political. I just want to learn and have fun and practice swordsmanship as best I can. Is that too much to ask?

        1. “European” is an imprecise term for any of the arts we practise. The closest term for medieval arts would be ‘Christian’- as they were used to defend and expand ‘Christendom’. But I don’t think many folk would want to practise ‘HCMA’, do you?
          I’ve dropped the E from the acronym, as it’s a dog-whistle for arseholes. But that doesn’t imply that I’m ‘destroying hema’. Just using a less-inaccurate term for the arts I practise.

          1. Mr. Windsor,
            As someone who is not religious I would certainly *not* want to practice “hcma”..! However I also don’t think we should give any ground to the small minded, It just bothers me to see what seems like widespread panic over a handful of asinine people who are definitely fringe and not mainstream in the art. I don’t think we should give in to that sort of thing.
            That said this entire concept is all new to me, I never thought something as wholesome as learning the sword would have a political component — and I really don’t want it to.
            To me, this is about having a good time and learning. I just want it to stay that way.

  4. Dear Guy.
    I’m reading your blog for quite long while. I find it very professional. But today I have one reservation.

    How can you even think that Poland is EASTERN?
    Poland is in geografical middle of Europe. We have ROMAN alphabet, not Cyryllic. We were Catholics from our baptism since X century for our whole history. According to historical martial culture – we were always been basicly European, with just an Eastern influence. In Dlugosz chronicles you can read that Lithuan cavalery had to use straw wreaths to identification, becasue they look very similar to Teutonics units. Our national emblem is eagle, which in heraldry is typical European symbol.

    1. Hi Maciej,
      going to school in the UK in the 80s, anything on the other side of the Iron Curtain was thought of as Eastern Europe. As far as I know, that’s still basically true in the English mind. I certainly don’t think of that as a bad thing though- Finland is further East still!

      1. So… Germany is also eastern? 😉 They were (in part) also behind wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

        But seriously – important thing in finding roots of HEMA should be Historical heritage. Not actual politics, cause the Iron Curtain collapsed, and we are back in Europe.

    2. I think of Poland as Eastern because it is Slavic and I associate most Slavic nations with Eastern Europe. As the dominant Slavic nation, Russia is decidedly Eastern. Despite major cultural differences, Poland, being Slavic, is more easily scene within the greater Slavosphere, which is dominated by the center of gravity; Russia.

      1. I think the Slavic linguistic affinity is somewhat misleading though. Religiously, Poland is Catholic, not Orthodox, putting it squarely in the same cultural camp as Germany, Austria, and Hungary (which in the past it tended to have much more contact with).

        Of course, it IS rather fun to tease my Polish friend about how she comes from “Western Russia”…

  5. You know, back when I read your book “Swordfighting for Writers, Game Designers, and Martial Artists” I did think to myself on multiple occassions, “God, what a cuck.” and while I normally try to keep my politics out of my hobbies, this is such a flagrantly hilarious rant that I can’t help but mock you for it.

    Calm down, man.

      1. Because you were one of the pioneers of the art and have been doing this for such a long time that you are bound to have lots of good ideas and realizations about it? Why would any dislike on my part bar me from reading you? That’s silly.

        Kind of like this whole shitshow; you’ve just solidified the reactionaries into a cohesive group by doing this. Fucking hell, did no one learn anything from gamergate?

        Remember, whatever happens in the future, it’s on your head for dragging identity fucking politics out of all fucking things into hema.

    1. “Cuck”? Seriously? Anyone who uses that word as a pejorative can be immediately dismissed out of hand, as it betrays a deep and abiding misunderstanding of the world in general.

  6. Please stop giving them power then. You have let fascists take control of the “E”. They have not taken it, they have not controlled it, they have not usurped it. You have given it to them. Please. Please. Please. Get your head out of your ass.

    With the highest regards from one who has the possibility to study Fiore thanks to you.

    -John Grönholm

  7. One must ask if you are really this stupid.
    For in this post you have justified the beliefs of all those you claim to hate. You have proven their fears accurate and their response correct.
    From what I’m seeing among ethnic nationalists in Europe who are hilariously already talking about this a lot? It’s only encouraging them to get more involved in European martial arts. So that next wave of new students groups will find coming in? Will almost entirely be your dreaded nazis.

    Congrats Guy. You dun goofed.

  8. Hi Guy, sadly I am not all that surprised by this. Although I cannot say I have encountered it in HEMA, I have encountered it among Roman religious reconstructionists.

    That said, my initial reaction to your article here and your decision to stop using the “E” in HEMA, is not one of support.

    First off, definitely 1. Yay! I’m glad Guy said that. Yes I see the problem is common in traditional European cultural studies and revival communities and I don’t like it either so I am happy to see people who have the courage to speak out.

    Second, 2. Fight for the E in HEMA and don’t yield to fascists. Absolutely. There is nothing wrong in my mind with taking some pride and certainly nothing wrong with taking interest in traditional European culture even at least in part because you yourself are of European ancestry. Does that mean we should be white supremacists about it or not be willing to share HEMA with people who are not of European ancestry? Absolutely not! HEMA is a distinctly European traditional martial art and there’s nothing wrong with that, but HEMA is for everyone, not only European people or people of European heritage.

    3. Fascists are bad but this is not helping. Yes and no. Fascists are bad and pointing that out is right but giving up on the E in HEMA is like giving Sudetenland to Adolf Hitler; it’s appeasement. It says to the fascists, “fine, you win. You can have the E in HEMA. It’s yours.”

    Part of fighting against white supremacists is standing up to their attempts to co-opt European culture and tradition. I am not one for appeasement.

    Thanks for the good work, Guy. I am requesting a sample of the book. I am sure I will end up buying it.

  9. From a Brazilian point of view: europeans became the most self-hating people in the world.They think they cannot me proud of anything. Imagine if I go to a Karate academy and say “Hello I love japanese culture and I want to learn here”. And they answer me: “Do not say that! That is fascist!” .. Sounds stupid and with a lot of lack of self respect right? Well, europeans do that, and are the only people who do that. I do not know what kind of brainwash you receive in your countries.. But from an outsider view, europeans are becoming more and more stupid.

    1. As a european,I thank you for this. We can rightly speak of self-racism in my opinion, especially in Italy, where I live.

  10. The problem with ‘Western Martial Arts’ is that “western values” is a common ‘dog whistle’ for racists. Historical Swordsmanship has the issue of not being inclusive of women (perhaps historical sword fighting works better?).

  11. I am a big fan of acronyms, as opposed to mere initialisms, If there truly are Fascist issues, then we certainly be dumping the descriptive (as opposed to celebratory) E – similar to the way that the Traditional Chinese Martial Arts are dropping the “Chinese”, or the Japanese sword arts people are dropping the “Japanese”. (Ohwait)

    Historical Martial Arts and (or including) Classical Swordsmanship HiMACS! 🙂

    1. On the issue of comparison with the Swastika, I do think that abandoning use of the term simply hands it over for misuse by those groups of which this post disapproves. It’ not like the objectionalble groups have been the only groups, or even the dominant groups, using the term at the moment. If the rest of us give up use of the term, it become an objectionable far-tight term by default, due to the sole and frequent association.

      (Meanwhile, back to the pfaff of opposition to changes in UK Offensive Weapons law).

  12. I wrote a comment and I’m not sure whether it is awaiting moderation or never got submitted in the first place. If the latter, I’ll probably see this message get posted and then write up my original comment again and you can delete this. Otherwise, when you approve my original comment, please delete (or not approve) this comment.

  13. Okay, hopefully this comment goes through:

    Thank you so much for taking this step! I’ve always found the “HEMA” term rather problematic. Neo-Nazis will try to ruin everything, but my problem is with the reason HEMA itself resonates with neo-Nazis.

    There are a diverse variety of historically documented martial arts, and from a purely technical perspective, there is no reason to lump the European ones together and study those as a set. E.g. medieval longsword techniques likely have more in common with historical kenjutsu techniques than with later rapier techniques. The reason many people study specifically European historical martial arts and lump them all together is made clear by many (not at all racist) leading HEMA practitioners who talk about studying “how our ancestors fought”. An interest in your own heritage is perfectly reasonable, but such practices tend to be quite attractive to far-right nationalists (this isn’t exclusive to Neo-Nazis – the living martial tradition of my Indian Marathi ancestors, for example, is largely sustained by the highly bigoted Shiv Sena).

    This has also fostered a general tendency towards seeing medieval Europe as superior in arms and armor, tactics, and general technology. As revisionists overturn myths and stereotypes about European medieval society, the pendulum has started swinging the other way, with many in the online HEMA community focusing only on the superior aspects of medieval Europe vis a vis non-European societies, and for example making a habit of deriding the katana as crap and glorifying European swords as utterly superior, ostensibly mocking katana fanboys, even though one is now hardpressed to find any katana fanboys on the internet who aren’t being sarcastic.

    Perhaps most concerning though, is the way “our ancestors” is racially defined, with people from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds claiming arts ranging from ancient Greeks to medieval Scandinavians, Germans, and Italians, all as their own. In other words, white heritage.

    I’m not of European ancestry, and live in America, not Europe. As such, I don’t have a particular interest in historical European martial arts. My interest is in global historical martial arts, (though growing up on D&D and Tolkien has given me some particular interest in Late Medieval European martial arts but not European martial arts of later time periods, just as fans of anime and manga tend to have an interest in Japanese martial arts). I think the term HEMA with an E is inherently divisive and alienating towards someone like me, and many of the racism / neo-Nazi issues are exacerbated by this classification.

  14. Even without the context of fighting fascism, what you wrote makes complete sense to me!
    The label “European” just doesn’t quite fit into the umbrella term and maybe it never did. What is our community about? It’s about an academic approach to historical martial arts combined with real practice of martial arts. I think just because currently most of it is about “European” (problematic definition anyway, as you pointed out!) and the movement started with European sources doesn’t justify the label, because the idea behind it is too abstract and the community and what it produces is by far too diverse.

    Furthermore, if we look at other martial arts, are they actually dependent on geographic or nationalistic labels? They aren’t. Are these labels really justified? Maybe, but they could just as well be grouped by different umbrella labels. japanese swordsmanship has influences from china and vice versa… I don’t see much use of this type of category anyways.

    I also agree that the popularity of hateful far right opinions is a huge problem, and even though I personally don’t experience it very often I can very well imagine that it is a huge problem for some people and that it can soon be for everyone. It is not easy to see such things from a priviledged point of view… and that is something that most people don’t realise yet.
    How could a racist, misogynist, white supremacist like Trump become president of the US? It’s because these hateful opinions and paranoid worldviews are not just becoming popular, they are becoming normal.

    I believe that by ditching the “European” we not only clarify that we are not interested in nationalism, we also open up the community a bit more and even potentially expand the subjects studied by the community. Ultimately, this will simply lead to a more friendly and open hearted community and to a more objective approach towards martial arts and a better understanding of everything from the smallest to the biggest scale.

    Thank you for your post, I have only heard your name before but I’ll definitively start to read some of your work now and maybe buy your book, it sounds interesting so far 🙂

  15. Yes. I completely agree with your decision to abandon the HEMA label. I did the same thing myself a little while back. While I have only seen a few blatant instances of Nazism being associated with HEMA, I have seen a lot of political far right/ nationalistic/ white pride ideas being expressed in the HEMA community that I am vehemently opposed to.

    Also, as some of the comments above so eloquently demonstrate, there is a level of disrespect and vitriol in the HEMA community that I want no part of. I am embarrassed to tell someone not familiar with HEMA that I participate in HEMA because of what I may become associated with in their minds.

    It may be noble to fight the good fight and try and keep the HEMA name clean. If someone knows how please share because history is full of labels being taken over by undesireables but I am not aware of any time when these undesireables were convinced to go away and leave the label intact. I don’t think it is a battle you can win and at the end of the day, it is just a very general acronym that does not describe what I do particularly well anyway.

    Thank you for making this statement.

  16. The idea of stop using a term just because others use it badly or with erroneous connotations is a mistake, it is to give the victory to the subnormals who use the term “European” as a synonym of “racial superiority” or any other shitty ideology. “European” is something that was created or that was born in Europe and Europe is a continent that has not a predefined ideology, therefore, if what we practice are martial arts that arose in Europe, we have the right and the obligation to call them by what they are, Historical European Martial Arts. If we let the assholes who did not get the memo that they lost the war take symbols and terms and twisted them to fit it in their piece of shit of ideologies, it will happen as a happened with the svastica, that if you are a Buddhist you can not use it at the risk of being confused with a fascist piece of shit.

    You do not defeat these idiots making a step back every time that they make a step up.

  17. Copied from my comment on this being shared on Facebook:

    “I feel like the man acted in good faith, but he is wrong nonetheless. There is nothing wrong with being specific about the ‘European’ part of HEMA, as many faiths and even ethncities are shown using the techniques and it merely helps to specify the kinds of weapons we are usually referring to (e.g. straight away someone knows I’d mean a longsword rather than a katana).

    “I don’t think we can reclaim the term HEMA any more than we can reclaim the swastika” is a fallacy! I could look straight into the eyes of a cautious Jew and say I do Historical European Martial Arts without worry, yet if I wore a Swastika near pretty much anyone I would get either praised as a fellow villain or lynched. That’s a big f***ing difference!

    The picture suggested it would show treatises and clubs properly, with diverse types of people historically and today practicing the arts, but the diverse welcoming club was a small mention, despite how powerful that is by comparison to renaming a book and its contents.”

    TLDR: I agree with the intentions, but it seems like the wrong course of action.

  18. Surrender doesn’t sound like a good tactic, Guy. You know better than me that these arts were for the most part truly european, not defined by national boundaries but by the common culture of european higher classes, so the “E” deserves to stay in my opinion. Fascist dickheads shouldn’t be dealt with by giving them what they want, but by kicking them out of clubs and forums (fora?), and maybe in the teeth if they don’t back down. Besides, HMA is too generic and “western” doesn’t mean anything, and is much more discriminatory than european, again IMO.

      1. ok, so can you post a link?

        The reason I ask is because I have seen 0 of this. Arguably the HEMA club I go is small and diverse and I haven’t been around for very long. But what you describe and what I’ve witnessed are very very different things

        1. No. I will not share their bile on my website. If you can’t find it, it is only because you have not looked. When this post went live, it caused a shit storm on Facebook, leading to at least 16 Hemaists outing themselves as fascists and getting banned from one of the Hema forums. It’s out there.

  19. Good i am glad that it is not just me! The rise of fascist ideaology, racisism and Islamaphobia in the HMA, HMB and re enactment world is scary! I have been a historical re enactor and martial artist for over 35 years and i have recently stopped doing most medieval reenactment due to the white supremacist ( overt or implied) bullshit and outright anti Moslem hate speech i encounter. If i hear once more how great the Templars were, or how the crusades were retaking Christian territory stolen by Moslems or how the winged hussars saved Europe from Islam i will honestly beat that person to death with the pile of books they have obviously never bothered reading! As a museum professional and historian i find it worrying to even be seen associating with them. Btw this is in australia so it is not just a local phenomina !

  20. Brings to mind the role playing game rules (D&D , Pathfinder) replacing the word he with the word she when ever it was intended to be generic. It seemed like such a small thing to me , yet I heard muttering all around . With the years I am of the opinion it moved the mindset of gamers a few points away from the misogyny that is endemic to our culture. Those it really set off , revealed were their values were.

    1. That’s a really interesting addition to the discussion; it’s amazing how these little things can have a big impact!

  21. Guy, this isn’t the right way. Just because some neonazis are idolizing the “European” part, doesn’t mean we have to abandon it. This is what we do, and who we are. Fiore and the rest of the Grandmasters were here long before the nazis. The European part doesn’t belong to those sieging and heiling arseholes.

  22. I’m not a practitioner of HEMA, but I know a lot of people who are, being a long-time member of the Oakeshott Institute. I’ve heard a lot about this influx of fascist racist junk. I’m a viking military historian, by training, and it has also been invaded by the same bullshit. I’m in the process of writing a series of historical fiction novels based on a viking character. I suspect that some of my readership will be the right-wing fascists. Not looking forward to dealing with them, but I will when the time comes.

  23. Take it easy, Guy.

    Dear Guy Windsor gratifies us with an article entitled: Fascists poisoning the HEMA.

    Hang on: in a grandiose momentum, Guy adopts a radical, decisive, revolutionary position: he will henceforth call what he does, historical martial arts (HMA). Yes, you read it correctly, he wants to delete the term European: What courage, Guy!
    Basically, his thesis is that the extreme right is recognized in the term “European”, and so we should no longer use this word (well, we escaped it, if they had ever liked the word’ art’, we would not have been bad…).

    How can I put it, Guy? Wouldn’t you miss a little bit of historical and geopolitical culture?

    I have never liked this expression Historical European martial arts: at last, especially the beginning of the expression. Martial arts, this was mainly used to designate the so-called oriental martial arts – from the 1930s onwards, Japanese techniques, then extending the meaning. And then, when we wanted to rediscover the techniques of historical combat in Europe (booh, I use the coarse word), we naturally came closer to this reference, using the expression Martial Arts. But we had to stand out, so we had to add something after that.
    Twenty years ago, I think I remember that the expression western martial arts was also used, as opposed to the so-called oriental martial arts.
    For a French, Western, compared to what you say, it sounded really bad: we knew a political group called Occident (= western)
    And then, between us, you know, we’ve been discovering for some time that the Earth is round: so, if I leave to the west, I’d end up running into Japan or China, or even Indonesia (Ask Francis Drake)… So, East, West, these are only historical and connotated terms.

    But you, your problem is “European”.
    So, you know, Europe is a term that simply means a continent, let’s say a geographical area. And it turns out that objectively, whether you like it or not, the techniques of the European martial arts, they were born historically in this continent. I can practise judo well, but historically it is a Japanese martial art. You say you practice, and I quote: Italian rapier, Italian medieval knightly combat, French smallsword, German sword and buckler. Italian, isn’t it in Europe? French, isn’t it in Europe? German, isn’t it in Europe?

    European, it has never been anything more than an indication of geographical origin (historically, because you can also make historical European martial arts in Japan today). It was never a political term.

    Finally, yes: yes, it is also a political word, when we talk about the European Union. The EU is not Europe, geographically speaking, it is just a political project. Probably highly questionable.

    And that’s the problem, Guy. You want to erase the word European, at the very moment when the whole British far right (UKIP, BNP), yes, that of your own country, is happy to have obtained the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
    Guy, I repeat, it is the far right that has just erased your own country from the European Union! Now all you have to do is set sail and cross the Atlantic to get off the European continent if you feel uncomfortable.

    Guy, historically European, is an objective expression: it happened historically in Europe. You or others want to see it as a political expression. But Guy, it is precisely the far right of your own country that no longer wants this expression : european ! You make them right, where there’s nothing but unreasonableness.

    So, Guy, your proposal is not only stupid (geographically and historically) but it is a moral and political mistake.

    Translated with

    Du calme, Guy

    Ce cher Guy Windsor nous gratifie d’un article intitulé : les fascistes empoisonnent les arts martiaux historiques européens (AMHE).

    Accrochez-vous : dans un élan grandiose, Guy adopte une position radicale, décisive, révolutionnaire : il va dorénavant appeler ce qu’il fait, arts martiaux historiques (AMH). Oui, vous avez bien lu, il veut supprimer le terme d’européen : Quel courage, Guy !
    En gros, sa thèse, c’est que l’extrême droite se reconnaît dans le terme « européen », et donc qu’il ne faut plus utiliser ce mot (ouf, on l’a échappé belle, si jamais ils s’étaient mis à adorer le mot art, on aurait pas été mal…).

    Comment dire, Guy ? Est-ce que tu ne manquerais pas un peu de culture historique et géopolitique ?

    Moi, je n’ai jamais aimé cette expression Arts martiaux historiques européens : enfin, surtout le début de l’expression. Arts martiaux, cela a surtout été utilisé pour désigner les arts martiaux dits orientaux – à partir des années 30, les techniques japonaises, puis en étendant le sens. Et puis, lorsqu’on a voulu redécouvrir les techniques de combat historique de l’Europe (bouh, j’utilise le gros mot), on s’est naturellement rapproché de cette référence, en utilisant l’expression Arts martiaux. Mais il fallait bien se distinguer, alors il a fallu rajouter quelque chose après.
    Il y a vingt ans, je crois me souvenir qu’on a aussi utilisé, par opposition aux arts martiaux dits orientaux, l’expression arts martiaux occidentaux.
    Pour un français, occidental, par rapport à ce que tu dis, cela sonnait vraiment très mal : on a connu un groupe politique qui s’appelait Occident
    Et puis, entre nous, tu sais, on a découvert depuis un certain temps que la Terre est ronde : donc, si je pars à l’ouest, je finirais bien par tomber sur le Japon ou la Chine, ou même l’Indonésie (Demande à Francis Drake)… Donc, Orient, Occident, ce ne sont plus que des termes historiques et connotés.

    Mais toi, ton problème, c’est « européen ».
    Alors, tu sais, l’Europe, c’est un terme qui désigne simplement un continent, disons une zone géographique. Et il se trouve qu’objectivement, que cela te plaise ou non, les techniques des arts martiaux européens, elles sont nées historiquement dans ce continent. Je peux bien pratiquer le judo, il n’en reste pas moins qu’historiquement, c’est un art martial japonais. Tu dis que tu pratiques, et je te cite : Italian rapier, Italian medieval knightly combat, French smallsword, German sword and buckler. Italien, ce n’est pas en Europe ? Français, ce n’est pas en Europe ? Allemand, ce n’est pas en Europe ?

    Européen, ce n’a jamais été qu’une indication de provenance géographique (historiquement, parce qu’on peut aussi faire des arts martiaux historiques européens au Japon aujourd’hui). Cela n’a jamais été un terme politique.

    Enfin, si : oui, c’est aussi un mot politique, lorsqu’on parle d’Union Européenne. L’UE, ce n’est pas l’Europe, géographiquement parlant, c’est juste un projet politique. Sans doute fort critiquable.

    Et c’est là le problème, Guy. Tu veux gommer le mot Européen, au moment même où toute l’extrême droite britannique (UKIP, BNP), oui, celle de ton propre pays, est heureuse d’avoir obtenu la sortie du Royaume-Uni de l’Union européenne.
    Guy, je répète, c’est l’extrême droite qui vient d’effacer ton propre pays de l’Union européenne !… Il ne vous reste plus qu’à mettre les voiles et traverser l’Atlantique pour ne plus être sur le continent européen si cela vous gêne.

    Guy, historiquement européen, c’est une expression objective : cela s’est passé historiquement en Europe. Tu veux, toi ou d’autres, y voir une expression politique. Mais Guy, c’est justement l’extrême droite de ton propre pays qui ne veut plus de cette expression d’européen ! Tu leur donnes raison, là où il n’y a que déraison.

    Donc, Guy, ta proposition n’est pas seulement stupide (géographiquement et historiquement), mais c’est juste une faute morale et politique.

  24. As far as I see the problem the “E” in European refers to those arts that are from a place, Europe, and has no other connotation. It is important to be clear in the meaning of the words we use, we don’t study karate (to name only one) in the same way in which we study Smallsword (to name one amongst many) mainly because there is a living tradition in karate, hence the historical in HEMA. The part that says “Historical European” is a bit redundant YES but perfectly valid. As far as I know there are no comparable manuals of non European Arts, so the HEMA name is correct. Don’t throw the baby with the bath water! Some people use motorcycles to steal, hence forbid motorcycles. Peter

  25. As a non white practicing HEMA, I couldn’t agree more with this. Those fascist were not mocking your race directly, rather they’ll point out small unnecessary things some practitioner did minus constructive criticism to the point accusing that we made no one treat the whole community seriously. On the other hand, a white practitioner(s) doing silly things even dumber got lots of super friendly input and such. For the record, those fascist are prominent in international HEMA forum.

    Tl;dr fascism in HEMA is real if you’re not white (enough)

  26. Getting rid of E is not a good idea. Its not gonna convert anyone. Hema is focusing on historical european martial arts not on the indoeuropean/caucasian race, there even are a few manuscripts showing clearly fencers of non european descent, not many but there are. I dont think the E is deviding anyone. Just like there are non Brazilians practising BrazilianJJ, there are people all over the world practising Hema. Its unfair to the masters themselfs who were creating their own techniques, the E shows that its not just a branch of other swordsmanship/martial arts, like a lot of Indian nationalists claim that all martial arts came from/were invented in India… (but i dont see people complaining about that). In honor of the masters we shouldnt demarginilize the tradisions. If we get rud of E we will have to include asian, african and other kinds of historical swordsmanship/swordswomanship (not wonna be sexist…), see my point? You wont get rid of fascist by getting rid of tradisionalism or getting rid of the tribute to old masters. There are a lot of people who stood against those things and against nazis while commiting even more horrible genocides on bigger scale. Keep the E, get rid of hatred of any kind.

  27. Define your terms! Often in today’s world “anyone that does agree with me” is called a Fascist. I was thrilled to purchase you books and was rather excited to learn from you. Unfortunately, your virtual signaling without supporting evidence of the hypothesis, does make me question how valid your historical interpretations may be trusted. Nothing against you personally, but this new student is rather disappointed.

    1. In the case in point, choosing to share Nazi propaganda complete with swastikas is sufficient to merit the term.
      That there are fascists in HEMA is well established, and doesn’t need to be proven in this article.
      You are free to judge my work however you please.

  28. As a newb at historical swordsmanship of hema I have great respect for those who have been involved with and developed hema, and made possible what it offers today. But I fear that your approach as outlined in your article may do more harm than good.
    Fascists, racists, and bigots are objectionable, but the presence of some of them does not invalidate an activity or field of study. It is the job of those in the field to guide it and steer it away from such views. At the end of the day, historical european martial arts are fun, good exercise, and something everyone should try. By focusing on a handful of bad apples one is likely to discourage people from doing so. By trying to distance oneself from the “e” in hema one is buying into the premises of bigots on both the left and the right… one is conceding to the far right the idea that the “e” in hema is racist when it isn’t, and one making the same concession to the far left who ironically is pushing the same message just for different reasons. The reality is these fighting styles originate in a particular area we now call europe. Acknowledging that is neither bigoted nor eurocentric.
    Most people looking to get into this activity could not be further from bigots. We just want to learn and have fun. A lot of us would be as uncomfortable in a fencing club where you have to be to the left of trotsky as we would one where they are far-right, and for the same reasons — enforced ideological conformity to extreme ideas.
    By all means, fight bigotry where you find it, but please don’t make hema ideological one way or the other, and please don’t sever it from the history, which makes it interesting and has given rise to the techniques. One can learn generic “fencing” anywhere. If one wants to learn destreza or Italian or german longsword,there is only one option: hema. Please don’t relinquish it to extremists or bad apples. Please fight for it and for what is good about it.

    1. I never claimed that the “E” in HEMA is inherently racist. Just that it’s inaccurate and unhelpful. And it’s obvious from my published work that I’m the last person to ‘sever it from history’. But the term HEMA is not historical, and the E is not accurate. There are better terms.

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Sad news, but be happy

My father Roger Windsor died on Tuesday 22nd, at home. Sometime in the night- so

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Sad news, but be happy

My father Roger Windsor died on Tuesday 22nd, at home. Sometime in the night- so