Judging HEMA

Competitive HEMA is a young sport, and we’re going to need to build skills and experience in officiating as well as competing and coaching. Here’s my totally unofficial and borderline uninformed guide to being a better judge.

All too often, my reaction when asked about about any particular tournament match I’ve just fought is something like “decent fencing but judges suck”. It is, I freely admit, sometimes a defense mechanism for my ego when I’ve fenced badly and lost. Yet even when I win, I usually find myself conceding points by pointing out mistakes in judges’ calls – or, in the case of those tournaments where you cannot concede points, perhaps pulling an Ingulf Kohlweiss and leaving my sword in the corner so the opponent can get a catch-up hit to make things fair. I’ve judged at events from local tournaments with a dozen fencers in a field up to SwordFish. I know I’m not the best judge, and I’ve had to self-train more than anything, but I’d like to think I’m far from the worst out there. So, here are my tips. Continue reading “Judging HEMA”

Lightweight weapons part 1

I am a self confessed technology and equipment addict, there is nothing I like more in my job here at Leon Paul than designing, testing, refining and manufacturing new products.


I am also a big believer in the difference that a number of small improvements in your equipment can make to your overall performance. This approach was spearheaded by Sir David Brailsford who coined the phrase “marginal gains” at British Cycling.

Continue reading “Lightweight weapons part 1”

Leagues of HEMA

HEMA tournaments are now forming into leagues. What benefits and what risks might we expect to come with this development?

One of my students just grabbed silver in the Nordic Historical Fencing League Women’s Longsword. As well as bragging, I mention this because it’s the result of four tournaments’ worth of fighting which culminated this last weekend. Like a team in a football league, there was some certainty of how places will look after the league’s final event but there was still everything to fight for if she wanted to lift the cup. Still, silver is quite an achievement in the murderer’s row of Nordic Women’s HEMA. Continue reading “Leagues of HEMA”

What I learned from Darth Vader and why he hates Profiteroles!

By Ben Paul.

14 years ago I got a call from Darth Vader asking me to work on a James Bond film… Well actually it was the fencer and sword master Bob Anderson who learned to fence from my great grandfather Leon Paul. Bob was the fencer in the Darth Vader suits in the Star Wars film and taught the actors to fence.

Continue reading “What I learned from Darth Vader and why he hates Profiteroles!”

What You Should Read to Help Your HEMA (That’s Not HEMA) – Part 2

Continuing from last week, here are another four books that might just help your HEMA training.

This week we’re getting all the enlightenment and motivation we can handle.

Not the Age of Enlightenment (I prefer to deal in earlier systems) and not the “yoga, kale, smiles!” kind of motivation. Not that there’s anything wrong with yoga, kale or smiling. In moderation.

Instead, I hope these readings will promote critical, informed reflection, and affirm your genuine motivation and sense of purpose in training. Continue reading “What You Should Read to Help Your HEMA (That’s Not HEMA) – Part 2”

Running a Fencing Competition – Jon Willis

By Jon Willis

Last year, after I had run a cadet competition, I overheard a fencer refer to me as ‘the man who organises competitions’.  Initially, it dented my ego to think that I’m known more for running competitions than my exploits with an epee.  I only retired a few years ago! However, I’m delighted to have been able to remain in fencing, to use my competitive experience to improve the standard of events in the UK and help the sport grow.

Continue reading “Running a Fencing Competition – Jon Willis”

What You Should Read to Help Your HEMA (That’s Not HEMA) – Part 1

Can I become a better fencer simply by reading? Not really. Read these anyway.

In lieu of an insightful, technical, enlightening and motivational article this week, here’s a list of books that can deliver all that instead. None of them are HEMA books, instead they’re from other martial arts (or none), but I believe each and every one of them can benefit your HEMA practice.

This week, we’ll look at a pair of insightful works, and a pair of more technical ones. Next week, it’ll be enlightenment and motivation!

The works in question are my personal favourites, so it’s an incredibly subjective set of reviews. The links are to Google Books. Continue reading “What You Should Read to Help Your HEMA (That’s Not HEMA) – Part 1”

An introduction to me (Alex Paul)

As a first post I thought I would take the opportunity to explain a little about myself and my role here. Leon Paul is a fourth generation family business with Leon being my great grandfather. Sadly I never got to meet him or his wife Nana Paul with whom he started the company way back in 1921. Continue reading “An introduction to me (Alex Paul)”

The story of the flag mask and how to make your own.

I am dyslexic and at school my English teacher, in my last report wrote: “I wish Ben well….. as long as it is in another subject.” I once wrote in an essay that “Macbeth was very impotent in the play.” While we may never know if Macbeth had this problem I had simply meant to say he was quite a key figure in the book. So this may be the worst written blog you ever read. Let’s see…

Continue reading “The story of the flag mask and how to make your own.”