If it were not an art the strong would always win - Dobringer MS

NHFL men's and women's divisions in 2016

By Fran Terminiello


The Nordic Historical Fencing League will have mens and women's longsword divisions in 2016, says Kristine Konsmo, senior NHFL committee member and familiar face in the International HEMA tournament scene.

Kristine has been a part of competitive HEMA for some years now, famous for winning the open sword and buckler in Swordfish 2010, and winning or refereeing many high profiled matches since. This year she took over as senior instructor at Fekteklubben Frie Duellister in Norway.


Following on from her thrilling Swordfish rapier and dagger final against Piermarco Terminiello of the UK where she achieved silver this weekend, Kristine issued the following statement:


"In the very first NHFL season there were 4 tournaments. In them, 5 women competed a total of 9 times. One woman competed in all four tournaments.

In the second season we started a women's division. While there were only 3 tournaments that year, we stil
l had a total of 16 women competing a total of 33 times, and 8 women competed in all three tournaments! This year's Swordfish has the biggest women's tournament in its history, and many of the fencers from the league have been competing here this weekend.

Due to the nature of the team competition, women were forced to compete in either the mixed or the women's tournament, and not a single woman competed in either of the mixed tournaments.

There was clearly a demand that we were meeting, and it was also clear to us that there was no real need to keep the mixed tournament open to women.

That in and of itself was no reason to close the mixed to women, but unfortunately, some people kept comparing the results in the women's to the mixed, and calling the mixed "the true test of skill" and otherwise disparaging the results of the women who competed there.

We feel like this is a way of denigrating the efforts of the women who participate in the women's tournaments. To further emphasise the hard work and amazing progress made by women fencers over the past year, remove what we consider an unfair comparison between the genders, and to create the best possible environment for further growth in the women's tournaments, we have decided that next year's NHFL will no longer have a mixed division, and instead be separated in the women's and the men's. The team competition will continue as previously."

The news will be welcome by many women on the competition scene, and is bound to cause controversy elsewhere. Some may see it is a sign of the 'mainstreaming' of HEMA, whether that is for good or ill is a topic for debate. One thing is for certain however, we are seeing more women in HEMA competitions.



Strength in numbers

By Fran Terminiello



It's been an interesting ten days: Marty McFly finally jumped on the hoverboard after 30 years. Back to the Source has amassed over 400K views in five days - showcasing the breadth and depth offered to those that enter the HEMAverseSwordfish, the HEMA world championships in all but name, has swelled by another 100 participants on top of last year's attendance. And now, Esfinges has reached a membership of 1000. 


One thousand women. With swords. How cool is that? 


I consider myself to be very lucky having been there from its inception. Ken Dietiker put me in touch with Mariana Lopez and I was inspired, having met a few women at events, to try and get us all connected somehow, see what common experiences we share, and learn from one another. In three years we have added a US and European store, got over 3000 followers on our public page, and brought out arguably the coolest (if not the most painful to produce) rashguard the world has ever seen. This weekend we will all gather round our screens - those not lucky enough to be there - to watch the finals at Swordfish, now in its tenth year. Among the contests will be women's longsword, with five, FIVE pools. The first women's longsword tournament had four participants. This is progress and it's exciting to think where it will lead. 


We've been Back to the Source and now it is time to go Back to the Future.  


HEMA is achieving publicity, thanks to the hard work of many of its members. It's in the mainstream press and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Game of Thrones. Whether we like it or not, tournaments are a driving factor, and all this publicity means that its popularity will increase.  


There is a wealth of information for the would-be beginner HEMAist, but even before they reach that stage there is a large barrier of common misbeliefs about swords and swordplay. As our ranks increase, we as a community have a responsibility to help those that seek our advice, educate them about the sources, the history, the community and how to be a part of it.  


Our website, when it is reborn, aims to meet the needs of the beginner, in the same way that the Wiktenauer points researchers towards sources, and the HEMA Alliance page has its club-finder. We want to create a bank of FAQs to help ease newbies decision-making. We want to continue to grow our group, and ensure that women never feel that HEMA is not the right choice for them, simply because they are female. We want to continue to show that swords and historical European martial arts belong to everybody.  

The art of never being good at HEMA.

By Mariana Lopez


Hello, my name is Mariana, the internet knows me as “Perica” and I suck at fencing.


I have a very nice club, I’ve been able to take seminars with many great instructors, I’ve been able to fence them and I’ve been able to travel, know and train with many people, etc. My students have done well… my first HEMA student who now has traveled as much or more than me did twice better than me in the tournament he took right after I spend 3 months being her main instructor. In fact, let me put this straight: I didn’t move out of the pool… he always does… and he does it with good technique, skills and beautiful moves, he stills better than me, he gets better each time, and I still suck.


Yet I’ve been told I have the skills, I’ve been told I have potential and in many cases I’ve been told I have a talent for it and I just need to keep on it and become something like a very amazing fencer because I have it natural…. It hasn’t happen yet. My first thought is that everyone is lying to me, but if by some chance they are not then many things have to do with my faultier: training, dedication, provably even what I eat and my sleeping habits. But today I realized one thing that will never allow me to be a good fencer until it’s changed: Gear.


One day Mike Edelson told me after a fight that got me very frustrated: Don’t expect to be any good at a fight as long as you have that stupid fencing mask in your head. It makes it twice as big and you can’t even lift your arms and it makes you a big heavy target to hit.


But I was used to it, I was used to my bad gear but I decide to listen and I changed my mask because I wanted to become better… but for then the only gloves that fit me (kids size lacrosse gloves) were no longer good for HEMA and cost me a broken finger and 30,000 Pesos (1818 USD) of surgery and a titanium insert because the cut was just too perfect for it to hear naturally. All I had left was my gambeson, custom made, perfect fit, based on a historical one with modification and with the issue it exposed my armpits so I had to change it because regulations of tournaments, and this is what happened:


Mask, special XS size, not sold to adults but to teenagers it fit, XS back of the head protection? Not so much: a bit bigger makes the head a bigger target, also makes the head swing a bit because it moves more than it should even if it stays where it has to, no smaller size available Gloves: HEMA specific and the smallest size, modified because I wasn’t able to close my hands around the sword, can’t do any guard as Ochs or such because they gloves get on the way and make my hands dumb. I just can barely grab the sword. No edge control and don’t work with a short handle sword like mine because while the sword is good for my small size and improves my HEMA, the gloves don’t fit because too big. Smoothness is nearly impossible


Custom made Jacket: that wasn’t really a fit, because apparently retailers are so unfamiliar to such small sizes they asked for the measures 3 times… even when a lot smaller than the rest, smaller it’s still bigger, and while I hope it will change once it completely breaks in.. The funny fit mess in the moves.


Chest protector: Made it myself…. No commercial brand would even fit… and that made them more dangerous than protection; no complain about that one, luckIly.


What’s my point? It’s been my second training with AEEA in Spain, with my new gear. The exercises we do with no gear at my club, they do it with the gear here… I used the custom made jacket, the new super small gloves and kept away the extra head protection… and all the moves I do smoothly and even laughing at a regular training, suck. And I can fix my body and I can change my foot work and all I do, with those 3 basic things on me I will always suck. I was twisting myself on such insane forms to make it work it was no longer HEMA. For the first time I start realizing how gear changes all my body and how little the material breaking in would help. Yes I might have been stupid for not realizing this before but my old bad gear was my one and only gear and I was too used to it to realize it.


HEMA gear must be like good jeans... there’s no way to be comfortable in the street if you have to pull them up every 3 minutes… well I’m pulling my pants up when I have a sword pointing at my face... This issue is not only mine, yes I’m an absurd funny shaped human with exceptional sizes, but what applies to me in 3 pieces of gear applies to others by parts and with more people joining, more ladies and guys who fit my conditions are out there for the fight.

The situation is simple: There’s no gear for the XS, and this is limiting people like me, and many others on being good or at least being better, or if not, of having the movement needs in order to do what they can do. Maybe there are not enough XS customers for retailers to realize or care, of be able to afford it, because XS people just buy the smallest we can find and we can’t do more, we are stuck with it because we are not allowed to fight with anything else… although again.. There’s nothing else….


I’ve tried and plaNned on making lists and lists of the needs of girls on breast protection and how it limits movement in a fight and how HEMA breast protection should be created, but the truth is that this is a generalized issue, the HEMA Gear industry is taking shape, and we the small ones, are not on the list of things to be add on the chart (yet). There’s a current deficiency on access to gear, 5 years ago, it was because it didn’t existed, now: it’s because the gear who enters to the norm and is now mandatory for the most, is kicking out a percentage of the competitive list by not providing the tools needed in the needed way, so the fighters could be in the fight and not worried trying the sword not to fall off because you can barely grab it. And even worst!! Lack of competitive gear in a smaller size will, in a good measure, limit the new movement of teen ager HEMA fencers who want to show their own skills. Whom, because of age… are like an XS.


The right gear won’t get me a medal if I’m not a good fencer, that’s true, but at least I won’t have the limitations to make this an excuse, and I will suck because I do, not because I can’t keep my gloves on, or maybe I’ll be a thousand miles closer to know the amazing fencer people see on me and I don’t… maybe a small someone out there will be able to show what an excellent fencer we’ve miss due to simple bad gear.


HEMA Gear makers this is a call for you: SMALL PEOPLE NEED YOU!

ESFINGES conduct policy

The following document is an official Esfinges Organizatión publication


We want Esfinges to be a positive experience for all of our members. With that in mind, we have been discussing a conduct policy, but as this is not a one-way street, we would like to warmly invite your comments and input, so that we continue making Esfignes a place where all of our members can feel welcome.


The Esfinges group is a safe space where we support and help each other. We're all on our own journeys, and what might be a minor milestone for someone can be a major milestone for someone else. Please keep this in mind when you are posting and especially when you are commenting.


We rule ourselves by the Motto: We talk about subjects, not about people. Esfinges aims to offer a place where we may share our thoughts/experiences/opinions that we might not be comfortable sharing in other HEMA groups and for this we need to assure a safe atmosphere supported by the following policy:


  1. The Golden rule: We talk about subjects not about People. This applies to referring to people in general. It’s preferential to avoid names and point out the subject of interest, not the person. (for example: A person suggested that female training should be based on “x” skills. what do you think about? )

    Addendum 15.8.15: Please be mindful to avoid any detailed information that might make it possible to identify any person through inference. We are aware that this is subjective. Each case will be reviewed individually and can or cannot be considered as naming the person/ falling short of the golden rule.


  2. Everyone should be treated with respect. Always assume that the others are as intelligent, honest, and honorable as you are.

  3. Esfinges is an appropriate place to discuss relevant HEMA and martial arts issues, sharing your personal experiences and achievements is fine, but denigrating or devaluing someone else’s achievements/experiences is not.

  4. It’s encouraged to voice a contrary opinion or disagreement, as long as it's done politely and respectfully and criticism should be given constructively, avoiding resorting to common fallacies (see below).

  5. Personal attacks* will not be tolerated. Personal issues should be treated privately, and put aside when communicating within the group.

  6. Public attacks, bullying, or shaming  another person will result in a yellow card  (a warning for a first offense), and a red card (removal from the group) on a second offense. In particularly severe cases, admins reserve the right to remove a member without warning. Admins also reserve the right to close any comment thread.

  7. This group exist as a safe space for our members; therefore we ask exact conversations here not be shared in public groups without the express consent of the people you are quoting


Please feel free to contact the admins with any comments/questions/concerns.


*Personal attacks are any post or comment in which another member is singled out for her post/comment and criticized in such a manner that is rude and disrespectful, and/or aim to intimidate.


Common Fallacies to avoid (and some Harry Potter spoilers)


  1. Ad hominem - when you attack the person instead of the argument. Example: I say that I think Harry Potter is awesome, and you say that I have no imagination, instead of saying why you don’t think Harry Potter is awesome.

  2. Bandwagon Fallacy - when you say that “everyone says that Hogwarts is the best magical school” and use that as the basis of your argument.

  3. Confirmation Bias - when you focus only on the evidence that supports the conclusion you want to hear and ignores evidence to the contrary, such as “Harry Potter is an awesome potions maker” while not mentioning that Harry was cheating and had never before been an awesome potions student.

  4. Confusion of correlation and causation - an example: more people know how to use computers now than fifty years ago, and more people now find jeans acceptable in the workplace, but that does not mean that an increase in computer use has caused a relaxation of dress codes.

  5. Red Herring - introducing a false lead away from the argument. For example, if people are arguing about whether The Hobbit is a better book than A Game of Thrones, and then someone talks about Ian McKellan’s portrayal of Gandalf (which, while awesome, has utterly no bearing on how good the book is).

  6. Straw Man - Introducing a fake scenario and then attacking it For example, “Gandalf is luring all the hobbits away from the shire so he can feed them to the Balrog. Down with Gandalf!”

  7. The Pure-Blood- Using arguments such as “a true wizard is” “only a real magician knows that” and dismiss other’s opinions because they don’t fit your idea of what a “real wizard” is.

I am a Woman, I am a Fencer.

The views contained in this article are those of the author.
By: Rebecca Glass

Note: This blog is a copy from the original text publish an written by Rebecca Glass. 
Esfinges got her direct permission to re-publish her work on this blog.  

Original Text:



I am a Woman, I am a Fencer.

I am a woman; I am a fencer.  

I engage in consensual violence.

I hit people; they hit me (and sometimes I let them). I hit people with a steel blade, that, even though blunted, can still easily do serious physical harm without the right protective gear. I get hit with the same style weapon. I hit women, I hit men. I get hit by women, I get hit by men.

Longsword is a full-contact martial art. This doesn’t mean that I enjoy getting hit, but it means that I know well enough to expect that it will happen. My success as a fencer depends on my ability to gradually reduce the number of times in which I do get hit, but even the best—the Axel Petterssons and Ties Kools of the world—get hit.

Consensual violence, especially in the form of sports and martial arts, for men, is a readily-accepted part of our society. Consider the massive audience for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on May 2nd (there were fears in the Philippines about electricity shortages because of too many people watching), or the annual audience in the U.S. for the Super Bowl.

It is, however, even in 2015 it is not as accepted for women. Girls are told by Disney heroines (with Mulan a notable exception) that their roles are peacemakers, when they are lucky enough to have roles at all (I’m looking at you, Toy Story franchise). Men’s lacrosse involves a full set of upper body pads; women’s lacrosse an eye mask. The most famous women athletes of our era are arguably tennis players, figure skaters, and gymnasts; Ronda Rousey aside, they are not fighters. Despite all of this, in the U.S., we’re considered relatively enlightened when it comes to women’s sports and martial arts—just think about how our female athletes dominated the 2012 Summer Olympics.

HEMA is consensual violence, and it is consensual violence that does not care if you are male or female. When the mask goes on, it’s almost impossible to tell who’s male, and who’s female (no, you cannot use hair length, or the SPES skirt, as a barometer). If you want to be a fighter, you’re welcome to come and learn, male or female. You will learn that you can either learn to accept getting hit by (or hitting) your club mates, male or female, or you can find a different pastime. Sometimes you can learn this quickly, like a fish to water; other times it might come more slowly, like weaning a baby from the bottle.

So if you, The New Student, say you don’t want to hit me because “you’re a girl”, I’m not offended. I’m not offended because you are a HEMA newborn, just like the rest of us were at some point (many would still consider me relatively new), and yes, it’s weird to all of a sudden be told “it’s okay to hit her here” after what’s likely been a lifetime of being told not to hit women.

You’ve come here to learn, so let us teach you your first lesson: I am a woman, I am a fencer. In the ring only one of these things matter.

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