Last weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct a lecture workshop at Uhuburg Castle. The lecture focused on judicial dueling in the 13th and 14th century of the Holy Roman Empire and introduced the visitors of the castle to the Saxon Mirror, Codex Manesse, and MS I.33. This post contains one of the lectures we gave and a series of pictures from the workshops throughout the two-day event.
This event was an absolute blast and hopefully inspired other HEMA practitioners to help make history fun and tangible for everyone!
About Uhuburg Castle
Uhuburg Castle is located in Helen, Georgia and is a beautiful work of art. It just opened up this year and is already selling out tickets with visitors. Rooms will be available for an opportunity to stay and see the night sky at this wonderful location. We had the opportunity to stay in the gatehouse as they renovate some of the other rooms and enjoyed our stay at the castle.
The staff was wonderful and knowledgeable about the castle. We talked quite a bit about the process they used when building the castle. Unfortunately, I was unable to take the guided tour but based on what we learned about the castle from questions we had, I am sure it was informational for al the attendants.
About 10 minutes from the castle is Helen, Georgia which is a small German village that features vacation activities like tubing down a river. It was great after a long day of working the event to go see the sites and experience the local cuisine.
We conducted the lecture every hour at the castle and began with a handout to the audience as a primer and visual aid for the attendants. We then introduced ourselves and what HEMA is all about. Then, we focused on the legal sources that structured judicial dueling in the Holy Roman Empire. This was used as a springboard to introduce the crowd to sword and buckler. Then we explored some biographical sources like the Codex Manesse to show that these duels and the use of sword and buckler were also documented. We then introduced I.33 as a manuscript that taught the use of sword and buckler.
Danial and I then did light sparring in period clothing. We did not want these fights to be staged so we had a gorget, gloves, and a helmet on to keep us safe. We also have been training together for years and know each other well which goes a long way in staying smart with our sparring. After each exchange, we would talk to the crowd about what we saw, and what we were thinking during the exchange. Our goal was to highlight how tactical sword fighting was while also highlighting how fast it can be.
After a short demonstration of light sparring with a sword and buckler to expose the crowd to the techniques of the manuscript, we would highlight that this was one weapon system, in one region, at one point in time. This allowed us to end the lecture by informing the crowd that different systems exist and martial combat changes with different weapons and different levels of protection.
After telling the crowd about the broader world of Western martial arts, it was time to show them. We had examples of mail armor, brigandines, and gambeson that people could touch and feel to see how protective these armor pieces could be. We also had a table of swords that people could pick up and feel for themselves. For anyone interested, we conducted mini-workshops with them using a sword type of their choice to show them one way the sword can be used.
For sword and buckler workshops, we focused on the seven wards from I.33 and the attacks from them. for the longsword, we highlighted how nimble of a weapon it can be and how strong is countered with weak and vice versa. For rapier, we would place our swords in one position and have the student think about how they could place their sword so that if we both thrust at each other, they would be safe while striking us. Finally, we would teach the basic guards and how they are used for military sabre and then would go over the first play from John Taylor’s saber system.
These workshops were designed to be about 10 minutes so people could swing swords and get an idea of swordsmanship.
HEMA and Community Outreach
One of my favorite things about HEMA is teaching people about swords. It is just great to see peoples’ faces light up when they get to use a sword for the first time. It is also great to see people getting excited about history and their eagerness to learn.
We in HEMA have a unique knowledge of a piece of history that many people are interested in. Even if they are not interested in learning swordsmanship themselves, they are likely interested in the history around it and how it was done verses what is shown in the movies. I encourage everyone in HEMA to find ways to reach out to the community and help teach history to those interested.
One of my favorite interactions at the event was with a woman who studied art history. She was more interested in the castle tour for its architecture. However, she attended our lecture and was enamored with the sources we had on display. By having manuscript examples from the early 14th century to the late 16th century, we could showcase how the evolution of art improved the ability to communicate techniques. She also highlighted several other details in manuscripts like the Gladiatoria that we would not have seen in earlier manuscripts because of the evolution of art styles.
Those types of popcorn style conversations was exactly why we kept the lecture short and opened up the remainder of the hour until our next show for freeform questions and answers. Sometimes we were asked questions where we had to say we did not know but many times the questions were about the sources we had on display and the weapons people could try.
So, please, reach out to your community and help make history fun for all!