This week playing at… Hematolia Istanbul

I am a big fan of firsts. First sword, first tourney, first time washing a jacket… okay, well, the last one is not exactly pleasant.

But a first international event – that is something I really love.

My stepfather had a rule – wherever you go, it is best if you are with friends. And in that regard, the first international HEMA event in Turkey – Hematolia 2019 – is a win for me.

This new event, which ran as a local one for the first time last year, is not the work of one school, but rather a joint effort of all the HEMA people in Turkey – which is in a way quite impressive, considering how hard it is for clubs in the same country to work together.

And while the Turkish HEMA scene is young, they are eager to join the international community not just as tournament fencers – something that people like Deniz Ince, Burak Yarar, and many others have already done – but also as tournament and event hosts.

And one can’t argue that Hematolia is starting strong.

4 tournaments + 1

Running even three tourneys well is a challenge, but organizing 4 standard ones and a bonus special competition is an ambitious task.

Hematolia 2019 will have Open Steel longsword, Open Rapier & Dagger, Open Saber, Mixed synthetics, and finally, a special “Triathlon”.

I’ll be fencing in the first two, and my fellow assistant-instructor Nikola Hristov and our senior student Radostin Nanov will join me for longsword.

Rulesets are typical, but the Turks picked up a good idea that has been gaining ground in the Balkans and will be featured in a very key, big international tournament soon – afterblows following a hit to the head won’t count. It is a sensible rule, and I like that I am seeing it more often.

The Triathlon has an interesting concept – the guest instructors are going to be observing the tournaments, and choose a number of fighters who not only did well in their respective disciplines, but showed good technique and sensible and safe fighting. The chosen ones will fight single exchange bouts, and the one and only winner will get a special prize – a beautiful, handmade kilic:

The instructors

A good event does not work with just tourneys. Workshops are sometimes more important and more valuable than waiting for a couple of hours to get a dozen fights in.

And the teaching talent gathered in Istanbul this year is no joke. The Diestro Ton Puey is going to be presenting two workshops on the ever mystical Verdadera Destreza. George Zacharopoulos will teach both rapier and longsword.

Tom Outwin will teach rapier and perhaps longsword (yet unknown), and Jerzy Miklaszewski – saber.

And finally, my own instructor, Miroslav Lesichkov of School of Historical Swordsmanship “Motus” will teach two workshops on one-handed sword fundamentals – wide distance cutting and priorities in the bind. I’ll be assisting in one of them, Nikola will help out in the other one.

What does the first time mean

Naturally, I am not going to pull any punches when reviewing the event next week. However, a first event, in my mind, has different priorities than an already established one.

The first international event presents a community to the world. There may be a dozen or a hundred foreign fencers here, but they will be there. The goal of the organizers should be to show what HEMA means to them, to show their spirit and their dedication.

And any sensible person will easily forgive even big mistakes if they see all that.

No one will expect everything to be perfect, which won’t stop me from pedantically calling out every bad decision or mistake I see. But that will not be the main goal.

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