Anyone who frequents a coffee shop or a bar knows that there are benefits to being a regular. Your cup is always full, your glass is always cold, everyone greets you when coming in, everyone remembers what you like and dislike.
But most importantly, there is a feel of being a wanted guest, someone always welcomed with open arms.
For me, HEMAC Hemathlon is exactly this – the event where I started my international HEMA journey, and the event I love returning to. My first tournament ever, my first rapier tournament, the place where I first made HEMA friends in person from all around the world.
And it is here yet again – in it’s 4th edition, and third visit from me, in the beautiful Greek capital of Athens, organized yet again by Academy of Hoplomachia.
An ensemble of instructors
This year the organizers have invested in bringing varied HEMA talent from around Europe, to the point where the short two and a half day event might have its 6 seminars as a centerpiece, as opposed to the three tournaments.
There is another regular – the diestro Ton Puey, who this time is teaching the Destreza counter to the low Italian guards – the “Bella Española”. Unlike some other instructors, Ton doesn’t have the tendency to rinse and repeat old topics, but instead build up on them each year he visits.
The five other instructors, however, are new faces – at least for Greece.
Rob Runacres will present a workshop on Bolognese sword and buckler, with a focus on close plays, something that isn’t paid as much attention to as it should be.
Jacopo Penso will teach the Bolognese two handed sword, not just going through the assaulti of Achille Marozzo, but also connecting them to earlier Italian masters like Pietro Monte, Fiore dei Liberi and Fillipo Vadi.
Arto Fama will do a workshop with a focus on very key Liechtenauer fundamentals – the Oberhau, Winden and work from the bind while emphasizing the basics, something often needed for everyone, and also often ignored in events. He will also be bringing the ProGauntlet to the longsword tournament to showcase it yet again before the soon to be (hopefully) official release of the glove.
Fabrice Cognot will present the basics of the only known French medieval treatise, Le Jeu de la Hache – focused entirely on the poleax. Aside from being an instructor, Fabrice is also a bladesmith and a researcher, and always ready to share his varied knowledge and experience.
And finally, Tristan Zukowski will teach basic cutting mechanics with the longsword, another seemingly basic class, but with the in-depth view of one of HEMA’s best cutters.
The old classics are here yet again – longsword and single rapier, both very popular HEMA weapons. I will have the pleasure to judge in the first and fence in the second.
The true star, albeit with a modest start, is the first sword and buckler tournament in the Balkans. As it is one of our three main weapons of study, fencing in this tournament (with my fellow assistant-instructor Angel Chernaev and our senior student Radostin Nanov) will be a pleasure.
And an excellent warm-up for the sword and buckler tournament in the European Games in Minsk at the end of the month.
Sword and buckler is a discipline that lags behind many others, even more popular ones, due to the popularity of mythologized, fantastical interpretations and a crowd that has more in common with Tai Chi and Aikido than combat sports and effective martial arts. A tournament won’t fix that, but it is a good start.