Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Females and Fencing (Part 3)


Welcome to Part 3! If you have not perused the previous two instalments of this subject I would strongly advise you to do so. The previous ones have looked at the Physical and Psychological differences between male and female combatants in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). This was based upon a lesson which I presented at an event known as Swordplay '15. It was based upon some of my observed findings of the female combatants at the event and their interactions and fighting at the event. This post really will get to some of the really important stuff, which we all need to take note of.

You Are Not Alone

While the numbers of female combatants in HEMA may be smaller than those of their male counter-parts, the important thing for the female combatants to realise, and even the males to realise is that, you are not alone. Without a doubt there is another combatant out there going through the same problems as you are having, and working through them just like you are. The feeling of loneliness is one that can kill your fighting spirit in no time at all and it is one that you need to purge. You are not alone, there are people out there to help you.

So, the first thing that you are going to tell me is that you are the only female in a class of all males. You are still not alone. Your first point of call should always be your trainer. If they cannot help then you can find help elsewhere. So, you are not a member of any formal organisation and you are studying as a singular individual. You are still not alone. Thanks to the internet there are multiple sources to consult and people often are more than willing to help people and share their own insights and research. In fact, for the most part the harder task is to get us to shut up so you can get a word in. Below you will find a list of links to various Facebook groups where you can link up with other women in HEMA.

Ostensibly, I began the class at Swordplay to demonstrate to the group of ladies that they needed to move differently to the male fighters who were competing in the competition. Something more grew from the conversation that I had with the ladies who were there (Yes, I am calling you all ladies). It was the realisation that most of them had not talked to one another about HEMA and how it worked for them, and how it affected them. This was actually quite a shock to me. Guys tend to sit and chat about technique, this master over that master, and what armour suits and protects us better, so I assumed that it would be the same with the ladies. I was wrong, for this I apologise. I just hope that the class which turned into more of a discussion got people talking and that this series of posts will also get people talking, and especially the ladies. Oh, and in case you are wondering, Yes, I will be checking up on you.

Facebook Links

AUS/NZ HEMA/WMA ladies group
Started by Evangelina Corona it is a place for AUS/NZ HEMA/WMA ladies to share their thoughts, meet new friends and change the face of women in Australian and New Zealand Sword play groups. "I began this after SP15 [Swordplay '15], feeling there was a need for we ladies down under to be able to share things solely with each other."

The worldwide group, this group was made for women who practice fencing, to unite them and let them get to know one other. 

A group where ladies share.. Well, they are ladies, doing ladies things!

What You Can Do (Conclusion?)

Note that there is a question mark after the word conclusion. This is there because I am not actually sure that this is the end of the subject at all. I would not be surprised if there are further posts on this subject, possibly inspired by future events or comments. Another thing is that this process is one that needs to continue. Some of what follows will question the way things are done and I expect a certain amount of contention, but I believe that lively intellectual discussion and argument is healthy.

As combatants we all have a role to play to ensure that our female combatants are included and not side-lined in any form. This will begin with a change in attitude. We need to remove some of the negative expressions which we have grown up with such as, "You hit like a girl." and "Stop acting like a girl." All of these put our female combatants in a negative light and this is not healthy for us and definitely not for them. Rather we need to promote a the positive nature of their participation in HEMA. Further to this we also need to promote the levelling nature of martial arts in general.

With regard to this I need to approach our first contentious issue the idea of the "Ladies Tournament". I would question whether or not this is actually a healthy idea or not. Is having such a tournament an inclusive or exclusive thing? Sure it is inclusive as it involves the female combatants in a tournament, but it is also exclusive as it side-lines them to another tournament, and almost makes it feel like that they are not welcome to participate in more "general" combats. In my own opinion the nature of HEMA provides a level playing field in which all can compete, thus there is really no need for this separation, but this is a question that no doubt will be debated for some time to come.

Trainers. You are at the forefront of including individuals in HEMA regardless of whether they are male or female, or indeed of their physical nature. I have already written on the nature of bio-mechanics and body-shape, and indeed already on disabilities and fencing. Now we need to look at the male-female dichotomy. These posts are as important for you to realise the differences between the male and female student as they are for the female student to realise their own differences.

You need to approach these differences as simply that, differences, not problems. You need to consider the differences in body shape and approaches to combat. The benefits for taking this into consideration will outweigh the extra work that you will have to put in to making sure that you get it right. Take note of how your female students' bodies want to move and adapt their training to suit that, not the other way around. They will be much more comfortable, and much more successful.

Well, this series of posts has been a lot longer than I ever thought it would have been. I thank those ladies who participated in my class for the information which they gave me. It has enabled me to further understand how the female combatant operates and thinks and thus allowed me to produce these posts without you, this would have been a lot more difficult. So thanks go out to: Eva, Sam, Lois, Bec, Sharon, Emma, Rosie, Tristyn and Jessica (if I have forgotten anyone I apologise). I also need to send a big thank you to Zebee Johnstone for putting me on the right path.

I hope that all of my readers are able to pull something useful from the information which has been presented here. I apologise if there is anything here which has offended you, but I have attempted to do something which I thought needed to be done. I also apologise for some of the rambling nature of the information as I tend to write it how it comes, but then you needed to expect that considering the title of the entire blog.