The British Federation for Historical Swordplay

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BFHS Position Regarding Scottish HEMA Controversy

The bellow is a message from the President of the BFHS, Martin Dougherty:

BFHS Position Regarding Scottish HEMA Controversy 

This matter was brought to my attention some time ago by some of our Scottish members, who were concerned about claims of BFHS involvement in an initiative led by one Gordon Love.

Mr Love seems to be campaigning for the recognition of HEMA as a sporting activity, and for the creation of a governing body to oversee it. The BFHS has no official position on this matter, but we are concerned at the way Mr Love is going about it and the claims he is making. Notably, he seems to be claiming to have the support of the majority of Scottish HEMA groups. Some of those groups have expressed surprise at hearing they are supporting this initiative, which does raise questions about Mr Love’s statements.

What follows is to the best of my knowledge a true and accurate account of the matter to date.

The Initiative

Mr Love is ostensibly trying to achieve recognition of HEMA as a sporting activity by the relevant authorities. On the face of it this endeavour is not without merit. However, recognition requires a governing body, and the emergence of such a body would be of great concern to our members. Mr Love has already made reference to an AGM of the ‘governing body’ – it is clear that whilst he is taking the line that recognition is good for everyone and those who oppose it are some kind of bad guys, the fact is that he means to take control of Scottish HEMA.

The document sent to myself and my predecessor outlining Mr Love’s initiative could best be described as a sales pitch rather than a framework for a successful recognition campaign. It essentially presented the idea that creating a governing body would result in various benefits, notably funding. This does not necessarily follow, but in any case the document contained nothing resembling a workable plan for making any of it happen. It was, to my reading, a pipe-dream at best and possibly a pitch to garner support for Mr Love’s attempt to gain control of Scottish HEMA. It did include the warning that ‘there can be only one’ and ‘it’s govern or be governed’. According to the emails sent to my predecessor this section was removed from the versions sent to some recipients.

My predecessor offered no comment on this document and could not do so until a formal proposal had been put to the BFHS membership. He asked to be kept up to date for information purposes.

This response was, in my opinion, quite correct. From the generally unprofessional appearance of the document and its (lack of) contents it seemed at the time that this was nothing but an unworkable pipe-dream.

In due course I was elected as President and the matter was brought to my attention by our Scottish members. I attempted to investigate and received a variety of rather vague responses from Mr Love which did not address my concerns.

Eventually, a facebook group for the initiative appeared and I applied to join it. After hearing nothing for about a year my membership was suddenly approved. This occurred very recently. Seeing that Mr Love was still claiming to speak for BFHS clubs – some of which have expressed concern to me over this – and that he is trying to form a governing body for HEMA, I raised my concerns again. Mr Love’s response was not satisfactory, and I remain gravely concerned about this initiative and more importantly how it is being approached.

BFHS Concerns

At the time I became involved in this matter Mr Love was claiming that ‘fruitful discussions’ had taken place with the BFHS and we were supporting his initiative to create a Scottish governing body for HEMA. As President of the BFHS I would surely have been aware of such a discussion or offer of support, so I queried Mr Love about it.

What came back was a cryptic statement that I was not the first President he had spoken to.

That may well be true, but it was not an answer to my questions. I have since asked – repeatedly – what was said by whom, and what was agreed. Mr Love’s responses range from further vague statements that discussions were held to a suggestion that the BFHS needs to keep proper records and hand over correctly between officers.

In fact we do, and I have a record of the emails sent to my predecessor by Mr Love. Mr Love states in some of these mails (which went to a group audience) that my predecessor’s HEMA group is ‘fully on board’ with the process and that as President of the BFHS he is supportive of the project.

The truth, however, is that my predecessor was included in these emails for information only and did not reply to any of them. He certainly did not express support or claim to be ‘fully on board’ with the process. On what basis Mr Love decided to claim this is a matter for conjecture.

There is no ‘fruitful discussion’ there, nor any agreement to support this initiative. Essentially Mr Love sent a document outlining his ideas to the previous President, and a few later mails to my predecessor and then to me. On the strength of this, I assume, he says that the BFHS has been ‘kept in the loop’. That, at least is somewhere vaguely near the truth.

This was not a ‘fruitful discussion’ – it was an unsolicited document outlining an unworkable idea, followed by further mails to which no reply was made. This hardly constitutes a ‘fruitful discussion’ and it is difficult to see why Mr Love would represent it as one.

Mr Love may have misunderstood something, or there may be some other reason why he has made this claim. I did wonder if some other discussion had taken place, and have repeatedly invited Mr Love to explain what was said by whom so that we can clear up any misunderstanding. The vagueness of his replies is, in itself, informative. It appears that the emails sent to my predecessor represent the ‘fruitful discussion’ to which he refers.

I can therefore only conclude that Mr Love’s claims of a ‘fruitful discussion’ with the BFHS are nothing more than a misrepresentation or at best a misunderstanding; I do not know which. I do know that the BFHS never agreed to support Mr Love’s endeavour despite his claims that we did. Similarly, his claims that certain of our member groups support his project are untrue.

In Summary

The BFHS does not support Gordon Love’s attempts to achieve recognition for HEMA in Scotland. We are opposed to his attempt to create a governing body for HEMA in Scotland.

The BFHS is concerned that Mr Love has chosen to claim the support of our organisation and some of its member groups. Were Mr Love to address these concerns there would be some grounds for discussion but he has chosen not to.

As President of the BFHS, I have investigated this matter to the best of my ability and my conclusion is that Gordon Love has misrepresented the level of support for his endeavour from the BFHS and its member groups. If he continues to claim support that is not there, we will have no alternative but to challenge this assertion on every occasion.

 

Autumn Exchange 2016

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Autumn Exchange 2016 took place over the weekend of 19th-20th November, and was hosted by Wolfshead School of Western Martial Arts in Lincoln.

Originally there had been two other plans to host the event elsewhere, both of which fell through despite the best efforts of those concerned. Wolfshead stepped in at a late date and rescued the event, for which the BFHS extends its thanks.

The event was held in Wolfshead’s training venue, Strike Zone in Lincoln. Strike Zone has a large downstairs training area with plenty of space for equipment and socialising. Upstairs is a similar area, though the presence of low ceiling supports added a whole new dimension to rapier fencing. With an inexpensive hotel within a few minutes’ walk one way and a friendly pub just as close (but in the other direction) the venue was as self-contained as possible.

As usual, the event included a mix of seminars and tournaments, with the technical excellence of some rapier fencers being particularly noted. Seminars ranged from the highly personal (unarmed combat and the use of the straight razor) to the battlefield-ready (backsword and targe, for example). A new addition was the addition of an open slot in which instructors were available for consultation. This slot saw a sabre vs smallsword session, backsword and longsword freeplay and an impromptu knife-fighting seminar which gradually drew in everyone on that floor of the building.

Socialising in the evening was facilitated by a barbecue and buffet at the local pub, and overall the event ran very smoothly. Despite last-minute alterations to the programme necessitated by a bout of pneumonia and other complications, the cooperative and ‘family’ atmosphere meant that there were no difficulties. Comments were overwhelmingly positive throughout the event.

Developments for the BFHS emerging at Autumn Exchange 2016 include welcoming back the Sussex Sword Academy to the BFHS. We were also pleased to have both Susan Kirk and Nigel Potts, appointed this year as Regional Assessors for the IL1 programme, teaching at the event. For my own part, this was my first event as BFHS President.  I was glad to see what a good show Wolfshead put on for us, and how much the attendees enjoyed it.

We have a great deal of talent within the BFHS and events like Autumn Exchange give us the chance to showcase it. It is also a chance to do what the name suggests…  to exchange information, to exchange knowledge, and to exchange blows. All in all, an excellent weekend of Western Martial arts, for which once again the BFHS thanks Wolfshead School of Western Martial Arts and the instructors who made it so.

But more than anything else, we extend our thanks to the people who made the event a great success – the attendees. I had a great time; I hope you all did too.

MJ Dougherty,

BFHS President.

IL1 Assessment Day, September 2016

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On September 3rd 2016, the BFHS ran an IL1 assessment day hosted by the Society for the Study of Swordsmanship and run directly by Chief Assessor Martin J Dougherty.

The assessment was the culmination of many months of trying to find sufficient candidates within a reasonable area and a group willing to host. The pattern recently has been for a small number of potential candidates to be very keen to take IL1, but never enough in the same area at the same time. In the end, the decision had to be taken to ‘run it and they will come… hopefully’.

In the event, they did come. From Glamorgan and Aberdeen, and other points less distant. The systems on show covered the full range of BFHS interest, from Medieval longsword and messer through rapier to Victorian cane fighting. The candidates on this occasion were of exceptional calibre, with around half achieving a 100% pass and the remainder scoring over 90%. Of particular note was the attention to safe training and the use of appropriate personal protection among the candidates.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the IL1 – whilst always intended as an entry-level qualification – has a very high standard for both safety and competence. Those who think of taking the assessment in terms of ‘getting their IL1’ as if it were a formality tend to fail. A good assessment requires preparation even for a highly experienced instructor; scoring over 95% is an achievement for anyone, of any level of experience.

We are thus very glad to welcome the successful candidates as BFHS IL1 instructors, and we congratulate them on their achievements.

The assessors deserve praise, too, for going above and beyond the call of duty. The September IL1 assessment would have been vastly more difficult – if not impossible – without Kim and Barry Young, who made the time out of a long journey to visit Sunderland and take part in the assessment. Assessor candidate Mark Thomson was awarded IL1 assessor status, and deserves credit for joining those working to make the IL1 programme a success.

The assessment process was greatly assisted by members of the Society for the Study of Swordsmanship who acted as students for the candidates, helped with administration, made pies and cookies, brought coffee and generally did all the thankless jobs that make an event like this work.

Overall, the Sunderland IL1 assessment day was a big success. Letters of recognition and assessor evaluations have already gone out to the candidates as of September 4th, certificates are waiting to be posted, and we are pondering where and when to run the next assessment. Interested hosts and candidates are invited to contact the Chief Assessor on ca@thebfhs.org.uk or via the BFHS facebook page.

In related news, we have appointed Susan Kirk as Regional Assessor for the London area, and are in discussion with other potential Regional Assessors. The proposed IL2 and IL3 courses and assessment procedures are also in the final stages of preparation and will be presented to the membership in due course. The BFHS considers the instructor training and accreditation programme to be one of its central activities, and we are pleased to be making progress in this field.

BFHS Autumn Exchange Booked For 19th-20th November 2016

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We are pleased to announce that the BFHS Autumn Exchange has been booked for the 19th-20th November 2016.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Fox Walters and Nigel Potts from Wolfshead Western Martial Arts in Lincoln for stepping in at the last minute and agreeing to host this for us.

The webpage for bookings will be going up this week and announcements on Instructors, Classes etc. will be going up shortly after that.

If anyone has any questions in the interim, please contact our secretary directly at secretary@thebfhs.org.uk and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Updated Information on Safeguarding Children

Update: The BFHS Safeguarding and Equalities Officer, Mr. Pete Jamson, has kindly reviewed and updated the advice on the Safeguarding of Children for the BFHS.

You can download a copy of the advice here, we recommend everyone familiarize themselves with this advice who is involved in working with children as part of your HEMA activities.

BFHS Update: Safeguarding Children

BFHS Elect New President

The BFHS is very pleased to announce Mr. Martin Dougherty has been elected as BFHS President.

Martin’s career in Martial Arts began in the mid 1980s. Since that time he has gained Dan grades in four Eastern Martial Arts and is a Master Level Instructor/Senior Assessor with the All-Styles Martial Arts Association, being appointed Head of Coaching in 2011. With the ASMAA he has studied Oriental Martial Arts in addition to European Martial Arts systems such as catch wrestling, Western kicking systems, combatives and modern street combat. He started his sports fencing career in 1987, becoming a club coach in 1990, and coached the University of Sunderland fencing team.

His professional career is as an Author, and has published or contributed to a significant number of books (around 80) on various topics including military history, armed and unarmed combat and fencing. He has also been involved in television as a researcher and weapons expert and has previously worked in education and the defense sector.

Martin has been working as the BFHS Chief Assessor for some time now, a role which he will continue to work as, and hopes to expand his influence within the BFHS to improving and modernizing it’s Guidelines, Best Practices and Resources to the HEMA Community and building relationships between it and the wider martial community.

If you would like to reach out to Martin on any of these areas, you can reach him at president@thebfhs.org.uk.

BFHS Treasurer Vacancy

This is a call for the vacant position on the BFHS Executive for BFHS Treasurer.

Anyone who is a member of a BFHS member group and over 18 may stand for election if he or she is seconded.

This is a voluntary work position and would be ideally suited to someone with accountancy and small business experience, including company legislation and taxation.

A full Job Description, with the current role, and further details are available upon request from the BFHS Secretary – secretary@thebfhs.org.uk – or via your member group Representative.

Candidates need to be proposed and seconded by the 25th October.

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