The British Federation for Historical Swordplay


The BFHS – Martial Arts and Martial Sports

The BFHS recognises the existence of Martial Arts and Martial Sport as separate areas of interest within its body of Members, just as the Scholastic and Instructional areas are. We recognise that Martial Sport is a tool used in training within Martial Arts, but it is a tool that not everyone chooses to use, but we as a body try to accommodate all of our Members and strive for excellence in all areas of our art.

We understand that people believe that the win aspect of competition dilutes the principles of the art to not lose, those of defence. We also recognise that Martial Sport is a Historical tradition; that documentary evidence exists of rulers organising Martial Tournaments for their armies in times of peace in order to keep their soldiers skills honed.


Martial Sports are a Tool for Training in Martial Arts

After learning the mechanics of a technique, we use various forms of sparring to learn how to apply it against opponents who are not following preordained drills. Typically sparring has agreed rules of engagement, often with points scored for hits or ‘touches’, and while the emphasis of good sparring should be defence; this is the basic grass roots of Martial Sport being used as a tool in Martial Arts training.

Taking it further, we often organise sparring sessions between local HEMA Groups so as to test our skills against less familiar opponents in a social environment. Often we organise friendly inter-group ‘fun’ competitions. All of these are done in a friendly social environment.


Tournaments in the BFHS

The BFHS provides a Tournament structure for those who wish to take part in Martial Sport as a means of testing their skills against new opponents in a ‘stress test’ environment. However, what we are trying to provide is just that – an arena for testing martial skills and promoting excellence. We do not wish to organise Tournaments where to win is the sole or even main motivation for entering.

We are striving to discourage those:

  • Who lose all the techniques they have spent years training as soon as they enter a Tournament.
  • Who resort to attempting to hit their fellow participants far harder than is necessary to show a particular technique.
  • Who enter a Tournament with no previous experience with that weapon with a ‘have a go’ attitude.

Picking up a new weapon and ‘having a go’ is commendable, it’s where we all started and we will encourage everyone to do so. We can assist everyone in finding their nearest Instructors to help them, but a Tournament is not the place to do that.

We wish to provide a platform where, for example, we can see one person’s excellent Italian Longsword skills put against someone else’s excellent German Longsword skills. We are looking for the excellence in the Body Mechanics, recognisable techniques in the participants from the systems they have been training, obvious strength of moral character in the way they treat their fellow participants and those involved in organising the events for them.




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