The British Federation for Historical Swordplay

Training and Certification

Membership of the BFHS is open to clubs whose instructors have qualifications from other bodies, but the BFHS can only provide insurance to those who have been accredited under our own system. The BFHS simply cannot take responsibility for certifying the competence of any individual we have not observed ourselves, no matter how well regarded they or the awarding body of their existing qualifications may be. No exceptions can or will be made.

Under the Outreach Programme, the BFHS offers insurance to instructors who need it to start up their own clubs after an evaluation by the Executive, the insurance is offered only until the next Instructor Certificaltion (IL1) assessment. This is in no way an exception to the above; it is a courtesy to help clubs get started and done under an agreement that the club will have an accredited BFHS instructor  as soon as practicable.

Instructors who do not need BFHS insurance can still obtain Instructor Certifications (IL1 and higher), and those who do so will be recognised as BFHS instructors no matter where they obtain insurance. Note that there is a difference between a BFHS instructor and an instructor at a BFHS club. The term ‘BFHS Instructor’ indicates someone who has been awarded the first level of Instructor Certification, IL1, or higher and whose competence we are prepared to recognise. Other qualifications may be equally valid, but we are not in a position to comment on the abilities of someone we have not assessed ourselves.

The IL2+ programme is and will remain optional. IL1 is all that is required to become a BFHS instructor. However, for those that desire it the IL2+ programme provides a mechanism for coach development and ensures that the instructor has a complete ‘toolkit’ of coaching knowledge and techniques.

Whilst the IL programme provides a rating system for instructors, of a sort, it does not reflect level of knowledge in the historical material or system being taught. It is not possible to create a ‘grading’ system for the entire BFHS, and nor is it desirable to try. Instructors are of course expected to be realistic about what they are competent to teach, but there can be no hard-and-fast grade system in a field as diverse as HEMA.

Clubs are thus free to create whatever grade system they feel is desirable for students – or not to use one if that is preferable. How highly the grades awarded in one class are regarded in another is a subjective matter since the criteria – and judgement of how well they are met – can vary enormously. There  can be no overall BFHS grade system, and no club can realistically expect its standard to be adopted or even accepted by another.

That said, since the BFHS is a HEMA organisation the awarding of oriental-style grades seems questionable.  Whilst sashes and other indications of rank have historical precedents in Europe, oriental style grades with coloured belts/black belts have no place in HEMA. They are neither European nor all that Historical – coloured belts are a mid-20th Century development, after all. A more historically authentic and ‘European’ grade system, if one is used at all, seems more appropriate.

As to the grading of instructors, the IL programme indicates a level of coaching skills but does not denote knowledge. How well a given instructor is regarded is a subjective matter and perhaps open to some debate. This is entirely within the spirit of HEMA – wrangles between instructors as to who is best have been going on for as long there have been fencing instructors!

Latest News

COVID-19 Update

The officers of the BFHS are not medical professionals or scientists. We can only offer common-sense advice informed by the government’s official policies and analysis of the situation. The top […]

Read More

BFHS IL2 Assessment May 2019

BFHS IL2 Assessment May 2019 It was a day long in coming, but on May 25th 2019 the first BFHS IL2 assessment took place. The event was hosted by SSS […]

Read More