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 […]

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Autumn Exchange 2016

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 […]

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The IL1 assessment was always intended as an entry-level qualification. The standard is quite high, however, and some IL1 instructors are extremely experienced. IL1, 2 and so forth is not the same as ‘rank’ and should not be viewed in that way.

The purpose of the IL2+ programme is to provide BFHS instructors with a complete toolkit of teaching methods. Not everyone needs to go through the programme and no-one will be forced to do so. However, just as the BFHS cannot accredit coaches it has not observed, IL2+ status will never be awarded to instructors who have not been assessed under this programme. Thus ILX indicates what stage of the BFHS instructor programme the individual has reached, and is not necessarily an indicator of the highest level at which the instructor can operate – it is however the highest level the BFHS can guarantee.

The following section addresses some of the questions that have been asked about the IL2+ programme.

Firstly, it is necessary to repeat what has been said elsewhere:

  • It is not necessary to have an instructor with BFHS IL1 or higher to be a member club in the BFHS. It is sufficient to demonstrate to the appointed representatives of the BFHS that what you are doing constitutes some form of HEMA and is being conducted in a safe manner that does not violate any of the principles of the Fed.
  • In order to obtain BFHS insurance, it is necessary to have an instructor qualified to IL1 or higher and a valid first aid certificate.
  • The IL2+ programme is not mandatory.

It is true that the ILX programme is not formally recognised outside the BFHS. However, that is true of almost every possible qualification an instructor might obtain. Few qualifications are recognised outside their field or issuing body’s remit.

The BFHS is quite well respected and we can show that our qualifications are not easy to obtain, which may give them some informal value but of course we do not expect outside agencies to accept them as a license to teach in their classes. A BFHS IL1 does not qualify an individual to teach in mainstream education school, nor the local karate club or sport fencing class – but that could be said about any of these fields with respect to any of the others.

What, then, is the value of IL1? 

IL1 is necessary to obtain BFHS insurance. It is possible to do this on a temporary basis as part of the outreach programme, but for continued cover it is necessary to be a recognised BFHS instructor.

It is of course possible to teach HEMA as part of the BFHS with different qualifications and/or insurance from another source. For those that do not have such qualifications and insurance in place, IL1 offers a route to obtain them that is probably simpler than most of the alternatives.

It is also worth noting that the BFHS insurance policy covers the instructor and the club for Historical European Martial Arts – all of them, medieval to modernish. So long as the instructor can show they have reasonable competence to teach a given subject, they are covered by one qualification and one insurance policy.

The situation is more nebulous for those teaching on other qualifications, most especially a martial arts black belt. Most, if not all, black belts are a test of the ability to perform, not to teach, and although they are usually seen as a qualification to teach that art, this is questionable in many cases. Even if the possession of a martial arts black belt is acceptable as a teaching qualification, it is normally only recognised within one organisation and as a qualification to teach one art.

It may be possible to obtain insurance to teach ‘martial arts’ with a black belt as qualification and to consider that this includes a wide range of arts, but the insurance underwriters may take a different view. The situation regarding an insurance claim is unclear in the event that someone with a black belt in a single oriental martial art is teaching a range of western arts with no connection to the subject of the black belt. It would be wise to investigate this with a prospective provider before assuming that you are adequately covered.

The same comments apply to academic teaching qualifications and even qualifications to teach sport-fencing. An insurance claim could be disputed on various grounds including but not limited to teaching outside the areas the individual was trained and is qualified to teach, or that the assessment of teaching ability did not cover some areas vital to instructing a combat art.

In short, insurance is a difficult subject and it is wise to be as watertight as possible. A qualification to teach HEMA, paired with an insurance policy to teach HEMA, backed by an organisation dedicated to HEMA, offers a solid basis.

There are other approaches of course and instructors can make their own choices about what is the best for them. What the BFHS does is to create a way to obtain suitable insurance that offers adequate safeguards to both the individual instructor and the BFHS as a whole.

IL1 helps maintain and demonstrate standards. IL1 acts as an indicator of the standards expected in terms of teaching ability and – more importantly perhaps – safety expected of BFHS instructors.

Whilst any instructor is entitled to make whatever decisions make sense to them about levels of safety equipment and so forth to be used in their class, that decision and responsibility for it rest with the individual. However, if the IL assessors have passed an instructor who was following a given practice then they could arguably be considered to condone it. A uniform standard across BFHS instructors serves to protect the BFHS and its officers, and also individual instructors who follow similar practices or can show a logical reasoning why they did not.

The BFHS and its officers – particularly the Chief Assessor – take responsibility for the competence and suitability of the instructors certified by the BFHS. We cannot be expected to answer for the competence of someone we have not assessed under our system. This does not of course mean that we consider such individuals incompetent, but we cannot be sure that they meet our standards, and for this reason we cannot recognise outside qualifications no matter how prestigious.

For the few that do not know this already, the martial arts world is horrifically fragmented with numerous organisations claiming control of a single art in some cases. The upshot of all this fragmentation is that it is extremely difficult to say whether a belt from any one organisation would be acceptable to meet our standards. Again, the same comments apply to other qualifications. We can only take responsibility for the standards of people we have assessed under our own system.

And what of the IL2+ courses we are proposing to run?

The IL2+ programme is not merely another assessment and promotion to some higher level that is only recognised by the BFHS. Each course contains taught content covering aspects of coach development and education theory, and also deals with important matters such as documentation and development of prospective instructors.

For those who already have extensive teaching experience, IL2+ may not be necessary. It is not really aimed at the veteran coach who has taught for fifteen years and written several books on their area of expertise. However, the IL2+ courses do contain the distilled experience of those who have trodden the path (and innumerable blind alleys that looked just like the path!) before. An instructor who is at an early stage of their career will find the content invaluable, and even veterans will find something of use within the content.

The IL2+ project also demonstrates and acts as a showcase for the standards of coaching that the BFHS wishes to foster. It is not really necessary for those that can meet those standards already, but there are many who would benefit from a development programme and we are offering it to anyone who thinks they will benefit. It is not, and will never be, mandatory.

In Summary

The IL1 serves to assure the BFHS and its officials that the individuals for whose competence we answer are actually up to the required standard. There must be one standard for everyone; the IL1 sets and maintains that standard.

IL2+ is a coach development programme with a mix of assessment and taught content. It is intended to ensure that BFHS instructors have a complete repertoire of teaching techniques and understand key concepts which will greatly enhance their coaching ability. However the BFHS recognises that this is not necessary for everyone and will not force anyone to take an IL2 or higher course.

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