If you’ve seen students playing with swords in Monroe Park or at the Cary Street Gym, please avoid calling them LARPers at all costs.
The Historical European Martial Arts Club uses books from the 1400-1500’s from Europe and translates the historical combat treatises into techniques. Members use these techniques in sparring, which they consider a lost art.
“It also encompasses all the other things Europeans did in combat, such as jousting, archery, daggers, spears, everything you can think of,” said sophomore Nick Allen, president of the HEMA club.
This is the club’s first year as an official on-campus organization. HEMA was created last year, but did not have enough members to warrant becoming an actual club.
“We started last year in Monroe Park. It was very small to begin with,” said the club’s Vice President, senior Tom Wagamon. “We went to the SOVO fair this year and got the word out, and at our first practice we had 24 people show up, as opposed to four people last year.”
As an official member of VCU Rec Sports, the HEMA club is allotted a $500 budget. While the executive board said they would like to use the funds to travel to competitions, they have instead decided to invest in additional equipment.
“I was at the very first meeting (last year) and I used a broomstick,” said sophomore and club treasurer Mick Murphy highlighting how much the club has grown in a year.
HEMA has since been able to acquire more equipment and proper padding to practice and spar without a serious a risk of getting injured.
Typically practices are every Friday night from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Cary Street Gym.
A routine practice will start out in a group block, where the members work on basic steps, including footwork, transferring the sword and gradually progress to more advanced techniques, such as how to fall correctly or how to strike your opponent.
Members will spar with one another to translate what they practiced into an actual fighting situation. Practice usually wraps up with a group game that focuses on footwork.
“To the untrained eye it looks very similar to LARPing, but this is very similar to any other form of martial arts,” said Thomas. “It’s full contact and you can get hurt.”
Allen, Wagamon, Murphy, and sophomore safety officer Dan Thomas are the four founding members of the HEMA Club at VCU and said they would like to keep the club going strong. The members pointed out getting official HEMA instruction at school can cost upward of $100 a month and they are knowledgeable enough to teach everyone the basics.
Gabe is a junior majoring in print/online journalism with a general business minor. Along with writing for the CT, he also doubles as the editor of Rams Review, a student-run blog covering VCU sports. Gabe primarily enjoys writing about sports and someday hopes to grace the halls at ESPN. You can usually find Gabe waiting in line at Chipotle, playing FIFA at his apartment, or quoting “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
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