A Sharp Look at History

. July 17, 2018.
The Toledo Historical Swordsmanship 
Society takes a stab at ancient techniques during weekly classes led by instructors Matthew Haynes (pictured at left) and Kevin Umstead (pictured middle, above).
Photo Credit: Courtney Probert
The Toledo Historical Swordsmanship Society takes a stab at ancient techniques during weekly classes led by instructors Matthew Haynes (pictured at left) and Kevin Umstead (pictured middle, above). Photo Credit: Courtney Probert

There are two essential rules of good sword fighting. First, don’t get hit and, second, hit your opponent. Those important lessons are being taught every week by the Toledo Historical Swordsmanship Society (THSS), a local group dedicated to teaching ancient weapon fighting techniques. Through 16th century techniques, you can learn alot from sword fighting.
THSS is part of the Historical European Martial Arts collective that puts on sparring matches and other events dedicated to fighting techniques of yesteryear. The group, lead by instructors Matthew Haynes and Kevin Umstead, is locally-grown, originating in Kevin’s backyard a few years ago. The group now holds weekly meetings at the Rossford United Methodist Church and those interested can stop in for a free class.

Learning from the masters

Not historical reenactors, THSS is about the martial art of sword fighting. “We don’t have people acting and living like it’s the middle ages”, instructor Matthew Haynes explained. “We focus on techniques and body movement, like in the Meyer texts.”
The texts he refers to are by Joachim Meyer, a German sword master from the 1500s who wrote a book on sword techniques called Thorough Descriptions of The Art of Fencing. As sword-based teachings are hard to come by (according to Haynes, “no one wrote anything down except the Germans and Italians”), Meyer’s book is a go-to manual.

There are other texts, like those by Italian sword maestro Fiore dei Liberi, that they teach from. Classes take place on Monday night, and are similar to any other martial arts course you’d take. The first portion of each class is a review of what was taught in the previous lesson, followed by an hour of learning a new technique and sparring with other class members. The class ends with a “free play” session, where participants work on what they’ve learned, or spar with instructors.

More than swords

While the classes focus on swordsmanship, quarterstaff, sickle, shield, and dagger training is also available. The weapons THSS works with are either full metal reproductions with blunted edges, or plastic versions. The weapons and techniques are also shown at various HEMA events around the country, where people spar against each other in competitions. Protected by tough plastic armor (and a HEMA insurance policy), the Toledo Historical Swordsmanship Society encourages those interested to become members
If you’d like to learn how to hit people, and not get hit in return, visit a class and see if you’ve got the mettle to wield the metal.

The Toledo Historical Swordsmanship Society meets every Monday from 8-10pm at Rossford United Methodist Church,
270 Dixie Hwy.
First class is free, then $20/ month.
For more info toledoHEMA.wordpress.com