When hearing of the planned HEMA participation at the 2nd European Games in Minsk, I first felt quite excited, and then ambivalent for what I am sure are obvious reasons to anyone who knows me. But, after giving it some careful consideration, I now here express my open support of it.

There are number of reasons that motivate me to do this, but it all basically boils down to my trust in Mr. Roberto Gotti and his vision. We have spoken quite a lot over the years, and I know him as a profoundly passionate man who has worked tirelessly to make his dreams of seeing historical fencing brought back to life on a truly grand scale come real. He has my undivided respect for this, and my support. I believe in him and his vision.

While I personally don’t care much for public recognition or tournaments, instead focusing on other aspects, I do respect those who do, and I understand the great value that tournaments have to the growth of our community. They are necessary, and have contributed a lot to HEMA’s success so far. They are just one of many aspects of HEMA though, and again, Mr. Gotti is quite aware of this, and works just as hard at safeguarding the other aspects of HEMA, with his martial arts museum and collection in Brescia, and the open HEMA salle Gairethinx, being but a few, if magnificent, examples of this, and with a part of the collection actually being brought to the exhibition in Minsk, for display there.

Now, a certain member of the committee assigned to select athletes for the exhibition is obviously controversial due to some serious, and fair, criticism levelled at this member, regarding political actions. This troubles me too, but disregarding everything else, no one can dispute that all of the members are great fencers and teachers, with good insight into the international community, and who have all contributed greatly to the community in various ways.

If there is one thing we all seem to agree on, it is the idea that, outside of the simple statement “Everyone is welcome!”, we want to keep politics out of HEMA. This has been made abundantly clear to everyone, not least to the concerned parties, and while I not long ago feared seeing HEMA exploited for extreme politics, I no longer do. It is not what we want, as a community. So, from this, we can move on and try to mend some schisms. Now, real forgiveness takes work from all parties, with honesty, swallowing any hostility and false pride, and striving to keep an open mind and heart. This naturally also needs to be extended also to the critics, to everyone without exception. Otherwise there can be no healing.

The schism is likely to remain for quite some time yet, but the anger and outright hate serves no one. Open collaboration without expecting any reward has been the key to the fantastic thing that HEMA has become, and we need to safeguard this. It is what I myself have always worked to do, with HROARR, with the HEMA Scholar Awards and so on.

Now, I understand that some feel they were bypassed and that national and international federations should have been properly included in the whole process. This is quite fair. On the other hand I also know how such structures bog things down under formalia and dispute, and that particular weakness does not always work well with practical needs, especially when time is of the essence and certain opportunities offer themselves. Oftentimes smaller groups are far more effective. This is why, for example, the HEMA Scholar Awards is set up the way it is.

The key question then becomes if that group has our trust that they will do a fair and good job without personal bias, and not abuse the power and trust handed to them. When it comes down to it, I honestly think they will. If not, they will be forced to face some tough criticism from the community, and even if successful they are bound to meet disappointment and criticism. Such responsibilities are difficult and most of us do not realize the pressure that comes with them. I am sure they do, now, especially those who need to prove themselves.

Now, like the previous EG event in Azerbaijan, this one is also politically controversial due to its location, but fact remains that this exhibition is part of the path towards the Olympic Games, and through the work of Mr Gotti we have been given a fantastic opportunity for HEMA to take one more step towards the world stage. We still decide where HEMA continues to go. Nothing hinders us from continuing our research, our studies, and our exploring of these ancient arts, which we love so much, in the manner we prefer. In fact, quite the opposite. Mr Gotti’s tireless work helps make our dreams come true.

For these reasons, I support it.

Roger Norling
Chief Editor and founder of HROARR.com