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Gotham Swords - Student Handbook
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Welcome

The centuries old Art of Swordsmanship offers countless challenges, rewards, and opportunities for personal growth. We look forward to being a part of your journey!

When you participate in a Gotham Swords class, event, or forum you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct, please review it here.

As a new student, the first thing you should do is register for a HEMA Alliance Membership. This provides the proper insurance required for your participation as well as some other great benefits such as discounts on gear.

You can view our schedule and  sign up for classes using our BookWhen page. For general updates and discussion, join our Discord Server.


Table of Contents

HEMA Alliance Membership

Code of Conduct

Covid-19 Policy & Response

Study Guides

Guide to Buying HEMA Gear

Class Catalog & Gear Requirements

Tuesday

Study Group: Fiore Dagger

Study Group: Fiore Longsword

Wednesday

Longsword: Foundational Fencing

Thursday

Great Sword

Saturday Classes

Fundamentals

LED Saber

Sword & Buckler

German Longsword: Concepts and Techniques

Langes Messer

Considerations When Meeting Outdoors

Board of Directors

Student Advocate

Frequently Asked Questions

NYC Area HEMA & Historical Fencing

Contact


HEMA Alliance Membership

In order to take classes with Gotham Swords you will need to be a member of the HEMA Alliance. The HEMAA provides insurance and other resources that allow us to operate as a club.

If you have just started, you get your first two months of insurance free!

After your initial two months are complete, you must purchase an In-network Discounted Alliance Membership to continue taking classes. Please make sure to renew your membership when it expires, as insurance only covers active members.


Code of Conduct

When you participate in a Gotham Swords class, event, or forum you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct, please review it here.

All Students, Instructors, Board Members, Staff, Attendees, Exhibitors, Sponsors, Associates, and Guests of GEMAC/Gotham Swords are subject to this policy without exception.


Covid-19 Policy & Response

The safety of our members is paramount, and we take Covid-19 with the utmost seriousness.


Study Guides


Guide to Buying HEMA Gear

As you progress in your training and want to participate in more advanced exercises, you'll be required to obtain the appropriate protective equipment. This guide is designed to help you understand the best order in which you should purchase your gear, along with a list of suggested vendors.

We understand that obtaining gear can be an expensive and lengthy process. Students will often take a year or more to fully acquire a full “tournament ready” kit.

Refer to the Gotham Swords Class Gear Requirements for more information about what gear you need for specific classes. If you have any questions about gear for a particular class check with your instructors.

Always talk to your instructors before purchasing a practice weapon.

FIRST, you should buy a HEMA fencing mask, and both soft and heavy gloves. In order to participate in paired practice with steel swords you MUST have a fencing mask.

SECOND, you can invest in a steel practice weapon.

Always talk to your instructors before purchasing a practice weapon.

THIRD, you should obtain additional protective gear used by more intense classes, and fencing-optimized footwear.

FOURTH, consider buying additional protectors required by most tournaments and sparring situations.


Class Catalog & Gear Requirements

If you have any questions about gear for a particular class, please check with the instructors!  Please always talk to your instructors before purchasing a practice weapon.

For information about what to buy and what order you should purchase gear, see the Guide to Buying HEMA Gear.

Tuesday

Study Group: Fiore Dagger

Instructor Hildo Biersma

Study Fiore's dagger plays in this Study Group that will run from October through December.

It is highly recommended that students previously attend a minimum of four or more Fundamental classes.

Study Groups are led by an instructor, but are not a class where techniques are presented as-is; instead, students will work out details of the techniques and plays as a group effort.

Equipment Requirements:

We recommend Purpleheart Armoury wooden daggers.

Fiore materials are available on Wiktenauer.

Study Group: Fiore Longsword

Instructor Hildo Biersma

Study Fiore's longsword plays in this Study Group that will run from October through December.

It is highly recommended that students previously attend a minimum of four or more Fundamental classes.

Study Groups are led by an instructor, but are not a class where techniques are presented as-is; instead, students will work out details of the techniques and plays as a group effort.

Equipment Requirements:

Fiore materials are available on Wiktenauer.

We recommend getting a copy of the spiral-bound field edition.

Wednesday

Longsword: Foundational Fencing

Instructor Kenny Mai

The European two-handed sword, or “longsword”, was a staple of Medieval fencing culture as early as the 14th century. Today, the longsword is one of Hema's most popular choices for fencing competitions.

Well before the HEMA of today, 19th century reconstructionists such as Captain Alfred Hutton and Lord Egerton Castle applied their lineage of fencing systems to the longsword, in vogue with the Victorian sensibility of reconnecting with the weapons of their ancestors.

In this Longsword program, students will learn and practice key aspects of fencing with the longsword, using the fencing theory of their time.

NOTE: This class was formerly titled “Common Fencing”.

Required

Optional

Thursday

Great Sword

Instructor Kenny Mai

The greatsword, known across cultures as the zweihander, spadone, or montante, was an auxiliary weapon used by the vanguard or shock troops of various mercenaries during the Italian Wars of the Renaissance Era, and later as a specialist weapon for crowd control in urban environments. This outdoor class will cover the body mechanics used by Iberian, Italian, and Germanic variants of the weapon. Sources will include works by Diogo Gomes de Figueyredo and Francesco Fernando Alfieri.

This is an outdoor class in Central Park – Southwest corner behind Maine Monument.

Students will require athletic clothes they can sweat in, and shoes appropriate for even footing on grass and dirt. Students are encouraged to bring steel greatsword blunts or trainers, or a 5 foot long staff of any wood. Students with neither are encouraged to contact the instructor for loaner staves.

There are 4 hickory staves measuring 6 feet long that are available to be cut and repurposed as loaners for this class.

Saturday Classes

Fundamentals 

Instructors Katie Meade and Josh Wickman

Fundamentals classes are accessible to students at all levels, including beginners, and do not require special gear. These classes focus on developing skills that are central to any historical fencing discipline, such as basic cuts and thrusts, footwork, and distance management. Specific topics vary from week to week.

Required For All Students:

Recommended for experienced students:

LED Saber

Instructor Kat Hamilton

ASL-FFE LED Saber dueling is the official LED saber sport of the French Fencing Federation (FFE), with rules based on those of Academie de Sabre Laser (ASL) in France and brought into the USA by Terra Prime Light Armory (TPLA). Combatants use weapons constructed with polycarbonate tubes lit with LED lights, executing cuts to their opponent's hands, head, torso, and body. Theatrical flourishes and spins are encouraged!

Students will be instructed in LED Saber techniques, both one- and two-handed, based in German longsword, Japanese battodo, German smallsword cut dueling, and Scottish spadroon dueling.

Required For All Students:

Recommended (for experienced students):

Sword & Buckler

Instructor Hildo Biersma

Sword and buckler training combines a one-handed arming sword with a buckler, a small one-handed shield. This was a common weapon combination for civilians in the late middle ages.

Sword and Buckler classes taught by Gemac are based on late medieval German traditions (I.33 and Andres Lignitzer). The classes have a strong focus on techniques and approaches shared with German longsword from the same period.

Required

Optional

German Longsword: Concepts and Techniques

Instructor Peter Haas

The European two-handed sword, or “longsword”, was a staple of Medieval fencing culture as early as the 14th century. Today, the longsword is one of Hema's most popular choices for fencing competitions.

Students will become familiar with the German Longsword system of cut and thrust fencing.

It is highly recommended that students previously attend a minimum of four or more Fundamental classes.

Peter’s German Longsword Study Guide is now Available!

Required Equipment:

Optional, but greatly encouraged:

Langes Messer

Instructor Peter Haas

Also known as Bauernwehr, the Langes Messer was the Medieval equivalent of a machete. These classes primarily focus on the Nuremberg Group treatises, a series of 15th and 16th century manuscripts that describe a common set of techniques and seem to have originated in the area of Nuremberg, Germany.

New and Beginner students:


Recommended for all students:

A Langes Messer Study Guide is now available!

Recommended for experienced students:


Considerations When Meeting Outdoors

When hosting a group meet-up, class, general practice, or workshop outdoors there are additional considerations that must be kept in mind at all times:

ALWAYS REMEMBER

When you fence in public, your behavior is a reflection on everyone in our group and the group itself. Be extra respectful.


Board of Directors

Current Active Board (2022)

Responsibilities

General Secretary

Treasurer

Archivist

Operations Manager

Program Coördinator


Student Advocate

The Student Advocate is an appointed, non-voting volunteer member of the GEMAC Board whose primary purpose is to advocate for members and guests of Gotham Swords (GEMAC); assisting in the management of issues, disputes, and violations of the Code of Conduct that may arise.  The Student Advocate also acts as an adviser to the board on the pragmatic effectiveness of the policies outlined in the Code of Conduct and Mediation Process.

The Student Advocate will not disclose identifying information to any third party without your express permission to do so.

If you need to contact the Student Advocate: ombudsman@gothamswords.com


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Hema?

Historical European Martial Arts, or Hema, is the study of historical fighting systems and styles associated with the European continent.

What is Gemac?

Gotham European Martials Arts Collective, or GEMAC is the formal “government name” of Gotham Swords.  We offer training in Historical European Martial Arts and Fencing from a variety of sources, including Longsword, Messer, Sword & Buckler, LED Saber, and more!

What is Gotham Swords?

Gotham Swords is the cooler, hipper nick-name for the Gotham European Martials Arts Collective, or GEMAC.

How do I get started?

The best starting point would be one of our Fundamentals Classes — these are accessible to students of all levels of experience, and do not require special gear.

Some classes, such as Langes Messer and LED Saber, welcome new/beginner students and require no special gear to get started.

We recommend taking at least 4-8 Fundamentals classes to anyone who has never done Historical European Martial Arts before, even if you have taken classes in foil or epee fencing or other kinds of martial arts.

To register for classes please view our schedule.

If it is your first class, please arrive fifteen minutes early so you have time to fill out the required paperwork or follow the links on the sign up page for the waiver and agreements.

How do I sign up for classes?

Check out our class schedule to sign up.

Please note that some classes may currently be invite-only/instructor approval required, or require the completion of at least 4 classes of the Fundamentals course.

If you’re coming to us from another Hema club, please email us at contact@gemac.club.

Where are you located?

We run in-person classes at Ripley Grier Studios in Midtown Manhattan, NY. More information can be found on the schedule page.  Please note there are multiple Ripley Grier locations in NYC!

What styles / weapons can I study?

Currently Gemac offers classes in Longsword, Langes Messer, Sword and Buckler, and LED Saber.

If you are new to HEMA, we recommend our Longsword Fundamentals courses; you’ll probably find that concepts learned in longsword will translate across other weapons. Some classes such as Messer and LED Saber are also beginner friendly.

What should I wear to class?

Dress in casual gym attire: sweatpants/shorts, t-shirt, gym shoes.  Certain classes may eventually ask you to purchase a uniform if you wish to commit to long-term study.

In what order should I buy gear?

Starting a new hobby (particularly one involving swords!) can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming.

Review our Guide to HEMA Gear for detailed information about purchasing protective equipment.

While classes might have slightly different gear requirements in terms of how much gear you have to wear, any protective equipment such as masks, gloves, etc. can be used across all classes.

If you have any questions about gear for a particular class, please check with the instructors!  Always talk to your instructors before purchasing a practice weapon.

Where Should I Buy Gear?

Review our Gear for detailed information about purchasing protective equipment.

Do I need to know German?

Not at all! It won't hurt if you do, but rest assured, it's perfectly feasible to learn the terminology as you go.

You'll find that we use a mix of German and English terms. Usually, we stick to the German term, for two reasons:

Some instructors and disciplines will use different terminology for the same or similar things. For example, langes messer uses Stier in place of Ochs, but the concept is the same (just with one hand). In addition, many HEMAists study the Italian fencing master Fiore, and thus tend to use Italian terms instead of German.

Check out the Gotham Swords Study Guides to learn more about vocabulary.

Is it safe for me to participate in Hema?

We take participants’ safety seriously in all of our activities. We carry martial arts insurance through the Hema Alliance and enforce strict rules about safety during classes and activities. We also take your mental and emotional well-being seriously and strive to create a welcoming environment for all guests.

I've taken some Fundamentals classes. What's next?

The Fundamentals classes are designed to teach you the basic information that is needed to study any of the forms offered by Gemac, and to train the foundational skills common to all of those forms.

To build and refine those skills, you are welcome to take Fundamentals classes for as long as you like and can return to them at any time.

When you are ready and have obtained the required equipment, you can continue studying longsword by joining the Concepts & Techniques longsword class if you wish. You may also choose to pursue a different weapon style, such as langes messer or sword & buckler.

If you're not familiar with the other styles, it's a good idea to get more information before you sign up for class. You can do this by speaking with the instructor of those classes, asking your Fundamentals instructor, or staying after class to watch any classes that are running in the next timeslot (space permitting).

 

How is Gotham Swords dealing with Covid-19?

The safety of our members is paramount, and we take Covid-19 with the utmost seriousness.

See our section on Covid-19 Policy & Response for current information.

I'm a teacher and would love to join you!

Awesome!  If you are an experienced teacher and would like to work with us to offer classes, seminars, or events please email contact@gemac.club.

Are there other schools?

Yes!  There are many training options in NYC. We have assembled a list of groups in the greater New York Area to promote a diverse range of perspectives and approaches to the study of Hema and Historical Fencing.

Is Gotham Swords affiliated with Gotham Archery?

No, we are not affiliated with any other group having “Gotham” in their name. Gotham is one of many nicknames for New York City.

Do you have swag?!

This is HEMA, of course we have cool swag. T-shirts, pins, mugs, towels, and more!

I still have questions! How do I find out more?

Contact us at contact@gemac.club!


NYC Area HEMA & Historical Fencing

Diversity is an important component to the study of Historical Fencing and Gotham Swords champions the HEMA Alliance's Freedom of Study policy. This list is provided to offer access to other perspectives and approaches to HEMA and Historical Fencing.  Note that not all organizations listed here are affiliated with Gemac:

If you'd like to have your club or organization listed here or become a GEMAC Affiliate, contact us!


Contact

contact@gemac.club — General inquiries

Join our Discord Server for updates and discussions regarding class materials.

View our social media on Facebook and Instagram.