Spotlight: Scott Brown on the Future of HEMA

Those who have been to CombatCon are familiar with the name. Scott Brown has been an influential voice in the HEMA community and has contributed much in recent years to the inclusion of historically and martially sound technique in stage and screen fighting through the Paddy Crean Workshop, CombatCon, and other venues.

We had the pleasure of getting Scott pinned down for just long enough to answer some questions on HEMA, his experiences, and the future. As a past instructor at CombatCon, he was happy to share some of his insights with us and with you.

CombatCon: Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself?

Scott Brown: I run Ochs America in Orlando, Florida and have been traveling to teach, run events, and coordinate on HEMA focused publications since around the turn of the century.  I also operate HEMA Supplies where we offer (mostly) quality imported HEMA gear.

CC: How did you first get started in HEMA?

SB: A former training partner of my Aikido club introduced me to HEMA in a rather amusing but lengthy tale.  Suffice it to say I was hooked almost instantly and quickly abandoned my current arts for HEMA.  The rest, as they say, is history.

CC: What’s the biggest difference between HEMA now, and when you started?

SB: Nearly all the differences are big.  We now have choices in gear built specifically for us, we have dozens of workshops to choose from, there’s a club (often two!) in nearly every major town now, there are endless publications and online resources that weren’t even considered way back when – the list goes on.

CC: Many people believe that with the first ever nationally televised longsword event recently at IMAF, HEMA is at a significant turning point in its modern resurgence. What decisions that we as a community make now do you think will most affect the future of HEMA?

SB: Most of the decisions this question is aimed at are already “answered” so the future of that vein of HEMA is very predictable.  What remains is if a more historically accurate vein of competitive HEMA will emerge beyond the re-enactment circles.

CC: What do you think is most lacking in HEMA today – particular disciplines of study, formats, certain styles of meetups, source materials – or anything you can think of that’s consistently missed or avoided? Why do you think that thing, in particular, is being missed?

SB: The two largest issues along these lines are the absence of historical competitive formats and the relatively small interest in systems beyond longsword.

CC: If you could bring one thing about HEMA into focus as it gains prominence in media and with the general public, what would it be?

SB: The truly vast diversity of systems available.

CC: I know you run your own club – can you tell me a little bit about your club?

SB: We’re based in Orlando, Florida and offer weekly training in Sword and Buckler, Longsword, and Sabre.  We put a premium on exploring the related systems for accuracy and breadth over competitive accomplishments.

CC: What is your ultimate goal at Ochs America for your students (i.e. what do you hope they take away from their time with you)?

SB: That varies per person as each person has different goals themselves and I see the job of the club leader as being to cultivate those goals individually.  For starters, we don’t use the term “students” but rather “training partners” as part of the reflection of this approach.  All that said, a personal goal for the club is that it outlasts me and so part of that is cultivating a culture in the club of developing competent fencers that, in time, begin to work directly with source material and introduce their understandings to the relevant parts of the club to breed the same for the following generations.

CC: Can you share any lessons you’ve learned as an instructor that you wish you had known as a student?

SB: Probably dozens, if I’m honest.  It’s important never to get too married to an interpretation.  It’s vital to frequently revisit the sources directly.  It’s crucial not to be too negative regarding your own progress as progress often happens in ways you don’t immediately recognize.

CC: If there’s one thing you hope readers and HEMA practitioners can take away from this conversation about the current and future state of HEMA, what would that be?

SB: HEMA is a wide and varied area of study so get out there and start getting involved, but above all, do not get caught up following others blindly, always go to the source and come to your own conclusions even if they change over time.