Ever wanted to try your hand at sword fighting, or you’ve just been interested in historical sword fighting in general? I’ve always had an interest in swords but finally got a chance to try out the real deal with Zwaardkring Malaysia a couple of weeks ago!

So what is this thing you’re talking about, you ask. The art of swordfighting, or in this case Historical Europian Martial Arts (HEMA for short) is both a sport and a martial art in its own right, that has been growing in Malaysia over the last couple of years. It’s not particularly far off from similar sports like Fencing, so think of that you more or less got the idea.

We got offered the opportunity to put my skinny noodle arms to the test by Zwaardkring Malaysia during their most recent newbie workshop over at their training grounds at Sri KL in Subang. Running the show is none other than Sacha Dijkshoorn, who started up Zwaardkring Malaysia not long after settling down in KL.

If you want to get into specifics, the group teaches the Liechtenauer tradition, which originates from somewhere between the 14th or 15th century as well as Bloßfechten, which is German for unarmoured fighting. There are a variety of different “schools” of HEMA, depending on who the traditions originated from.

The workshop saw a pretty good turnout, and there weren’t enough practice swords (called nylon/synthetic wasters) to go around so some of the students had to use sticks due to the large turnout. There were special blunt tipped metal swords available too but you still need to be fairly experienced and wearing the appropriate protective gear while using them because they’re heavy and they still hurt. Doesn’t make them any less cool though.

Suffice to say, it’s very much more than just looking menacing while you brandish your over-the-top fantasy sword while you hobble around in your overcompensating armor. Nope, it’s very much like any other martial art out there with its own moves, disciplines and in this case, choice of weaponry.

Of course, on top of getting some pretty fun exercise (how can you possibly be bored when you’re sparring?) there’s a bit of a geeky extra to it too. If you’re the sort who is into cosplay and want to add a little extra edge to how you handle your weapons to your stances, this is one place you can learn to get better. You will be taught how to properly hold your swords/weapons of choice, the proper stances, steps and even how to disarm your opponents, which Sacha and Farhan happily demonstrated for us. I did fudge up my steps and poses quite a bit but after awhile it just clicks. Practice makes perfect!

Sacha demonstrates the disarming technique

It also turns out that sword fighting isn’t just wailing on each other with swords but there’s also grapples, throws and can involve a lot…of punching.

As a person who gets bored pretty easily (you can see why gym didn’t really work out for me) but I still found it pretty engaging. Of course, like any sport, you can expect the occasional scrape and bruise but trust me, if you like swordplay of any sort, it’s pretty worth it.

If you are interested (like me) classes generally run on Monday and Thursday nights, starting at 7.30pm at Sri KL school. The classes run for about 2 hours, usually consisting of a warm up session, 45 minutes of longsword revision and then the final 30 minutes are dedicated to free-play (which usually consists of trying new techniques) and sparring. As for the price, it goes for RM 160 for 8 classes (once a week or twice a week) or adhoc RM20 a class.

Should you decide to join up and become more specialized, the group can also help you purchase your gear, with the most basic nylon practice sword starting at RM250.

You can head on over here for more details on their Facebook page, and maybe I’ll see you there sometime!