HEMA Romance: Date Night With A Sword

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and romance is in the air. For many fencing and HEMA programs, that means romance … and swords! Are fencing programs that transform a “date night” into a “sword fight” a good idea? Well, maybe …

By Scott Farrell

Head Instructors Scott Farrell and April Apperson-Farrell enjoy a quick kiss between bouts.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, many HEMA programs and sport-fencing studios are promoting “date night” style activities, intended to introduce couples to the sport. Many of these programs provide a package deal that allows the couple to get a short amount of private instruction in rules and techniques, then mask up and do a few bouts of fencing, and finally relax together over wine and cheese.

On the surface this seems like it might be an ideal couple’s activity – the perfect thing for an active, adventurous pair of partners to use as a bonding experience, whether they are on their first date, or approaching a milestone wedding anniversary.

And there is no doubt that plenty of people have come away from this sort of “sword-fighting date” with smiles on their faces.

But I’ve also seen these types of out-on-a-date fencing programs result in very negative experiences – from mild frustration to outright un-romantic angry feelings. So, if you are considering a date-night fencing session (either as a participant or as an instructor) here are a few suggestions to make sure the experience is both positive and romantic.

Skip The Competition

Many of these “date night” programs emphasize the romantic potential of engaging your sweetheart in a spirited sword fight. That sort of thing is great – in romance novels and Zorro movies, where the martial exchange is part of a scripted narrative. In reality, however, competition is more likely to bring out old baggage than feelings of affection.

Much better are activities where the participants are learning new skills side by side, rather than competing against one another. In Chivalry Today’s private lessons, for instance, participants learn a set of basic skills that they apply against members our coaching staff, whose ego isn’t on the line during the lesson. This ensures that nobody has to worry about being the “loser” at the end of the date!

Equals In Love And Laughter

This isn’t to say that dating partners can’t work together at all during a “date night” HEMA or fencing experience. There are lots of games and partner exercises that are used to introduce the basics of footwork, timing, and measure. Without a winner or loser, games that involve cooperative learning allow partners to achieve an understanding of the basic physical principles of the martial art. One of the first exercises students are introduced to in Chivalry Today’s HEMA lessons is a “follow the leader” exercise in proper footwork, in which both partners take equal turns as “leader” and “follower.”

Since the skills that a couple will be learning should be relatively new to both partners, this sort of exercise usually provides plenty of opportunity for humor and amusement. With some encouragement from the instructors (“Hey, I made the same mistake the first time I tried this exercise!”) this can be a great excuse for dating partners to smile and laugh as they learn.

Dance Rather Than Duel

The goal of a date-night fencing or HEMA program should be to get partners working together, not struggling for victory or dominance. In order to build a sense of mutual trust and togetherness (rather than rivalry) during the date, a learning activity that involves working through a set routine can be much more romantic than a contest. Think “dance” rather than “duel.” Part of Chivalry Today’s lessons for groups or couples includes learning one of our “forms” – solo routines that involve stepping through various techniques to demonstrate proper footwork, timing, and sword skills. Doing this as part of a date-night lesson under the guidance of a coach results in a very relaxed, mutually supportive activity where no one has to worry about keeping score.

Historical illustration depicting a duel between a husband (in the hole) and his wife (standing and swinging a rock in a sack). While this might be a valid 15th century means of settling a marriage dispute, it is not a good idea for a Valentine’s Day date.

Discovering HEMA or sport fencing can be a great romantic experience for Valentine’s Day – or a date night any time of the year! A lesson in the romance of sword-fighting should not pit dating partners against one another. (Frankly, that statement should be true of any kind of date, or couple’s activity!) With a focus on mutual learning, trust-building, and cooperation, a HEMA “date night” can be a great way to get closer to your romantic partner, to challenge yourself, and to discover a fun new activity that can provide mental stimulation and physical fitness for a lifetime.

A HEMA or fencing introductory session as a Valentine’s Day activity can be a pleasant and enjoyable “date night” activity, if you focus on mutual learning and cooperative activities. Leave the competitive spirit for another time.

For more information on Chivalry Today’s Swords of Chivalry HEMA program visit us here.