Malta Historical Fencing Association

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it dangerous?
Not really. We do not try to beat each other down through brute strength, and both our weapons and our protective equipment are designed to allow safe contact. In the last few years, we’ve had more injuries from playing football, cycling, or making cups of tea than sparring. That said, bear in mind that this is a martial art; a few small bruises now and again are practically inevitable.
Can I enroll my children?
Owning and maintaining one’s own weapons requires a certain amount of personal responsability. In addition to this, it would not be practical to have a child drill or spar with an adult; both would be inconvenienced, and neither would find the excercise very useful. While most of our members cultivate a life-long obsession with all things sharp and shiny from a very early age, we have to limit our membership to people who are 16 or older.
Am I too old to join?
We practice fencing as a martial art, not as a sport; technique beats physical strength and speed, so as long as you are comfortable with the excercise, there is nothing to stop you from practicing. For obvious reasons, you should inform the instructor of any medical conditions.
I’m out of shape. Can I fence?
None of the current members are professional athletes or movie stars; in fact, most of us work in normal desk jobs which involve a lot of sitting down. We’re in pretty average shape, so you’re definitely not out of place. While you may feel some mild discomfort after the first session or two (especially if you’re unused to excercise), you’ll be able to practice without any trouble.
There’s a lot of equipment involved. Isn’t it really expensive?
While there is indeed a whole lot of equipment, you won’t be needing it all at once. The minimum equipment you will need to start practicing is quite cheap, and you can build up your kit over time. Most of our members build up their kit over two or three years, so the cost is spread out.
Do you have competitions?
No, we don’t. We spar to test and improve our technique, not for the sake of hitting our opponent; introducing a scoring system would make us think less about our technique and more about scoring points. If you are more interested in competitions, you might want to consider sports fencing instead.
Do you have grades/belts/levels?
We like to keep a flat structure; you’re either a student or an instructor.
Do you also practice with Katanas?
We only practice techniques which were used in and around Europe. Japanese swords are very nice, but they’re not our thing. If you want to practice Oriental techniques, though, we can point you to a few good instructors.
Do you also practice Roman fighting techniques?
We’d love to, but there just isn’t enough documented material (that we know of) to reconstruct Roman military or gladiatorial swordfighting. While historical swordfighting always requires a bit of interpretation and experimentation to fill in some gaps, in this case the gaps are so big that it would basically mean inventing a new system from scratch; the chances of it being anything close to the real thing would be anybody’s guess.
Do you also practice with axes/hammers/maces/shields/… ?
Even if we don’t now, we probably will at some point. At the moment we’re focusing mainly on swords of various types, though we have also started experimenting with daggers and pole weapons. If a weapon has a connection to Maltese history, and there is some knowledge of how it is used, some of us will probably want to try it sooner or later.
What about armour?
It’s expensive, takes a lot of effort to maintain, and is very annoying to carry around. Besides, it’s not entirely safe for sparring in (open vision slits, and so on). While we like looking at them, we prefer to spend our time and money elsewhere. If you’re really interested in going around all dressed up though, you might want to try a reenactment group.
Can women join too?
Yes of course. We do have female fencers in our group. We give equal opportunities and training to whoever wants to learn.