"He who comports himself well, and breaks well, and finally breaks completely – and breaks apart [every technique] using the Three Wonders – he who uses Hängen and Winden well, and performs the eight Winden in the correct way – and by each Winden I mean the three Winden, which makes them four and twenty, counting them from both sides. "
Chairman and Chief Instructor
Our Chief Instructor, Maister Grade 3 and the main driving force behind the SMEF, is Chris Stride. He has practised the art of swordsmanship since the early 1990's and has dedicated a large part of his life to researching, understanding and teaching the system devised by the great medieval German fencing master Johannes Liechtenauer. Having started from humble beginnings, with no previous martial training and being entirely self taught, Chris has gained a pure and in-depth understanding of what it is that Liechtenauer's system represents. Over the course of time he has come to realise that the system in itself is beautifully simple and yet comprehensive in the way it develops both the Martial and the Art, and how its application transfers across all martial art disciplines both old and modern. Having already published one book concerning the very basic starting blocks of the Liechtenauer system (Grades 1 & 2), he is currently working on the second book in the series to bring into focus the more complex principles of Grade 3.
Chris is a design and research engineer, amongst other things, and as a consequence automatically works back to first principles when assessing and understanding any new body of research. With regards to Liechtenauer's system he did not allow himself to be influenced by other interpretations until a firm understanding of the principles involved, and the context in which they are used, was attained. This purist approach helps prevent the perpetuation of compounding misinterpretations (which seems to plague HEMA) and has led the way to achieving a comprehensive understanding and precise working knowledge of martial principles and body mechanics that seems to have been all but forgotten in the teaching of many martial arts outside natural ability. This foundation is necessary when deciphering any lost martial art and especially when trying to uncover the true meaning behind Liechtenauer's cryptic rhyming couplets. From the perspective of a teacher, this knowledge is essential if useful information is to be imparted to a student and martial progression achieved.
In addition to the Martial there is the Art and Chris believes that understanding the historical context, both culturally and politically, is essential in order to attain a comprehensive knowledge of Liechtenauer's system. When the Art is applied with the correct emotional and psychological mindset the convictions of even the most determined challenger can usually be undone. When teaching the Martial and the Art in unison the development of any student is almost exponential. Each new element introduced helps to re-enforce the understanding of previous lessons and it is quite often the case that a relatively new student, who is working through Grades 2 and 3, will unwittingly perform the more complex techniques of Grade 4 and 5 as a consequence of applying their understanding of the system as a whole rather than just knowing disjointed plays with no cohesive thread connecting them.
Chris has been invited to teach at many international events and has had significant influence within the HEMA community, having initially held the position of Treasurer, and then Chief Assessor within the British Federation for Historical Swordplay (BFHS) for many years. In this time he introduced, implemented and administered: the Instructor Levels (IL) within the BFHS; Group Assessment criteria for new groups coming into the BFHS; Instructor assessor training programmes; IL assessment days/weekends; and the BFHS insurance scheme. He also consulted in the establishment of the BFHS equivalent in Ireland.
Chris, and a few likeminded individuals, are currently working on developing an independent qualifying body for HEMA in an attempt to establish a graded level of practice that can be globally recognised as martially correct within the spirit of the discipline relative to the time in history in which it was practised. This will also include HEMA specific advice and resources (both historical and teaching), code of practice, teaching qualifications, and member support.