The History of SMEF

Johannes Liechtenauer:

"This is the lesson of the five blows from the right hand. Who could it be that we promise cheerfully to repay through our art?"

The School History

The roots of the School of Medieval European Fencing (SMEF) were established in the mid 1980's and it was renamed from the School of Traditional Medieval Fencing (STMF) in 2013, being originally associated with Wolfsbane Historical Society in the late 1980's and early 90's. The school has researched, translated, interpreted and practised many manuscripts during this time, including the various masters from medieval Europe through to the later styles and disciplines of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The SMEF has always been a 'not for profit' organisation, run under the principles of the reinvestment of funds in order to provide equipment and support for its students. As a school we have been invited to run classes at national and international events including Fightcamp, S.W.A.S.H. and Dijon. We have also been asked to run after-school clubs for children aged between 8 and 13 years as well as University Student Union clubs. We have presented many demonstrations for the general public at historical venues and museums and annually organise internationally renowned events exclusively for HEMA practitioners. We are regularly invited to run a series of classes at other HEMA schools throughout the UK and occasionally Europe. We have helped some within SMEF to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh award by providing personal development through HEMA training, and by working in conjunction with the Scout movement SMEF has developed courses for scouts to achieve their 'Masters at Arms' and 'Martial Arts' badges. SMEF has also choreographed fight scenes for film, which include training actors to move and react authentically during their exchanges.

Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) pre-date a majority of the currently known Eastern martial systems and the earliest known document of this type from Europe was thought to be scribed by a religious order in the early part of the C14th, commonly known as MS.I.33 and specifically referring to sword and buckler. The system we currently follow originates from the teachings of the Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer, who we believe was actively teaching in the mid to late C14th. The sources for our interpretation of the Liechtenauer system are derived from the manuscripts of subsequent masters who followed that tradition, but the main document used, MS Dresden C487, is thought to be attributed to master Sigmund of the Ringeck family. As stated in the introduction to the manual, Liechtenauer composed rhyming couplets to be used as 'crib notes' for his students which also prevented his work from being discovered by lesser fencing masters of that time.

Sigmund Ringeck was most likely a third or fourth generation Liechtenauer scholar and his treatise expands further on the Liechtenauer verses in the form of a 'gloss'. This has given us, with the benefit of cross-referencing with other manuscripts from the Liechtenauer tradition, a far more comprehensive insight into this system.

Our current teaching syllabus is based on the MS Dresden C487 manuscript. We at SMEF have been researching, practising and teaching from our own transliteration of the original manuscript from which a comprehensive understanding of the Liechtenauer system has evolved. The SMEF follow what we believe to be the true martial intentions taught by Grand Master Liechtenauer himself.

Although our primary teaching weapon is the longsword, our other disciplines include (but are not limited to) sword and buckler, dagger, messer, dussack, wrestling and pole weapons, including armoured and un-armoured techniques.