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Article 1

It is by the formation of the Historical Fencing Affiliation (HFA) that disparate historical fencing groups come together and, through agreement, adopt a common ranking structure to collectively validate and recognize the efforts of their individual members.  In doing so a "common ground" and sense of community is created within the HFA through which ideas, methods, and knowledge may be shared in order to promote the growth of both groups and their members beyond what would otherwise be separately achievable.


Article 2

The Historical Fencing Affiliates (HFA) will be comprised of autonomous and equal member organizations. These member organizations will conduct their own business by any means and structure they deem necessary.


Article 3

The HFA member organizations recognize the validity and merit of the Common Rank Structure, and as such agree to utilize it.


The Greek fencing clubs Academy of Hoplomachia, Coriolanos, and Meandros are recognized as having joined the HFA before the construction and adoption of this charter, and are thereby exempt from Article 3. All future Greek fencing clubs who sign this charter will be bound to the charter in its entirety.


The Common Rank Structure is as follows:

The definition of this structure will be divided into two separate sections. The first section (Section A) will list the rankings that are tested and declared within the individual groups. There will be no required involvement with the HFA as a whole. Each individual member group will have the responsibility to test and evaluate the rankings in Section A.  The second section (Section B) will list the rankings and requirements that the HFA as a whole will be responsible for. Each ranking will be listed, followed by a brief description of what that rank’s requirements and prequalifying conditions are.  This will be followed by a general concept of the conditions of the testing procedure, and finally what will be expected of the individual and any benefits due to them.

The Novice through Provost is guaranteed the freedom to join/belong/explore any other martial art, or martial arts group.  The practitioner is highly encouraged to begin to share and demonstrate this Art to others.  The practitioner has a duty to expand awareness and information about this Art and this Affiliation.  The practitioner is guaranteed the freedom to participate in demonstrations, explorations and other similar activities without the direct supervision of any of the following ranks.  

Novice and Scholar are not officially sanctioned Instructor ranks within the Affiliation itself. Ranks above Scholar are official teaching positions. The practitioner is furthermore free from any forms of discrimination or biases. Once the rankings are earned they cannot be “removed” or “revoked” for any reason. These rankings are earned for the life of the practitioner. If the practitioner leaves the HFA or their local group, the ranking is still valid and does not dissolve.


Section A: “Novice” through “Free-Scholar” Rankings

For the following Rankings, the longsword is recognized as the primary (not sole) weapon for the Novice through Scholar.  Once the Rank of Free-Scholar is earned, the primary weapon or weapons are optional.

Note: It is not intended to exclude practitioners from weapons other than the longsword. It is suggested that their “official” lessons should be limited to the longsword until a base understanding of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is obtained. However, once this is obtained, it is recommended that some exposure to other weapons be given.

Novice: The individual simply shows up.  They will be required to have a completed waiver on file and have paid any club dues/fees.  They will not be required to wear a uniform, (however one can be installed) but in general this rank is fitting for an individual who attends sessions simply for exercise, a passing interest, or for someone who is new to the Art. This person could fit firmly within the recreational track (See Article 4).

Scholar: The practitioner displays more than a simple passing interest. This practitioner complies with all requirements of Novice, and in addition purchases a uniform, begins to inquire about the historical sources, and attends practices regularly.  

The candidate can physically demonstrate the basic cuts, and guards, and transition between the basic cuts and guards in a smooth manner. The candidate should be able to name the basic guards and understand their utility (German or Italian.) The Scholar should also be able to name several of the historical masters, and be aware of the approximate timeframe of their material. The overall effect is that the Scholar understands and can physically demonstrate the basic cuts, guards and transitions and understand and be familiar with the source of our information and study. They should be able to name several masters and the approximate time period. They should have a uniform and purchase their own equipment and gear.  

The Novice and Scholar are guaranteed freedom to join/belong/explore any other martial art, or martial arts group.  The Scholar is highly encouraged to begin to share and demonstrate this Art to others.  The Scholar has a duty to expand awareness and information about this Art and this Affiliation.  The Novice and Scholar are guaranteed freedom to participate in demonstrations and other similar activities without the direct supervision of any of the following ranks.  Novice and Scholar are not officially sanctioned Instructor ranks within the Affiliation itself.

Free-Scholar: As the name refers, the practitioner has now attained a level of competency with the longsword that will be rewarded by complete freedom.  This freedom can take the form of “specializations” in a wide-ranging area of topics related to our arts. (See: Adept Rank)

This could mean a departure from the longsword into other weapons independent of the longsword.  The individual is also free to become more solely focused on research, club stewardship, or other aspects of belonging, running and maintaining the group independent of martial prowess.    

The Free-Scholar has met all of the previous requirements thus far, and in addition has become a member of the club with a degree of tenure the membership recognizes.   They should be able to participate in a free-play bout under control of emotions and actions.  These qualities may yet not be mastered but are identified and controlled to a degree.  If the Free-Scholar is able to routinely participate in sparring with a comparable chance of success with his/her seniors and the general membership, then this practitioner may be a candidate for promotion.  

The Free-Scholar is an officially recognized instructor for the HFA.

In regards to the disciplines of stewardship and research, these Free-Scholars will be free to organize and recognize individuals within their peer group, as they deem necessary.  These attempts should be vetted by the local boards/presidents of the local clubs for final approval.

Individual clubs have the ability to construct tests for this rank based on their needs.  Some groups may require prize-playings, others may use verbal only tests, or some combinations of these ideas.

Sample Free-Scholar test:

The following is a sample Free-Scholar testing procedure currently employed by Provost Aaron Pynenberg in use at the Wisconsin Historical Fencing Association-Appleton Chapter.

Pre-qualifications: Candidate must have regular attendance at training. Absences are normal and expected but consecutive weeks of non-participation immediately disqualify the Candidate. Candidate must have taken observable steps to improve, e.g. extra sessions, personal training, individual research, etc. The Candidate should take the responsibility to stay informed and engaged--not focusing on the Instructor--and demonstrate a consistent pattern of effort to integrate lessons into their own training. All these factors and more shall be considered.   

Part 1: Verbal testing, open ended question/answer

The Candidate is asked a number of open-ended questions from the perspective of a Novice, or interested party. Here are some examples:

1.       I see you have a sword what are you doing?

2.       Why do you do this activity?

3.       What do you “get” out of this?

The test is designed to be conversational, and intended to determine if the Candidate can talk about the efforts of his/her home group in such a way that is informative and comfortable. The best recruitment tool we have has been word of mouth. The Candidate must be able to speak of these efforts with some authority and composure. The attitude is important and defines the significant difference between a Scholar and Free-Scholar. Can the Candidate convince the uninformed that what they are doing has merit and value? Use the five tracks as a template; are they able to explain all five, and do they then relate back to the track they are currently identifying with?

If the Candidate is firmly within the traditional track, they should be able to mention the sport track, but should be spending most of their efforts explaining the track most interesting to them. These questions and answers should be recorded and shown to the Candidate afterward. The increased pressure of being recorded can be a useful tool to assist in highlighting the attitudinal maturity we are looking for in a Free-Scholar.

Part 2: Techniques and specifics

The next portion deals with the Candidate’s grasp of technical information. The WHFA-Appleton favors the Germanic traditions so the examples given here reflect this tradition, but it is not binding. The Italian tradition could also be used; this format is simply a suggestion.

The Candidate displays common basic techniques against a cooperative training partner. The Candidate directs the training partner to allow for perfect/flawless displays of the fundamental techniques:

“Candidate, use your training partner to show me five examples of the Zwerchau.”

The Candidate then will instruct the partner to give an oberhau, which they displace using the Zwerchau, right and left long edge, right and left short edge, and one instance of using the off-hand to displace and strike a Zwerchau.

“Candidate, use your partner to display an instance of winding.”

The Candidate instructs the partner to strike an oberhau, which they then displace with a Zornhau. The Candidate instructs the partner to react strongly, which they then use to wind and place the point in a threatening manner.

The amount or number of techniques can vary, and the assessment is based on the “clean” examples of each technique. As an Assessor, I ask myself these questions: Are there small but significant teaching points present? Does the Candidate understand these techniques and how one is distinguished from another?Is the Candidate able to give simple yet effective instruction to their assisting partner?

Note: Part of the test and evaluation is how organized they are as they demonstrate these actions. The “style” of the Candidate is also noted for future instruction and growth as an instructor.

Part 3: Movement/balance/conditioning/martial knowledge

1-The Candidate is expected to be able to flourish with energy, precision and power. This is very subjective, and explaining what does or does not constitute a “passing” attempt is difficult to place into words.  The Candidate should look balanced, powerful, centered and grounded.  A variety of techniques should be on display, and the Candidate should “own” their performance. The key to successful attempts will be practice and repetition. If the Candidate does not flourish often, it will immediately become apparent. The reverse is also true; if some attempts were made to practice it will also become apparent.

2-The next portion involves the Candidate moving from guard to guard in a slow but firm motion. These guard progressions should have a natural flow but are different than flourishing.

A subjective cumulative determination can then be made by the assessor. Do they recover quickly? Do they remain focused? Do they look natural? All these and more can be considered.

Part 4: Bouting/self-critiques- (must be video recorded for playback)

The Candidate spars with the training partner in several bouts. These bouts must be video recorded and available for immediate playback (with a tablet, for example). After several exchanges, I watch the bouts and quickly see several basic points that I would use to help critique and improve upon.

The critiques can be focused on the Candidate or the assisting partner. The focus is not on how the Candidate performs during the bouting, (although that will certainly be on display and can be added into the consideration) but on observable teaching points that can be identified.

As an assessor, you’re watching for several things. Is bouting natural to the Candidate? Is the Candidate so focused on winning that safety and martial control is thrown out the window? Naturally the Candidate will be more “jacked up” as it is their test, but look to see if they can control and overcome this. Can they self-identify this condition and protect themselves and their training partner? Does their overall maturity reflect even an awareness of these conditions?

All of these attitudes and more should be subjectively observed and added into the overall decision making process. For me, I keep in mind that these are my next instructors. Can they instruct? Can they do the following: discuss, demonstrate, and critique, others performances?

After the bouting, and after I have finished watching the bouts and identified a few key points I would raise as an Instructor, I allow the Candidate to analyze the footage by themselves, while we all wait and watch, again adding that bit of pressure!

The Candidate takes mental notes of some critiques which they must then present to the assessor. The critiques can be of either fencer or the action in general. The critique does not have to center on the Candidate.

These critiques are then offered to the assessor. I am looking for how much they notice and what types of assessments they offer. Are they positive, negative? All have an appropriate place in teaching. Do they give accurate assessments? Do they pick up on techniques? This subjective process allows me to discover their general grasp on many things, as well as what type of instructor they naturally trend towards.

Note: Your test can be anything, but remember that the Free-Scholar is our first officially recognized Instructor level within the HFA! Can this person teach?

Free-Scholar Adept: All the previous conditions met. In addition this Free-Scholar has expressed a strong desire to become an instructor in a weapon within the HEMA tradition that is different than the longsword.

The Candidate must create the test for this weapon. The test is then forwarded in written form to a Provost for basic review. The Provost then forwards the test along with an approval letter to the highest ranking member of their group, or the primary trainer or organizer, or president or other noted leader.

That person will then administer this test to the Candidate.  Having completed the test and been awarded the Adept rank, they are then recognized as an expert in the selected weapon and may prize-play for Senior Free-Scholar with that weapon.

An example of a basic outline for a curriculum for a weapon other than longsword:

1-History and provenance:  How, Why, Where, When does this weapon fit within the HEMA tradition. State your sources in detail.

2-Nomenclature and variances: e.g. What makes this weapon a side-sword? Explain the differences between German vs Italian rapier? With different weapons, it will be important to know exactly which one the Candidate is talking about.

3-Usage: basic guards, cuts, uses, concepts. List your sources.

4-Testing: How will the Candidate test content knowledge? The Candidate must create the testing procedure, and then endure it.


Section B: “Senior Free-Scholar” through “Provost” rankings

Senior Free-Scholar: All the following requirements met.  The Senior Free-Scholar plays his/her prize amongst a group of practitioners other than his/her own group.  It should be clear that members of his/her own group can travel with the Candidate to the testing group and participate in the event if desired.  The Candidate requests to play their prize from a Provost and then is announced by the local group, accepted by the Provost(s) publicly, and arrangements are made with a “testing group.” The testing group accepts responsibility for the event and is responsible for the event site and organization.  

The individual Candidate and his/her group and the accepting testing group are jointly responsible for the financial strain of getting the individual Candidate to the testing group.  An equal sharing of costs for travel is suggested but any joint arrangement is acceptable.

The maximum number of candidates for each event will be ONE.  The logistics and effort involved should be focused on the single candidate.  More than this constitutes a watering down of the event and should be avoided if at all possible.  The Provost will announce the % of victory required to pass the event priorto the start of the event, (currently set at 70% overall).  The Provost will be responsible for judging the strikes as to what was a “win” or "loss.” All double hits are scored a “loss." These will be announced clearly at the time of the playing. The Prize should be played against all types of weapons, skills, and abilities.

A result will be announced immediately upon conclusion of the event; there will be no possibility of provisional rank.  It is an all-or-nothing proposition.  

If an injury, medical event, or equipment issue renders the Candidate unable to continue then the rank cannot be awarded.

The Senior Free-Scholar is a position of an Official Instructor and authority in the specific weapon played. Unless the Free-Scholar has already earned their Adept ranking in a specific weapon and chooses to play their prize with that specific weapon, the prizing is to be played with the longsword.

The Senior Free-Scholar is responsible for the maintenance and security of the freedom of the Free Scholars, and is also responsible for the integrity and the quality of the training being offered and suggested by the ranks “Journeyman” to “Provost."

Journeyman: All previous conditions met. The Journeyman continues to grow in all facets of the art. They travel to and explore other groups/students/concepts outside the HFA umbrella.  The Journeyman literally goes to distant places and trains with, and endeavors to make connections with, students outside the established perimeter of the common study groups.  They also engage regularly in teaching and have begun to directly mentor Senior Free-Scholars to encourage growth and expansion.  

The Provosts shall routinely visit the activities of the Senior Free-Scholars and identify the candidate as eligible for Journeyman.  Once this is done, the Journeyman shall submit a copy of their traveling resume and give a concise synopsis of their martial career thus far.  A formal announcement shall be made and the resume of the journeyman shall remain in the custody of the Provosts.

Provost: An individual who is widely recognized by his/her peers in a number of weapons.  This individual has clearly demonstrated extensive experience in training and leading and organizing training activities is routine.  Well-traveled and generally known to the larger community, the practitioner should be versed in the overall workings of the membership of all groups affiliated. The practitioner should be a recognized expert, or certified trainer in disciplines outside of fencing, and show a broad spectrum of knowledge in the larger field of training.  A natural leader, the practitioner should handle themselves with grace and composure at all times.  At no time shall the provost assume authority over any one group, (other than their own) and shall be forever answerable to the Senior Free-Scholars as a group.

The Provost shall set prize-playing events and certify candidates as Adepts, Senior Free-Scholars, and Journeyman.  The Provost shall lead trainers and training philosophies at large.  The Provost shall be able to demonstrate the validity of martial skill and techniques at all times.

Provost(retired):All previous, however due to age, injury, or disease is unable to display physical skill and name successor or additional Provosts, ratified by Senior Free-Scholars.  (See Provost Retirement Document)

Master: (undefined)



Article 4

The HFA recognizes that individual practitioners have diverse reasons to train in this Art. As such, the HFA recognizes five general tracks or paths that individual practitioners or participants may follow. The ordinal numbering of these paths is not meant to imply one path is above or superior to another.


The first path is the traditional martial arts track where practitioners are actively working through the Common Rank Structure.


The second path is the sport track where practitioners are heavily focused on competitive events. These practitioners may possibly never earn above the rank of Scholar.


The third path is the academic track which is focused primarily on research. In general, a participant involved in this track does not progress through the Common Rank Structure, but may be recognized for their efforts by other means as to be defined by their respective member organization.


The fourth path is the recreational track. These participants do not progress through the Common Rank Structure but rather train without the desire to meet rank requirements.


The fifth path is the volunteer track. These participants assist a member organization in a volunteer capacity.


Lastly, practitioners and participants may define themselves in any combination of these five paths.


Article 5

The HFA member organizations will maintain a form of digital communication that serves as the primary forum for the exchange of ideas, announcements, gatherings, and other official business.


At the establishment of this Declaration that forum is the HFA Google Groups listserv.


Furthermore, all individuals who are official practitioners of a member organization shall have access to this primary forum.


Article 6

The HFA member organizations recognize the foundational significance of the historical European source texts. These source texts, commonly called by the German term fechtbucher, are the wellspring of our martial values, our martial philosophies, and our martial interpretations.


Article 7

The use of drills (a training tool that requires two or more people) and exercises (a training tool for one individual) are fundamental in the methodology of a martial arts organization. As such, all HFA member organizations should utilize both drills and exercises.


Sparring or free play is fundamental in the methodology of a martial arts organization and, as such, all HFA member organizations should utilize earnest, athletic free play in their training.


Exercises, drills, and freeplay are all significant tools in skill development. The HFA does not recognize one piece of this methodology as superior to another. Freeplay, for example, is not more significant or critical than drilling. All three components are needed for skill development.


Article 8

All drills, exercises, and academic research should be given correct and warranted attribution. Individual practitioner contributions shall be noted and acknowledged.


Furthermore, all individual practitioners have the right to use and improve upon the drills, exercises, and research of others as long as correct attribution is given when warranted.

Article 9

Voting within the HFA will be the responsibility of the HFA College. The College will consist of two representative bodies. These bodies will be called the “permanent” members and the “rotating” members. These two bodies will consist of individuals who have met specific criteria and will then vote on issues that arise relating to the HFA. Each member of the College, regardless of rank or specialized position within the College, will have one (1) vote.

Permanent Members: These members will be recognized as Senior Free Scholar or higher (see Article 2).  Upon awarding of SFS Rank, the member automatically becomes a permanent, non-rotating, voting member of the HFA College.  
The intent of this provision is to recognize the individual effort and commitment that the SFS or higher has within the HFA as well to ensure the direction and motivation of the HFA is consistent with the overall values of its most invested members.
These members cannot be removed from the College unless by special vote of the College. These Members do not count towards the total number of representatives each group has, they are in addition to the total number.

Rotating Members: These are members who are Free Scholar/Adept or below. These members can also consist of non-ranked members, members who are not participating in the “Traditional Track” ranking system (see Article 3). The total number of these members per group will be two (2).

These Members shall be elected or appointed by their local groups in whichever method suits these local groups. There will be a rotation of these members every year, starting January 1st of the New Year.  Elections and/or appointments shall occur in November and be announced by each group December 1st.

The overall motivation for this body is for the involvement of new members of the HFA. This “new blood” is meant to give fresh insights into the HFA and maintain a sense of connection and respect to the newest members of the tradition, or to members who do not wish to be ranked.


The DEAN: The only separate or specialized position of The College will be the “Dean.” The Dean will be a Provost in the HFA. The Dean will be responsible for assigning proposal numbers to each new proposal. The Dean must then bring these proposals forward for discussion, voting and tabulating results of voting, (which will be done publicly). The Dean will be elected every three years starting 2015 (replacement due: January 1st, 2018).

Procedure/voting: The HFA College will be responsible for voting on issues brought to its attention from any source.  An individual who is not a member of the college itself may request a vote be taken.

To bring a vote forward these steps must be completed. A proposal should be placed on a separate document and submitted to the E-list. This proposal shall have these headers:
“Historical Fencing Affiliation”
Proposal#___.__ (issued and tracked by Dean), Title or subject
Brief: An overall description of the issue to be voted on.
Details: A more detailed description of the issue.
Submitting Individual or Group Representative: ______________Date:__________
Once the Dean observes the submission a Proposal Number MUST be assigned. This will be a simple number such as (1, 2, and 3 etc.). As changes are made then the submitting member can track them through the decimal after the assigned number, (e.g. "1.3," meaning the first proposal and three changes to the original submission by the original author).

If an Individual or Group completes a separate document and submits it as a proposal, the Dean MUST assign it a number and put it forward for discussion and voting.

The member who submitted the document shall be responsible for modifying it based on any discussion that is elicited from the posting of the document prior to the vote. The document or issue will be modified by the submitting member only, prior to an actual vote to be called.

The Dean will be responsible for ending discussion and calling for voting on all submitted documents for any particular issue.  A general timeframe for discussion shall be between 3-6 days but this is not binding.  The timeframe for voting shall be 4 days. Voting shall be done on the E-list and in public. A simple majority is all that is needed for the issue to pass and will become binding on all groups and individuals claiming membership within the HFA. A simple majority is defined as a voting requirement of more than half of all ballots cast.

The Dean will be responsible for recording the vote. The Dean will also maintain the record of these documents, and the results of the votes. These documents will be transferred to each new Dean upon election.


Amendments to this Charter are enacted through the HFA College through the above proposal system.

The HFA's Voting System at a glance:

  • Senior Free Scholar and above= permanent non-rotating seat and one vote

  • Free-Scholar/Adept and below=rotating one-year seat and one vote, (2 people per group)

  • Any HFA individual/Group may put forward a proposal which must be discussed and voted on.

  • Once a proposal is submitted the Dean will issue it a number and start discussion of approx. 3-6 days.

  • Only the submitting individual/group can change the document at issue for final voting.

  • Once the approx.  6th day is up; the vote will begin on-line and in public.

  • The voting will take place over the course of 4 days. At midnight on the fourth day the voting will be closed, and results declared by the Dean.

  • Proposal headers and formatting:
    “Historical Fencing Affiliation”
    Proposal #___.__ (issued and tracked by Dean), Title or subject
    Brief: An overall description of the issue to be voted on.
    Details: A more detailed description of the issue.
    Submitting Individual or Group Representative: ______________Date:__________

We, the undersigned organizations, do hereby recognize, uphold, and abide by this Charter. [Format: (Line 1) organization name, (Line 2) member name(s) who will represent that organization, (Line 3) date of Charter acceptance]