Witches and Weapons

This article is looking back on the „Ladies Weekend 2019“ organized by Laura Öztümer, It includes the good, the great and the mild critique. Full disclosure though, I cannot write this review without being a tad bit sentimental. This glorious HEMA-event was very special to me because it was a weekend of many firsts.

by Gerhild Grabitzer

First First: Not alone

Let’s start at the very beginning. On Friday evening, I got in my car with two other club members and drove to Salzburg to a HEMA Event. Pretty standard isn’t it? Well let me tell you, it is not. We are a rather small HEMA club and for almost two years it consisted of three guys and I. This of course has changed since, thanks to massive pushed for inclusivity. Nevertheless most HEMA clubs, including ours, are closer to the 20/80 gender ratio than the target of 50/50 thus it meant the world to me that a whole two brilliant PSV-valkyries where there in the car on our way to Salzburg with me. They were the best support against the first-workshop-and-also-tournament jitters and it made me tremendously proud to see them go off and wield theirs swords with other fencers. From the moment the three of us drove into the sunset (literally!) I knew this would be a very special weekend.

I have written an article on why HEMA is the best hobby and why more women should join in: cuz HEMA wants YOU

Second First: Workshop time

My short cheat sheet for the workshop can be found here (german). If you attended my workshop, please do not hold back on any feedback, good or bad, that you might have. Together we grow!

I was very honored that main event-sorceress Laura had asked me to give a workshop. I gladly took this opportunity to teach, especially because it seemed like a great chance to improve on my instructing skills as well as sharing my knowledge with fierce female fencers. The workshop I held was called „Prich that Twer, feat. Peter von Danzig“ and dealt with the three main counters to the ever so popular twerhaw as explained and described in the Manuscript Cod. 44.A.8 – our main source for interpreting longsword fencing at the PSV Graz. Personally I like to call this book just „Peter von Danzig“ because imagining that this was written by a real person makes it more relatable.

Third First: Ladies Weekend

The HEMA community is open, friendly and always there for each other. So why do a women’s only thing? Is there a need for that? I asked myself those questions many times especially because I took a strong stance against gender segregation in HEMA and up until now, I’ve not had been to a ladies only weekend.
The answer to those questions is simple: Magic. I’m not kidding, with only women in the room, magic happens. Empowerment happens, our feminine wiles run wild and free and there is neither the male gaze nor having to be „one of the guys“ or „throwing like a girl“ holding us back. It was like those magnificent first 20 minutes of „Wonder Women“ only for a whole weekend. I am not saying that all participants felt like this, I am also not saying that our HEMA-bros are otherwise anything but lovely (honestly guys, this has literally nothing to do with you).

The attention to detail and cordiality with which this event was created is another thing that needs mentioning. The coffee we drank was grown, harvested and ground by female farmers, a little gift bag provided us with organic shampoo samples, snacks and the ingenious „Codex Stemplix“ a gamyfied diary to keep track of fencing and non-fencing achievements, take notes and collect stickers. The codex is a collaborative idea of the organizers of the two biggest no-boys-allowed HEMA events in Germany/Austria; the Ladies Weekend and „sHEMAsters“ in Berlin.

Is there something that in my perfect world would be different? Of course there is. Firstly, I would have loved a Ladies Weekend 2019 T-shirt. I need my merch! Secondly, I honestly could have done without the tournament. It takes away a whole day and puts pressure in an otherwise relaxed environment because even the completely supportive atmosphere at the Ladies Weekend can entirely take away the bitterness when a judges ruling seems „unfair“. I would rather have had more opportunities to do free fencing, which I’d gladly sacrifice a Sunday for. Regardless I’d like to note that I had some of the most beautiful, teachable and enjoyable bouts ever during this tournament.

The last thing on the agenda on Sunday were the, by now traditional, photo shoots. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to show you the results, so I’ll spare you the details now.

I really hope that I wasn’t the only one who learned something new and who had a great time. I sincerely hope more ladies will take this opportunity in the future. Once more I would like to thank the event-fairies for their hard work and hopefully see you all next year!.


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