Thursday, September 26, 2013

"To Search, To Strive, and Never Surrender!"

(c) Trevor Clemons

     Most of my friends from the past couple of years are friends I have made on the internet. We have usually met on one forum or another and as it were, serendipitously keep bumping into each other... Facebook has only added to the number of times I find myself stumbling across various acquaintances. One of these characters is my friend, a gentleman named Josh. 

     Through Josh I have met several new people, one of whom is a young man named Reece M Nelson. I messaged Reece Tuesday and asked him if he had wished Josh a Happy Birthday. He replied with a "Well so it is! And a be right back!" I have a friend with whom I served with in the Army, who reminded me a great deal of Reece. It is hard to explain but there is something that makes you instinctually like and trust my friend Bill. Reece Nelson has that same undefinable something my friend Bill does.

     Reece and I like armour. We like sword fighting. We both love history and are big fans of the XIV Century of nastiness that made up Western Europe and specifically the 100 years war. So it has been a great deal of fun for me to "get to know" Reece. During our message session on Facebook, on the spur of the moment I asked Reece if he would like to do a brief interview with me here on Modern Medievalist. I received a yes, and what follows is basically an edited transcript of our conversation. I think at the end of this interview you will find my young friend Reece M Nelson as remarkable of a person as I do.-Thanks buddy for the wonderful conversation.

Q: Reece M Nelson who are you and what part of the world do you live in?

A: I am 26 years old and I live in Overland Park, Kansas in the USA.

Q: You seem to be fairly tall and athletic with an angular build, what are some of your hobbies?

A: Mostly HEMA. I study both Blossfechten (unarmoured) and Harnessfechten (armoured) combat. Which can be a real workout. I also play bass guitar in a progressive metal band.

(c) Clarence James Wolfe

*For those of you who do not know HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts, is an exacting and physically demanding study of sword fighting techniques, to include grappling, dagger, long knife, quarter staff, Dussak, Polarms and Longsword.. The most popular forms are those created by Hans Talhoffer, Paulus Kal, and Johannes Liechtenauer. I will include a Wikipedia Link for those wishing to know more.

Q: Harnessfechten is armoured combat. Who made your harness? (Suit of Armour.) And what type of blades do you fight and train with?

A: Actually, the armour was made by myself with the help from the founder of my group. He had spent many years learning how to make armour and instructed me on my harness. There are a few pieces that I had bought, due to them being some of the more difficult pieces to make (hourglass gauntlets). I'll be getting a custom Bascinet helm later this year by Jeff Wasson. I'm very picky when it comes to form, so I try to have all of my pieces look just like the surviving examples. I currently use a CAS Hanwei Practical Bastard sword, as that it's a stiff blade, better suited for Harnessfechten. It being heavier, also allows me to develop better technique when doing Blossfechten. It helps develop a better "Push/Pull" motion with the hands.

Q: How long have you been training with swords?

A: Oh man...LONG time. I started off doing stage combat when I was 17, then started studying HEMA on my own at 19. Something like 9 years now. It wasn't until I had picked up a book called "Medieval Combat" by Hans Talhoffer that sparked my interest with understanding the realism in European fighting. That book allowed me to ask all of those important questions about arms, armour and the fighting techniques.

Q: Let's get down to the important question. What do people say or think when they realize their opponent is missing a limb, and would you be so kind as to tell how you lost it?

A: Having one leg is actually very beneficial for me, while bouting or fighting people let their guard down and think that I can't spring forward as much. Most people tend to think " I better take it easy on him" but I soon prove them wrong. I had lost my leg at birth, due to the umbilical cord, cutting the circulation to my left leg.
So I've never known any different. I'm the only person I know of doing HEMA with an amputation.
I hope to inspire others that may have the same disability to do something or let them know the world didn't end with a missing limb.

(c) Clarence James Wolfe

Q: What have been some of the more memorable instances where people were surprised by your prosthetic leg?

A: Well I seem to be a big hit with the kids at the local Ren Faire. Their parents come up to me and say "Thank you" when I take the time to speak or show my leg to their children. The most memorable one was a group of United States Marines who came up to me and told me of a friend of theirs who had lost his limbs and was really depressed. They made a video of me fighting and sent it to him. I later heard from them that he had been inspired by the video and had taken up sports.

Q: Do you belong to a Schola or Group like so many of your European brothers and sisters do?

A: We primarily train at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. I belong to The Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City and I am a co-instructor for my group.
What is unique with our group is that we also do living history with HEMA.

Q: Have you developed a Medieval Persona to go with everything. As I seem to recall a certain German Knight who was missing an arm said some rather unpleasant things to an Archbishop once...

A: I haven't done my persona yet, but my group and I will be each having our own background that will fit with our attire for when we do history presentations. 
so far I've said I'm an esquire that had lost his leg in a battle, then continued service.

(c) Reece M. Nelson.

Q: So what does the future hold for Reece? 

A: Well I would like to continue teaching HEMA and possibly work out a way to do demonstrations or outreaches to wounded soldiers and even children who are now missing limbs. But things are going to be on the back burner for a while, I have a hernia operation in my future, but I don't have health care so... As it is I haven't practiced my HEMA training for over a month now. My other dream is to one day participate in the Tournament of the Phoenix, as a jouster.

I would like to thank my young friend for his time. This has been one of the more interesting conversations and interviews I have had in a while. Training, Teaching, Working out to HEMA drills with a prosthetic limb just has to be yet another definition of a true Modern Medievalist. -Thanks Reece.

Photo courtesy of Klehma. Reece M Nelson.

Here are the links to Reece's efforts, his group and his band. There is also e-mail addresses to get in contact with him and his friends.

To contact Reece and or his group: <>

Website for The Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City:

Reece has a YouTube Channel where he shows his various HEMA forms, for his students and to receive tips from other practitioners of the art:

If you would also like to see Reece rocking it out, here is a link to his band!

The Wikipedia Link to their HEMA article:

Once again, thank you Reece M Nelson for your time and for the opportunity to tell your story.

-DS Baker

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