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Chapter 1  Introduction

Mera Espada is a modern sword fighting system. “Modern” means, its development started in late 2008 and is still ongoing. While the system as a whole is really being designed from scratch, most of its building blocks are inherited from original martial arts. While its heritage is manifold, Mera Espada is by no means just a collection of techniques from different schools. It is rather a highly concentrated distillation, where the experimentation with techniques from various schools serves as a tool to cut away everything superfluous.

The name, “Mera Espada”, is Spanish, just because the development of the system began in Spain. It is also a reminiscence to the Filipino martial art of Escrima, which has partly Spanish roots (and a Spanish name). Escrima was one of the original martial arts which influenced the development of Mera Espada, so choosing a Spanish name for a modern distant descendant somehow closes a historical circle.

The translation of “espada” is sword, however, the Spanish word has a much broader meaning, encompassing almost all kinds of bladed weapons longer than a knife, not just the classical symmetric European sword with a crossguard. This does very well reflect the open attitude of Mera Espada, where we are interested in martial arts (and their employed bladed weapons) from all over the world.

The word “mera” has two slightly different meanings: One meaning is just “pure”, the other one is “just” in the sense “just and only” and “but nothing else”. In a similar sense, the medieval German phrase bloßfechten refers to fencing with just the sword, without armour. Understood in this context, the name “Mera Espada” reflects the fact that most of our training is conducted without any protection gear. While the training weapons are of course not sharp, they still could be dangerous, and we consider the adoption of an appropriate mental attitude an important part of the training.

The practise and further development of Mera Espada is the main activity of the ESAC Historical Fencing Club, a club of colleagues working at the European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid in Spain. The term “historical fencing” is sometimes used to refer to European sword fencing of the medieval and the renaissance, in contrast to Asian and Oceanian fencing arts. However, we understand historical fencing in a more general way, encompassing fencing arts from all over the world which predated contemporary competitive sports like modern western fencing or Japanese kendo. E. g., we employ the bokken, the traditional wooden training sword of the samurai, we practise exercises inherited from Filipino martial arts, and we study the longsword techniques of the legendary medieval German fencing master Johannes Liechtenauer.

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