Interview with Schunder László, a HEMAist from Győr
I met László in Budapest a few years ago on a longsword fencing seminar. Ever since I have been following his blog called “Kard az élet” (“The Sword is Life”) which is an important and popular source of Hungarian HEMAists:
Now, I am delighted that László is answering my questions:
1. How did you get attracted by HEMA?
“Many years ago I started with kendo. But the Japanese style of fencing was not my way (despite I like Japanese culture very much) so I started to looking something else. I knew Peter Regenyei and Szabolcs Waldmann (founders of Ars Ensis) for ages, so I went to see their training and I stayed there. It was 10 years ago. OMG…”
2. What kinds of weapons are you wielding?
“Mainly saber, but not the “new type” (XIX-XX century) but the XVI style. It is much closer to the dussack than to the modern saber. Of course, I fight with longswords and sometimes epee with my son but he always beats me. (He is 16 years old, and epee fencer) This year we started to study deeper the rapier. Honestly, I like to fight with every weapon. My secret favorite is the spear fight.”
3. How do Hungarians receive this sport in a country where football is so much promoted?
“Very hard. This style of fencing is weird for an outsider. We have no unified regulation, equipment, weapons, and opportunities for high-level athletes. Wast majority of the fencers start this activity not because of the fencing but because of their knight/hussar/viking/witcher fantasies or historical interest. They are looking for company and fun, not a hard fight and hard workout. Mee too. I have 3 trainings per week. My son has 6 – 7. Anyway, soccer is a good thing, but the kid should do some sport beside it.”
4. Both longsword and saber fencing have long historical traditions in Hungary. Which is more popular now?
“In Hungary, the longsword is used by HEMA practitioners and Baranta fighters. But many other non-HEMA fencer groups use mainly saber here in Hungary. So if we count all the non-Olympic fencers as one group I think the saber is a more popular weapon in Hungary then the longsword.”
5. How many people in Hungary are involved in historical fencing, on different levels? Are there any contacts or good relations between HEMAists and other reenactors in Hungary? What about Baranta?
“Good question. I guess there are around 250 -300 active HEMA practitioners but there are some other fencers like reenactors, buhurt fighters, etc. If we count the total number, there are a few thousand fencers. There is some but not so active contact between HEMAist and reenactors but this is not a big surprise. Both groups have very different goals. Of course, there are some groups who live in their ivory tower but they are just a joke.
Baranta is a different kind of animal. I have very good contact with Baranta on a personal and professional level too. I know a lot of very good fighters within their ranks. I have participated in their open tournament 3 times (winning 2 second and 1 first place) and it was a real fun and challenging event. But from the HEMAist side, I feel some kind of “we-are-superior-than-you” feeling. This depends on the sources used by Baranta. I do not agree with this. They are good fighters and friendly people. All the time when I meet with them I learn a lot. It is a mistake to miss such an opportunity to hone our skills. The ultimate measure of fencing is always the victory. If I know all of the manuscripts but I have been beaten: I am not a good fencer. I am a good scholar, but not a good fencer. This is not a new idea: read Lichtenauer.”
6. Are you preparing for any tournaments in Hungary or abroad?
“Always. Unfortunately, I had a very limited time because of my work and other duties. During 2019 I was on 6 tournaments, but 5 times I have been there as a father. I participated in only 1 HEMA tournament but not as a fencer but as an organizer. It was held in Visegrád. I plan to organize a minimum of one tournament each year based on our unique ruleset. But this year I try to go MHS tournaments, Tyrnhau, and some others.”
7. What kind of support should be anticipated from the central government to promote HEMA in Hungary?
“HEMA (Historical European Martial Art) is a common European heritage that is inextricably linked to Christian culture. So it could be a powerful tool for conveying a kind of conservative value to younger people. However, this would require a more professional organization. Maybe within the Hungarian Fencing Association? Unfortunately, I do not see any reality of this yet.”
8. What are your personal goals regarding HEMA?
“I have two goals
– organize a minimum of 1 event each year. HEMA is not a professional community. It can live only if all of us give in something not just take out from the common basket. No matter what, but put something in it.
– go as many competitions as I can. Because I am over 40 I do not expect any miracle but fighting hard is fun.”
9. Could you tell us about your book?
“Which one? 🙂 I guess you talk about my saber fencing book, the “Art of the Borderland” ( http://vegek.blogspot.com/) The book is a martial/visual art book. The main goal was to show the possible way of saber fencing in the XVI-XVII era but not only the technique but the feelings, the weapons, the vibe of this bloody era. I try to reconstruct the usage of the saber. Two of my friends, Norbert Papp painter, and Attila Ferenczi photographer create the beautiful scenery of the album. The book itself meant to be a full textbook. You can study the saber fencing from the very basic to the combined techniques. Of course, because of the lack of written sources, this is only a possible way of the usage of the saber, not the irrefutable truth.”
10. Who are your favorite fencers from Hungarian history?
“If you mean warrior, then Kinizsi. He never lost any battles. If you mean fencer, then Fuch Jenő. He won 4 Olympic medals despite the fact that practically the entire Hungarian fencing society was against him.”
We thank this interview to László very much, please take a look at some of his videos here: