Thursday, 26 October 2017

About Historical European Martial Arts

About Historical European Martial Arts

The Sword and Buckler

What started as whim quickly became something of a fascination. I will have to thank Google for returning London Longsword Academy to me when I typed the term “Pay as you go sword fighting, London” into the search bar. Without that query, I would never have discovered HEMA.

If I was to say that HEMA was the first stage of my interest in swordsmanship, it would be a lie. Beforehand, I took part in a 1 hour fencing taster at Centre Parcs which then gave me the bug to try a short course in sports fencing. I liked it! Although I was pretty useless in my opinion. Being a 5 foot 6 inch short-house with next no flexibility, not the best fitness, average speed and not enough lunge can prove to be a handicap when it comes to fencing - I would have to do a LOT of training. A left hand fencer would own me every time, someone who was 6 foot or taller would spear me before I could even think, I lacked the speed and technique to deal with it. I was once complimented in one bout, 'Well done, Jim! like a brawler!' ( are you supposed to be a brawler in fencing?). I won the match/round against the intermediate fencer who was the similar height to me ( I was chuffed )and after that, the beginners course came to an end. To tell the truth, I wasn't much of fencer. Maybe if I had started as a child instead of at 30 years of age it would be a different story, or had plenty of money to throw at it. So, with the notion of feeling fairly useless at sport fencing and a lack of funds to take the next course plus work-life commitments I looked elsewhere, I couldn't just stop! My interest in swordsmanship had been piqued! I needed to know if you could find an 'as and when' pay as you go class in fencing and swordsmanship and if you where to find a pay as you go sword fighting, London would be the place. That is when I found The London Longsword Academy! Since then, my curiosity of the martial and sport has only grown.

What is Historical European martial arts?
For some reason I do not really feel entitled to describe the intricacies HEMA. I'm a sporadic attendee with a shallow understanding of the theory. I feel that answer would be best left to David Rawlings or a HEMA scholar. But, In lay terms, and in my own words HEMA is the study of historical swordsmanship, wrestling, daggers and other forms of close quarter combat based between the 14th and 18th century. I have mostly focused on the Sword & Buckler.

I think it would be fair for me to say that a lot of modern day western sword based sports would have come from these historical martial. History and the evolution of war has rendered many of these skills and techniques obsolete now - Those that study HEMA want re-establish and relearn the lost art of European Swordsmanship as a discipline and a passion.

"One day... we will run out of bullets!"
- T-shirt slogan, misquoted

HEMA Isn't Sport Fencing
Just to rule this out, HEMA isn't modern sport fencing, although I would dare to say that modern sports fencing is based around HEMA. HEMA focuses on the original techniques of European swordsmanship, For example: the Sword & Buckler (swash buckling anyone?) and Longsword. Where as sport fencing focuses on the win using Sabre, foil, epee with different illegal moves etc. Both come with similarities, but both are certainly not the same thing.
Being taught under London Longsword Academy - Dave Rawlings, he emphasises that 'if you are hit, whilst hitting your opponent you have both been hit!' A car crash essentially, and car crashing into your opponent as hard and fast as you can will not score you points in HEMA. HEMA makes you consider a very aspect which doesn't appear to as high a priority compared to sports fencing - defense. In HEMA, even if you score a 'Hit' but fail the protect yourself from your opponents weapon you will have most likely sustained injury (taken a hit) yourself. In Sport Fencing - in contrast, this is not the case. A microsecond and fully extended arm will make all of the difference between winning and losing a match. You are not rewarded for poor defence in HEMA and rightly so in my opinion.

HEMA Is Open To Interpretation
The practice and theory HEMA is based on the original fighting manuals from medieval Europe. To reference one manual or system in particular - The 1.33 - which would give you some insight into how to use a Sword and Buckler. Modern techniques based around the the 1.33 appear to based around visual references called plates taken from this manual. Much of these masters references have be interpreted for modern use.

To elaborate further as to why I say the HEMA is interpreted. A lot of the moves, stances, wards etc are based around illustrations (plates) taken from the 1.33 and other counterparts between the 14th and 18th centuries. Whilst practicing HEMA, the challenge comes from trying to translate the images into body language, foot position and other stances.  A  trained HEMA
instructor will guide you along the murky depths of flat images, and slightly gammy hand-drawn limbs. The plates act as keyframes from an animation. It's down to you and or the instructor to navigate your way between these positions. It can take a bit of working out but often the proof will be in the pudding and the drill will feel - correct

If you were to watch a class, you might find yourself asking “how did their foot get there?” or “How does my hand get to that position” you are left to make assumptions – educated assumptions, but assumptions non the less and i dont believe i'm being outrageous in saying that I think that even the most senior HEMA masters will have to make educated assumptions, the only trouble with this is that it open the door to debate on which is the correct technique. I guess the only 100% answer would be to talk to expert in 1.33. Another thing to ask yourself, would you put your trust in a blog post the train or put your faith in someone that that has been practicing for over 20 years? I know what I would do.
HEMA Equipment
I wish I could say that I have had a go at every class that the LLA has to offer but that would be a lie. I have worn and used : Fencing masks, gloves, nylon and steel bucklers, nylon and steel swords – Messers and side swords, plastic sickles, Indian clubs, combat knives, daggers and now I have tried my hand and rapiers and parrying daggers. The more committed martial artists also wear more advanced protective jackets and masks which can be purchased online. If you are curious for more I would advise coming to a class or finding a club near you.
Why go?Why not! It inspires my art, its good for fitness and its fun! Different people have different reasons for going. Others go to perfect their martial arts and develop an understanding of swordsmanship, there a various reasons for people to go ( I bet someone wishes they were like Jaime ). For me, it's about the focus and losing yourself in the activity. The understanding, the fanatical attention to detail, all the components which add up to make the move perfect! It's hard at times, but I love it.

Am I any good?
I'm okay, I don't go enough. If you think its just about swinging a sword around believing you're pirate you'd be sorely mistaken - very sore indeed, even if hit why a nylon. 

What do I think
HEMA is great and I would recommend going! Just remember, that HEMA isn't sport fencing nor is it reenactment. My only thing I might say are human's {myself included, barely human) have a way of breaking the 'Drills'. The drills being processes in which you learn the technique. People forget key parts, do something slightly off, tire, sabotage the drill and a lot of is unconscious - you dont mean to do it! But when its done right, it looks beautiful, when its done wrong, well... you'd would have to attend to see.  I have attached some links of where you can find some HEMA schools in your area and where to buy some equipment!

I would also like to add that this post represents my opinions and not that of the LLA or other fencing schools.
Find a club :-
Find a HEMA club!

Buy the gear :-
Buy Gear !

Thank you for reading, Maybe we can spar one day!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Photo's from Gold Digging's Quarry on Bodmin Moor

Near the Stone Circle on Bodmin Moor

Upon my recent visit to Cornwall, we ventured up to one of favourite spots – the Hurlers (Minions). Bodmin Moor is a place that is brimming with history and character, from its gauss bushes, wild ponies and decaying relics from its tin mining past. If you like walking, I would definitely recommend a visit… just don’t try to climb into any open mines!

The Gold Digging’s

This secluded rustic beauty spot is about 30 mins from the Minion’s car park if you follow the quartz track. You can spot the Gold Digging’s Quarry (Swit Quarry) by the stone shelf that just out from surround green landscape, you can mistaken for a natural formation of granite boulders. I have little knowledge about the quarry apart from it’s filled with water, whether it was filled from a nearby flooded mine (which I’m not too sure about) of whether it is filled with rain water is something I would be curious to know. I’ve heard rumours that the pit is deep and that cars have been dumped at the bottom! Again, this is little more than what I've heard from rumours. I was fascinated with this place as a lad and now I’m probably even more so now that I'm grown man. Eerie, rustic, and beautiful all at the same time - not to mention nostalgic for me!

Thank you for reading.

These photo were take on around Easter 2017

J Odell

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Hyperlapse Video - Adding a white space to my pencil drawing Mindtap

AS I have uploaded this to Youtube I felt it wouldn't hurt to turn this into a post. This post shows a hyper-lapsed video taken from my desktop, showing me whiting out, removing scuffs from the scan, adding shadows and adding in highlights. This is a pencil drawing depicting The Mindtap, I imagined it to how a brain leak might feel...

Thank you for watching. This Hyper-lapse video was made using After Effects.

Artwork Copyright Jimm Odell 2017(JD - Illustration)

Monday, 13 March 2017


For no particular reason I felt like writing a post about living and working in London, especially as draw a lot of my artistic inspiration from it so why not!
I remember my first working day of actually living in London. it was a chilly January morning in Golders Green, it was snowing and I was wearing my new black shoes - yet to be broken in. That felt like one of my most memorable days of living in the big smoke! Well, that is just a memory... nothing of consequence to this post. I'm sure if you, like me have moved to London from elsewhere you will remember your first day. Mine was snowing, looked pretty and my feet hurt. So... London from my perspective

Welcome traveller

Perhaps you are a graduate looking for a job in London or a someone who wants to build a new life where the streets are paved with gold – prepare yourself. I came to London over 8 years ago whilst I was looking for a webdesign & graphic design role. I feel have come to know London reasonably well for an outsider, a boy from a small coastal town off the Cornish coast trying to carve a life in the capital. I had many reasons for wanting to come to London, finding work, being with my partner, having little working opportunity in my home town, I had just graduated from Cumbria Uni (Then Cumbria Institute of the Arts) and I needed to take the next bold step! I hope some of these little points are of some use to you, they are by no means solid facts but they are from first hand experience. If you are from anywhere that isnt the South East of the UK one of the first things you will notice are the prices of everything, be a pint , a glass of wine, accommodation. If you decide live in London the chances are you will probably start in a shared house and a single room, back then could be about £540+ depending on which borough you live in. You may also need to downsize some of your possessions... yeah, £500 wont buy you much here, just a heads up.

Full of cool things to do

You can’t argue this… London is full of cool things to do which would suit many different tastes, hobbies and quirks. You go to restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, gigs, random events, museums and general tourist traps! There are also more obscure activities which can be found with a little bit of digging. Ever fancied yourself a little bit history, why not go ‘Mud larking’ with London’s guided walks, sorry, not Mudlarking technically speaking as you need a license its beach combing, when I went on this walk I found a clay smoking pipe from 1660's (ish) among the silt and stones of the Thames. My friend found a Danish glass bottle neck which looked pre-industrial. You can even try your hand at sword fighting, learning the staff, sword and buckler, longsword. There's loads here in a word.


Where do I begin! There is no denying that the second I step out of the door it feels like I’m being fleeced, but yet you become accustomed to this perpetual state of nakedness – not literally, as I’m note a sheep or a goat, I would have difficulty typing otherwise. I still find it quite entertaining when outsiders from say Yorkshire, Cornwall, etc remark on the prices of things even I balk on the odd occasion. I find it comforting that I’m not the only person in 30 mile radius that thinks “Hang on” I've seen that in another shop for a fraction of the cost. To tell the truth I find it a lot less shocking these days, I think I've been desensitised. What can I say, you pay for the privilege to live here and it can be costly. Don't get me started on mortgages, rent or having something of your own. Be warned!


There's so much opportunity here! Which I'm not sure any where else in the UK can even compete with, aside from some of the larger cities but even still, London's scale for business is colossal.
London has a go get and and make it happen attitude that skyrocket your career. It's competitive.


The transport system (TFL) makes and breaks London and don’t even get me started on Southern rail! Getting around London is convenient and accessible – also horrific at the same time in rush our. Some of the tube lines are now open 24 hours so you can stay out to the late hours, get a kebab and head home with bits of onion and soggy lettuce down your front. Oh remember not to fall asleep and end up at the last stop of the train line though! I’ve done that once or twice. Another good thing about the transport is the fact that you don’t even need to own a car to get to work. You can hop on and you nearest tube station, battle through hordes of human beings, dogs rude pinstripe wearing businessmen (not all) and presto, you've made it to work. It’s awesome, smelly, fascinating and crowded but the tube is something that is iconic of London in my opinion. Setting aside the practical logistics for the tube trains getting you from the point a to point be the tube is an interesting place brimming with subtle and not so subtle characters just trying to go about their business, myself included!


I like history and like character, London offers both of these those interested enough to look around and see what is going on. Many feet have trampled the soil of London including the Roman's! If you like history, London is certainly worth visiting and seeing. There’s still more hidden down there. As mentioned previously there is also a lot things hidden in the Thames aside from old mobile phones and pint glasses which have been cobbed from the Goldenhind! Lads! Lads! Lads!

What does it feel like

Day to day, I will speak honesty as a lad who has grown up in a small community with not much going on.
I wont lie, London can be a knackering place, offering little in the way of peace and quiet unless you are sat on the toilet, taking a bin out or sat on the tube train of late evening/early morning with some late night revelers slumped against the glass barrier at the end of the seats. But hey, at the tender age of 24 why would I have cared about peace and quiet when there is partying to be done. What happened! Well maybe turning 30 happened. I still enjoy going for a drink and having jollies and being a general public pain but I think twice about it all now... maybe three times and then do it anyway, consider your actions! A quiet me thing I do like to do is travel up to Thames side on a weekend and look at the early morning sun on the water. Could just be missing the water of the fact that I like the solace and the view… or all of the above. On occasions I will even take my sketch pad.

Another thing which has taken me quite a long time to really put my finger on it. People may think Londoners are grumpy or rude... I would be more inclined to say impersonal/ reserved, and actually this isn't a Londoner so much but a commuter. When you break the unspoken rule in London of talking to a stranger on the tube people can be quite chatty and helpful. People like to keep to themselves here which isnt a bad thing but can give a slightly lonely vibe to the place. This can be a bit of challenge for garrulous boy from Cornwall.

What Now?

So did you happen upon this post looking for answers or someone to tell you to live here or not? I'm afraid I will offer neither but what I have given you are some of my personal accounts and opinions and mini stories of living in London for over 8 years. The rest is down to you or whether you think it will suit you or not. Here are some buzzwords to factor in : costly, conservative/reserved in areas, busy, lack of proper green space, small properties for your average buyer or renter. Brimming with career opportunities! Fun, youthful, loud, exciting, full of things to do all the time, shops on your door step.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Quick method for making a custom Photoshop Brush

How to make a simple, pain free Photoshop brush!

Ever wanted to make a Photoshop brush? It's fairly straight forward, this little tutorial will have you making your custom brushes in no time! You will be defining a brush, adding it to your palette and then, all going well, using your newly defined brush in your projects! Lets draw a shape on black on a white background.

1 ) Open PS and make a new document – 300 x 300 px and 72 DPI for good measure, make sure the background is set to white.

2 ) Working in black and white (Shortcut ‘D’ for black and white) draw your brush shape (in black) onto your new document. Remember your brush shape needs to be dark /black when you come to creating your brush. For the sake of this little tutorial I have made mine a solid brush.

hoe to make a brush in photoshop!
Photoshop Brush - Feel free to use this one
3 ) Either by using the marquee tool or Apple + 'a' to select all (CTRL + A for windows). If you have selected the brush you want to define, you can go to the next step! 

4 )
Go Edit > scroll down to  ‘
Define Brush Preset’ and click on it!

5 ) label your brush, I called this one ‘blob’.
Label your new defined brush

Well done, you should now have designed your very own custom brush and saved it to your library. If you press F5 to look at your brush palette, you will see the brush you have just made at the bottom of your library. Why not open a new document and test out your newly created Photoshop tool, make ink splats, draw faces this is just to set your onto the path of making more awesome brushes.

Photoshop brushes

Thank you for reading!