The HEMA Instructor Quick Tips series aims to improve the quality of HEMA instructors one picture at a time.

If you’re a teaching HEMA to students, you need to know when and how to do your explanations. This HEMA Instructor Quick Tip is about ending one exercise and starting another.

HEMA Instructor Quick Tip #1: How to stop and start exercises so that every student hears all explanations.

What the problem is

A common mistake from new instructors is that they start start talking as soon as they gave the stop command. This is usually because they are very excited and feel like they have too much to talk about.

Don’t do this.

Take this into consideration:

  • It takes varying amounts of time for students to recognize that the exercise stopped. This depends mostly on how well they hear the stop command. Do you project your voice enough? Probably not. Also don’t count on everyone having perfect hearing.1)Around 15% of American adults over 18 report hearing trouble. Also men are twice as likely to have hearing loss.
  • After they’ve heard the command, students need a bit of time to face the instructor and might first need to walk toward him.
  • Some people cannot hear well with a fencing mask on, so they will need to take their mask off first.
  • Even if they hear the command, they might mentally still be in the exercise and need to readjust first.

This all means that students won’t be ready to receive new instructions immediately just because the instructor stopped the exercise.

They need a bit of time to get physically and mentally prepared for new instructions. Give them that time.

Otherwise some of your students will routinely miss parts of your teachings without any fault of their own. Doing the wrong exercise because they didn’t hear you is bad and so is having to explain everything twice.

How to improve your explanation timing

This is a bad habit that is very easy to fix once someone (or in this case this article) points it out.

Here is what you do instead: Take your time with your explanations. Your students are there to learn from you so wait until you have the attention of everyone in the room. Make sure that everyone has his eyes and you and is all ears.

Many HEMA instructors have not received formal training. which is a shame since explaining yourself and managing the group is a skill that can easily be taught.