It’s time for a new episode of Interviews with Fencers.
When Federico Dall’Olio mentioned that he likes to read, I immediately assumed that he’s talking about fencing manuals… I couldn’t be more wrong. In this interview, you’ll receive a lot of fantastic tips, that are mostly oriented around human psychology. He’s really devoted to self-improvement and growth.
Federico is an amazing fencer, but what’s more important is that he’s a fantastic person.
Don’t forget to follow Federico on his Facebook page.
Let’s enjoy in his story.
Table of Contents
- When did you begin studying Historical European martial arts and how old were you then?
- Who was your first coach?
- What made you want to do HEMA and not Olympic fencing or any other martial art? Were there any special circumstances surrounding your discovery of HEMA?
- What are your thoughts on fitness and how do you stay in shape?
- What is your favorite strike and why? If it’s not a secret.
- What is your favorite fencing manual and why?
- What is your greatest achievement? Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
- What is the one piece of equipment you can’t live without?
- Has practicing HEMA benefited you in everyday life as well?
- What do you do when you are not practicing HEMA?
- Who’s your idol, someone that gives you motivation?
- As a professional, what advice would you give to a beginner interested in HEMA?
- What part of HEMA makes you tick? (Bonus Question)
- Final thoughts
When did you begin studying Historical European martial arts and how old were you then?
Federico: I began studying HEMA when I was living in Scotland, in 2013 when I was about 25 years old. At that time I was living in Edinburgh, a wonderful city full of medieval atmosphere and history, so I decided to look for a reenactment group. I couldn’t find one, but I did find a historical fencing school. Fortunately, I joined this school and started a longsword class and left the reenactment only as a secondary hobby.
Who was your first coach?
My first teacher was Mr. Martin Page of the Dawn Duellist Society, who presented me the main concepts of German longsword tradition. Looking back I feel very grateful to his teachings because he was not only holding lessons but pushing students and people to take part at the study groups and understanding the importance, and the pleasure, of studying manuscripts and books(Federico Dall’Olio vs Jesper Christiansen)
What made you want to do HEMA and not Olympic fencing or any other martial art? Were there any special circumstances surrounding your discovery of HEMA?
Actually, when I was younger, around 12 years old, I practiced Olympic saber for almost 2 years. I could pick Olympic fencing again, but I choose HEMA mostly for the love of the Longsword as a weapon itself.
But in the end, I love all kinds of fencing arts. I still enjoy having fun with everything that has a blade, from knives to longsword to modern epee, lance and sword, and buckler. After all, why should we limit ourselves only to one weapon?!
What are your thoughts on fitness and how do you stay in shape?
Fitness, being fit, in good shape and healthy is very important. Not only for practicing HEMA but for every aspect of life. I like to push myself and my students to exercise and be physically fit because using weapons such as longsword and rapier, can be heavy for muscles and joints. And if your muscles are well built, your tendons and joints don’t suffer so much.
Also, we all have just one body any life, so why shouldn’t I take care of my body?!
What is your favorite strike and why? If it’s not a secret.
I don’t really have a favorite strike, but I can say there are some strikes and techniques that I especially like to train. For example, talking about longsword, I believe that the longsword is a weapon with a priority of thrust and old manuscripts says that If I can stick my point on my opponent’s body, I should do that first. Also talking in „realistic terms,“ I believe that the thrust is the most lethal hit I could do with a blade.
Talking about studies, I love to understand and practice some of Fiore’s close combat techniques since it is tough to put them in practice on tournaments, that’s why I find them very challenging to improve.
What is your favorite fencing manual and why?
There are few I like in a particular way, many of them because of their very practical teachings and their beautiful drawings. Some of them have a mix of both. I love the (MS 1449) Von Danzig manual, mostly because of the illustrations that gave me many ideas and helped me to visualize many stances and techniques. The second one is Talhoffer’s manuscript because of his special tricks and borderline strikes. But maybe the one I like the most is the Jud Lew’s manuscript. I find the whole document about a longsword, very clear, practical and modern in terms of interpretation.
What is your greatest achievement? Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
Hard to think about one achievement in particular. Every achievement is the result of hard work and study. Talking about HEMA, I could highlight my first workshop as a teacher. It was a wonderful experience.
What is the one piece of equipment you can’t live without?
Jokes beside, I’d like to see more people protecting knees and elbows. Injuries in those parts are the hardest to heal… If they heal at all!
Has practicing HEMA benefited you in everyday life as well?
Absolutely yes, especially in my work. Discipline and managing stress in a tournament can improve many parts of your life. Also training regularly during the week gives me the physical and mental strength to do many other things.
What do you do when you are not practicing HEMA?
I have many passions and hobbies besides Historical European Martial Arts… Sometimes too many! I love books, reading, and writing. I love to read about history, classic literature, and philosophy. One of my biggest passions is the cinema and everything related to it. I love singing, and as a perfect Italian, I love cooking and eating well!
Also when I can, I escape to mountains to hike and climb, or just spend some time in a forest to recharge my batteries. However, it’s hard to do that now, since I’m living in Paris.
Who’s your idol, someone that gives you motivation?
There’s a lot of people that influenced and pushed me to be a better person and a fencer. I appreciate for some reasons, people that failed in their careers, and had the strength to come back on the top. Romantic and fallible people.
As a professional, what advice would you give to a beginner interested in HEMA?
I don’t feel to be in a position give advice honestly, the only thing I can say is to consider yourself as a sponge, a white piece of paper on which people around you can write something.
I’m learning so much every day from people around me. Many ideas I had only a few weeks before could now be upside down.
There are so many methodologies of training, fighting, interpretations of manuals, and interpretations of ourselves, both technically and mentally. This makes me realize that the more I “invest” myself into this art, the more I have to learn.
There’s a beautiful and famous saying by Bruce Lee – “be water, my friend.” I find it very interesting practically in fighting but especially mentally for the self-improving. Try everything, because everything could work, be a mirror of others around you and always observe.
Work, relations, fencing… Killing your ego is the key to improvement and being able to go forward.
What part of HEMA makes you tick? (Bonus Question)
I think the most powerful emotions I have in fencing (especially on tournaments) is when I lose a fight. When I win everything is fine, I get over it quickly, and it’s easy to focus on my next challenge.
However, a lose stays with me for a long time. It gives me fuel to train more and to figure out why I lost. I’m a sore loser.
That’s it! We’re delighted that Federico decided to do an interview with us. His story is amazing, and I think we all need to appreciate the work he is putting into studying, promoting, and teaching historical fencing arts. Many Thanks, Federico for this fantastic interview.
We’ll be back next Sunday, with a new interview!
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