How you rank
This ranking system is based on the historical guild systems, but adapted for HEMA. The premise is a system which works as if it were part of a living tradition which has survived and been adapted for new additions over time. In this ranking system, a student may follow one specific style or tradition, for example wrestling or longsword, and can focus solely on that up until the rank of Journeyman, after which it is required that he or she broadens the focus. The terminology of ranks follows club culture and can have local adaptations, but we primarily use the medieval academic naming used by some guilds historically and the traditional guild nomenclature.
When ranking for Master Journeyman, students need to qualify for three weapon groups.
Weapons are grouped in the following way:
One handed weapons, e.g. sabre, messer, rapier
Two handed weapons, e.g. staff, longsword
Double weapons, e.g. sword & buckler, rapier & dagger, rapier and cloak
Unarmed and short weapons, e.g. dagger, wrestling
Mounted combat, e.g. with spear, in armour, equestrian arts
Armoured combat, e.g. with spear, sword, dagger, wrestling
Rank 1: Postulant, Novice, beginner
When you begin training you are a postulant. It usually lasts up to a year. You are expected to learn the basics and the underlying theories of your chosen system, be able to move freely and use your weapon with control.
Rank 2: Apprentice, Scholar, Lärling
Being an apprentice isn’t considered a rank, but proof that you have enough skills and knowledge to study the arts for real. You generally take the test to apprenticeship after 6-12 months as a Postulant, after which you will receive a Diploma and be signed into the Book of Apprentices.
Appr. 6 months
Basic knowledge of terminology
Rank 3: Journeyman, Free scholar, Gesäll, gesell
The Journeyman is well-versed in the sources and an advanced student. You take the test after about 6 years as an Apprentice. During your time as a Journeyman you are expected to travel and train with other instructors. The test to become a Journeyman is extensive, after which you receive your Journeyman book (Wanderbüch), where the instructors you train with on your journeys write notes on what you’ve trained and how well you did.
Appr. 6 years of consistent studies
Rank 4: Master journeyman, Mästergesäll, Provost, magister
The Master Journeyman is the highest rank you can qualify for. You are required to have trained for 12 years, have silver competitive, teaching and academic merits and you must have taken the Journeyman test for three weapon groups, although without the time restraints. You are expected to be an upstanding person and a good representative of the arts and a good representative of the dignity of the Letter of Master Journeyman.
Appr. 12 years of consistent studies
Journeyman in 3 weapons
Honorary rank: ALten herren, alderman, Ålderman, Åltgesäll
The Alten Herren is an honorary title bestowed primarily on those who have been Master Journeymen for a long time and stepped down from active training due to age, and/or those who have merited themselves beyond the already high standards of the Master Journeyman.
Yellow garter with red stripe or red tassel
Tests and prize plays
For each rank you are expected to prove your skill, knowledge and qualities.
The Apprentice test is comprised of a technical test, a theoretical test and a cutting test, if applicable. You are required to know the theoretical basics, be able to move naturally with your chosen weapon, be able to perform basic techniques, slow spar with control and perform basic cutting/thrusting if you are testing for a cutting/thrusting weapon.
Cutting test (when applicable)
No cut may enter an old cut, and no cuts may hit the stand, floor or peg. All cuts must be clean without tatami mat flying off, all angles must be clean and without curvature.
Two cuts from above and two from below, and a horisontal cut.
All applicable cuts within the system. Each matt is cut with 5 cuts.
You are required to know the sources, have a good understanding of fencing history, perform techniques impeccably, apply techniques in full contact opposition, have understanding of fencing theories, be able to think martially and tactically, be an upstanding person, hold the Guild in respect and have trained at least for six years.
Passing the defences
The passing of the defence means that six instructors attack the student consecutively with three gange of four or six cuts or thrusts while the apprentice stands within a square one meter in size. If two of them can hit the student with 2 clean hits, the student has failed the test.
For wrestling, the test consists of instructors getting 30 seconds each to perform a take-down.
A prize play can vary in execution, but it generally consists of facing a large number of bouts of opponents at the Journeyman level, and being judged on defence, offence, style, technique, body mechanics, footwork, adaptation and variation. A standard prize play is going 100 bouts to the first hit or six gaenge.
The student is asked to perform a series of previously decided techniques together with an instructor. The student may also be asked to perform variations of the techniques, explain them, or perform additional techniques.
The student is asked questions about social life, ethical questions. He or she is also told what is expected in terms of behaviour.
All applicable cuts within the system
One cut from above on two double matts standing next to each other.
Two chosen cuts on one matt from each direction
The student is asked to pay a fee covering expenses and also to purchase a pair of gloves for his/her instructor. This is a traditional gift. The student may also be asked to pay for: Wanderbuch, journeyman letter, garter, prize for an upcoming tournament, beer for a feast. The money and the gloves should hang on the wall of the hall, and may not be taken down before the tournament.
A Journeyman who wishes to become a Master Journeyman must qualify as Journeyman in three weapon groups and must have trained for 12 years. It is possible to qualify for each weapon on separate occasions. Every additional weapon qualifies for a black stripe on the garter, up until the test is taken and the Master Journeyman garter is available. Black stripes are then used on the Master Journeyman garter for those who qualify for more weapon groups than three. A red stripe on yellow garter is the symbol of the Alderman.