Brent Bloem is the media arts teacher and adviser for “The Mane”. When he’s not teaching, he takes up one unique hobby- medieval style martial arts.
I didn’t know you fenced! Tell me about your fencing career.
If I was to say the word fencing, you would think about a bunch of guys in white suits with little sabres on a lane poking each other. That is not the sort of fencing I do. I just use the term fencing because it is easier for people to wrap their mind around it. What I actually do is called Historic European Martial Arts, which is the recreation of the martial arts of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. Unlike Asian martial arts, which has had a living tradition from one master to the next, for some reason in Europe it just died out. So for the last 20 years, people have been recreating historical European martial arts through fight books. When I say I do fencing, I focus on one part of HEMA (Historic European Martial Arts) which is English longsword, there is a manuscript that came from the Middle Ages called the Harlean Manuscript. In it is basically a description of the fighting.
So how does your style work?
Well there are HEMAists all across the globe. And now that it is gaining more traction, there are tournaments, just like in regular fencing. There are national tournaments, and world tournaments, but I haven’t fought in a tournament yet. But some schools and clubs do fight against each other, so when I lived in Colorado, I was part of the Black Falcon School of Arms, and we would go up north to the Rocky Mountain Swordplay Guild to fight them. When I moved here from Colorado, I was so pumped because the Chicago Swordplay Guild was only 30 miles away, because in Colorado 30 miles means a 30 minute drive, but as I’ve come to learn driving in Chicago, that means an hour and thirty minute drive. But about every other month, I’ll drive up for a Friday night fight night. Which is awesome, because that brings together a really great group of people. What’s so awesome about this event, as opposed to other events, is that in other competitions, there is always an ego match, but the people are so open and welcoming. So you may fight a guy and afterwards you can talk and have fun but beforehand you didn’t even know him. So it’s really just friendly and open.
How did you get into HEMA?
So when I was younger I was really into medieval fighting. My first glimpse into “Wow, this is cool!” was going to a library and seeing books on medieval Europe and World War II, and I was so interested. Then I learned about the SCA, (Society of Creative Anachronism) They look to recreate medieval times, and some of them are legit HEMAists. It came to my attention about 10 years ago that people were actually giving new light to these sorts of combat. And I had just moved and thought “I have no friends, I have no hobbies, I’m going to google if there is something out here.” And behold, there was the Black Belt School of Arms, and I thought I would give it a try, and I’ve never looked back.
Is it true that you were in a band?
So I was once upon a time in a hardcore band called the “Ruin of the Poor,” and in that band I was a vocalist, and it was a good time. I was in it for a short time, it was for about two months. There was an original vocalists, who fell out, and I knew the lead guitarist, and he told me to give it a try, so I did. But the first vocalist leaving was a sign of future demise, so after two months, it just fizzled out.
Do you still do anything with music?
No, I don’t. I am a person who has a lot of different interests and as I have gotten older, it’s been a real struggle. I wish I could be more focused on one thing, but I have so many interests and hobbies, but I’m also a teacher with kids and a wife who need my attention. So really, what can you do?
How did you get into media?
Along with knowing from a young age that I was into the medieval era, I also knew that I loved movies. For me and my family, it was a high point to go to the cinema, and where I lived in Michigan had one of the nation’s nicest cinema. At first I wanted to be an actor, but then I started seeing little movies and moments in my head. I didn’t really get into making them until college, and I loved it. So when I got to Colorado, I got a job as an English teacher and a media teacher.