Guy Windsor: I’m here today with Mariana Lopez, who is a historical fencer and coach, founder of Yggdrasil Volker, founder of and instructor at the Kanan Academy and co-founder of Esfinges, the Sphinxes, an international network of female historical fencers. So without further ado, Mariana, welcome to the show.
Mariana Lopez: Hi. One little one. I’m currently founder and main instructor at the Metropolitan Historical Fencing Academy, which is my current club.
Guy Windsor: The Metropolitan Historical Fencing Academy. Perfect. All right, so seeing as you said it, I don’t need to, so we can crack on with that. Excellent. So let’s just start with whereabouts in the world are you?
Mariana Lopez: I am in the United States right now, but I am originally from Mexico.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Which bit of the states?
Mariana Lopez: I am in Virginia.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Now, that explains why I met you briefly at the Lord Baltimore’s Challenge last year.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, I am the local to that club. We’re, like, 10 minutes apart, or not 10 minutes, half an hour. But, you know, it’s almost the same.
Guy Windsor: By American standards that is practically next door.
Mariana Lopez: Pretty much.
Guy Windsor: Yes. Excellent. So how did you originally get into historical martial arts?
Mariana Lopez: Honestly, it was purely by accident. I was in a journey, as you say, to find a martial art that I liked. My brother has always been involved in martial arts, and it just sounded really interesting. So I started tackling with martial arts. But I’m going to be honest with you, the whole, you know, do a test in front of a bunch of people so you can get from, you know, white belt to the next belt was not my thing.
Guy Windsor: It’s not mine either.
Mariana Lopez: It’s just really nerve wracking. So I was enjoying it but it was not really quite my cup of tea. And also the time I used to do reenactments and at a re-enactment fair there were people doing stage combat. And I literally just said out loud, I kind of wish this was an actual martial art. And a random guy behind me was like, oh, it actually is. I was like, oh, really? Turns out this guy had gone for work to the U.S. and he had come across some people in a park training, those people being ARMA. And he thought it thought it was really interesting. So he approached them and he learned about HEMA and particularly he learned about Fiore. And so we talked to him and a group of people that were at that re-enactment event became very interested. So me, my brother and a group of friends organised a workshop in my hometown and we invited him over to teach. Now you have to understand that all his knowledge of HEMA was like visiting these guys for a bit and having access to Fiore and sort of like start dabbling on its own.
Guy Windsor: But in the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king.
Mariana Lopez: Correct. And so our workshop was these are the basic cuts, right? I think this is how you hold the sword. And it was nothing more than that. But it was actually also interesting because from that “workshop” that was also a camping event, because of course it was. The very first five HEMA clubs in the entire Mexico started.
Guy Windsor: Wow.
Mariana Lopez: And it was all just pure dumb luck.
Guy Windsor: Fantastic. So it just so happened that the people who came to that event just all separated off and created their own clubs from there.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah/ Because they’re from different parts of Mexico that were there.
Guy Windsor: So that that random dude is like the catalyst for historical martial arts in Mexico?
Mariana Lopez: Pretty much.
Guy Windsor: Do you remember his name?
Mariana Lopez: Yeah, his nickname was Ug. He no longer does HEMA, but I believe his real name is, was it Alberto or something like that. The funny thing is that there was people that knew of HEMA, but there was just no connection to it.
Guy Windsor: Right.
Mariana Lopez: So as these clubs started creating the people who already knew of HEMA, which for the most part were, you know, stage combat actors who had gone to Patty Green and things like that. Oh, it’s actually becoming a thing, let’s join into it. But I would say that it’s not that there was no knowledge of HEMA before, it is the first time that it was organised to the point clubs could happen.
Guy Windsor: Right now, so you are basically there at the birth of historical martial arts in Mexico, right, which is a very cool thing to be there at. And you’re involved in starting clubs and, and making your own gear and developing the prizes and competitions and things like that. Is that correct?
Mariana Lopez: Yeah, I actually made our swords, which were made out of wood.
Guy Windsor: You made your sword?
Mariana Lopez: I made our swords, made out of wood and okay, it’s funny because some people still own some of the swords that I made. I also started doing some of the gear that was available, with leather work. And the very first thing that I learned that I did not like that responsibility. I was not responsible for any injuries, but it is mildly nerve racking. The thing that if your gear fails, it’s going to be on you. So that only lasted for as long as it needed to be. Because even though there was gear in the US, it’s just very hard to access. It is better now but shipping to Mexico is just not the easiest of things.
Guy Windsor: Sure.
Mariana Lopez: But yeah, I would make the gear, I would make the protections and for the rest of that, it was mostly like trying to experiment with which other type of equipment that is available can we use too?
Guy Windsor: Yeah. I mean, I remember in the early days in the UK, we made a lot of our own stuff and I still had a fencing plastron on somewhere that’s made up of bits of carpet covered in leather.
Mariana Lopez: Oh yeah. We also went through the carpet stage.
Guy Windsor: I think it’s a necessary stage in any kind of national adoption of historic martial arts that you go through the making protective gear out of random crap era.
Mariana Lopez: I also think we don’t realise that there is a stage of we’re trying, but we have no idea what we’re doing. The first national tournament, and I always laugh at this because it progressed really quickly, right? The evolution of HEMA in Mexico, it’s been really, really fast because we have Europe and the U.S. at a much faster pace, so we’re able to look back and be like, oh, we need to move on.
Guy Windsor: So what year was your first event with that chap, Ug?
Mariana Lopez: That must have been almost 16 years ago. So which year was it 16 years ago?
Guy Windsor: 16 years ago. Oh, God. 2007.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah. 2007.
Guy Windsor: All right. Okay. So by which point, actually, historical martial arts are pretty well established everywhere else. I mean, I started my school in Finland in 2001, and we started our club in Edinburgh in 1994.
Mariana Lopez: Correct. I mean, I remember the first person that I saw online that I started admiring was Teresa… I cannot pronounce her last name. Teresa Wendland. I don’t know if she still does, but she used to do a lot of mounted combat.
Guy Windsor: Oh, yes, yes, Yeah, yeah.
Mariana Lopez: But no. So what I was going to say is like, it’s funny because in our first national tournament we had bucket helmets and the same two for everyone.
Guy Windsor: Hang on. When you put on a bucket helmet, at the end of your fight you have to give your bucket helmet to the next person who’s going to put the bucket you’ve just sweated into on their head. That is disgusting.
Mariana Lopez: Yes. See, the nice thing is I’m really small, so I would not touch the bucket helmet because it would rest on my shoulders because it was too big for me. On the downside. I could only see the feet and the top of the head of my opponent because I was completely blinded. And then we will use metal gauntlets. Same one for everyone. So of course, my hands were gigantic. And this is where it gets a little bit, I don’t know if I need to keep vocabulary PG 13, but this is what we’re going.
Guy Windsor: On my show you can say whatever the fuck you like.
Mariana Lopez: All right. So this is what we were just fucking stupid because we were young and we thought, well, not all of them were young, but we thought that using mail was protection enough against wooden swords.
Guy Windsor: Oh, I had a finger that got broken through a mail gauntlet. I learned that the same way you did.
Mariana Lopez: So here we are with giant metal gauntlets, a bucket and a mail that it’s too big for me and too small for some other people, hitting each other with wooden swords. How did we not break a rib? I have no idea. But there is a picture of me blinded walking towards the sword of a guy hitting me right at the mouth of the stomach and just completely bending and falling on the floor. That was my very first open tournament match and the last open tournament match that I did. So my first tournament was not great. Then we also had like a soft combat edition in which we had essentially plastic tubes wrapped up in the foam and duct tape. And so that was like our soft combat version and we would do those too, for the first year. And then the second year we had shinais and by the third year we had I think it was by then that the rawlings were out.
Guy Windsor: The plastic ones.
Mariana Lopez: Plastic ones, yeah. So we at least progressed from our stupidity relatively fast.
Guy Windsor: Well, it’s not stupidity.
Mariana Lopez: Innocence
Guy Windsor: And it’s also determination to do it regardless of the limitations.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, that’s absolutely true.
Guy Windsor: Without that spirit behind it, none of this would ever have happened because, you know, it was probably close on 20 years after I started historical martial arts before you could just buy a sword that was fit for historical martial arts, you didn’t have to order it especially from somewhere. 20 years it took. If I had been waiting for people to start making swords that people could just go buy, I would never have started anything. So you’ve got to just get started regardless of limitations, I think.
Mariana Lopez: Funny thing is that a lot of things I’ve realised that they sort of stay. When you talk to people that started HEMA very early on in Europe or in the U.S., they have these conversations about how some of the knowledge was almost like a black market situation. It was the same for us, even with swords. I remember there’s this armour guy who is really good with armour and he will do swords, but his quality control is very iffy and his pricing is really rough. So there was this black market knowledge that you had to get him drunk when you made him agree to make a sword for you, because then he will lower his prices and he would stay by his words. So everyone knew the secret to get him drunk first. But you didn’t want to spread that information much because then he would catch on that the knowledge is out there. And just ridiculous things like that, right? Up to now there’s not really any sources are translated to Spanish except the ones that ARMA translated and while I appreciate ARMA for that, to an extent, the translations aren’t great.
Guy Windsor: No. They are very much not.
Mariana Lopez: Translation of the translation of the translation, which definitely also led to some funk in how HEMA was being understood. You know, it is very funny to come back from that and then have a decent level of English and have like a first generation translation and be like, oh, that’s what you are talking about.
Guy Windsor: In our email exchange building up to this you said something about how you get asked questions about HEMA Mexico, it’s always about the differences and the ‘struggles’ in inverted commas, which you think is a bit of a waste and wanting to understand historical martial arts outside of Europe in the USA. So it would be cool to talk about HEMA Mexico in a different scope. So what question should I be asking you to get the story you want to tell about historical martial arts in Mexico?
Mariana Lopez: I shot myself in the foot with that one, didn’t I?
Guy Windsor: Well, no. This is going to be the episode about 149 or something. So I’ve done quite a lot of these interviews, but I have no training as a journalist or an interviewer or anything like that. And if you listen to like some of the very early episodes of the show, my interviewing style is not as polished as perhaps it has become. But still, a really good interviewer, knows the right questions to ask, right? And most guests don’t know the right questions to ask. But I’ve got a very clear sense that you had a feeling about what you wanted to talk about. And it’s my job just to find that right question that will kind of unlock this window into historical martial arts in Mexico. Let’s just pretend that I’ve asked the question. You go ahead and answer it.
Mariana Lopez: So I think I have the question. What is it that HEMA Mexico has to teach HEMA outside of Mexico?
Guy Windsor: Oh, that is a lovely question. Mariana, what is it that HEMA Mexico has to teach us outside Mexico?
Mariana Lopez: I love that you ask that, because the assumption is that we always have to learn from others.
Guy Windsor: It’s a rather colonial attitude, isn’t it?
Mariana Lopez: It is. Absolutely. So something that I wish people understood about HEMA in Mexico is first of all, that historically HEMA also happened in Mexico, right? Some of the sources were written in the New Spain, the Destreza sources were written in the New Spain. I believe one of our presidents was thoroughly involved in sabre fencing. And it is something that got developed there. That is in the historical side. On the practical side, looking at Europe and looking at the US, we’ve been running a national tournament for years now and it comes with humps and it comes with issues and is not perfect and growth is hard and whatever you want to say. But the fact that we’ve been able to have a solid communication within groups for a long time, it’s something that I’ve noticed a lot of other sides of the pond struggle with.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Mariana Lopez: And the way that we are able to sort of like find the common ground and try to find a way to remove egos from the practice, it’s not perfect again and for some things is not getting it’s evolving a little bit differently. I think we have learned a couple of bad habits from the U.S., unfortunately.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Could you specify?
Mariana Lopez: So I feel like the U.S. has these very well, like all America, they’re very us individuals, our mentalities and our personal growth. And they understand community, but not quite the same as we do in Mexico. It’s cultural. It’s the only way that I have to explain it. With us, you will have clubs that don’t really love each other much, but we will still transfer to the national tournament. So each year the national tournament is run by a different club. You essentially compete for it. You send a proposal. You say this is the space that I have. This is the people that I have to run it. This is how I plan to run the tournament, the changes that I proposed for the for the ruleset. And it gets reviewed and whoever champion gets it, they run it for the year and you’re not allowed to run it for two years in a row. And that means that even if it’s a club, they don’t get along much, you’re still going to pass that tournament to that person. You are still going to show and you’re still going to fight. And we’re able to sort of like remove some of the egos of like my HEMA is done the right way and yours is not, and be able to pass that along while meanwhile if you look at HEMA in the U.S., ask me the chances for them to be able to run a national event any anytime soon with the agreement of all the clubs. It’s not going to happen.
Guy Windsor: All right. Okay. But to be strictly fair, historical martial arts, the United States, it started out in a few centres very, very far apart and the country is a lot bigger and there are hundreds upon hundreds of clubs. So the situation isn’t quite the same, but the situation is analogous to Britain, for instance, where we have absolutely no such kind of national level organisation. There is the British Historical Swordplay Association, I think it’s called, which I actually helped to found in about 1998 or 99, I think. And that still exists and it’s basically like an alliance of clubs, but there isn’t really any kind of national level events and tournaments and that kind of stuff as far as I’m aware. So it’s I think it’s fairer to say the situation in Britain is not nearly as collegial as the one in Mexico. I think you’re right. But I think let’s make it a slightly fairer comparison.
Mariana Lopez: I get that. But I think part of it is just there was a lot of transparency on it. I don’t know. I think I think that’s something that I like. The other thing that I just like, and no, that is definitely not a fair comparison, but I think people need to look at it, is when you have a place where, like if you look at Mexico, people will tell me it’s like HEMA doesn’t make any sense in Mexico, right? In a way. Like it doesn’t in the sense of it’s just so much work to make it work. So much work to get the swords, so much to get the gear, so much work to get the sources and find the one person that will have the English. I mean, sure, we have bilingual people, but well, we all know the English of the sources can be a little bit interesting.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Mariana Lopez: So I don’t know, I feel like there’s a lot of strengths in the practice and in the commitment and like the level of passion, like if you go to a Mexican tournament, it’s almost like you’re going to Lucha Libre in which the public, who has no idea what’s going on, is just screaming and invested and like yelling and like cheering. And it’s the most fabulous experience you’ll ever have, you feel like a rockstar when you’re fencing there. And it is quite not the same here. You have cheering teams and you have people screaming, but the public doesn’t get involved in the same way. I don’t know. It’s weird, but I think to me I just have a frustration that when we talked about Mexico and when we talk about countries that are not, your primary go to it’s always a feeling of like oh their struggles, rather than hey look they’re actually good at it and they have good fencers and they have people who are committed to understanding sources. There’s people who do research, right? I think a lot of the research made by people who are not in the U.S. or Europe gets overlooked. And understandably so. It’s hard to reach, but it’s part of it, too, is it hard to reach because I have a hard time putting out there? Or because we’re also not looked at? And I think it’s a combination of both.
Guy Windsor: It’s also a language issue. Most people who are brought up speaking English simply cannot read research done in Spanish or French or German or Polish or any other language you care to name. We are a very monolingual culture, really.
Mariana Lopez: I would argue on that one, because if you think about it, the number of people that I’ve met that have decided to learn Spanish in order to be able to read the Destreza better is not small.
Guy Windsor: Sure. But learning to read a language so that you can study original sources in that language is a different thing from being able to pick up a modern article about some source in some language and be able to just read it.
Mariana Lopez: I would argue that it’s easier to read the article than the sources.
Guy Windsor: Well, okay, speaking from my own experience, my Italian, my spoken Italian was quite good about five or six years ago. It’s gotten a lot rustier since, but I have no problem reading Fiore in the original language. And back then, five or six years ago, I had no problem sitting in the back of Andrea Conti’s car discussing Vadi with three Italians in Italian. No problem. But reading a modern article written in Italian is much harder for me.
Mariana Lopez: That is actually fair. The other thing that I guess I wish I like to be asked is, do you think it’s worth it to look not just at Mexico but at South America? And I want to bring up light to some things that, again, I understand why language-wise are not out there, but I think it’s very interesting that Tomas Suazo, who is actually currently known in Europe, because he went to do some training trip in Europe for a while.
Guy Windsor: Tomas Suazo, he’s been on the show and he stayed in my salle for six months.
Mariana Lopez: So I don’t know if he talked to you about it, but him and other people in South America, because South America is not small and yet they have managed to get HEMA clubs from different countries to gather up once a year to do training and fencing and tournaments. And the fact that they have been able to gather, it’s almost by this point, I wish they could bring the U.S. and Canada because they have the ability to run a Pan-American HEMA event.
Guy Windsor: Wow.
Mariana Lopez: You know, they have at least 4 to 5 different countries showing up altogether. They’re not small flights. They’re not little commitments. It’s not like you just jump the border. And they’re being able to achieve that. And I just see that that’s really cool. And it speaks as of the interest and the willingness to get to learn from each other. Even in the U.S., people have a hard time leaving their own coast for events. East coast is east coast. West coast is west coast. The people in the south, in the middle.
Guy Windsor: South of the south, and the middle of the middle, yeah.
Mariana Lopez: And you have your very specific clubs and your very specific folk who are willing to go out of that little box. But it’s almost always the same people.
Guy Windsor: Very true.
Mariana Lopez: Europe, I think has a better culture of leaving, understandably so, Europe also has easier travel. But even then, sometimes I feel like Europe remains contained within Europe.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. And Germany remains contained within Germany and France within France. Well, I mean, I go to Germany, I guess an average of maybe one and a half times a year. And it’s really unusual for somebody outside Germany to come to that seminar. My first seminar in Singapore, somebody flew down from Tokyo for it. It’s a very long one way.
Mariana Lopez: And it’s kind of like that. And to be fair in Mexico is kind of the same because you have people in Monterrey. Right. And if you go driving from Monterrey to my hometown, which is in the middle, it’s a 17 hours’ drive.
Guy Windsor: Wow. That’s continental travel.
Mariana Lopez: And people will do that for a national tournament, right? Now preferably they will fly. But it’s still a commitment. And that is something that I do wish happened with more passion.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So you live in America? Okay. You live in America and in the United States and you’re Mexican. You lived in Mexico for the first part of your life. And so you’re really familiar with both cultures and really familiar with both historical martial arts cultures. What do you think makes the difference between a culture where I’ll drive 17 hours to get to a tournament things so I can fence people who come from different places and have different styles. What makes that willingness which you find in Mexico, but you don’t find in the States?
Mariana Lopez: Oh, the answer is going to sound really mean. And it is the sense that there’s something out there to learn.
Guy Windsor: Oh, I like you. Yeah.
Mariana Lopez: I’m going to get roasted for this one.
Guy Windsor: Oh, that’s okay. I’ll defend you all the way, because it is true. What you just said rings absolutely true. Why should I go 8 hours to this event when what’s the chance of me learning anything I couldn’t get at home? Yeah, I think that’s it.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah, I really think it responds to that.
Guy Windsor: Although, that’s not usually conscious, I think.
Mariana Lopez: No, I agree. I agree with you. I really don’t think it is. And I think it’s one of those things in which, like you have such large communities within your area that it also it’s easy to fall in that, like I have four clubs near me in here and in Mexico is the only club in my entire state.
Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. So my experience of talking to Americans about this sort of thing, they always bring up things like they don’t get enough holiday time. And if it takes a day to get there and a date to get back, they’re basically having to miss two days of work. So is the employment situation similar in Mexico or is it more like Europe where you can take lots of time off and don’t get fired?
Mariana Lopez: No, it’s much, much similar to the American holidays.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So we can call bullshit on that excuse, can we?
Mariana Lopez: I mean, I think you get to pick your battles. Like you have six holidays, take three for you, three for HEMA.
Guy Windsor: So yeah.
Mariana Lopez: I would say so a little bit.
Guy Windsor: Okay.
Mariana Lopez: I’m going to get so roasted.
Guy Windsor: No, that’s all right. And honestly it’s probably a good discussion to be having because I’ve noticed it, I mean I’ve been going to the States for, you know, teaching events and whatnot for 22 years now. My first one was in 2001, and I have noticed how the events have gotten more and more local over the 20 years because like even 15 years ago, it was normal for people to come to events who have flown across the country for it or come in from other countries for it. That was normal. And now it does tend to be all a lot more local.
Mariana Lopez: I don’t think that’s bad per se, as long as it is sort of like a regroup and regrow.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, but that’s not what’s happening, is it? It’s more like a siloing.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah, it’s becoming more isolating. That is true.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Slight change of tack. We could always come back to anything that you think you haven’t fully expressed yourself on, but let’s leave this and go to a slightly more contentious topic so you can get more roasted. So you are probably best known for being a co-founder of Esfinges. So we’ve had Fran Lacuata on the show very early on, she was one of the first people I invited. So we have sort of some of the background. But could you just recap what the problem was, what Esfinges set out to solve and how it’s gone?
Mariana Lopez: So see, Esfinges in Mexico, again. And I don’t think Fran has this side of the story, Fran arrived later on. There were very few women, very, very few women and I was in the boys’ club. I would say that there’s been a lot of growth in myself in how I perceive myself and others. And there was this one girl from another state who was also the only girl in her club. And by that point I was a ‘cool kid’ who knew everyone because of course. And so she came over with me and she was like, I’m so annoyed of being the only girl. And we should do a Facebook group where we, you know, gather all the women in HEMA Mexico so we can have some sort of, you know, sense of community. I looked at her and my first thought was like, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. It was my very first thought. Flash forward two months afterwards, I went to I went to my very first HEMA event in the United States and in my brain is like, I am going to the developed HEMA world where everything is different and everything is elevated and everything is fantastic. And I show up and in a group of 60 something people, this was one of the largest events at the time. There were four women.
Guy Windsor: Wow.
Mariana Lopez: And it punched me on the face. It’s hilarious because I could probably still find that text in Facebook. I messaged her back and I was like, I do what you want me to do as long as it’s international. And she was like, All right. So it started as a little humble like Facebook page, I mean, Facebook group. And I added every girl that I knew and I gathered the four women that I met in the US. And then I had two people that I was like, send me any women that you know of because I got to know one European guy who shall not be named and he contacted me.
Guy Windsor: Why shan’t he be named?
Mariana Lopez: Because I don’t like him. And I don’t want to give him the credit. It was Axel Pettersson I met.
Guy Windsor: Oh.
Mariana Lopez: Yes. Axel Pettersson was the one that gave me contact with Fran.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So in which case, Axel has actually done one good thing in his life. A nice thing.
Mariana Lopez: That is true. He has actually done one good thing in his life. So I contacted Axel Pettersson, and I also contacted Ken Dietiker who I met somewhere else. So they start sending me, like, the few women that they met. And so Fran immediately became the focal point for all Europe.
Guy Windsor: Sure.
Mariana Lopez: Because I’m not in Europe. And then she started gathering people from Europe, I gathered people from Mexico, and then people from the U.S. And that’s essentially how it started. And it’s one of those things in which you’re sort of in the Facebook group. And boy, was there drama because everyone wanted to know what was happening inside. People were freaking out.
Guy Windsor: Oh, so all the boys wanted to know what was going on inside the girls’ clubhouse.
Mariana Lopez: Oh, absolutely. We had offers of like, oh, you know, we have this forum that it is very famous and well-known in Hema. And we want to offer you having your private discussions in a private forum there, which obviously means that all of the administrators can see it.
Guy Windsor: Right.
Mariana Lopez: And I’m like, are you offering this out of kindness or out of needing to see what’s going on inside?
Guy Windsor: Right.
Mariana Lopez: I got flooded with messages of like, how I think what you’re doing, it’s well-intended, but it’s doing the wrong thing. How do I know that you’re not speaking ill of me?
Guy Windsor: Well, but hang on. What fucking business is it of anybody what you’re saying to your friends?
Mariana Lopez: You would be surprised.
Guy Windsor: I mean, I don’t suppose you ever do talk about me behind my back in Esfinges. I don’t care if you do. It’s fine. You carry on. Say what you want.
Mariana Lopez: So here’s the thing, though. It’s one of these things where I had no idea what I was getting into. My friend had no idea what she was getting into. Like, I don’t even think Fran had any idea what we were getting into. And to be honest, the backlash was mentally taking. I could confidently say that all the bullying that we had for the first 2 to 3 years essentially changed me as a human being.
Guy Windsor: In what way?
Mariana Lopez: I am far more feminist now. I was one of those people like, oh, HEMA is perfect. And everything is inclusive. There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing wrong with our activity. We’re so small and niche that we get to build this little perfect utopia and all of a sudden it’s like, no, that’s not true.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. And, people often don’t understand that absolute equality is not egalitarian at all.
Mariana Lopez: And the other thing is I think part of it is just the sense of we need to start accepting that culture and society will, (I don’t know how the English word is) permeate, touch, it will get involved in how you run things. I cannot detach being Mexican from my existence as an instructor. Clubs in Mexico, misogyny is like rampant. They’re not going to suddenly stop having that, you know. I just did not randomly get rid of my internalised misogyny.
Guy Windsor: I grew up in Peru, partly. And so from ‘86 to ‘92 I lived in Peru. And I think the culture in Peru is not too dissimilar to the culture in Mexico. And I mean, yeah, I’ve seen extraordinary things, absolutely extraordinary things. Like, for instance, we were staying in Lima and a woman was driving me and my sister and we were going to a cockfight, I think it was, with a bunch of Peruvian friends. And the guy who was driving the other car did not know where we were going. But Lisa, who was driving the car I was in, knew where we were going and she knew the way. But the guy behind could not follow a woman in a car and actually had to drive with the nose of his car slightly ahead of the nose of hers, so that we were driving along the street abreast instead of in line as you’re supposed to. He was constantly half overtaking her so that he didn’t have to be behind her car.
Mariana Lopez: Of course. That is a great definition. And so here’s the thing. Like one of the things that happened is of course, drama happened and there were incidents and we’ve had to build rules and things as we go. Because the first time that we had an issue, everyone jumped in. It’s like “we told you”. We told you that it was going to be wrong. And I’m like, listen, I’m trying to do my best. I’m not exaggerating. Like it moved from getting people like, I’m going to sound really melodramatic and I apologise, but being fully honest, I’ve gotten threats of like, if you don’t do this, I’m going to ruin your HEMA career. You need to listen to me or I’m going to ruin all that you’ve built with Esfinges. That was a fun one.
Guy Windsor: Is this coming from women or men?
Mariana Lopez: No, that one was a guy.
Guy Windsor: That sounds unsurprising. Okay.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah, I’ve gotten the, oh, you know, what you’re trying to do is nice and noble, but you are ultimately hurting our society or also like you are. You are causing a problem. You’re not helping women. You are actually causing a problem because you are isolating them. So you are the real reason there’s a rift between them and us. And we for a long time would spend hours banning comments from rude to, you know, just denigrating comments that will happen on Esfinges that when we opened the open page.
Guy Windsor: What is the open page?
Mariana Lopez: The Facebook page of Esfinges in which we had memes and posts like that. It’s a little bit dead right now because COVID took a lot of power from us. But it’s one of those things in which we will post a picture and it was not just HEMA people, it was just in general.
Guy Windsor: Was that was that open for men to post on?
Mariana Lopez: They can post in the comments, yeah. So we have our closed private forum and then we have our open page and then we have our website and then finally we have Instagram and other things. We had to close our Tumblr because a white supremacist group was taking our pictures and posting them on theirs. There’s a lot of things that people really don’t realise. I think one of the most nerve wracking things that I’ve ever had to do because of Esfinges, and I’m not going to name any names, but I had a person text me and let me know that their instructor was essentially harassing them and knocking at their door because they refused to date them. And I had to essentially encourage her to go to the police.
Guy Windsor: Oh my God.
Mariana Lopez: That has happened at least two times in which the only thing that I can do is like, go to the police and I will be texting you the entire time. Like if you need support, I’m going to be in your boat. But I cannot do anything else for you. This is beyond the scope of my abilities. Like, what do I do? Can I make a post? Don’t make a post, go to the police. Make a restriction order. And so I see some of the obscure stuff that people have no idea, just no idea that it happens. I know that we just when far away from how I started but I guess it just goes to speak of like how it has evolved.
Guy Windsor: And also how it is necessary.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, because I’m going to say another story. The girl who started Esfinges with me. Her parents were very adamant that that HEMA was not for women. To the point that the reason she stopped practising HEMA was because her parents were like, if you stop doing HEMA and join something more feminine, like belly dance, we’ll get you a new car and will pay your master’s degree.
Guy Windsor: Bloody hell.
Mariana Lopez: And she was like, I’ll take it.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, as soon as she’s got that master’s degree and that and is driving around in a new car, she can pick up swords again.
Mariana Lopez: Because she actually did a masters in sports psychology. She’s now helping athletes. But it’s just one of those things which when I saw that it’s like I don’t know if I’m saving the world, but if I can help at least one girl to not feel inadequate by liking what they like, I call it a day. That’s all I care about at this point.
Guy Windsor: That’s a success.
Mariana Lopez: It’s a tiny thing, but I do think it does a lot.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Actually we can cut this out if it goes nowhere useful. But I have recently, at the time we’re talking it’s not launched yet, but by the time this goes out it’ll be launched. I’ve created a sort of Facebook alternative online sort of community forum for sword people. It’s called swordpeople.com. And also I actually have a note here on my questions list to ask you whether you would like to have a look at it and see whether it’s possible to create an Esfinges subgroup on that platform because I would like that to be a sort of safe space for women to talk about whatever they want to talk about without the blokes looking over their shoulders. Interested?
Mariana Lopez: I was going to make a terrible joke and say, Guy, so what you’re saying is that you want to be able to see? No, I would. I really think that we actually need to start getting out of Facebook and not out, but. But expanded.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, Facebook is a dumpster fire.
Mariana Lopez: No, it’s not that. It’s that Facebook is generational. We have a discord now and then we have people who have discord that don’t have Facebook. So now all of a sudden, I’m able to reach those people. You know, it was kind of the same with Instagram. The goal is to have platforms where I can reach women and non-binary people and not just Facebook women and non-binary people. So yeah, the answer would be yes.
Guy Windsor: Okay. We’ll have to figure out on the back end of it how to create it because of course I own that platform. I pay for the hosting of it on a system called Mighty Networks so it’s like I’m building it myself. So it’s going to be tricky adjusting the permissions so that the owner can’t see what’s going on. But I think I think we’ll probably come up with something.
Mariana Lopez: All right.
Guy Windsor: Excellent. Brilliant. Okay. So is there anything you want to add on the women belonging in historical martial arts topic?
Mariana Lopez: Just that they’re fabulous. And that they’re inspirational. And I really think that. It’s radical that I said this. I think that sometimes in the caught up sense of like, you know this is something that needs fixing. Sure, people don’t spend time looking at how many talented HEMA women there are out there. Let me let me change this. A HEMA white, cisgender guy has a very easy way to start something and all of a sudden become very known and very praised and get a lot of attention. I would argue that it’s not the same journey for women, and I think it’s worth to like stop and look at the women around you in your HEMA community and see like who in here has been working for years and maybe doesn’t feel like they deserve or they want to put the effort to like, get in the front stage that has everything it takes to be on that front stage.
Guy Windsor: Well, Mariana, I am trying.
Mariana Lopez: Thing is just like to put that out there for everyone, right?
Guy Windsor: Half of the guests on this show are women.
Mariana Lopez: And that’s why I love that. And it takes, it takes people like you to set an example that it is not impossible. Because that’s just something that I hear a lot. It’s like oh it’s really hard. No, it’s not hard. Takes work, but it’s doable.
Guy Windsor: But the hardest thing about running this show, honestly, is finding the women. Two reasons. Firstly, because historically, martial arts does have a lot more men in it than it does women. That’s just a fact. So there are dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of men who absolutely have done, shall we say, sufficient interesting work that having them on the show is a no brainer. But there are fewer women who have been doing this kind of work for long enough to sort of get noticed. But also, and more critically, I have received I don’t know how many pitches to come on the show from men. I have had a total of one pitch from one woman.
Mariana Lopez: I was going to say, actually, you’re right. The other issue is the women feel either undeserving, because we are taught not to speak, we’re taught not to fight for it. We’re taught to keep order. And we’re also a lot more self-critique. So you will find a lot of women who feel like they are not capable enough or knowledgeable enough or smart enough or good enough or enough enough. So I think that’s another big challenge is like women really make of the service of their work, which is unfortunate.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, and it’s not a problem that men seem to have to nearly the same degree.
Mariana Lopez: No they don’t. They never do.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So women listening, pitch me. Even if you think it would be a bad idea, pitch me anyway, and we’ll see. I mean, I’ve had women on the show who’ve been training for less than a year.
Mariana Lopez: I love it. Everyone has something to teach. So yes, I love that.
Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. So on a slight sort of sidestep, I need to talk to you about tournaments. Let me just put this into context. The only time I think that we’d ever met in person was very briefly when I was running pools. I was the ring director in the tournament at Lord Baltimore’s Challenge. And it was very apparent that my attitude towards tournaments and my attitude to being the ring director of the tournament was completely different to yours. So my approach was, and I told all the fighters this before we started, that my interest is in making sure they get the maximum amount of fencing done in the minimum amount of time. So zero dicking about, zero time spent fiddling about. If the hit isn’t clear, I’ll throw it out and they have to do it again. And they also must assume that I, as their director, am drunk, blind and biased against them. And so they have to sell me their hits. Right. Because I have no particular interest in spending 5 minutes deconstructing exactly what happened so that the right person can get credited with the hit, if there’s any doubt. Because to my mind, if you’re fighting with sharp swords, there is no doubt. And if you fence in such a way that you allow your opponent’s sword to become dangerous to you, then you’ve made a mistake and you don’t deserve to get a hit anyway. Now, this is completely different to the way a proper, shall we say, sporting tournament with prizes should be run, where you absolutely have to make sure that the people who are legally entitled to the hit get the hit. But I don’t think historical martial arts are there yet as a thing. And my brief from David, David Biggs the organizer, wasn’t you need to make sure that everyone who deserves a point gets one. It was we have a shitload of tournaments and rings and pools and stuff to get through. So Guy, just please get it done. Right. At one point, I think it was in the finals pool, whatever, you came up and asked me about something, and I just basically ignored you. Told you to go away because I was busy getting on with the next fight or whatever. And somebody came up and asked me, you know, um, Mariana has got a question. Look, I just don’t have time. We have too much fencing to do. I don’t care about one particular hit or the other. And, you know, blunt, drunk, blind, biased against you, pfft, I don’t care. Let’s get the next hit done. All right. So now I’ve explained where I’m coming from, from a ring directing point of view, maximum fencing, minimum time. And it should be said, I got through two entire pools before either one of the other ring directors got through one. So my approach gets maximum fencing in minimum time. And also David asked me, actually, do you think next year you could run a little thing for the ring directors to get them to speed the fuck up?
Mariana Lopez: Oh boy, slow rings are the worst.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. So anyway. So my view for tournaments is great place to go to practice. The actual results don’t particularly matter because what tournaments really offer is the opportunity to fence lots of different people who come from different backgrounds under a relatively high pressure situation. So they have extreme utility for a fencer’s training, but to my mind they are never the actual point. Where do you come from?
Mariana Lopez: I come from cheerleading, which should tell you a lot. No, I mean, yes and no. The way that I see it is I see it in several stages. The first and foremost and the one that I have the most interest in is the ability to perform under pressure. You know, adrenaline. It’s actually very interesting. This is something that Jake Norwood pointed out to me, and I did not believe him until I went through some trauma to say the least. And I realised he was right. Adrenaline feels the same regardless of the situation.
Guy Windsor: Yes.
Mariana Lopez: So the adrenaline of being in a tournament feels the same as the adrenaline on being on a roller coaster and it feels the same as the adrenaline on being in an unpleasant scenario. So while I don’t like the real fight team conversations of.
Guy Windsor: Macho bullshit posturing. Yes. Okay. Can I just interject there? Many of my friends are ex-soldiers or other military who have actual combat experience. And not one of them ever says anything about real fight ever.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah. No. To me, that’s a real red flag every time.
Guy Windsor: Yeah.
Mariana Lopez: Which, I mean, I guess I’m going to go off other branches on this one, but that is something that caused a lot of fuss in the tournament that we just run because the way that we considered points are it has to be intentional, but if it’s really lightly done but 100% intent, that means if meaning I could have hit this harder, but I don’t have to. To me that is completely martially valid and that’s exactly what I want. It shows us your level and your capacity as a fencer. So the way that I see it is all these techniques that I’ve trained and all these fancy moves that I have learned, can I perform them under stress? Can I perform them under pressure? And so that’s kind of like my first main goal. So even if you’re not there, you know, for the medals and the wins and the champions is, can I perform these fencing moves? Do they make sense? The next level that I have is, I guess it’s a weird conversation, but like, I love the ‘martial aspect’ of HEMA. That’s always going to be one of my favourite things. My favourite weapon is not even doable in a tournament.
Guy Windsor: What is your favourite weapon?
Mariana Lopez: The one that has the least space in a medal, which is sickle.
Guy Windsor: Sickle?
Mariana Lopez: It’s the most beautiful thirteen pages or fourteen pages, I think it is. It’s the most beautiful fourteen pages have ever seen in my life. And I’m sad that there’s no more. But I love it.
Guy Windsor: You know, you do know that there’s plenty of sickle material if you look outside Europe, right?
Mariana Lopez: I know. But I don’t know where to go.
Guy Windsor: Okay.
Mariana Lopez: But if you guide me, I’ll be very happy.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, most of it isn’t in text form, but I have, for example, here where I live in Ipswich, there’s these excellent jujitsu guys who do all sorts of traditional Japanese martial arts. And some of that involves sickles. They have all sorts of cool stuff there.
Mariana Lopez: The Japanese stuff I’m familiar with. I think Tang Soo Doo has some sickle stuff. But um, but the next thing that I like, it’s the concept of performance. The reason why I get stingy with certain tournament things is because I think a well done tournament should have space for both. People who are doing recreationally and people who are doing it with the desire to perform, perform martially and perform. What will be the phrase, like athletically?
Guy Windsor: Feats of athleticism?
Mariana Lopez: Yes. Because we have fencers out there who are like the best of the best, who will do some crazy beautiful moves that your average fencer struggles with on the every day. Jason Barrons and Arto Fama are the first ones that come to mind because they just had a beautiful match this past weekend. Like there is the ability to do all these cool things from the sources at a very high stress, high speed, powerful scenario. So the way that I see it is I want to be able to build an environment where if you want to perform and your desire is to practice to perform, you are able to do that. And in order to do that, you do have to have a more, oh, I’m going to cringe at the words because I don’t want it to sound wrong because I don’t want to sound like you’re not professional because you are professional, but at a very high professional team type of way. Does that make sense?
Guy Windsor: Yeah, absolutely. And on this show, I have lamented the lack of professionalism in historical martial arts tournaments. I wish they would up the game.
Mariana Lopez: And that is kind of like what I would like to see. And what I’m striving for. And I understand that it’s not for everyone, but that’s also why I love that there’s local tournaments is because you have options, right? Yeah. If I want to have a more chill time, I go here. You want to do this other experience, I go there. Where I want to have like peak performance I go here. People think that professionalism takes from the social experience and it takes from camaraderie and it takes for making friends. And I strongly disagree with that.
Guy Windsor: It can do. It just doesn’t have to.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, that’s my whole point, is like, it will if you make it so. But if you keep the culture healthy, it shouldn’t. And if anything, I feel like, ‘strictly run’ stuff allows too a lot of personal bias to go out of the window, which is much easier to have a good relationship with your fellow fencers at the end of the day. If I’m very competitive and I go to a tournament and I am fencing this one guy that I don’t know and my match was run fair and square and I lost, it is very easy for me to go back and then be friends with that guy who just legitimately beat me. If I have a tournament that is kind of like, meh, and then the guy that is reffing me is from the same club that the guy that just beat me. I might have some awkward feelings and like they’re obviously biased. And do I want to be friends with you? I probably don’t. It leads to a less healthy approach, in my very wild opinion. But yeah, I just think it’s one of those things in which we have a pretty well established sort of like environment for the scholar stuff, I feel. I feel like we have a very good environment set up for community building, which is like your smaller local events, your workshops. I think that we have a very good established thing for social things like Dijon comes to mind, which is very well known for having a lot of like getting together, making friends, sort of like things. And I think that there is also room for the make it big and professional and very highly competitive. So I just feel like that’s a niche that is that is still available to work on. And I’d like to tackle on it, if that makes sense.
Guy Windsor: Sure. I mean, I noticed I think you are the only person at Lord Baltimore’s Challenge who was acting as a ring coach. So you were there with, it was David, wasn’t it you were with? And so, like, in between hits or whatever you would like encourage him with some coaching thing. Honestly I wasn’t listening to your conversations. I don’t know what you were saying, but. And that’s the sort of thing that you see at a boxing match or an MMA match or something. At a kind of high level combat sport thing. Professional sport fencers do pretty much the same thing. But you were the only person there who I saw doing that, which means that that aspect of coach of tournament culture is clearly not widespread in historical martial arts. Or is it and am I just going to the wrong events?
Mariana Lopez: No, I would say it is not. It’s funny, I tried to run a workshop on coaching this weekend and I had one person come. It was a little bit sad. And again, I think that’s part of the conversation, right? I’m going to get a little dark here. Experiencing HEMA as a woman in Mexico and experiencing life as a woman who grew up in a strongly misogynistic culture. What people don’t realise is like if you read about sports psychology, which I’m super thrilled, your everyday life will affect your sports development. And one of the things that I’ve realised is that I get a lot of anxiety, particularly when I fence my students, good friends, because in open tournaments what would happen to me is that I would start beating a guy and they would get angry. And then it would move from fencing. It will turn into injury, right? It will turn into I must hurt you. This is unacceptable. How dare you tiny woman you know, be better than me or I must punish. And that developed in psychological aspects. Speaking of wanting to perform, I became unable to perform, not from a physical perspective, but from a psychological perspective. And so the day I start having a coach being like, no, no, no, he’s going to be upset. It’s on them, not on you. Or like, I know you’re getting anxious, you’re doing good. You have the right to win. You have the right to take space. And like having that like to me, it’s mostly emotional coaching, it is not tactical coaching what I need. It became it became key in my ability to become a better fencer and to be more confident in my tackling of every other aspect of fencing, from research to training to teaching to all of that. And I think that people do not realise the emotional impact that fencing has.
Guy Windsor: And also people don’t understand how useful coaching is.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, because it’s developing your skill, and again, it is the same thing. It can be martial, speaking in terms of techniques and tactics. It can be in terms of strategy, which to me is fascinating. I love strategy and it can be emotional, right?
Guy Windsor: Honestly, in the high pressure area of like in the middle of a tournament bout, it’s all emotional. Because you’ve already done all the tactical stuff and the strategic stuff. If your coach is any good, you’ve already covered all of that stuff. Before the fight even starts, you scoped out the opponent. You know how they fence, you know what they’re likely to do. You have a plan and the coach’s job is basically to keep you in the right headspace so you can stick to the fucking plan.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, and it is funny because if you if you look at a history like I think that’s the whole point of it and this is an argument for me against like Real Fight TM. In which that’s the whole point of a lot of the games that they had in the Middle Ages. Like a lot of tournaments and a lot of activities and fighting games that they had was particularly to be able to develop that mental skill of endurance and stay cool and make the right choices.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, they were they were basically cultivating prowess.
Mariana Lopez: And so now we just do it in what I would allegedly call it maybe healthier or more sustainable manner, which is coaching. I do think that it’s something that is not a big thing right now in HEMA. And I also think that there’s a lot of people who are coaching who do not understand what coaching is.
Guy Windsor: That’s certainly true.
Mariana Lopez: It’s not to be like, oh, you don’t know anything. It’s just facts. Almost everyone that you see that coaches their students are people that come from other martial arts that they did to a certain level of competitiveness. I think that’s just how things are at the moment.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So your ideal tournament would have what exactly?
Mariana Lopez: First of all, my ideal tournament will have a nice balance between men, women, non-binary people, trans people, and be like an incredibly inclusive environment. That’s my first call. Where everyone can go and do swords safely. Safety is also like a huge one, right? I want to go to a tournament in which I can compete to my maximum athletic ability without worrying that I’m going to get injured. I want to be able to do these in the long run. So I don’t want to end up like with a super high end degree concussion that is going to potentially give me permanent brain damage or broken fingers that are going to affect my ability to do my day job or popped up bruise or shoulder injury that is going to take me for years. So a place where you can be both really competitive but remain safe is a huge win for me. Where you can get a lot of fights because that’s what I do at the end of the day, I want to go to fight. So even if I’m not the best, I want to make sure that my fencers have as many bouts as they can so they can have as much fun and as much learning as they could.
Guy Windsor: That’s, by the way, my main criticism of tournament generally. I mean, most of my tournament experience was in sport fencing in the eighties and nineties. And yeah, you’d be on the coach for 3 hours or whatever and then you would be at the event for 8 hours. And in those 8 hours, depending on how well you did, you might get a dozen fights. And then you’re on the coach for 3 hours home again. That’s just not good. If I’m going to spend the entire day, get up early, travel all morning, spend all day fencing. I want to be getting in dozens and dozens and dozens of fights.
Mariana Lopez: And so on that note, which is something that we have we have to figure it out. So it is like make sure that there’s a space to continue to fight once you’re done with your fighting. Free fencing, you know, I’m not that good. It was like, I didn’t do that great. I got eliminated after the first round of elims, but now I can go to this area and just pick up fights with whoever wants to fence me and just learn from people and have like, a space that allows for, again, community building, personal growth, social development and just sort of like networking type of situation and an overall environment of respect. Something that I’m really sick and tired is the fact that tournaments that are not the largest one do not get any praise, particularly like in women’s or our case, we changed the name to underrepresented genders because it’s not just for women. You know, there’s this criticism of like, oh, well the open is this many people. So let’s ignore the fact that someone achieved a medal in anything else like this. So an environment where every single tournament is valued as an achievement and an event in which even if you are not the top number one, your achievements are valued as important. So you’re top 16, that’s still really hard. So yeah, like give it credit. You’re top eight that is super hard. Give it credit. That’s kind of like the environment that I look for in a tournament I know that I would like to strive for. It is somewhere where you are recognised, somewhere where you are fulfilled and somewhere where you are safe and able to try the things that you want to try in a healthy, non-injury manner.
Guy Windsor: Okay, Now I think I would show up to a tournament like that.
Mariana Lopez: That’s my utopia.
Guy Windsor: Okay, now am I right in thinking that you are an artist?
Mariana Lopez: You are correct. I am an artist.
Guy Windsor: Is that your day job?
Mariana Lopez: No. It was when I was unemployed in the pandemic. But no, that is just a hobby that I’ve had my entire life.
Guy Windsor: You create reproductions, illustrations, digital restoration of fencing manuals. Tell us about it.
Mariana Lopez: It’s all a matter of accident. I do art as a hobby. I am primarily, this is a terrible word. This is like telling a HEMA person that you’re a sport fencer. I am self-taught. And I started dabbling in graphic design as a hobby. And eventually my little knowledge of graphic design became a way to sponsor my HEMA stuff, because by giving you very cheap Mexican prices, I can get a lot of dollars. So I started doing a lot of digital work for HEMA, in particular Purple Heart. I did a lot of graphic design for Purple Heart for many years. I would do graphics for them. And then I started doing logos. There’s a lot of logos in Mexico and in the U.S. that were designed by me.
Guy Windsor: Really? Oh, we should talk.
Mariana Lopez: For a while, honestly, I had a monopoly of graphic design. There was a time period in which I was like, that is mine, that is mine, that is mine. Actually, I don’t know if you’re familiar because you’re familiar with Lord Baltimore’s. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Autumn Fecht.
Guy Windsor: I’m not.
Mariana Lopez: Well, I don’t know if there’s any that I have in mind, but like, I just did a lot of graphic design for a lot of people. And then out of fun, I started, I was like, can I grab a illustration from a manual and can I recreate it as close as possible?
Guy Windsor: Interesting.
Mariana Lopez: I did that for a while. And honestly I stopped after some very sad experiences where I try to sell them and I realised what I did to myself.
Guy Windsor: What was wrong with that?
Mariana Lopez: I did a, what was it, trying to remember, a colour Joachim Meyer? Took me six months to do. Sometimes I will spend weeks matching the colour. Because you need to get the colour exactly right. And then one thing is when an artist makes a mistake, and the other thing is to paint a mistake in an illustration. It’s hard. So I would spend like six months doing that piece of art. And then I was like, oh, this is going to give me bank and I will sell it for like $200. And by the time I realised what I had done, you know, I did that with several pieces and I regret it.
Guy Windsor: You can live on $400 a year, can’t you?
Mariana Lopez: I regretted it. I continue to regret it. But the straw that broke the camel’s back as I hand brushed large scale Nicolaes Petter plate, which is a beautiful, beautiful wrestling manual. And we ran a tournament in Mexico and I gave the painting as a first prize, and the guy looked at it like “cool” and rolled it. Later on, it got lost. And that was the last one that I did. It is the last recreation that I’ve ever done. I have not been able to master the emotional, the emotional injury that that caused was a strong. I still have a couple of home. I have a 1.33. I have another.
Guy Windsor: Which plate from 1.33?
Mariana Lopez: I don’t remember. I can show it to you. I have one that I took from, like I literally just went into Wiktenauer and I just randomly start clicking. And I think a horse fighting one that I still have. I tried to do a Fiore, but then I realise that that Fiore’s artistry is too wild and free handed for me to want to dive into that again.
Guy Windsor: Okay.
Mariana Lopez: One of my favourite ones that I sent to France. I did this gorgeous armour plate from Paulus Hector Mair. And I do them with the watercolour. So that’s also kind of hard because sometimes the paintings are made with gouache or something else and I need to be able to resemble the texture.
Guy Windsor: And with watercolours you don’t get any take backs. It’s got to be right first time.
Mariana Lopez: Yes, it has to be right first time. I’ve worked a lot with Chidester. He’s been really kind to me. And honestly I’m very thankful for him because it’s allowed me to see the sources in a different way. He hired me to do like an educated reconstruction of the broken pieces from the 1.33. So if you really if you go to Wiktenauer and you see the pages where there’s damage, you will see hand-drawn lines. Those are mine. And some things were just lines, others were a little bit trickier. And it looks pretty simple, but it takes a lot of let me understand the style of the artist so I can do this. And then I’ve done other graphic design so he’s publishing these beautiful books. And so for example, all the digital work that went to the Fiore had gold plated. I did those.
Guy Windsor: Oh really? I have that in my house.
Mariana Lopez: So I spent hours painful, painful, painstaking, mental health taking hours, hand selecting the sections that had the gold. So you could have that beautiful gold plates in your hands.
Guy Windsor: I for one appreciate it. And when that book arrived, I was like holding it up to the light and angling it so the gold would shine. And I was squealing like an infant.
Mariana Lopez: And honestly, though, cheers to Mike, because he would be like is it ready yet? And I’m like I’ll get it to you in like two weeks. Is it ready yet? Give it two more weeks, maybe give it two months. So I worked on that one. I did something else for another one that he needed. I cleaned up some of the Meyer plates and like isolated all the fencers for a project that he has. I actually realised I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about that.
Guy Windsor: No one ever listens to the show anyway, so you’re fine.
Mariana Lopez: Don’t say that! So yeah, I have dabbled a lot into illustration. Honestly, I think my quote unquote scholar side in HEMA is not so much toward the text as it is for the art. That’s like one of my favourite things in the whole world.
Guy Windsor: I am always jealous of people who can draw. I cannot draw for shit, I can doodle, but my notes right now I’ll just flip my camera back on so you can see them. I can doodle.
Mariana Lopez: Hey, those are good.
Guy Windsor: That’s pretty much all I could say. So you do lots of things and you have done lots of things. What is the best idea you haven’t acted on yet?
Mariana Lopez: I have it written down and I have all the how it’s supposed to run. I just every time I try just doesn’t work. I’ve always wanted to do a HEMA scholarship.
Guy Windsor: Okay. Like what?
Mariana Lopez: So it essentially works in different ways. There’s three types of scholarships. The first one is where you bring a fencer to an event or to somewhere else to be able to practice. These came from the fact that, you know, for me, going to the U.S. was incredibly hard. And there’s people in Mexico who just will never be able to have that opportunity because if the visa gets denied. Good luck. There’s nothing you can do about it. So the first step of scholarship is bringing a fencer to an event. The second type of scholarship is bringing an instructor to a club. So you as a whole club or as a local place, you get sponsored. And so essentially the scholarship pays the instructor to go there and train with you for an intensive week or two and provide you with all that stuff. And then the other scholarship is essentially gear, which is also hard to get, sort of like provide equipment. That last one I’d be changing my mind about.
Guy Windsor: Why so?
Mariana Lopez: Because once upon a time my club had a scholarship and I gave a sword to a guy and then he gave it to his girlfriend and I was like, maybe here is not the best one. But, like a scholarship that allows people to have knowledge is good. So basically my goal with that is to try to close in the gap of knowledge that is out there. And sort of like have a functional way to bring people who are limited by either their geographic area and their economy because, you know.
Guy Windsor: Yeah I have been working on the exact same thing myself. I have a subscription program for my online courses and it has been very, very, very slow to actually pick up. But once I get it to a certain point, there’ll be enough money there so I can offer free seminars, where I can cover the flights and my time and all that sort of stuff. So free seminars to places that simply can’t afford to hire me or somebody like me.
Mariana Lopez: The idea is to have accessibility and have just again shared knowledge. But also it’s one of those things that I think that it will allow for the international community to be more connected. And as I say, again, will move away from the scope of the US and Europe and start including conversation with other countries that are well deserving of attention.
Guy Windsor: Right. I mean, there’s a thriving historical martial arts scene in Indonesia, for example. I’ve talked to two people from Indonesia on the show already.
Mariana Lopez: China has a lot of work going on. I’m mostly familiar with South America. But I think there’s been something and someone was saying something about South Africa and I was like.
Guy Windsor: There’s been stuff going on in South Africa for years and years and years and I’ve tried to get in touch with the people there, but I want to get somebody from South Africa on the show. So if anyone was asked, who does historical martial arts is listening, get in touch, because I would like to have South Africa represented on the show. But yeah, they seem not to interact much with the wider world or they’re doing it on platforms where I don’t go.
Mariana Lopez: So I think I think that’s the one, the one thing that I wish I could get done. It’s a scholarship.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So is that also the what you would do with $1,000,000?
Mariana Lopez: Pretty much, yes.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So you conflated my two final questions, which I ask all of I guests in to 1. Well, I would take your million dollars and I would create a scholarship program.
Mariana Lopez: Absolutely.
Guy Windsor: So, yeah, one difficulty I’ve been thinking of with my own notion of a scholarship program is, of course, it’s really important that it doesn’t become a popularity contest. There has to be some kind of objective selection process so that the people who deserve it get it.
Mariana Lopez: Oh I had all that sorted out. And if you want to run it because I can’t, please take it. So the way that I was going to do it is I essentially was going to have a board for the decision making. And by having a board of people, it’s sort of like a collegiate sort of decision. People are going to hate me for this. There is an application process, right? There is application by kind of like asking for yourself to be there. But then there’s another section of scholarship and which is like, you don’t propose yourself, you propose someone else.
Guy Windsor: Okay.
Mariana Lopez: It’s sort of like that. That helps because it’s sort of like people thinking that you are deserving of. I also plan it that way to prevent people who think like, I’m not good enough.
Guy Windsor: Oh, yeah, there’s that.
Mariana Lopez: And so there are several aspects in which you have to fulfil certain questionnaires. Obviously if you get the questionnaire wrong for terms of simplifying things, you will have to try again next time. But there will be like a whole application format and then it moves into a contest and ideally by changing the board and having different people, you will prevent the popularity thing to happen.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. It is tricky. I think selecting the board is the tricky bit, but getting the money is the really tricky though. But once you’ve got the money, I think getting the board right.
Mariana Lopez: Well ideally that’s the nice thing when you go to an international situation because you gather people from as many different corners of the world as you can, and they all have different perceptions and notions of life. So any bias I think will be different. And that in itself, I think it would be helpful. Another thing is to make sure that, you know, local ‘authorities’ are sort of like involved in the process, but not give them the full on weight of authority. So if I’m going to do a scholarship that is going to go to Chile, have Tomas in the board, but not be Tomas be the only one in the board. Tomas is a friend, but if Tomas is a horrible human being is like, I’m just going to give it to my friend. All of the other board members are going to be like, No, that’s not going to happen, right?
Guy Windsor: And of course, it couldn’t go to Tomas’s own group.
Mariana Lopez: So that’s kind of how I had it planned and set up. And then the other thing that I also had is that you could submit to be an instructor to that program, because that’s the thing where you can go to a popularity contest, right? It’s like, Oh, I’m just going to send my friends to these exotic trips to go to Brazil, go to Peru, go to Japan. What a wonderful time. I’m just giving free time to my friends. So I was going to also have a program for submitting instructors. And sort of like, want to teach? What do you want to teach? Where you can teach? What can you teach? And make sure that people get what they’re asking for. Because, say, if they want to have an instructor that comes over but also helps them organise, I don’t know, armoured combat, I’m not your person. I don’t do armour. So kind of like that was that was part of my idea.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. And it’s a good idea to have it so that people can submit other instructors or other instructors can volunteer to go.
Mariana Lopez: Yeah, it was so developed that I even have my logo already done. It might even happen. It was going to be the Walpurgis scholarship.
Guy Windsor: That’s a bloody good name.
Mariana Lopez: Yep. Yep.
Guy Windsor: Will you send us the logo so I can put it in the show notes? Well, thanks so much for joining me today. It’s been a delight to actually properly talk to you, which we didn’t get to do at Lord Baltimore’s event.
Mariana Lopez: I know. It was a pleasure. Thank you so much.