NYHFA Rank Structure

Our rank structure is based on the desire to train the historical art to a high standard and pass it on to future generations in a way that is not limited to sporting applications but that mirrors the practices and resultant skills of our historical predecessors who created and recorded this art in the treatises that we now study. 

For each rank test, there is a cutting portion, a knowledge portion, a technique portion and a fencing competency portion. At higher levels, there are also teaching and diagnostic portions. For rank 3, achievement in competition is required. For ranks 4 through 6, community contributions and recognition as an instructor are required. 

Along with meeting test standards and prerequisites, members holding any rank in NYHFA are required to uphold the following standards of conduct:

1. Treat all others with compassion, kindness and understanding. Learning a martial art is a serious pursuit and it can be extremely dangerous. That is why we must all strive to treat our fellows as we would want them to treat us. We are all responsible for keeping each other safe. 

2. Treat all members of NYHFA with respect. Feel free to disagree, even argue(outside of class), but do so respectfully. Keep in mind that you belong to the same school and, in a sense, are working together to build something bigger than yourselves. This applies, to a lesser degree, to all members of the HEMA/WMA community. It also applies, to a greater degree, to your seniors, instructors and NYHFA officers. 

3. Take responsibility for the progress of your juniors. Help them whenever you can. Do not dismiss them when they ask for help. Do not judge them for their failings, but seek to help them overcome them. 

4. Control your anger, frustration, etc. Do not endanger those around you by giving in to it. What we do is dangerous, and those who lose control pose an unacceptable risk.  

5. Strive to be humble, to accept your flaws and work on improving them. Strive to put your own personal needs and desires in balance with those of the group. You didn't get where you are alone, do not forget those upon whose work you built the foundation of your skill.

6. Never take advantage of your juniors. You are beholden to them a lot more than they are beholden to you. Seniors exist to uplift juniors, not to exploit them.

7. Try your best to represent NYHFA in a positive light in your dealings with the outside world.  



Rank 0 - Unranked

Having earned NYHFA gold...

This applies to all long term students who either choose not to test or have not yet taken or passed a rank test. This describes the majority of NYHFA members. This rank is not tested for, but is awarded to students who show dedication to the art and train regularly.

Rank 1

Having earned their eagle...

Ranks 1 to 3 are what we call "performance based." Students who meet the qualifications are invited to test and, if they pass, are awarded their rank.  There are no pre-requisites for rank 1. Students who pass the rank 1 test have shown basic competence in cutting, basic knowledge of essential techniques and have demonstrated basic knowledge of the art, its history and its sources. 

Rank 2

Having earned their sword...

After a period of time spent at rank 1, students may be invited to test for rank 2, which shows advanced competence in fencing, cutting and performance of techniques, as well as an understanding of Liechtenauer principles and a solid grounding in KDF sources.  Members who hold rank 2 can act as study group leaders and teach classes at NYHFA locations with a senior instructor's approval if there is a shortage of members holding rank 3. Before being asked to test for rank 2, students typically show tremendous improvement in fencing and cutting ability as well as knowledge of and ability to execute KDF techniques from our primary sources. Such students should also have subjected themselves to extensive pressure testing via competition in cutting, longsword fencing and paired technique. 

Ranks 3 & 3a 

Having earned their book...

Rank 3 is the last and highest of the performance based ranks.  People who hold this rank have demonstrated advanced cutting skills, superior fencing ability and a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Ringeck and Danzig glosses, as well as familiarity with ancillary sources. Members who hold rank 3 have competed at the highest levels of regional and international tournaments in open longsword, cutting and paired technique.

Additionally, students testing for rank 3 can earn a "Lehrer" (instructor) tab, which signifies a junior instructor level rank. This is called rank 3a and allows those who hold it to teach independent (unsupervised) classes at NYHFA training locations under the guidance of a senior instructor. Members who earn rank 3a have to demonstrate not only knowledge of the sources, but the ability to pass that knowledge on to others. They must also demonstrate teaching ability under a variety of challenging circumstances. 

Before being asked to test for rank 3, students typically achieve high level placements in large regional or international competitions. While winning or placing in competitions is not a requirement for holding any rank in NYHFA, participation is required, and candidates for rank 3 must show the ability to perform well against any and all fencers from other schools around the world, as well as perform well and advance to the latter rounds of cutting tournaments. 

Rank 4

Having earned their bind...

Rank 4 is the first of our senior instructor ranks. While improving of performance is tested for and required, the main focus of these ranks is on developing a knowledge and understanding of the source materials, body mechanics and other principles of fencing that is so extensive that it is recognized by and in demand in the community at large.  Ranks 1 to 3 focus on learning the art and improving performance, while ranks 4 to 6 focus on spreading what we believe is the correct and proper practice of the art to others. 

To be asked to test for rank 4, an instructor must have been invited to give classes at a regional event, written academic or performance related articles that are widely circulated in the community or achieve a similar distinction that is related to the proliferation of the art.  The actual test consists of advanced cutting skills and a thesis defense. 

An instructor holding rank 4 can run an independent NYHFA location/branch under the guidance and authority of a rank 6 instructor. 

Rank 5

Having earned their wreath of accomplishment...

Rank 5 is the first fully independent instructor rank in NYHFA. An instructor holding rank 5 can run an independent branch under his or her own authority.  To qualify for rank 5, an instructor must be well established in the community, having given multiple classes and workshops at various regional and international events, as well as independent seminars.* Such an instructor must be recognized as an expert in body mechanics and our primary source materials. A candidate should also have achieved a high degree of success in competition in all three categories: longsword fencing, cutting and paired technique. The test for rank 5 includes an extremely advanced cutting test, a thesis defense and a presentation of community based accomplishments.  Founding members of NYHFA can be awarded this rank by the director based on their accomplishments without a test. 

Rank 6

Having earned their star of distinction...

Rank 6 is the highest rank in NYHFA. To qualify for rank 6, an instructor must achieve extremely high standards of knowledge and performance and have produced a great quantity of independent research or related academic material. Much more importantly, contributions from such a candidate must have affected the practice of HEMA in the United States (and possibly abroad) in such a profound way that the absence of his or her influence would be recognizable. Rank 6 instructors are known throughout the community for their contributions and have achieved a high degree of success in competition in all three categories: longsword fencing, cutting and paired technique. There is no test for rank 6, it can only be awarded by the NYHFA director when sufficient qualifications have been met after a demonstration of skill and knowledge. 


NYHFA ranks can be revoked. Ranks 1 through 3 can be revoked by the NYHFA director or deputy director. Rank 4 can only be revoked by the NYHFA director. Ranks 5 and 6 can only be revoked when both the director and deputy director are in agreement. Possible reasons for revocation may include not living up to the code of conduct/behavior standards.

* a seminar is an event based around the teachings of a single instructor (or sometimes a pair of instructors)


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