Nyhet

Intervju med HEMA-stjärnan Kristine Konsmo: – “I love Swedish HEMA, I’d do anything for it”

Lär känna Kristine Konsmo, en av världens främsta HEMA-stjärnor som också är en framstående domare. Kristine berättar här om helgens Swordfish i Göteborg, går igenom sin bakgrund, vad hon gillar med HEMA och mycket mer.

Från Ballet till Kampsport…

I helgen gick Swordfish av stapeln i Göteborg och den stora HEMA-tävlingen lockade folk från hela världen. Ett intressant namn inom HEMA är utan tvekan Kristine Konsmo.

På Swordfish tog Sverige ett guld och det togs av Julia Yli-Hukka i Långsvärd, se alla resultat HÄR. 

Den tidigare norsk/amerikanska ballettdansösen Kristine Konsmo gick över till HEMA 2009 och det var först enbart Sword & Buckler som var i fokus. Hon tränade och tävlade för Norges största klubb Frie Duellister.  Senare blev hon intresserad av Rapir och då främst Italiensk Rapir och Dolk även om hon fick lära sig till stor del själv.

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Kristine Konsmo and Axel Pettersson

“I get pretty annoyed when I hear people argue that men and women are the same”

Kristine gick från klarhet till klarhet och blev ett stort namn inom HEMA i hela världen. Under den senaste tiden har hon och hennes pojkvän, storstjärnan, Axel Pettersson rest runt i världen och både tävlat och undervisat. Då Axel har tagit lite av ett break i satsningen på att tävla har Kristine fortsatt vara aktiv och dessutom är hon en av de främsta domarna likväl.

Nu på Swordfish 2016 så både tävlade och dömde Kristine och vem är bättre än hon på att svara på lite frågor om Swordfish ur ett internationellt perspektiv men också om annat som är av vikt. Here we go:

“The challenge was too tempting to turn down”

Nice to talk to you Kristine. You have been on my radar for a while now. You seem to be a rather unique person. You are both a really good fighter, ref. and trainer/coach. How did you find HEMA and what do you love about it?

HEMA was not something I sought out or even knew existed. I was completely oblivious to the world of martial arts in general, really. I always had a curiosity for sport fencing growing up but was so focused on ballet—something I did for 12 years—that  I never got the chance to take it up. I was a college student looking for a roommate when I came across my now good friend Greg, who ran a fencing club in the Netherlands. I tagged along to a buckler class one night here in Oslo and was hooked from day one. The first thing that struck me about fencing that first training session was how intricate and complex it was.

I understood that this was something I was going to have to work hard at to get anywhere with it. The challenge was too tempting to turn down. It is exactly that which I still love about HEMA today. I keep finding new ways to push myself. I feel pretty solid in my rapier game right now, so I’ve moved onto longsword and I feel like a newbie all over again. It’s both exceedingly frustrating and hugely rewarding at the same time.

I’m also lucky enough to have one of the world’s best fencers and coaches as my boyfriend so I have constant access to top-level training and feedback. Axel has done so much for my fencing in such a short time—he sees things about me which no one else I’ve ever trained with before has been able to, and he is very dedicated to my training—he spends a lot of time analyzing my fights together with me, working with me in the training hall and feeding me verbal motivation. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for him.

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What’s your favourite style and weapons?

Sword and Buckler will always be my first love, but I have to say that nothing feels as good to fence as rapier and dagger. I don’t know if it’s my ballet background or something else, but the movements feel and look so elegant, you almost forget for a moment that the goal of the techniques you’re executing is brutal in nature. Personally, I’m partial to Italian style rapier fencing—most notably Capo Ferro and Fabris.

“I love Swedish HEMA, I’d do anything for it, it’s given the community so much. I even went as far as leaving my club in Norway behind in favor of becoming a part of Swedish HEMA”

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Axel Pettersson and Kristine Konsmo = The Power Couple of HEMA

How big and imporant is Swordfish would you say?

I am quite biased, naturally, but personal feelings aside I would argue that Swordfish remains to be the single most important event in HEMA. Now that I’m a member of GHFS I see more of what goes on behind the scenes and the Swordfish crew runs like a well-oiled machine. They’ve been doing this for so long now but maintain an enthusiasm to keep it going every year and keep pushing the standard higher. Look at the livestream—there’s no other HEMA event that comes even close to pulling off a good show like that. This past weekend I was blown away at how professional the finals looked, with the lighting and filming, it was really exciting. The biggest reason Swordfish is so important to HEMA though is its international scope. Everyone wants to make that pilgrimage at least once—it brings us together and provides an arena to test our skill and methods against one another. Emotions run high at important events like that and bonds between individuals solidify over important talks and important fights.

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Kristine hanging out in nature

What’s the reason that Swedish HEMA is so good?

Honestly, it boils down to there being a high number of extremely competent individuals who share in a common goal and know how to work together to get there. There are a lot of big names in Sweden and with big names comes big egos, but they are always able to compromise for the sake of their common vision. A main factor here is the leadership of Carl Ryrberg who became the president of the Swedish HEMA federation last year. This man is full to the brim with innovative ideas and actually has the will and pull to put them in practice. I love Swedish HEMA, I’d do anything for it, it’s given the community so much. I even went as far as leaving my club in Norway behind in favor of becoming a part of Swedish HEMA.  My dad, a proud, old Norwegian speed skater still takes issue with me wearing blue and yellow socks and teases me a lot for being a traitor, but even he admits I made a smart move.

“When I beat men twice my size, it’s because I’m technically better, I’m faster and I make smarter decisions in the ring”

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Kristine and Kristoffer Stanson

People not familiar with fighting with weapons might not realize that a good fighter is a good fighter no matter the gender. You often beat guys. Please explain your point of view.

This is a tricky one and a source of countless hours of debate in the HEMA community. I get pretty annoyed when I hear people argue that men and women are the same and anything a man can do a woman can do and vice versa. It simply isn’t true and this kind of propaganda feeds women with false expectations—something which is a lot more damaging than productive. Not only are men and women built differently, but we also think and learn differently and, to a large extent, need to be trained differently. I agree that being a good fighter is gender independent, but as someone who fights men on a regular basis and beats them I think it’s my responsibility to point out these differences.

When I beat men twice my size, it’s because I’m technically better, I’m faster and I make smarter decisions in the ring. I have a natural tendency towards brawling (ask Axel, I’m always punching him in the shoulder in attempt to instigate drunken boxing matches) but every time I give into that instinct in the ring against men, I lose. I win by keeping my distance and out-timing them. I’ve had to work hard at over-coming the mental barrier of the physical pain that is a reality when going full contact with much stronger opponents.

All that being said, I’m in full-support of women fighting men. I think there is a time and a place for segregated men’s and women’s tournaments and a time and a place for open tournaments. I pride myself on having won more open medals than most men ever will and love to see other women succeed in the ring, but I do not appreciate when my success is misused for a counter-productive political agenda.

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Kristine as a ref.

You did compete in Swordfish, what did you expect or were you only a ref? Or both?

I did compete in Swordfish this year, but did not expect much. I was knocked out in the quarter-finals in all three disciplines I participated in, and while it was a blow to my ego, I think it was a good lesson for me. I haven’t trained very much is the past few months due to life getting in the way and this is the result. When I win, I want to feel good about working hard and being in my best physical and mental state to get there and I just wasn’t there this time. I know I’ll get back and I’m highly motivated to train hard now and am looking forward to 2017. I also reffed the Open Longsword tournament, something I do every year and love. I have to say, the final match between Federico Dall’Olio and Michel Rensen was the most intense fight I’ve ever reffed. They both fought in the same active, aggressive style making it both a very exciting and difficult match to judge.

“That was, hands down, the most challenging fight of my life”

(Kristoffer) Stanson has been a true elite competitor this year and if he had won in something at Swordfish he should have been celebrated (maybe now too) as one of the bigest breakthroughs of the year. What do you think about Stansons fighting?

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Stanson is a legend, no doubt. He keeps proving over and over what an incredible fighter he is and should be celebrated regardless of the outcome at Swordfish this past weekend. People know me for my Buckler gold in 2011, but it’s my gold against Stanson in Rapier and Dagger at Sweden Open this past June that I feel is my greatest accomplishment. That was, hands down, the most challenging fight of my life and I won just barely on sudden death. Stanson is tall and strong, and that certainly doesn’t hurt, but he’s also just so damn smart. He finds the flaws in his opponents’ game and exploits them beautifully.

Hands down. What’s the most fun with HEMA and why should people not fimiliar with the sport visiti Swordfish?

People are sometimes reluctant to come to Swordfish due to the high skill level of the tournaments which are not suitable for beginners, but that should absolutely not stop people from attending. Actually,  one of my best Swordfish experiences was in 2010 before I started competing. I filled all three days with workshops where I learned a lot and made a ton of friends. There’s sauna, there’s sparring, there’s world class instructors, there’s a great afterparty on Saturday. Swordfish is for everyone.

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Carl Ryrberg

If you like to thank anyone/s or add anything please do.

I’ve already mentioned how much Axel has done for my fencing, but also want to give him some credit for who he is as a person. He’s a wonderful man who takes good care of me and supports me not only in HEMA, but in everything I do. There are also a few people who have served as invaluable friends to me this past year, which has been pretty rough for me: Carl Ryrberg and Victor Harder Hessel. HEMA really does attract the best of the best, and these two gentlemen are not only A-level fencers who have helped me a lot with my own fencing, but genuinely good people with hearts of gold. Lastly, my wolf pack whom I love dearly and derive so much motivation and energy from (you know who you are).

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