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CKDF student & club lawyer.
I discovered HEMA in a YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj4Ng6DBfrg) in undergrad, about 2007/2008. I recall that I watched it on Google Videos back when that was a thing. The video was of a German group doing longsword plays and I recall immediately recognizing the real martial application of the techniques. It wasn't theatrical sword flourishing - this looked like krav maga but with swords. The actions conserved motion and got the point into the opponent as efficiently as possible, often using the power of a parried strike to drive the swordplay. I immediately wanted to know more, but sadly at that time there were no groups in my state and I did not pursue it other than to understand that European sword combat existed and I wanted to do it.
Years later, after moving to the northern Virginia area and the explosion of HEMA in the interim, I realized that I had moved to the epicenter of American HEMA on the east coast with Capital Kunst Des Fechtens right on my doorstep. I showed up one day in shorts and a button down shirt to see what it was about and haven't looked back.