HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) refers to martial arts of European origin covering various techniques of armed and unarmed combat.
These martial arts (other commonly used names are: Western Martial Arts, Western Swordsmanship, Historical Fencing) formerly practised in most of Medieval Europe have been abandoned in XVIII century and forgotten for almost 200 years up until early 1990s when variousgroups around Europe started to re-discover their own martial art heritage. This covers period of over 500 years (1300 to 1800) during which these martial arts were developed, tested and taught as an simple and effective martial art system that covers armed techniques with multiple weapons (swords, daggers, sabers, rapiers, polearms) as well as unarmed techniques of grappling, wrestling and throwing (similar to Aikido & Ju Jitsu combined).
There are multiple fencing treatises available for us to study from as early as 1320 AD – these are medieval combat manuals that explain all principles and techniques often with rich illustrations and multiple comments from various fencing masters. Most of the treatises are now freely available online.
What is NOT HEMA?
– HEMA is not a sport fencing,
this is martial art through and through and as such it shares more similarities with eastern martial arts (Aikido in its original version can be considered an eastern equivalent of HEMA) as the same principles applies to both: full contact sparring, physical training, detailed study of techniques.
– HEMA is not historical reenactment combat,
while it may share some similarities due to historical accuracy it is concentrating on the study of the fighting techniques as opposed to cultural education and reviving historical context.
– HEMA is not a stage fighting or ‘movie style’ fighting,
sadly we have been mislead by the whole generations of the directors and hollywood stars that has shown us completely false image of western medieval fighting. In fact, this kind of ‘stage fighting’ style has nothing to do with real weapons or real combat. True fight is lightning fast and ends very quickly, usually in a matter of seconds (such as eastern style of martial art combat which have been depicted in a movies in a much more realistic style)
HEMA is also an international community, welcoming and friendly, that gathers martial arts enthusiasts from around the globe organising martial arts tournaments, conferences, training camps and gatherings. It aims to reconstruct historical martial arts from primary sources, refine interpretations into viable, effective martial arts and test martial skills in a variety of competitive environments.