Historical European Martial Arts
HEMA martial arts or Historical European Martial Arts generally refers to sword-based martial arts that were taken from various techniques utilized in Europe from the years 1300 to 1800. A lot of the HEMA martial arts have been recreated and developed based on ancient records and manuals; also, a large number of these styles of martial arts are practiced with numerous weapons such as the HEMA longsword, daggers, bucklers, pole weapons, and a lot more.
While there is only a limited number of surviving documents and records on the martial arts of Classic Antiquity – specifically gladiatorial combat and ancient Greek wrestling – the surviving records were primarily dedicated to the technical combat manuals and treatises that date all the way to the late middle ages and the early modern era.
Because of this, the main focus of HEMA is, in reality, in the period of the half millennium of the years 1300 to 1800, where Italian and German schools were appearing during the late middle ages and the Renaissance period which was around the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries.
Martial arts that were present during the nineteenth century – specifically classical fencing, as well as the early combination styles like Bartitsumay or Bartitsu – were also included in the HEMA martial arts term. Numerous traditional styles that were attested during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included various forms of traditional stick fighting and folk wrestling.
Revival of HEMA and Modern Practice
The revival of HEMA martial arts and modern practice have been attempted to be reconstructed at some point in history. They focused on restoring the discontinued classical traditions of European martial arts around the late nineteenth century with the revival of fondness and interest during the Middle Ages. This specific movement of revival was led in England by Alfred Hutton who was known as a soldier, swordsman, writer, and antiquarian.
Since the 1990’s, Historical European Martial Arts communities have continued to emerge and grow in various areas such as Australia, Europe, North America, and all other English speaking countries. These groups have continuously been operating in the attempts of reconstructing and building the HEMA martial arts by utilizing a variety of methods to achieve this; and even if the general focus is on the martial arts of the Renaissance and Medieval masters, the martial arts teachers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have also been studied, and their systems are also being reconstructed and developed.
Most of the HEMA martial arts in practice today either have a master to student lineage that dates all the way back to their historical origins which have all been recreated or revived mostly from the historical records and texts in history.
HEMA martial arts greatly differ from contemporary fencing since it utilizes traditional weapons (such as the HEMA longsword etc.) and not the modern and hybrid types of fencing swords. Additionally, HEMA is also primarily focused on practicing and perfecting the traditional battling techniques versus the sports characteristics of contemporary fencing.
Modern HEMA Clubs
Most of the modern HEMA clubs focus on the Late Medieval fighting martial arts (especially the HEMA longsword) or on the numerous Renaissance sword martial arts (such as the rapier); although this is the case, a lot of clubs practice and train in various arts, periods, and weapons, but above all, HEMA martial arts is depicted by its uniqueness and diversity.
There are numerous HEMA martial arts practitioners who opt to engage in numerous tournaments simply to test their acquired skills; and although this is a good thing, it is not necessarily required.
HEMA VS Choreographed Historical Demonstrations
HEMA martial arts VS choreographed historical demonstrations are completely different things, and although the practitioners of HEMA usually come from different backgrounds, HEMA is not any of the following
- Live Action Role Playing
- Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA)
- Medieval/Renaissance Re-Enactments
- Stage Combat