The Historical European Martial Arts

The Historical European Martial Arts or HEMA refers to the form of martial arts that have originated from Europe, particularly utilizing the arts that were formerly practiced, yet died out or developed into varying forms; though there are only a few surviving records of the classic martial arts (specifically gladiator combat or ancient Greek wrestling) that were dedicated to the combat manuals or technical treatises dating from the Late Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era. Because of this, the focus on the Historical European Martial Arts was specifically during the time of the half millennium throughout the years 1300 to 1800 wherein Italian and German schools appeared and flourished during the late Medieval and the Renaissance period (specifically the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries).

Nineteenth-century martial arts such as classical fencing can also be included in HEMA just like the traditional or classic styles that have been demonstrated during the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries; these include folk wrestling, as well as the traditional styles of stick fighting.  There were times when the term WMA (Western Martial Arts) was utilized in the United States in a much wider sense which included contemporary and classic disciplines; during the later period of the Middle Ages, the longsword was said to have a status of honor among disciplines, and at times, historical European swordsmanship was utilized to specifically determine swordsmanship styles and techniques.

Ancient History of the Historical European Martial Arts

Generally, there are no known records on HEMA before the later period of the Middles Ages yet some medieval literature featured certain records on military knowledge and martial deeds in addition to the historical artworks depicting weaponry – such as the longsword and rapier – and combat. Numerous researchers have tried to reorganize the traditional fighting styles like the Gladiatorial Combat, Pankration, Viking Swordsmanship, and the Byzantine Hoplomachia in reference to various resources and constructive experimentation.

HEMA during the Renaissance Period

During the sixteenth, the summary of traditional Fechtbücher (combat manual) were produced – a few of these were printed specifically during the 1540’s by Paulus Hector Mair (a civil servant who was active in various martial arts in his period) and during the 1570’s by Joachim Meyer (a sixteenth century fencing master and German Freifechter). At the time of the sixteenth century, German fencing slowly developed and evolved featuring sportive aspects. Treatises of Meyer and Mair were based on the teachings from the earlier Liechtenauer tradition yet with distinct and contemporary aspects.

As the mid-century came, equipment such as the companion weapons and polearms slowly lost their importance and popularity, eventually fading out of such treatises; in the year 1553, Camillo Agrippa (a renowned architect, engineer, fencer, and mathematician from the Renaissance period) was the very first individual to describe the hand positions (specifically the quarta, prima, terza, and seconda guards) that remained as the backbone of classic Italian fencing throughout the next centuries and the future. From the sixteenth century, the Italian rapier fencing acquired great popularity throughout Europe, specifically with Salvator Fabris’ (Italian fencing master who came from Padua) treatise in the year 1606.

The Modern Community of the Historical European Martial Arts

Since the year 1990, communities of Historical European Martial Arts have appeared and flourished, as well as in other English-speaking areas such as Australia, North America, and a lot more. These groups continuously attempt to reconstruct and reorganize the Historical European Martial Arts by utilizing a variety of training procedures; and although the primary focus is on the Renaissance and Medieval martial arts masters, the methods of teachers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were also studied and learned, as well as reconstructed.

The Longsword and Rapier in Hema

For those who enjoy longsword battles in films, television series, and even in animation, this fast growing sport is something one would definitely enjoy; this is called the longsword fighting which is referred to as the rebirth of a long-forgotten historical European martial arts. In this day and age, enthusiasts have grown interested in HEMA which includes activities such as various types of sword fighting using weapons (just like the rapier) and grappling. Despite the numerous categories and equipment utilized under this, the longsword has become one of the most popular and is gaining much attention from martial arts enthusiasts. The Long Point tournament which began in the year 2011 is now one of the biggest HEMA even in North America, and their open-steel longsword division featured fifty-five participants with eight of them being women.

Katana VS Rapier – Who Will Win?

There are numerous claims and beliefs that the rapier vs katana represent the most ideal cutting and thrusting blades – generally the highest evolution of weapons from the East and West. Because of this, there are usually various speculations among individuals who speculate on what the outcome may be in a battle between the katana and the rapier. Below are some of the differences between the Rapier VS Katana.


Comparing the rapier vs katana, the katana has a couple of measurements and characteristics that separate it from other samurai blades. Usually, Katana sword would have a total length of about three to four feet where its tsuka takes up about one-fourth of its measurements. Additionally, the katana also features a unique arch of about an inch yet this can vary depending on the swordsmith creating the weapon.

Compared to the double-edged arming swords of the Europeans, the katana usually exhibited its point of balance right at the blade, focusing more on slashing attacks than thrusting. Depending on the geometry of its blade, the katana can be designed and created to have its tip deliver deadly slashes, or it could also be fashioned featuring a triangular and chisel-like tip to execute stronger thrusts. Additionally, the arch of the katana blade allowed its wielder to perform precise cutting attacks from the draw; it was a highly advantageous feature on a fight since executed cuts after drawing the katana could seriously injure the enemy’s unprotected body parts before he had time to react.


When the rapier vs katana is observed, the rapier is known as a narrow, rigid, single-handed thrusting weapon that features a thick tapered cross-section together with a sharp and extremely narrow point. It is a generally thin and lightweight weapon that is also well-balanced, making these swords specifically for thrusting and intended for single, unarmored combat. The rapier also featured a unique aspect that allowed the user to execute agile and extremely deceptive attacks, as well as continuous deadly thrusts that were carried out at unpredictable angles. The rapier also allowed the user to accurately stab right at an enemy’s throat, face, eyes, and even the hands, sending out light rapid attacks that would distract and provoke an opponent.

Rapier VS Katana

If both swords were correlated with each other, the rapier vs katana would definitely have their own advantages in battle: in a duel, the rapier would most likely win due to it being a nimble and quick weapon that offered excellent reach despite being a single-handed weapon. Yet during fights on the battlefield, the rapier would lack advantage compared to the single-hit of the katana which is why the rapier was never utilized on the battlefields.

When it comes to both weapons, the most vital aspect would be the quality of the blades: an excellent razor-sharp katana could easily execute slicing and slashing attacks whereas a finely made rapier that was solid enough to cut could also defeat a katana. In another situation, when both the rapiers were left undrawn, the katana would have greater advantage when drawing since its arched blade allowed quicker and more fluid movements, giving the wielder the chance to execute instant slashing attacks unlike with the rapier that featured a straighter and longer blade. A possible outcome of a duel between the rapier VS katana would be the rapier wielder executing simultaneous thrusting attacks, taking advantage of the weapon’s superior reach; however, this would do little to prevent the katana wielder’s momentum from executing a fatal chop.

Additionally, there are some who claim that if both wielders with equal skill were only armed with their respective weapons which were sheathed, the katana would have 98% chances of winning since Iaijutsu would inflict attacks on the rapier wielder even before he or she has drawn the weapon.