Weapons in HEMA – A Collection of Weapons Utilized for Training

The HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts is the study and live use of combat methods. These are from the early Medieval times through the Renaissance, to the late 19th century.

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In classic Eastern martial methods, there are direct lines of masters. In Europe, a lot of martial traditions vanished, of have developed into sporting forms. These include boxing, sport fencing, wrestling, and more.

Among the main focuses of HEMA is technical fitness. It concerns the knowledge of wielding historical weapons, as well as specific techniques. It’s a must that the techniques can be clearly differentiated.

This is by referring to the situation where they should be of use and applied. These can be elements categorized as the following. For friendly training, tournament, a judicial fuel, battle, or even self-defense.

Here are the various types of weapons used for training in HEMA.

What is the Longsword?

This is the most common weapon used in HEMA. It is a weapon wielded with both hands, and is more of a dueling piece than a defensive one. This was also called then hand and a half sword. A knight’s true and classic weapon from the late Middle Ages.

The long sword was common during the 1300s and 1400s, yet survived as a sport piece until 1700. For one-handed use, it was essential for knights on horseback. Two-handed use was for fighting on foot.

Surviving samples feature blades that are around 40-inches long. It’s grip was 10 inches, and weighed about 3 to 5 pounds. Specialized versions for sports could flex like today’s fencing weapons. These swords were already around by the mid—1400s.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Rapier – Just a Thrusting Blade?

Another weapon used in HEMA is the rapier – a one-handed sword used for thrusting and cutting. It often sports a complex guard that has a crossbar, knuckle guard, and rings to protect the hands. It’s guard extends over the crossbar to the blade for some inches. This part of the guard between its ends and the cross guard is the Ricasso

For the proper length, the Rapier should be proportional to the user’s body. It’s entire length from pommel to tip, should be twice the length of the users arm.

For its blade, it features two edges: a true and false edge. The true edge is on the same area of the knuckle guard. When holding the rapier, its true edge is along the user’s knuckles. Proper parrying will require the use of the true edge.

The length of the rapier’s blade’s divided into three sections: the one closest to the tip is the Weak. The next part is the Medium, then the one closest to the guard is the Strong.

Both the Medium and Strong are for parrying engaging the enemy’s weapon. Making cuts should be via the blade’s Weak, while the blade’s point delivers the thrusts.

The Dagger

The dagger is one of the smaller weapons used for HEMA. It is a double-edged blade for thrusting or stabbing. These are often used as secondary defensive weapons for close-range combat. Usually, its tang extends to its handle along its blade’s centerline.

Daggers were standard items used by men in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Medieval daggers were often designed as thrusting blades, some didn’t have cutting edges. Before the 1500s, the common late medieval Rondel dagger only sported a round disk. This was between the hilt and the blade.

Proper use of the dagger had its blade projected downward from the user’s fist. This is from his or her pinkie. There are times when the dagger’s held like a sword, where the blade projects upward.

This blade was often worn on the dominant side of the user. Its downward grip was the common drawing position for the dagger when worn in this manner. Here are the different types of daggers used for HEMA.


This is a long medieval dagger but a short kind of sword. Its sides are both sharp, and could be easily carried via girdle or small of the back. Two of these could be weapons for paired fighting styles when using a parrying dagger and sword.


A short knife / dagger sporting a long and slender blade with distinct designs. It was a common stabbing weapon in the past. Its narrow shape allows the user to better execute deep, penetrating attacks.

Early Stilettos had a single-piece cast metal grip, while the blade was hammer forged. It was in a triangular-blade cross section without sharp edges. Others were round, diamond, or square-shaped cross sections.

Poignard / Poniard

A lightweight dagger used in the Renaissance and Middle Ages. It was a primary tool for stabbing during close-range battles, or in conjunction to the rapier.

Rondel / Roundel Dagger

This type of dagger was a stiff-bladed piece from Europe during the 14th century, onwards. Used by various people, from merchants to knights, this dagger was a piece worn along the waist.

It isn’t only a weapon, but it can also be useful as a utility tool, or for jousting tournaments as a sidearm.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Were there Staff Weapons Used in HEMA?

Yes they were, and these can include any type of two-handed weapons with wooden shafts. These can be with or without a metal head at both or one end. A variety of these weapons were in use from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The most simple quarterstaff used was about 6 feet in length.

These were a bit more complex that the battle axe since the staff had a single-bladed head. By the later Middle Ages, a lot of staff weapons sported complex heads with a thrusting tip.

There were also at least 2 striking faces that could have an axe blade, piercing beak, or crushing hammer. Such weapons were the poleaxe, bill, and the halberd.


The Halberd or Swiss Voulge is a double-handed pole common during the 14th and 15th centuries. Today, it is still used as a ceremonial piece.

Ii was first recorded as a Hellembart in 1279, so the term Halberd most likely comes from German words. These are Helm (helmet) or Halm (staff), and Barte (axe).

The Halberd consists of the axe blade with a spike fixed on a long shaft. It has a thorn or hook on the back part of the axe’s blade used for grappling mounted opponents.


In the 14th century, the standard long axe started to develop. It acquired an armor piercing spike at the back. Another is on the end portion of the haft used for thrusting.

The following century, the long axe evolved into the poleaxe. It was to break through plate armor and similar defenses. It featured a combination of the axe blade, back spike, and hammer.

Due to its power and efficiency, it became a favored weapon among men at arms. They often fought on foot during the 16th century.

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