What Is HEMA?

Have you ever wondered what fighting was really like with swords? Well it turns out the techniques used and ways to use these historic weapons were widely documented. We have available to us historical ‘Fectbuchs’ or in English ‘Fencing/Fight Books’ that were written and spread around all over Europe. Now while Fechtbuch is a German word, there are historical manuals that were produced all over Europe, though the majority were of German and Italian origin.

Now Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) cover a wide variety of weapons and fighting styles. To name a few weapons, sources can be found on the Longsword, Rapier, Sidesword, Saber, Sickle, Scythe, Cudgel, Dussack, Dagger, Staff, Halberd, Pike/Spear, Smallsword, Sword and Buckler, wrestling/grappling, and more. These manuals can also cover things like Unarmored Combat (Blossfechten) and Armoured Combat (Harnischfechten) as well as unmounted and mounted combat. The context of these books can be the following; War, Duelling, Self Defence, and even sportive fencing.

Now the word Fencing in modern days is mostly associated with Sport Fencing. Sport Fencing however is not a martial art. It is a sportive game like basketball or football. HEMA however is a true martial art comparable to Jiu-Jitsu or MMA. The word Fencing was used historically to refer to sword fighting. Nowadays the HEMA community has largely been reclaiming and educating people on the differences between HEMA and things like Sport fencing, Larping, and Historical Re-enactment.

The people in HEMA are a curious mix of DnD players, Game of Thrones lovers, History Scholars, Sports athletes, and anyone else related to those things spanning many age groups. HEMA provides exercise for both the body and mind and is currently the fastest growing martial art in the world.

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