What is HEMA?

Historical European Martial Arts is the study and practice of martial arts of European origin from texts written by masters from as early as 1300 through to the 1800s.

These martial arts have died out or evolved over time into very different forms, as for example, historical swordplay has evolved into modern Olympic sport fencing. Examples of HEMA/weapons practiced in Australia include:

  • Arming sword
  • Bartitsu
  • Broadsword
  • Buckler (shield)
  • Cloak
  • Dagger
  • Dussack
  • Replica Flail
  • Grappling
  • Longsword
  • Mounted combat
  • Polearms
  • Pugilism
  • Rapier
  • Rotella (shield)
  • Sabre
  • Savate
  • Sidesword
  • Smallsword
  • Spear
  • Stick fighting
  • Wrestling.

For each weapon, there will be differences in style of technique between masters of different time periods and national “schools”, such as German, Italian, French, Spanish or English.

Modern reconstructions of some of these arts began in the 1890s and have been practiced systematically since the 1990s across Europe, North America and Australia.

HEMA typically reproduces one-on-one unarmoured combat, not battlefield or melee combat. While participants wear protective equipment to modern safety standards, usually a combination of rigid and padded gear, in competitions hits are scored as if the combatants are unarmoured.

The weapons used replicate period weapons as accurately as possible, although they are blunted and have extra tip protection for safety.

HEMA is a forum for scholarship as well as practical combat, as the source texts frequently require translation and interpretation. There is a strong focus on the use of source texts to achieve historical authenticity and martial effectiveness of techniques.

As the HEMA movement continues to gather momentum internationally, source texts are becoming increasing available in accessible or translated forms, both online and as printed books, giving participants greater scope to pursue their interests.

HEMA is open to all ages and genders, and is great for fitness, making friends and having fun.