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What is HEMA?


Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) refers to the modern practice and reconstruction of historical martial arts systems that were used in Europe, typically before the 20th century. The HEMA community has evolved over the years, with its roots tracing back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it gained significant traction and recognition in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

The revival of interest in historical martial arts began in the late 19th century, largely due to the efforts of individuals like Egerton Castle and Alfred Hutton, who studied historical fencing manuals and attempted to reconstruct old fencing techniques. These early efforts laid the foundation for the later HEMA community.

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Late 20th Century

The late 20th century saw a more organized effort to study and reconstruct historical European martial arts. With the rise of the internet and increased access to historical source materials, enthusiasts could collaborate and share information more easily. This period also saw the emergence of various organizations and groups dedicated to researching and practicing HEMA.

Early 21st Century

The early 2000s marked a turning point for the HEMA community. With the help of online forums, websites, and collaborative projects, practitioners could share insights, translations of historical manuals, and practical interpretations of techniques. The community grew in both size and diversity, encompassing martial artists, historians, scholars, and enthusiasts from around the world.

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Research and Revival

One of the key aspects of the HEMA community’s development has been the focus on historical accuracy and authenticity. Practitioners diligently study surviving manuscripts and treatises written by historical fencing masters. They use these sources to reconstruct the fighting techniques, strategies, and principles of various weapons systems, including longswords, rapiers, daggers, and more.

Training and Events

As the community expanded, various HEMA schools and academies were established, offering structured training programs. These schools teach a range of historical weapons and combat styles. The HEMA community also organizes workshops, seminars, tournaments, and international events where practitioners can meet, learn, and compete. These events often attract participants from different parts of the world.

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Equipment and Gear

The HEMA community has also driven the development and production of specialized training equipment and protective gear. This gear is designed to closely replicate historical weapons while providing a safe training environment. This includes blunt replicas of historical swords, fencing masks, padded jackets, and other protective equipment.