What is HEMA?

What is HEMA?

In eastern martial traditions, there are direct lineages of masters - present day masters learned from a master who learned from a master, etc. In Europe, many martial traditions died or evolved into purely sporting forms - sport fencing, boxing, wrestling.

Historical European Martial Arts, or HEMA for short, involves the study and practice of historical European fighting techniques. As a community, we are bringing back to life the dead arts of the old european masters.

While there is limited surviving documentation of the martial arts of Classical Antiquity (such as Ancient Greek wrestling or Gladiatorial combat), surviving dedicated technical treatises or combat manuals date to the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. For this reason, the focus of HEMA is de facto on the period of the half-millennium of ca. 1300 to 1800, with a German and an Italian school flowering in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (14th to 16th centuries), followed by Spanish, French, English and Scottish schools of fencing in the modern period (17th and 18th centuries).

For a brief introduction, have a look at the following video from the New York Times.

For a more in depth dive into what HEMA is, have a look at Back to the source - Historical European Martial Arts documentary, which should give a good idea about what HEMA is.

For more information, have a look at our resources page, which will have links to a number of youtube channels, facebook groups, hema websites and more.

For more information about South African HEMA clubs, have a look at HEMA in ZA