A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: One Year Anniversary Update Post on Historical European Martial Arts

The first page of the Codex Wallerstein shows the typical arms of 15th-century individual combat, including the longsword, rondel dagger, messer, sword-and-buckler, halberd, spear, and staff.

I thought it would be useful to update the Original Post I made last year with some of the knowledge and links that I’ve learned since then. One year into learning about HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and I’m looking forward to much more up ahead.

My goal with this and other posts is to make it easier for someone who is like me and wants to find more information but is just getting started. It can be really difficult to try and navigate and understand what you don’t know to look for and what not to look for when trying to learn about martial arts. I’ve seen a lot of people doing like myself over the past year try and help newcomers get past the steep learning curve of getting started in a very new (but old) endeavor and this is good news for HEMA in general.

I recommend reading a very new post by Richard Marsden over at Tyrant Industries called Starting out in HEMA.

After that for a list of resources put together by the HEMAA or HEMA Alliance head over to New to HEMA.

If you prefer an audio source then have a listen to different perspectives on What is HEMA?

Depending on your trust with the accuracy of encyclopedias you may or may not have already read the Wikipedia post on Historical European Martial Arts but just in case feel free to give it a quick read. The featured image for this post is Public Domain from there.

Now that you’ve read a bit about HEMA I would recommend that you find out if and where the nearest clubs or gatherings you can learn and practice at. This Club Finding Tool provided by HEMAA is an incredible tool and a vast improvement over previous iterations.

Now before you go to a club you might check out a few videos or read some in-depth material so you are a little more confident and competent when you arrive. As far as equipment goes I greatly recommend that you wait to buy anything until after you’ve been to practice and had a chance to talk face to face with a few experienced fencers and the instructor. Even if you’re far away if you can try and make a trip out to a club or start correspondence with an experienced HEMA practitioner.

A quick video by Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatora on getting into HEMA when you’re not near a club:

There is an amazing variety of information to learn about HEMA and about the history and culture that frames these martial arts so I’ve included a helpful and very simple link to The Feynman Technique (How to master a subject) to help with the process.

A really valuable take on the stages of ignorance when attempting to master a skill was recently posted on Duello.tv’s blog that applies very well to me during the process of getting acquainted with HEMA.

To put the sport versus the reality of fighting with deadly weapons in contrast I recommend reading this Blogpost on the reality of Duelling with Swords.

It is important with an athletic activity to have an eye on your safety and the safety of others you interact with. The HEMAA Alliance has a Safety Policy covering a wide range of conditions and requirements for tournaments and other activities. Take a look so you are prepared before you have a problem. On a parallel note covering safety, it is part of your responsibility to take care of your opponent and not cause injury. I highly recommend reading Shanee Nishry’s article here.

As for myself with HEMA I currently study Early German Longsword primarily which even though we have protective gear is oriented toward unarmored or Blossfechten combat. Life, unfortunately, interferes far too much since my boy started kindergarten and our schedules are all out of whack so I have not been getting whacked with swords as much as I’d prefer. Luckily I can do some solo practicing at home and a lot of reading when insomnia strikes.

Here are some of my previous posts which cover a few key things that it can be helpful to know about HEMA that were a little hard to glean at first. If you want to watch some clips of tournament fighters duking it out at locations all across the world check out the tournaments post below my long-winded intro. To see what I own personally including books check out the first link below. When you’re ready to buy your own gear check out my Websites guide below for merchants and general info on gear to get.

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: My HEMA Loadout and Wishlist

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Websites to Buy Swords and Equipment

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Tournaments

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Novel Exercises for Historical European Martial Arts

A Documentary on HEMA called Back to the Source gives a good introduction to the impetus behind HEMA and its origins:

Online HEMA Manuals and Treatises

It can be very hard to know how to interpret the manuals so I’ve linked to this post at the Hema forums by Richard Marsden which I think helped illuminate to me at least part of the process.

Wiktenauer This for many HEMA practitioners is the foremost resource for learning through reading and research. Every year they keep adding prodigious amounts of information on historical European martial arts available for everyone to peruse. This is probably your most important website to check out.

English Martial Arts Treatise Database (middleages.hu)

The Flower of Battle of Master Fiore Friulano de’i Liberi One of the foundational treatises in pdf form by a Who’s Who of HEMA’s scholars produced by the website Wiktenauer.

Pocket Armizare (Android App) This application is a free portable reference for the early 15th-century fencing manual ‘The Flower of Battle’ as created by fencing master Fiore de’i Liberi.

The Recital of the Chivalric Art of Fencing of the Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer

One of the foundational treatises in pdf form by a Who’s Who of HEMA’s scholars produced by the website Wikteneaur.

Brief Instructions upon my Paradox of Defense by George Silver A popular pair of pdf’s by an English master Paradoxes of Defense by George Silver.

Joachim Meyer Resource created by Shanee Nishry A wonderful site for learning Meyer.

Great Representation of the Art and Use of Fencing by Ridolofo Capo Ferro (English Translation) An important resource for studying Italian “rapier” from one of the great masters of the art.

Books by Sir William Hope (Hosted by Linacre School of Defense) and other Masters including Fewtrell, Godfrey, Hale, Liancour, Machrie, Mendoza, Page and Miller

Resources provided by the Academy of Historical Fencing on Roworth and Angelo with workbooks on Messer, Longsword, and Sabre

Sources Hosted by Schola Gladiatoria including Waite, Hutton, Fiore, and Angelo.

Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences

Provisional Regulations for Saber Exercise US Army 1907

Highland Broadsword Posters from 1799

New Work by Antonio Manciolino of the Bolognese translated by W. Jherek Swanger and hosted by HROARR

Marozzo’s Arte dell’ Armi (Copyright William E Wilson)

Cold Steel by Alfred Hutton

Old Sword Play by Alfred Hutton

Resources to study smallsword at the Smallsword Project

History,  interpretations, and tools for studying the manuals:

Training theory of longsword fencing (HEMAC)

The Liechtenauer Playbook (an attempt at modernization with Lessons)

A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE TERMINOLOGY AND TAXONOMY OF STICK WEAPONS IN HISTORICAL EUROPEAN MARTIAL ARTS

 

Facebook Pages and other Forums:

HEMA Forums

Schola Forums (Fencing and Martial Treatises Page)

Sword Forum

SBG Sword Forum

Western Martial Arts on Reddit

The Armour Archive (very useful for Armored/Harness Fighters and smiths)

Bladesmith’s Forum

Esfinges Facebook Page (First International Female Network)

Esfinges Forum for Women Facebook Page

Capital KDF Facebook Page

Rapierists Facebook Page

HEMA Alliance Facebook Page

HEMA International Discussion Facebook Page

XVI century European Armour Facebook Page

HEMA Professional Retail Facebook Page

USA HEMA Marketplace Facebook Page

Sword & Buckler Swordsmanship Facebook Page

Fighters Against Racism Forum Facebook Page

HEMA Council Facebook Page

HEMA Armor/Harness Fencers Facebook Page

HEMA Marketplace Facebook Page

HEMA Hacks Facebook Page

 

Schools, Clubs, and HEMA Organizations:

I recommend checking out these sites below as many of them host blogs, advice, and Hema related resources like pdf translations of manuals that can be hard to find.

HEMA Alliance

HROARR is an independent, neutral meeting ground and resource site dedicated to the Historical European Martial Arts community.

HEMAC (European Martial Artists and Researchers)

Nova Scrimia (Research Group on Italian Martial Arts)

xKDF (KUNST DES FECHTENS NETWORK)

Sala d’Arme Achille Marozzo (Largest HEMA organization in Italy)

M.E.M.A.G. The Medieval Martial Arts Guild

Chivalric Fighting Arts Association (International Organization)

ARMA

AEMMA

Swiss HEMA

Sword Carolina (Train Online)

Virginia Academy of Fencing

Academie Duello

Lonin (Modum milites habemus)

Maryland KDF

Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship

Linacre School of Defense

New York Historical Fencing Association

London Longsword

Stoccata School of Defense

Krieg School of Fencing

Chicago Swordplay Guild

Martinez Academy of Arms

Sword to Sword

Blood and Iron Martial Arts

Triangle Sword Guild

Iron Gate Swordfighting

Academy of Historical Fencing at Swordfight.uk

School for Historical Fencing Arts (17th Century Dutch rapier)

The Renaissance Sword Club (UK)

Spanish Swordsmanship Society of St. Louis

The Bratislavský šermiarsky spolok (a civic association)

Dimicator Roland Warzecha’s School

Auckland Sword and Shield

The Academy of European Swordsmanship (Canada)

Hotspur School of Defense

AHFI

Omaha Kunst Des Fechtens (My club)

 

Blogs and Specialized Sites:

The Oakeshott Institute

Swording Blog (Check out all the different framing of the Absetzen by some of the luminaries of HEMA)

HEMA Ratings (A site which rates tournament fighters worldwide)

Sword Buyer’s Guide

The Coblog

The HEMA Scholar Awards

The World’s Largest Resource for Early English Pugilism at Pugilism.org

Graunwolf Blog:

Shanee Nishry’s Blog

Bolognese Swordsmanship

HEMA News (All Swords All the Time)

The World’s Largest Sword Museum

Guy Windsor’s Blog

The Fencing Hindquarters (Tumblr Blog)

I don’t do long sword

The HEMA-Tome Tumbler Blog with Micro Translations of Fencing Treatises

Historical Fighting Guide Tumblr Blog

FINDING SWETNAM:

Swetnam: 17th Century English Fencing

My Armoury a Resource site on modern replicas

A Meyer’s Enthusiast Historical Fencing Blog

Hemaphilia Tumblr Blog

Guy Windsor Blog

Bartitsu: a 19th Century Art of Self Defense

Ritterkunst Blog

Keith Farrell Blog

Victorian Sword Tumblr Blog

Martial Arts New York

Journal of Western Martial Art

The Hemaists Blog

Measure and Weigh (Reviews and Opinions on HEMA)

Afterblow: Hema Competition News

Out of This Century blogs (everything from clothing to essays on roman gladiator style arena fights in San Francisco)

Nova Fechtbuch (Collection of HEMA videos and Blogs)

Ensis Sub Caelo (Weapon Physics)

Meyer Free Scholar Syllabus Wiki

Renaissance Fence (linked to an interpretation of Antonio Manciolino’s Opera Nova of 1531)

Lochac Fencing (An SCA website that has a tremendous amount of links to manuals)

Bruchius (Reinier van Noort)

A Fencer’s Ramblings

The Teachings of Marozzo and Camillo Agrippa’s ‘Trattato Di Scienzia d’Armes’

HEMA Study

Swords of the White Rose

Aidan Blake’s HEMA Blog

Jamie Maciver Blog on Phillipo Vadi

Just a girl and her sword

Hans Talhoffer ~ A Historical Martial Arts blog by Jens P. Kleinau

 

Miscellaneous Extra Content:

Since not everything has to be scholarly or serious below are two of my favorite choreographed videos. I am currently working on a post for video resources that I will hopefully complete in the next few weeks.

I adore the visceral action in this longsword battle which includes grappling and unarmed attacks that most movies and tv shows minimize by Adorea Olomouc:

Akademia Szermierzy Youtube Channel has several exemplary choreographed videos on Fiore:

One of many useful Seminars by Jake Norwood from xKDF:

Sword Anatomy from one of the German perspectives:

sa

Below is Meyer’s Square used in the later German Tradition as a practice tool for basic cuts.

meyersquare_small

Advertisements

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Novel Exercises for Historical European Martial Arts

I made this article since there is more to HEMA than reading treatises and book learning and one of those is to get your body into shape so you can apply your academic learning in a martial fashion. I won’t go into widely available basics but instead, I will go into a few suggestions that are a bit unusual with the primary goal to be to increase grip and arm strength while being a bit lazy or while doing other activities for the busy among us.

At the end I have some suggestions provided on Facebook and HEMA specific drills and exercises from youtube.

Starting off with one of my favorite tools is the spinner:

NSD Power AutoStart Spinner is the “Featured image” for this post because it is super cool and it is what I have. There are more expensive versions and cheaper ones than the one I linked to but this is the best bang for your buck. This is an exercising tool utilized heavily by golfers who want to build dense and dextrous forearm muscles just like we do. It is fun and easy to use. It is also used by people to help with carpal tunnel and tendonitis. There are many different brands and versions. Below is a “Powerball” model review from a hockey player but the basic concepts apply.

Kettlebells are can be very useful. Be careful getting started and don’t buy a cheap one unless you’re ready for a heavy metal ball go flying in a random direction should a handle break. Get one that is all one piece without any welding or anything that might hide any welding marks. If you can get started with an instructor at least one time before you do anything crazy or weird with this as you can injure yourself if your form stinks. I don’t have one myself but messed around with one back in high school.

The Gripmaster Hand Exerciser is useful for building individual finger, hand, and wrist strength and is another thing you can do maybe at work or while reading. There are many different variations and brands to choose from. Most have a set level of resistance but a few have resistance that is variable which is useful if you are using this to recover from a hand injury and building back up your strength. The video below is for guitar and bass players that I used many years ago when I played both. He has some suggestions on different exercises.

Agility Ladders are really useful for building up your lower legs and helping you become more cognizant of your footwork. Some allow you to move the bars to different lengths and hook up extra ladders or miscellaneous items to make a little obstacle course. This can help when you are trying to do solo drills and need to force yourself to think outside of the linear box common to kendo and modern olympic fencing. Taking advantage of traversing and sidesteps are an important part of your martial art toolset.

Resistance bars are great for recovery and are designed to help with tennis elbow which can plague a swordsman as well. The brand I linked to rates the resistance by color so be careful picking one that is appropriate for you. They also are very good at improving grip strength. There are a lot of different exercises out there that use these flexbars for different issues so be sure to look up different exercises or invent your own just don’t break your wrist.

Battle Ropes are a lot of fun and help out with building both your arms but also your core and is a very inexpensive way to get a full body workout. It will wear you out as muscles you rarely use flare up and make sure you’re paying attention. Start with a few basics and build your way up. I recommend starting at 1.5 inch and 40 feet if you’re not in fantastic shape which is what I have.

Balance Pads are very good for improving your balance and building your lower leg strength and tone. They will help your footwork and if you’re anything like me you probably need the help.

Gravity Fitness Stretch Strap is good for helping increase your flexibility and range of motion. If you’re going to be practicing lunges a lot this might be useful for you.

Medicine Balls allow for a whole series of great exercises that you can do while watching your favorite show lying on the couch. There are more movements you can do in a more serious fashion such as using a medicine ball like it was a sword or a basketball and making a motion as close to as you can to an oberhau and sending the ball to a wall for example if it is the type that bounces. This can build up your explosive “punch-like” force you need for martial arts. There are many types and weights to choose from. The link above goes to my medicine ball which is a middling size and weight and great value for the price. Most gyms these days have medicine balls so you can try them out and find one that works for you.

Resistance bands are great for practicing lunges and footwork as well as increasing leg and hip strength while you’re sitting at your desk if you have them on your feet.

Forearm Exerciser is great for building strength while binge-watching your favorite show.

Captains of Crush Grippers are expensive for grippers but are well made and will push your hand strength probably more than anything else if you use two or three models. I have a Trainer which is easy to close and a #1 which takes some work to close. Traditionally you’d have a third gripper which you can’t close that you work on occasionally. Give yourself breaks with this as you can push yourself too far very easily.

Suggestions from Facebook:

Shanee Nishry’s website showcases her exercise regime of about 30 minutes a day of Meÿer Square / Cutting Diagram Longsword drills. Check it out.

Susan Kirk mentioned that Indian Clubs can really help with both strengthening arms and shoulders as well as helping flexibility of wrists, elbows, and shoulders. It is great for both balancing out muscles on the left and right sides as well as improving coordination.

Indian Clubs at Purpleheart Armoury.

Incline Steel Club is on sale and it is nice for doing exercises when inside though I find I use my kettlebells far more.

Solo HEMA Drills and Exercises:

If this doesn’t get your newbie muscles burning quickly you’re either in great shape or doing it wrong!

This drill gives you something extra to do by forcing you to change directions while swinging your sword. Footwork is my greatest weakness I think so try this or variations of this out.

Blood and Iron is a great resource.

Matt has quite a few different solo drills on his site. I like this one and the ones he made when his right hand was injured.

This flow exercise has some direction changes and good practice for attacks from the Italian Longsword perspective.

 

 

 

When I got my buckler I instantly thought that it might be a great tool for low weight reps while watching videos on my PC. I do punches, moulinets (using the handle like it is a hilt), and windshield wiping wrist rotations. You easily do hundreds of reps while being a couch potato and if you already have the buckler it doesn’t cost anything extra. Below are some great exercises the guys at Sword Carolina made to use your buckler with.

 

My other essays:

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Websites to Buy Swords and Equipment

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Tournaments

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: One Year Anniversary Update Post on Historical European Martial Arts

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: My HEMA Loadout and Wishlist