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: 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: Novel Exercises and Solo Drills for Historical European Martial Arts

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

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Cat’s Nine Lives Halloween Tournament

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.

As an update to this post, I also recommend reading How to begin working with a HEMA source on Keith Farrel’s blog.

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)

ColdSteel by Alfred Hutton pdf

Old Sword Play by Alfred Hutton pdf

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

Musketeer Fencing Club (Omaha)

 

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)

HEMA Scorecard by HEMAA and Sean Franklin

Sword Buyer’s Guide

The Coblog

The HEMA Scholar Awards

Antrim Bata Irish stick fighting

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

Sword STEM (Sean Franklin’s Science Applied to Swords Blog)

 

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

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A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Tournaments

This is a work in progress built from my original A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Historical European Martial Arts post that I decided to spin off into its own page as the Guide is far larger now than I had initially intended and has become a little unwieldy like a Montante in the hands of a five-year-old.

As a novice, I have decided to try my best to make these guides to help people learn more about HEMA who don’t have the time or inclination to search and research for hours on the web and to try and distill what I’ve read into something easy to understand. Often things get lost in translation when dealing with topics outside of your understanding and experience. The experts know everything basic so will often use shorthand or gloss over things that you as the newbie have no clue about leading to misunderstandings and frustration.

If you would like me to add your Tournament just add a comment below.

If you’re going to run a tournament or help out a great new tool added in July 2018 a few years after I wrote this article was made by Sean Franklin allowing easy access to your performance data as a fencer so you can see how you did during an event. I still don’t know even most of the people I’ve fenced with and what the scores were because when you’re bouncing between an assault and then judging and then filming or lunch it really does become a blur. Check it out here: HEMA Scorecard.

Another great website to check out if you’re interested in tournament rules is Swiss HEMA’s Rules Survey.

Some tournaments require tips on your blades of leather and tape or blunts. The Arnold Classic uses white tape in order to help judges see thrusts against the ubiquitous black jackets and gear.

Given that tournaments often require or appreciate help during the events it can be really useful to take the time to understand how to judge and familiarize yourself with the tournament rules so you can perform better as you’ll optimize your fencing strategies to the tournament environment. If you’re creating a tournament it can be useful to decide how you’re going to set up your judges and how much power you’ll be giving them. Martin Fabian wrote an interesting article about how less can be more here: 2 IS MORE THAN 4 – ON THE STATE OF JUDGING IN HEMA COMPETITIONS.

Tournaments are a chance to test your mettle against opponents from outside your club. This is very important in order to avoid and detect weaknesses that might have developed unnoticed by the fellow fencers you practice with and to become exposed to different styles and ways of fencing.

A new site called HEMA Ratings has setup rankings and scores for over a thousand fighters from all over the world with different weapons including Longsword, rapier, sabre, singlestick, sword and buckler, and sidesword. So, after you compete at your first acceptable tournament you can watch your score and rank change as you become a better fighter and get more experience fighting new people.

Afterblow (HEMA Competition News) is starting in 2017 and will have a whole slew of useful information about Tournaments which will be something to look forward to next year.

This HEMA Alliance Events Page just soft-launched which is wonderful.

It is also worth knowing that there are Leagues of HEMA which can make going to multiple tournaments in a region have a new dimension of complexity.

Historical Fencing Event Notification Page on Facebook is another resource.

Tournaments are different in that the rules are more formal than bouts at your club or with friends and each one will have different equipment requirements depending on the type of bout from Longsword to Ringen. This is important to keep in mind as swords and gear preferred or allowed at one tournament may be forbidden at another. So make sure you consider this when you are making your expensive choices on gear. These requirements may also hint at the quality or lack of quality of different equipment.

They may also have different rules in adjudicating a bout so it would be wise before a tournament to have some practice bouts using those rules in the weeks proceeding a tournament. This applies even if you are not planning to go as it is good to be flexible in your fighting. Different rules may encourage different optimized behavior by a fencer. If the tournament penalizes heavily double hits than you will want to prepare for that while sports fencing often encourages unhealthy defensive habits because of the rules of engagement.

An article worth reading If You Practice HEMA, You Should Be Competing in Tournaments.

General takeaways applicable to many tournaments for equipment needed for Longsword are a Fencing Mask with back of the head protection, Gorget, Padded Fencing Jacket, Heavy HEMA Gloves, Arm and Elbow Protection, Knee and Shin Protection, shoes, and a cup for men. Some require a plastron and padded breaches as well.

In Europe, many tournaments provide the weapons to be used while in the Americas that is rarer except for events that are outside of the most common weapons like longsword and rapier. Providing tournament weapons can be a great way for a smith to advertise their feders or blades.

There also must be no bare skin shown when Fencing with weapons and some state overtly that if they can see skin if you raise your arms then that is unacceptable. I would recommend skipping the basic mask and go to CEN 2 at the very start as there really isn’t that much of a price difference and it makes a big deal for durability and longevity. Vasaslaget explicitly states CEN 2 or 1600N at least as a requirement to compete and forbids hockey gear.

Feders from Ensifer, Regenyei, Danelli Armouries, Comfort Fencing, Darkwood, Chlebowski, Pavel Moc, SGT Blades, Mac Arms, and Castille are usually accepted. For some other manufacturers only certain models are allowed but in general feders with rolled, ‘nail like’, or widened tips with well-rounded cross guards are accepted. I would also recommend models with rounded pommels because some have wickedly dangerous styles.

Few tournaments allow Hanwei or Red Dragon Feders. Many don’t allow Darksword Armory as well.

Check out A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Websites to Buy Swords and Equipment to see where and what websites you can look at to buy your gear.

Very importantly make sure you have safe and appropriate luggage/bags to carry your goods for your method of travel. Don’t skimp on a cheap and poorly made bag if flying or taking a bus and it can be useful to think of how to secure your gear if it is going to be out of your sight.

If you enjoy watching bouts in older tournaments check out HEMA LiveStream Series on Facebook. It hasn’t been updated in a while but is worth checking out.

I really recommend this conversation about competing in tournaments I found over at Schola Gladiatora.

Please click on the following links for more of my guides on HEMA:

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: Novel Exercises and Solo Drills for Historical European Martial Arts

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

A Novice’s Guide to HEMA: Cat’s Nine Lives Halloween Tournament

 

Tournaments:

Europe:

Swordfish

Swordfish in Gothenburg Sweden

Swordfish Equipment Requirements

Swordfish 2016 Livestream and a fantastic match illustrating a less commented type of bout with unarmed combat using Ringen below.

Fight Camp

Fight Camp in Coventry England

Fight Camp Rules and Gear Requirements

Helsinki Longsword

Helsinki Longsword in Helsinki Finland

Helsinki Open Longsword Equipment Requirements

Astolat Open

Astolat Open in Godalming England

Astolat Equipment Requirements

Vasaslaget

Vasaslaget in Uppsala Sweden

Longsword Rules Vasaslaget 2016

Dreynevent

Dreynevent in Vienna Austria

Martail Arts Historical Italian (XVII was 2016)

National HEMA Tournament in Faenza Italy

North America:

Longpoint

Long Point in Baltimore Maryland

Longpoint Rules (Page 4 Gear)

Longpoint Youtube Subscription Page

Longpoint South in Orlando Florida

CombatCon

CombatCon in Las Vegas Nevada

CombatCon Rules

Iron Gate

Iron Gate Exhibition in Danvers Massachusetts

Iron Gate Equipment Requirements

Capitol Clash

Capitol Clash in Washington D.C

Capitol Clash Longsword Requirements

HEMA-Cornhusker State Games

HEMA-Cornhusker State Games in Bellevue Nebraska

Rules for 2018 Cornhusker State Games at Starpaw

Icebreaker 2017

Icebreaker 2017 in Fort Snelling Minnesota

Icebreaker Equipment Requirements

The Deed of Arms Event

Armored and Unarmored HEMA Event

Australia:

World Broadsword Championship

World Broadsword Championship in Sydney Australia

World Broadsword Championship Rules

Swordplay Australia

Swordplay Australia in Brisbane Australia

Swordplay Australia Approved Gear