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What is HEMA

Updated on October 24, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

First page of the Codex Wallerstien showing various weapons used in HEMA.
First page of the Codex Wallerstien showing various weapons used in HEMA. | Source

Western Martial Arts

Most people are familiar with the Eastern Martial arts such as Karate, Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and others, but for some reason traditional western martial arts are often overlooked. Even common ones such as fencing and greco-roman wrestling are over looked as martial arts, but fencing is just as much a martial art as Kendo, and Medieval fencing style (vs. Olympic) is even more so. Above and beyond Fencing there is also arts such as German Longsword, Stick Fighting, Knife Fighting, and much more.

Did you know there are groups all over the world that study these traditional martial arts? Generally they are called HEMA (Historic European Martial Arts) or WMA (Western Martial Arts) groups. They study old manuscripts to learn the fighting styles of our ancestors and put them into practice.

Growing in Popularity

Thanks, in prt, to groups such as the SCA, and other such historical re-enactment groups, HEMA has been growing in popularity, particularly since the early 90's and continues to grow. There are now thousands of HEMA schools all over, and several world class tournaments in a number of styles. Battle of Nations for example has become a huge international tournament of no holds bared Historical European Martial Arts.

© 2014 Jeff Johnston


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