When considering the term Martial Arts, one often envisions Jacki Chan or Bruce Lee in an impressive show of kicks and turns; however, there are several forms of Martial Arts, all effective in their own right
Historical European Martial Arts (or HEMA) usually refers to arts that were formally practiced and have subsequently died out or have evolved into alternative forms or uses. Whilst HEMA encompasses Martial Arts from Antiquity (such as ancient Greece and Rome) Surviving documentation is limited, therefore, emphasis is placed upon combat manuals from the Medieval period and Early Modern Era, often between the dates of 1300 and 1900.
During the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, focus lay on German and Italian schools of defence, swiftly followed by Spanish, French, English and Scottish fencing in the 17th and 18th Centuries. During the 19th century, additions such as classical fencing, some hybrid styles such as Bartitsu and even forms of traditional styles such as stick fighting and wrestling. Historical European Martial Arts is often considered to be limited to sword-play, with the Longsword holding most honour, however, throughout the periods, several modes of combat would be taught simultaneously, using a variety of weapons and even unarmed combat.
The Late Middle Ages saw knife, quarterstaff, sword and pole arms alongside grappling and fighting in plate armour on foot and on horse; drawing from famous masters such as Talhoffer and Fiore. The Renaissance period saw a development of such combative arts with masters such as Marozzo and it is during the 16th Century that early fencing began to take hold, with the Guards we recognise today dating back to Renaissance Masters.
During the Baroque period, fencing moves away from Italian roots and become prevalent in Spain, Germany and France, each with their own ideologies. The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, WMA became divided into ‘modern sports’ and applications of military uses, such as a resurgence of horseback arts, using sabre and lance. Combat sports included Boxing, Wrestling Archery and Stick Fighting with 19th Century fencing becoming a sport (except for aristocrats with sullied honour who still favoured duels)
HEMA and WMA enjoy a healthy modern existence through training clubs, Self-Defence training, Historical societies, shows, demonstrations and the active use of such arts in modern media and events. For those interested in further information or are looking to train, try out the following links.