European Martial Arts:
Alive and Well
David M. Cvet
the author: David
M. Cvet is the Founder and President of the Academy
of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA)
exists a ground swell, and it's called historical European
martial arts or HEMA. In both Canada and the United States, an
impressive revival of awareness, interest, research and development
in HEMA is occurring. Numerous organizations and groups have been
created in the last ten years that focus on western fighting techniques
from the early medieval period to the late renaissance periods.
Collectively, many of these groups and organizations that possess
a martial-orientation are occasionally known as the "fechtbuch
community". No longer considered the "fringe", many organizations
present and deliver credible historical western martial arts systems
based on historical fighting systems documented in the early fechtbuchs.
These groups have as their mission to collectively resurrect the
combat skills, philosophies, and principles of an accomplished
historical European martial artist and to achieve a state of a
recognizable and viable western martial arts tradition. A number
of the most influential organizations are busilyworking the
terrain with open minds and callous hands to bring forth this
tradition inthe form of projects of a global nature bringing together
practitioners from every corner of the planet. It is noteworthy
to say that the "sleeping giant" has indeed awakened.
the martial art has been in a state of suspended animation for
the past 500 years, the European masters were diligent in recording
the skills, techniques and their practice of swordsmanship. The
earliest known manuscript or treatise was written by a German
monk in Latin, dated 1280 AD. Some of the notable treatises studied
include, but are not limited to:
Johannes Liechtenauer, c1389, "Kunst die fechten"
de' Liberi, 1410, "Flos Duellatorum"
Ringeck, c1440, "Commentaries on Liechtenauer"
Talhoffer, 1459, "Alte Armatur und Ringkunst"
Hans Talhoffer, 1467, "Fechtbuch aus dem Jahre 1467"
c1470, "Das Solothurner Fechtbuch"
Agrippa, 1568, "His Treatise on the Science of Arms"
di Grassi, 1594, "His True Arte of Defense"
Saviolo, 1595, "His Practice" (in two books)
Silver, 1599, "Paradoxes of Defense"
Sutor, 1612, "Künftliches Fechtbuch"
manuscripts form the core of the research and development conducted
by the HEMA organizations in order to develop a viable and challenging
training program. The desire is to achieve the highly sophisticated
level of swordsmanship dictated by these treatises to ensure that
the lineage of skill and expertise is reaffirmed with the past,
and to move it into the future. The treatises cover many other
weapons types, including longsword, sword & shield, dagger, grappling,
poleaxe and in some cases, mounted combat.
conjunction with this research, a discipline known as "hoplology"
has provided subtle insight into the behavioural aspect of combat.
Hoplology is defined as "the study of the evolution and development
of human combative behavior". This discipline encompasses three
categories of study: technology hoplology - the study of environmental
factors, materials, and production processes, and their relationship
to the development of weapons, armor, and combative accouterments;
functional hoplology - the study of the structure and organization
of combative systems; behavioral hoplology - the study of the
psychological and physiological factors inherent in man's combativeness
and his development of combative capabilities. Research conducted
in these areas also contributes to the research and development
of a viable training program.
the research of the historical martial systems is augmented with
basic "trial and error" and "reverse engineering". Techniques
studied are put into practice, and the movement, footwork, sword
handling, judgment, timing, placement and distance all come into
play when the results of the particular research are applied.
Much of this is based on an interpretation of the available material.
The resulting interpretation of the material, tempered with input
from the hoplological perspectives, and the "reverse engineering"
efforts results in techniques that may be consistent with their
historical counterparts. The validation is conducted through fight
engagements that may include heavy armoured combat or civilian-oriented
unarmoured engagements in a tournament structure.