European Martial Arts:
Alive and Well 1,
Training typically involves both wooden "wasters" (swords & daggers
& other weapon replicas) that are typically constructed out of
hickory or similar hardwood and metal weapons depending upon the
skill level achieved. The use of wasters is consistent with historical
accounts of using weapons constructed of wood or even whalebone
in training and tournaments. Wasters are relatively inexpensive
and provide the opportunity
of students to deploy techniques with partners without the fear
of serious injury. Wasters are typically about 1.0 - 1.5lbs lighter
than their metal historical counterparts with respect to longswords.
Wasters also enable the students to continue training with the
sword while waiting for their armour should the student's objective
be armoured fighting.
students reach more sophisticated levels of skill and discipline,
weapons used in training and fighting may be constructed of metal.
In the arms market, great strides in metallurgy have improved
the quality and durability of modern
swords as they approach more closely, the specifications of historical
weapons. For example, longsword
training (swords of approximately 48 - 52"), would weigh in at
about 4 lbs or about .5 lbs heavier than their historical counterpart.
This is due to the fact that there remains more metal on the blade
because the edges are dull. In general, the edges would be rounded
to approximately 2-3mm in diameter.
The equipment needs vary depending upon the skill level of the
student, their orientation (armoured fighting vs. unarmoured fighting),
their period of preference or focus, and their financial resources.
An infrastructure remains fairly common throughout the period
that is comprised of a gambeson, or padded long-sleeved jacket
or coat. Regardless of orientation, the gambeson forms the basis
for the practitioner. This along with elbow, knee pads and 3-weapons
fencing mask, good quality padded gloves and training shoes will
outfit most practitioners and which could be in use for years.
Along with a training waster, the entry costs to historical fencing
is generally achievable for most individuals wishing to engage
in such activity.
Should the practitioner wish to pursue armoured fighting, then
costs can be relatively high. The armour must conform to historical
authenticity in terms of construction, design and materials. There
are many sources in both Canada and the USA for armour, which
most often provide armour to re-enactment societies, displays
and entertainment industry. Armouring oneself enables the practitioner
to engage in armoured tournaments that are structured in a similar
manner as they were in period. A fully armoured practitioner (assuming
14th century) and depending upon size of the individual would
have a harness in the weight range of 45-60 lbs. Anything heavier
is un-realistic from a historical perspective.
Where is this happening?
Typically, this activity is centralized around the major centers.
It is in these centers and the surrounding areas that have a population
to support such endeavours. Most people who are somewhat familiar
with the Internet can conduct a search for this activity and who
would be pleasantly surprised as to the great deal of activity
in this regard (number of hits returned). The listing below is
certainly not comprehensive nor complete, but does provide the
reader with a good basis to conduct his/her search into this most
interesting martial art centers in North America only. From any
of these organizations, linkages to international groups and organizations
Academy of European Medieval
Martial Arts (AEMMA) Toronto, ON, Canada
Martial Arts - Ithica, NY, USA
Swordplay Guild - Chicago, USA
Historical Armed Combat
Association - Houston, TX, USA
Academy of Arms - NY, NY
Solis - Los Angeles, CA, USA
Martin's Academy of Medieval Arms - Madison, WI, USA
School of Defence - Phoenix, AZ, USA
of the above organizations also have extensive linkages and descriptions
of sources of arms and amour containing enough information to
educate the individual interested in HEMA. Other resources include
forums, of which the pre-dominant forum is the
Sword Forum International containing numerous sub-forums,
of which the most relevant is the Historical European Swordplay
forum or HES.
closure, there is an opportunity to engage in both physical fitness
and skills development as it relates to the historical European
heritage, which may be relevant to many, would be martial arts
practitioners. Although development and evolution of these activities
is still in its youth, the continued dedication of practitioners
and schollers throughout the world will ensure the success of
this resurrection and position HEMA as a viable alternative to
today's popular Eastern martial arts systems.
the author: David
M. Cvet is the Founder and President of the Academy
of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA), an organization
dedicated to the resurrection and formalization of medieval
martial arts training systems.