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Historical European Martial Arts:
Alive and Well 1, 2, 3

Arms & Armour...

Weapons: 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.

When 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 Medieval Knight from a Brass Rubbingmodern 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.

Equipment/harness: 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 are available.

  1. Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts (AEMMA) Toronto, ON, Canada
  2. Alliance Martial Arts - Ithica, NY, USA
  3. Chicago Swordplay Guild - Chicago, USA
  4. Historical Armed Combat Association - Houston, TX, USA
  5. Martinez Academy of Arms - NY, NY
  6. Schola Solis - Los Angeles, CA, USA
  7. St. Martin's Academy of Medieval Arms - Madison, WI, USA
  8. Tattershall School of Defence - Phoenix, AZ, USA

Most 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.

In 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.

Medieval Arms & Armor

About 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.

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