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What is HEMA?

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

HEMA is Historical European Martial Arts, also sometimes called HMA (Historical Martial Arts) when not Eurocentric.

Martial Arts should be pretty clear, even if you're not really sure what European Martial Arts exist. The Historical part is key for us, and it means that we are recreating a dead Martial Art through the use and interpretation of contemporary manuals.

Asian Martial Arts, such as Aikido, Karate, Kung Fu, or Tai Chi, are considered 'living' arts because there is a strong lineage of teachers passing knowledge to students through the years. HEMA on the other hand, does not have this lineage of knowledge being passed down directly. It's being transmitted to us through books written at the time these arts were necessary.

Our manuals about how knights fought were written by people who actually fought and taught these arts. Same with our knowledge of how a musketeer used a rapier: it was written down for other people to read. In our case it's sometimes hundreds of years later.

Our oldest manuals were for knights and men-at-arms. Later manuals were for militaries, or civilians. Some showed how to use weapons, and some showed how to fight unarmed. There are even manuals that talk about wearing armour or how to fight on horseback!

Historical Martial Arts can be found around the world.

At Annapolis Valley Historical Martial Arts we currently (as of 2022) study:

  • 14th Century knightly combat - mostly the two-handed longsword - as written by Fiore di Liberi in The Flower of Battle (c. 1409); and,

  • 18th Century Highland Broadsword, like that used by the Scottish Highlanders.

Arts that we're discussing looking at in the future include:

  • 18th Century French Smallsword;

  • 16th Century Italian Rapier

  • Various cultural takes on Wrestling;

  • Medieval Archery, or Horseback Archery; and,

  • Fighting in Armour.

We're also the only HEMA club in the Maritimes that offer a kids or youth program. Our Youth classes are for ages 8 and up, and teach real skills like the adults are learning, with age appropriate training weapons and intensity.

Did you know? There's no obligation for your first class. Get in contact and come see if these are the martial arts for you! Classes are weekly in Berwick and Port Williams, Nova Scotia.

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