Guides for Newcomers to Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)

These are guides and articles which have been written to assist people who are new beginners to Historical European martial arts (HEMA), Western martial arts (WMA) and swordsmanship.

General Information

What is Historical European Martial Arts?

 A brief overview of what this HEMA stuff is all about, along with a summary of the differences between canonical and applied interpretations of source material. Click here to read it.

How to Learn HEMA

This short guide provides an overview of the different ways to study historical swordsmanship. Click here to read it.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Sword Fighting in HEMA?

This article provides answers to the question on how long it takes to become skilled at sword fighting in HEMA. Click here to read it.

Timeline History of the Modern HEMA Movement

If you are curious what events and people helped reconstruct and grow the Historical European martial arts movement today, this article will give you an overview. Click here to read it.

Learn HEMA – Weapons List

This section of the website will point you to learning about the various source material and traditions studied by Historical European martial artists. Click here to read it.

HEMA Club Finder

Our Club Finder has over 400 clubs in it, primarily in the United States, and we’re adding international clubs based in Canada, Europe and elsewhere every week. Click here to use it.

How to Learn HEMA When There is No Local Club to You

This guide talks about how to learn historical fencing with a long sword when there is no nearby school or club where you live. Click here to read it.

Swordsmanship Training Basics

A short article describing the basics of swordsmanship. Click here to read it.

How to Build Your Own HEMA Martial Arts Studio At Home

This guide provides advice for how to start a personal training space in your home for historical fencing. Click here to read it.

How Expensive is HEMA? The Entry Costs of Starting Historical Fencing

One of the most important considerations when starting any new athletic hobby or sport is the costs of entry; that is, the minimum cost of equipment and other goods needed to participate in that sport. Click here to read this article.

How to Start Your Own HEMA Club Study Group

This guide explains the basics of how to start your own club to teach historical European martial arts. Click here to read it.

The Benefits of Learning Swordsmanship

Historical European martial arts can be dismissed sometimes by people as not being useful or practical. This article explores why studying sword fighting is still relevant to us today. Click here to read it.

Is HEMA a Sport? Historical European Martial Arts and Tournaments.

Our opinion is that Historical fencing is indeed a sport, although it is a unique one that mixes historical research and athleticism. Click here to read this article.

Is HEMA Sword Fighting Good Exercise?

An article discussing the exercise benefits of European swordsmanship. Click here to read it.

Safety Tips for Historical Fencing

Sword fighting can be a dangerous activity if you do not take the necessary precautions. These are simple to implement but you have to know about them to do them. Click here to read our guide about safety in HEMA.

How Dangerous is a Sword?

HEMA as a sport and martial art strives to practice sword fighting safely. Read this article for information on how safe swords are, whether blunt or sharp. Click here to read this article. 

Strength Training and Body Conditioning Exercises for HEMA

This is an article on some helpful ways to strength train for sword fighting. Click here to read this article.

Weight Lifting for Developing Power in HEMA

This article discusses the usefulness of weight lifting for strengthening the muscles of the body. Click here to read this article.

Nutrition for Historical European Martial Artists / HEMA Sword Fighters

Nutritional and dietary advice is a topic that is often not discussed within the Historical European martial arts / HEMA community. This article provides some good advice. Click here to read this article.

Historical Source Manuscripts to Learn HEMA

Path of the Longsword – Historical Sources to Study

Learn how to use a longsword, a type of weapon characterized as having a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use. The long sword is a continuum of the medieval knightly sword (also called an arming sword) and is able to utilize the same techniques.  This type of sword was prevalent during the late medieval and Renaissance periods. This article provides a list and detailed explanation of the surviving historical documentation of longsword styles studied in HEMA. Click here to read it.

Path of the Rapier – Historical Sources to Study

Learn how to use a rapier, a  type of sword with a slender and sharply-pointed two-edged blade that was popular in Western Europe, both for civilian use (dueling and self-defense) and as a military side arm, throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. This article provides a list and detailed explanation of the surviving historical documentation of rapier styles studied in HEMA. Click here to read it.

Path of the Smallsword – Historical Sources to Study

Learn how to use a smallsword, also known as a court sword. The small sword is a light one-handed sword designed for thrusting which evolved out of the longer and heavier rapier of the late Renaissance. The height of the small sword’s popularity was between mid 17th and late 18th century. It is thought to have appeared in France and spread quickly across the rest of Europe. This article provides a list and detailed explanation of the surviving historical documentation of smallsword styles studied in HEMA. Click here to read it.

Path of the Saber – Historical Sources to Study

Learn how to use a military sabre (also spelled as saber in American English). This page also lists sources of dussack, cutlass and other curved blade fighting. Click here to read it.

Path of the Sword and Buckler – Historical Sources to Study

Learn how to use a sword and buckler, a small shield gripped in the fist with a central handle behind the boss. Bucklers have been used in Europe since antiquity, and were a common companion weapon in hand-to-hand combat during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. This page covers usage of arming sword and buckler, as well as sidesword and buckler from the Bolgonese tradition. Click here to read it.

Path of the Great Sword – Historical Sources to Study

The Great sword developed from the long swords of the Late Middle Ages and became the hallmark weapon of the German Landsknechte from the time of Maximilian I (d. 1519) and during the Italian Wars of 1494–1559. This is a list of surviving documentation of how to fight with a great sword. Click here to read it.

Path of the Cavalier – Historical Sources to Study

Horseback riding is an important aspect of the knightly arts of combat, as well as later cavalry traditions. In this section learn about mounted combat. Click here to read it.

HEMA Equipment Info & Guides

How to Measure and Choose the Correct Size Fencing Mask for Use in HEMA

Advice for how to pick the correct size fencing mask for yourself. Click here to read it.

What Type of Fencing Sword is used in HEMA?

Real sharp steel swords are too dangerous to practice free sparring with as a sport. Many different types of specialty training weapons are used in HEMA. Click here to learn about them.

How Expensive is HEMA? The Entry Costs of Starting Historical Fencing as a Sport / Hobby

Historical fencing requires certain protective equipment to safely practice, and you may also need to pay tuition to attend monthly classes at a school. This guide breaks down the bare minimum costs to get into HEMA. Click here to read it.

Why You Should Avoid the Hanwei Federschwert and Tinker Pearce Longswords

This article explains why you should avoid purchasing the Hanwei Federschwert (also sold as the Kingston Arms Federschwert) and Tinker Pearce line of longswords. Click here to read it.

How to Choose a Long Sword for Test Cutting in HEMA

An article on how to select a good longsword for test cutting. Click here to read the guide.

List of Good Entry Level Sharp Swords for Cutting Practices

There are many swords available for purchase online which are entirely unsuitable for test cutting practices. Our guide lists a few swords we believe are good for entry level practitioners. Click here to read the guide. 

Long Sword Starter Gear Guide

It can be overwhelming as a newbie with all the things available to purchase. This guide is intended to help you figure out what to buy and when to buy it for longsword fencing. Click here to read it.

Historical Rapier Fencing Starter Gear Guide

This guide is specifically for those seeking to begin rapier fencing. Click here to read it. 

This guide is for those looking for information on what protective equipment they should purchase for tournament usage. Click here to read it.

The Best Federschwert Practice Longswords for HEMA

This guide is a list of recommendations for feder to purchase for practicing long sword fencing. Click here to read it. 

How to Store and Transport Your Swords for HEMA Training

Advice for how to store and transport your training weapons to go to class or travel on airplanes to tournaments. Click here to read it.

How to Properly Clean and Care for your HEMA Protective Equipment

How to clean fencing jackets, masks, gloves and so on. Click here to read it.

How to Clean Your Swords and Federschwert in HEMA (plus storage and transport advice)

Swords might be unbreakable magical things in popular media depictions, but they are not so in real life. Swords need maintenance, and feders even more so. This guide will show you how. Click here to read it.

How to Break in Brand New HEMA Gear

How to break in a new fencing jacket and pants. Click here to read it.

List of North American HEMA Equipment Providers

This list is of companies based in the United States of America and Canada, and who will ship internationally between. Some of these companies will also ship to South American countries as well. Click here to read the list.

List of European HEMA Equipment Providers

This guide has a list of companies based in the EU (European Union, Europa) and who sell and distribute historical fencing equipment (HEMA, AMHE) and goods across Europe. Click here to read the list.

List of Makers of Custom Swords, Armour and other Equipment

This article has links to many different smiths who take commissions and custom orders. Click here to read the list.

Fitness Equipment for Historical Fencers for Home Workouts

A list of some low to mid priced equipment that is easy to store and use for home workouts. Click here to read it.

How to Create a Trauma Wound Kit for HEMA that Can Store in Your Bag or Club

This guide showcases some items that can be included in a personal first aid kit for Historical European martial arts swordplay, as well as items that can go in a larger bag meant for a club. Click here to read it.

HEMA Pell and Training Dummy Designs for Solo Sword Fighting Practice

This article discusses several common and popular designs for pells and fencing dummies for solo training. Click here to read it.

HEMA Historical Analysis and Articles

Who was Fiore dei Liberi? What is Armizare?

Learn about the origins of one of the most widely studied masters in HEMA long sword fencing, the works of Fiore dei Liberi. Click here to read it.

The Johannes Liechtenauer School of German Fencing

Learn about the origins of one of the most widely studied schools of German fencing, the Liechtenauer Tradition. Click here to read it.

Ancient European Martial Arts: A Brief Overview

HEMA is predominantly focused on the historical fencing practices from the Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Early Modern Period of European history. To provide some information about more ancient practices this article summarizes some of the martial art traditions of European peoples from antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. Click here to read it.

What is a Long Sword in HEMA? An Evaluation of the Historical Context

This article discusses the different types of long swords depicted in different manuscripts studied among the HEMA community. Click here to read it.

The Use of Kicks in Historical European Swordfighting

This article discusses the role of kicking in HEMA. Click here to read it.

What is a Rapier? Clearing Up Common Misunderstandings.

This article dives into commonly encountered things people believe about rapiers that are not true. Click here to read it.

Modern Olympic Fencing Vs. HEMA: What are the Differences?

This article looks at the key differences between how contemporary sports fencing and historical European martial art based fencing differ from one another. Click here to read it.

HEMA Vs Kendo: How Do These Sword Styles Compare?

This article looks at differences between the modern day Japanese sport of Kendo and HEMA sword styles. Click here to read it.

SCA Armored Combat Vs HEMA: What are the Differences?

The Society for Creative Anachronism is one of the oldest studying and recreating Medieval European culture, and even has its own combat sport. There are some unique things to it that make it different. Click here to read about these differences.

Western Vs. Eastern Martial Arts

This article discusses some of the differences between WMA / HEMA reconstructed arts and Eastern martial arts from Asia. Click here to read the article.

Learning to Fight on Horseback in HEMA: History of Cavalry

This short article discusses the study of mounted horseback sword fighting in HEMA. Click here to read it.

Common Misunderstandings about Tameshigiri (test cutting) in HEMA

This detailed article explores common misunderstandings about test cutting within the current generation of Historical fencers. Click here to read it.

How to Learn Rapier Historical Fencing in HEMA

A short guide providing advice for beginners on how to learn rapier fencing. Click here to read it.

HEMA Book Reviews

This is our list of books we recommend reading for Historical European martial artists. Click here to read the list. 

This is our list of recommended historical treatises on European swordsmanship for multiple types of swords. Click here to read it.

Introduction to the Italian Rapier by Devon Boorman Book Review

This is a review of a HEMA companion book on Italian fencing. Click here to read it.

The Theory and Practice of Historical European Martial Arts by Guy Windsor Review

This is a review of a HEMA companion book by Guy Windsor. Click here to read it.

Fighting with the German Longsword by Christian Tobler Review

This is a review of a HEMA companion book by Christian Tobler. Click here to read it.

Fiore de Liberi’s Armizare: The Chivalric Martial Arts System of Il Fior di Battaglia by Robert Charrette Review

This is a review of a HEMA companion book by Robert Charrette. Click here to read it.

HEMA Book Review: Cutting with the Medieval Sword by Michael Edelson

This is a review of the most popular book for how to perform test cutting with sharp medieval swords. Click here to read our review.

The Forgotten Art of Fighting Against Multiple Opponents by Luis Preto.

This is a review of a book discussing methods of fighting multiple opponents using a long sword. Click here to read our review.

HEMA Book Review: Medieval Wrestling by Jessica Finley.

This is a review of a popular book on Ringen, or medieval German wrestling. Click here to read our review.

Misc. Articles and Advice

Advice for Newcomers When Interacting with Other HEMA Practitioners

This is some friendly advice to newcomers to the HEMA community on how to interact with other members of the community both online and in person. Click here to read it.

How to Build a Website for Your HEMA Club Cheaply and/or for Free

An article intended to provide very useful information for HEMA club school owners and instructors to better market their schools. Click here to read this guide.

List of Useful HEMA Websites

There are many websites, forums, organizations and so on within the HEMA community. This guide has a list to them. Click here to read it.

How to Teach Kids HEMA

Children can gain a lot of value from learning swordfighting and we want to help more instructors do this. Click here to read our recommendations.

The Best Historical European Martial Arts YouTube Channels to Watch

This article shines a spotlight on some of the best YouTube creators making content about historical western martial arts. Click here to read it. 

Demographics of the HEMA Community in the USA

An article exploring the demographic data that is available about people interested in HEMA in the USA. Click here to read it.

The Early History and Development of Modern Weight Lifting

This article discusses the history behind modern weight lifting practices used by power lifters, Olympic weight lifters and body builders. Click here to read it.

HEMAR Forums

If you’re seeking other information feel free to make a post on the official Historical European Martial Arts Resources forums. We’ll try to answer any questions we are asked. Click here to visit the forums.

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