The British Federation for Historical Swordplay

Historical European Martial Arts

swash2Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), refers to the enormous martial heritage of Europe which includes ancient wrestling and striking arts as well as combative systems ranging from the battlefield weapons of the medieval world to the formal duelling systems of the Industrial era.

The commonest form taken by HEMA is historical fencing, which is itself a broad field including medieval, renaissance and early-modern swordplay, and in addition many groups study other aspects of HEMA including polearms, tomahawk and knife fighting and the military combative systems of the First and Second World Wars.
The key aspects of studying HEMA are authenticity, scholarship and practicality. As far as possible, HEMA students use weapons that have the correct weight, balance and dimensions, and use historically authentic techniques. Training is based on the surviving manuscripts written by historical masters in an era when swordsmanship was a life-or-death matter. Students train as if they were preparing for an encounter with live (sharp) weapons, though by using rebated (blunt) weapons and modern safety equipment they ensure that their training is safe.

There are many different aspects to HEMA, ranging from pure historical research through a sort of hands-on combative archaeology to tournaments and competitive events. HEMA is a lot more than simply ‘playing sword fights’ but there are plenty of opportunities to engage in freeplay (sparring) at an appropriate level. Regular local, national and international events allow HEMA instructors and students from all around the world to share their knowledge or test their skills against one another.

HEMA is undergoing a rapid growth in popularity at present. Mainstream fencing equipment suppliers are beginning to produce standardized safety equipment whilst scholars and instructors continue to publish new translations and interpretations of historical material. There has never been a better time to get involved in HEMA.

Historical European Martial Arts

Latest News

COVID-19 Update

The officers of the BFHS are not medical professionals or scientists. We can only offer common-sense advice informed by the government’s official policies and analysis of the situation. The top […]

Read More

BFHS IL2 Assessment May 2019

BFHS IL2 Assessment May 2019 It was a day long in coming, but on May 25th 2019 the first BFHS IL2 assessment took place. The event was hosted by SSS […]

Read More