top of page

The Origins of Historical European Martial Arts: A Journey Through Time

Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is a rapidly growing community of enthusiasts and scholars dedicated to studying, preserving, and practicing European martial traditions. These martial arts, which were once practiced by knights, soldiers, and civilians alike, have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years. In this article, we will explore the origins of HEMA, the diverse influences that have shaped its evolution, and the key factors that have contributed to its renaissance.

Early Beginnings: The Ancient World

The origins of HEMA can be traced back to the ancient world, where civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans developed martial systems that focused on both armed and unarmed combat. These early martial traditions, such as Greek pankration and Roman gladiatorial combat, laid the groundwork for developing later European martial arts.

Medieval Period: Chivalry and Swordsmanship

As we move into the medieval period, the emergence of chivalry and the knightly class gave rise to a more structured and codified martial arts system. Manuals, known as "fechtbücher," began to appear, detailing techniques and tactics for weapons such as the longsword, rapier, and polearms. Some of the most notable masters from this period include Johannes Liechtenauer, Fiore dei Liberi, and Hans Talhoffer, whose treatises remain influential in the modern HEMA community.

Renaissance: The Flourishing of Martial Culture

The Renaissance period saw a blossoming of martial arts in Europe, driven in part by advances in technology and the increased availability of printed materials. Masters such as Joachim Meyer and Salvator Fabris began to develop more elaborate and refined