Historical European Martial Arts (H.E.M.A.)
As an aid to training Wessex Medieval Alliance now incorporates a focus on aspects of HEMA at our monthly practice and social events. We train using Longsword, Messer, Sword & Buckler / Dagger, as well as other relevant weapons found in the 15th century.
The medieval longsword, especially, has seen something of a renaissance over the last few decades as our understanding of medieval manuscripts by Hans Talhoffer, Fiore dei Liberi and others has grown immensely through study and practice.
Talhoffer's 1459 Fechtbuch (Fight Book), for example, was notorious for being more of a sales brochure ("here's what I could teach you") rather than a complete treatise. His drawings would typically show a guard, an intermediate attack such as a grapple and then a third plate with the unlucky recipient mortally wounded or lying on the ground dead. The flowing movement between each was clearly, and likely intentionally, missing. It is only through research and safe practice that we can start to appreciate the level of technical skill required of the medieval man-at-arms or knight.
We use original sources from Talhoffer et al. as well as modern research and practice as published by Guy Windsor, Matt Easton and others to provide a reasonable facsimile of historical combat techniques from which we can learn. We combine this with practical knowledge of the pros and cons of various forms of late medieval armour enabling a well-rounded experience for all taking part.
All new members are shown how to use both protective and offensive equipment safely. The golden rule is: if you are not familiar with any item of equipment please ask before use as we will be more than happy to work with you to gain familiarity.
Additionally we have a number of safety rules and procedures in place to minimise the chance of injury. You first sessions with us will include safety considerations which we reinforce through practical application of the techniques that you are learning. As your experience grows we will continually reinforce your awareness of safety both to protect yourself and to protect others.
Obtaining good quality HEMA gear
Many vendors provide excellent equipment (and some... not so excellent). We are happy to provide purchasing suggestions. Most in our group seem to have gravitated towards The Knight Shop or Black Fencer for their HEMA gear. The Knight Shop offers some excellent starter pack selections for example. Recommended are their synthetic sparring swords and protective equipment.
The Rawlings synthetic swords from The Knight Shop are ideal as beginner to intermediate swords, with good flexibility and excellent value. They are notably on the light side compared to a real longsword (~770g versus ~1.2kg-1.6kg). This can be corrected to a limited degree by specifying a steel cross-guard with your order.
The Black Fencer nylon swords are notably closer to steel than Rawlings with weights of their longsword range being in the 1.2kg to 1.4kg range. However at up to twice the price they do represent a considerably increased investment.
Typical purchases from The Knight Shop include the following:
- synthetic longsword (with short or long pommel, plastic or metal crossguard depending on personal preference)
- Red Dragon sparring gloves (although many members use their own steel re-enactment gauntlets)
- Red Dragon fencing mask
Most in the group use their medieval gambeson / arming jack for light body protection. When practicing in armour an emphasis on the brigandine, coat of plates and mail can be seen. Each provides weight and some limitation of movement without the full encumbrance of full plate harness.
Please note we do not expect new members to provide such an extensive kit list for training. We are more than happy to lend spare items. Also, "try before you buy" is definitely appropriate here as protective equipment is best purchased when you know what size to buy.