What is HEMA?
Historical Fencing is a martial art that is based on the study of the Fencing manuals written from the 14th century onward. These manuals can be found from as diverse countries as Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland, England, etc. They detail the method of using many of the weapons seen in their respective time periods. In the earlier manuals Longsword, Dagger, Spear and Langes Messer (one handed sword) are the most seen weapons. While the rapier becomes more popular as time progresses.
Contrary to popular belief, these martial arts were codified and nuanced from an early time. They were used by skilled fencers for both self defence and warlike reasons. The weapons used are often nimble and agile belying the portrayals seen on stage and the silver screen. For example, the average Longsword weighed between 2.5lbs and 4lbs, with a good center of balance that allowed for quick and precise cuts and thrusts.
Who are we?
The Atlanta Freifechter is an historical fencing class based in mid-town Atlanta. The class draws mainly from the fencing manuals of Joachim Meyer, “The Art of Combat” and the Lund "MS A4.2", along with some other 16th century fencing manuals and treatises.
The main topic of study is fencing with the Longsword. Our secondary studies are Sword and Buckler, Dussack, Meyer Rappier (side sword), Ringen and Dagger. The main focus of the class is about teaching the practical applications of these styles of fencing as you would find it in the time period, as well as using it in tournaments and events.
Our fencing source lies within the German Fencing tradition. Joachim Meyer was concerned with passing on the traditions of old to the newer generations and prepare the fencers of his day for the trials and tribulations of his time. In this there are some refinements and distinctions in his Longsword compared to those that came before him. These include a lesser influence on the thrust, and more reliance on the flat and short edges of the Longsword. Along with the Longsword, Joachim Meyer wrote about the Dussack, Sidesword/Rapier, Dagger, Halbert and Staff.
Where is HEMA now?
The modern scene for these martial arts is a varied one that runs the gamut of lectures, workshops and tournaments. There are several different events held both nationally and internationally that are held annually. The events tend to be a weekend long with time for everyone involved to sample a little bit of all available.
A major part of these events are the tournaments. These tournaments are a way to show the skills of the participants and put their interpretations to the test. The majority of weapons studied have tournament for them.
The rules for these tournaments tend to be varied. This is to show different aspects of the fencing skills required for the weapons being used. Where one tournament may try to make a more free flowing and open fencing field, another may seek to make each engagement more serious for the fencer.
The other major aspect of the events are the lectures and workshops. Here the newest interpretations and research is shown to the population as a whole. Some events may hold shorter workshops to get in as much information as possible. Others tend to focus on one topic and give it a large block of time to really inspect it. The Atlanta Freifechter as a group tries to attend as many events as possible each year.