Edmonton Historical Martial Arts
Edmonton Historical Martial Arts is a club dedicated to the instruction of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) with the goal of providing our students with a safe and inclusive place to practice, learn, and grow.
We’re a not-for-profit club formed by a group of experienced people with a passion for teaching and sharing HEMA. Although our group is new, our board has a great depth of experience. We came together with a vision: by pooling our knowledge, resources, and energies to create a HEMA community in Edmonton which would provide the most dynamic and highest quality training in the most welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment. We aim to maintain a well-run, professional organization which is communally governed and responsive to our members.
We have been training and teaching HEMA in the Edmonton area since October of 2019, and we welcome all people to participate and train with us, regardless of age, gender identity, or experience level in fencing or martial arts.
We are currently training Tuesday Evenings, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm out of Bonnie Doon Community League, with any changes in location or time announced via our social media platforms.
Historical European Martial Arts
Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is the practice of fighting arts from historical sources, generally with a focus on swordsmanship.
Martial arts in Europe and the Mediterranean region go back to ancient times. Swordsmanship was known and practiced by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans in antiquity. However, their teachings and practices were passed down by oral tradition, and when that oral tradition ceased , much of this knowledge was lost..
On the other hand, Medieval and Renaissance European swordsmanship has survived to the modern day in the form of written texts. Around the dawn of the Renaissance, in the 14th century, swordsmen and martial artists in Europe began to record what they were doing in a variety of written formats. The Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33 is the earliest of these we know of, dated to approximately 1300 A.D. This text taught a method of fencing with a sword and a buckler. Others, like the diverse treatise of the northern Italian mercenary Fiore dei Liberi or the anonymous French manual on the pollaxe, La Jeu de la Hache, date to the early 1400s.
In EHMA, our particular focus is on the school known as the Art of Fighting according to Johannes Liechtenauer. This school originated in the German-speaking regions of the Holy Roman Empire, in central Europe, in the 15th century. The identity of Johannes Liechtenauer himself has been lost to us in the mists of history. He has been cited by many later martial writers as the author of a long German poem known as the Zettel (in English: The Epitome). These verses contained Liechtenauer’s teachings on fencing on foot with the longsword, both unarmoured and armoured, as well as fighting on horseback. It was written in a deliberately mysterious fashion, so as to prevent Liechtenauer’s art from becoming common.
Luckily for the modern martial artist, later students of Liechtenauer’s tradition produced glosses of the Zettel. These essentially acted as decoders for the mysteries of the Zettel. They provided a prose explanation for what each line or section of the Zettel meant, and often included step-by-step instructions for how to perform each technique. The first of these glosses, which we can reliably date, was written in 1452. They provide a vivid and detailed account of a system of fighting while grounded in the chivalrous dueling culture of the 15th century.
Liechtenauer’s teachings and writings show up in many different martial texts produced in the 15th and 16th centuries in the Holy Roman Empire. The mercenaries and fencing teachers Hans Talhoffer and Paulus Kal both include Liechtenaeur’s Zettel in their texts, though without producing full glosses themselves. In 1487, the fencing guild known as the Brotherhood of St. Mark (Marxbruder in German) was granted a monopoly by the Emperor Frederick III, allowing only their brotherhood to certify a swordsman as a “Master of the Long Sword”, a title which entitled a man to twice the pay in the Emperor’s armies. The writings of the fencing master Peter Falkner, one of the early captains of the Marxbruder, also show Liechtenauer’s influence. Nearly a century later, the book The Art of Combat written by Joachim Meyer is still deeply influenced by Liechtenauer’s teachings.
Fencing with the sword in Europe has always been a living and evolving practice. In time, the rapier as practiced in Italy and Spain became the dominant weapon of civilian dueling and self-defense. On the battlefield, longswords were eventually made obsolete by the changing face of modern war. The rapier became the smallsword of the 18th century, which in turn evolved into the modern Olympic sport of fencing with the foil and the épée.
Modern Olympic fencing is a dynamic and demanding sport. However, the modern practice of HEMA came about from people dissatisfied with the constraints of fencing, and seeking to understand older weapons and older practices. How do you fight with a longsword in two hands? How do you fight with a long, heavy rapier? How do you integrate grappling with swordsmanship? These are the kinds of questions which led to the birth and ongoing reconstruction of Historical European Martial Arts. This began as early as the Victorian period, when the British Army officer Captain Alfred Hutton began to experiment with fencing with rapier and longsword. From the 1990s onwards, HEMA has experienced huge growth, as the Internet has allowed people from all over the world to share their love for martial arts, swordsmanship, and the culture and history of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in new ways by forming new communities of practice, study, and passion.
Modern HEMA is many things to many people; it is a martial discipline, in which we strive to experimentally understand how the sword was used in contests where death, grave injury, and dishonour were on the line. It is a scholarly pursuit, driven by the history and archaeology of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is a modern sport, where we compete in events and tournaments against one another to test our skills dynamically. It is a community, where we work and grow together through the challenges of the martial arts.
If you have a passion for history, martial arts, sport, and community, then Edmonton Historical Martial Arts is the place for you.
As part of E.H.M.A. open governance policy and part of our requirements to operate as a not for profit, an annual general meeting (AGM) is held yearly. The purpose of the AGM is to discuss the business activities from the past year, changes to operations, and plans for the coming year with our members. For those unable to attend but would still like to know what was discussed, below are the meeting minutes from the past years AGM.