Is this martial art for me?
European Martial Arts (HEMA) are for anyone who is in generally good health and wants to engage in vigorous
physical activity. You do not
have to be an athlete, and you do not have to be interested
in competitions. It is for people who want to train hard and
don't mind the occasional scrape or bruise.
Perhaps you, like us, have trained in Asian martial arts before-- but want to try something different from a different culture. If this is you, then you should consider HEMA.
What is this? I've never heard of it.
A: It is a very common thing for people say that Europe has no martial arts of it's own. This is untrue-- wrestling, boxing and fencing have always been taught in the West. Admittedly, these are only the sportive descendants of their combative predecessors, but the ancient martial traditions are available for study. Books were written by masters in Europe as early as the 1300's. This pre-dates even the oldest documented Japanese system of martial arts.
For the last 20 years there has been some very serious research by very competent martial artists to re-establish these methods to their former glory, and make this information available to the public.
It is also common for practitioners of Asian sword styles to claim that European sword methods are clumsy and crude-- but this opinion is untrue, and understandable if people have not seen the real thing and get their information only from Hollywood movies.
Q: What is expected of me?
A: You need to pay close attention, and to train with safety in mind. You must act seriously without horseplay. Furthermore, while you still will inwardly benefit from prior martial arts experiences, you must "empty your cup" so that this new art may pour into you.
Q: Do you do live action role playing (LARP)?
A: No. Our focus is studying serious historical martial arts to understand their original combative purpose.
Q: I did fencing in the past. Is your fencing the same thing?
A: Not at all. It is a very different thing. If you've done fencing and wish to take up renaissance swordsmanship, then it's best to set aside what you have learned before.
Q: Is it dangerous?
A: Not really. Much of what we do is done at slow speeds and soft contact. When we do freeplay with speed and intent, we do not try to beat each other down through brute strength, and both our weapons and our protective equipment are designed to allow safe contact. In the last few years, we’ve had more injuries from playing football, cycling, or making cups of tea than sparring. That said, bear in mind that this is a martial art; a few small bruises now and again are practically inevitable.
Q: Why don't you allow children?
A: Owning and maintaining one’s own weapons requires a certain amount of personal responsibility. In addition to this, it would not be practical to have a child drill or spar with an adult; both would be inconvenienced, and neither would find the excercise very useful. Therefore, we have to limit our membership to people who are 16 or older.
Q: Am I too old to join?
A: We practice fencing as a martial art, not as a sport; technique beats physical strength and speed, so as long as you are comfortable with the excercise, there is nothing to stop you from practicing. For obvious reasons, you should inform the instructor of any medical conditions.
Q: I’m out of shape. Can I do this?
A: None of the current members are professional athletes; in fact, most of us work in normal desk jobs which involve a lot of sitting down. We’re in pretty average shape, so you’re definitely not out of place. While you may feel some mild discomfort after the first session or two (especially if you’re unused to excercise), you’ll be able to practice without any trouble.
Q: There’s a lot of equipment involved. Isn’t it really expensive?
A: While there is indeed a whole lot of equipment, you won’t be needing it all at once. The minimum equipment you will need to start practicing is quite cheap, and you can build up your equipment over time. Most of our members build up their equipment over two or three years, so the cost is spread out.
Q: Do you have competitions?
A: Some of our students really love competitions. If you are interested in tournaments, we will help you find them, and prepare to win. We spar to test and improve our technique and to condition ourselves, not for the sake of hitting our opponent. Using a scoring system would make us think less about our technique and more about scoring points. What we do would lose its historical importance. But this does not mean that competitions do not exist--they most certainly do.
Q: Do you have grades/belts/levels?
A: Yes we do. There are junior student ranks all the way up to advance practitioners and assistant instructors. Our ranking system is quite well defined, and everything you need to know will be provided to you.
Q: Can women join too?
A: Yes of course. We give equal opportunities and training to whoever wants to learn. There are a lot of benefits for women who join our classes.