Fencing is a combat with melee weapons, usually swords, court swords, sabers or rapiers. Many people around the world are fascinated by medieval cold arms combat techniques and recreate them today. Fencing match is usually a one on one duel, but there are communities which organize historically themed tournaments, related to a certain epoch, and such tournaments may include a lot more participants. One of the groups that recreate historical European medieval fencing are called HEMA – Historical European Martial Arts.
Usually reconstruction fans base their skills upon different melee combat manuals, which date far back to the medieval times. Such manuals have illustrations and explanations on how to attack, parry and dodge blows, and how to counterattack. The styles are usually defined by the epoch or the origin of the masters and the manuals they wrote, most commonly distinguished are:
– Baroque style, or French fencing school
– Renaissance, or the German school
– Rococo style
– Academic fencing
– Italian and Spanish school
Every style has its own typical features, offensive and defensive techniques.
Historical European Martial Arts community began to emerge in 1990s, and the trend spread across the world for the last 20 years. The community organizes historically themed fencing tournaments, with either real steel gear and weapons, or plastic weapons and armor. The participants spent many months or even years to improve their skills and participate in such tournaments. For some people historical tournaments reconstruction is a lifelong hobby.
If you are willing to take part in such events and join the community, you can find the local HEMA group in the internet, and contact them. To participate in the tournaments, you must have a lot of special equipment. Firstly, a weapon to fight with. Choose your type of sword, and material it is made of. Some fight with real steel swords, others use synthetic nylon sparring swords, which are safer. If you plan to learn medieval European fencing, it’s better to use synthetic weapons, because wooden swords are stiff and not flexible, and may cause more traumas.
Safety is crucial during the medieval tournaments, so you have to buy a lot of protecting equipment. You’ll also need a pair of special gloves, or conventional iron gauntlets if you wish. Most importantly you’ll need a fencing mask. The best masks are those which have protection at the back of the head. They are the safest for both tournaments and sparing and technique drills. Lastly, you’ll need a bodysuit, ankle and elbow protection. To enhance your skills you may use online video trainings, or books such as “Swordsman companion” or “Knightly arts of combat” which have the illustrations and explanations of historical European fencing techniques.
All in all, historical fencing is a hobby for the brave, who are willing to show their worth. So sharpen your skills and your blade and join the community of true warriors.