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All welcome 18:30-20:30
Study Group 18:30-20:30



Training Venue - Blairs College
South Deeside Road, Aberdeen, AB12 5LF



Upon the mention of the words 'martial arts', European origins may not immediately spring to mind.

The term “martial arts” is derived from Latin meaning “arts of Mars,” the Roman god of war. As early as the 1550s the term “martial art” was used in regard to fighting skills; the term first appeared in an English fencing manual of 1639 referring specifically to the science and art of swordplay.

European martial arts are currently undergoing an exciting revival and resurgence worldwide.

What are Western Martial Arts (WMA) and Historical European Swordsmanship (HES)?

The term Western Martial Arts refers to the overall compilation of arts, while Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or Historical European Swordsmanship (HES) refers to those branches of the WMA that focus upon traditional weapons and related unarmed techniques.

How do we know about them?

From the late 13th Century, European Masters at Arms recorded their techniques and methods into print, detailing theories, principles, approaches and techniques of their particular weapons and teaching styles. It is directly from these historical treatises that we can research and revive these same systems and techniques. These can be used to instruct students in unarmed combat, knife fighting and defence, swordplay, the use of polearms, and even mounted combat.

There are numerous treatises; many have been translated and more are currently undergoing translation and interpretation by a growing world-wide community of enthusiasts, martial artists, and scholars.

We are proud to be part of the re-discovery and reconstruction of an effective and battle-tested martial art from our very own culture.

How can they be studied?

There are several ways in which they can be studied:

Firstly, through research of the aforementioned treatises, such as those written by Talhoffer, Ringeck and Fiore dei Liberei. Secondary sources of information include works by Captain Alfred Hutton, Ancient Maister Terry Brown's "English Martial Arts" and Christian Henry Tobler's "Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship".

Secondly, Historical Swordsmanship can be studied through practical experimentation. This involves experimentation based on the form of the weapon, practice of techniques researched, which take the form of drills or patterns, and freeplay under different conditions. Freeplay is done at varying levels according to skill levels of the participants. Both wooden and steel weapons are used during this practice, whilst also using the appropriate protection.

Finally, we involve ourselves in dialogue, both within the group and with other students and instructors around the world. In this way we can encourage people to question what we have learned, and explore the techniques that will help us further our research and understanding.

How is Historical European Swordsmanship different from modern sport fencing?

Historical swordsmanship is subtly different to sport fencing. Unlike sport fencers we use replica weapons and train using the same treatises that people used historically. However the main difference is in the mindset. Where sport fencing is about in scoring touches, historical swordsmanship is about developing ourselves as martial artists.

Often sport fencers use very risky moves in order to score a point, we simply cannot do this, as our mindset tells us that our opponent's weapon is deadly to us. We also employ a wide range of moves and techniques that would get you banned for life from any sport fencing competition, but may save your life in a fight.

Many sport fencers take up Historical Swordsmanship to add the techniques learnt to their repertoire and futher their ability as a swordsman.

Why learn a western martial art when there are more established martial arts in the world?

Martial arts are not the sole domain of the Eastern cultures. Wherever there was war, battles and fighting, martial arts techniques were developed to enhance the skill and efficiency of fighters. Western/European cultures also developed sophisticated fighting techniques both with and without weapons. Modern day people from the west have never had a martial art they could call their own, until now...

Would it not be more satisfying, rewarding and meaningful to learn such a martial art? Those from an Eastern background will be amazed at the similarities between the styles.

Are they practical?

The overall aim of the class will be to learn how to sword fight, this includes; practising and drilling in unarmed techniques. Learning these techniques will enable you to develop advanced self-defence skills such as being able to defend yourself against knife attacks, or even against being struck with a baseball bat. The techniques developed by the historical masters which worked 500 years ago, will work just as well today.

Further Information

  • Read an article about Classical Fencing/Historical Swordsmanship click here.
  • Read an article about Western Martial Arts click here.



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