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HEMA = Historical European Martial Arts

Europe has old fighting traditions. Our knights and warriors fought since far before year zero. Thousands of years’ experience is available in the museum and historical events. Many groups have studied and even copied old battles. For example, see the enclosed movie of the battle of Waterloo.

European fighting is entirely different from the Asian ways. Our Western approach is direct, simple, and rude. In battle, we go for as many casualties as possible in a minimum of time. Most fighters on the battlefield were relatively untrained and often farmers. Education and army training had no priority. But this became different when the Roman entered history and reshaped the way of fighting. Battles became tactical games; soldiers had to pass years of training and introduced a solid hierarchical system.

After the Roman empire was gone, only the shadows of their disciplined lifestyle and strategy were left over. The castles and knights became centers of oppression and aggression. Civilians only could fear the people in power. Many were butchered by the people who had to protect them. The ruling parties held tournaments to impress each other and keep up with new skills and performances.

Weaponry did not change for centuries. The first changes came with the introduction of muskets and other weapons firepower. After that, gunpowder made the difference, and many traditional weapons became extinct. Armies became organized, and warlords changed into governments. However, time did change the way we fought and how we thought. Hand-to-hand fighting had no priority anymore.

In 1989 I was requested to design the stage battles for the Nationale Toneel (the Dutch National Stage). To create real battle-like situations, I had to redesign the weaponry, fighting systems and train the fighters. My many years of interest in how our fighting survived the ages suddenly became valuable.

The fighting was realistic and spectacular.

HEMA is currently back in the picture, and the interest is growing. The ancient fighting arts of Europe are on revival, and if you are interested, there are many ways now to learn and participate in it.  

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