Historical Fencing

The development of the HEMA-movement

The modern movements of the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or also called Western Martial Arts (WMA) have developed in the past 20 years. In the late 1980s there was a dissertation written by Dr. Hans-Peter Hils about the meaning and importance of fencing manuals in the German literary history.
Based on Dr. Hils’ work, Dr. Rainer Welle wrote his dissertation about the wrestling masters of the German school.

Those two works were the fundaments of what we call HEMA nowadays. These two dissertations contained all the information about where all the manuscripts were hidden in the libraries and even more important, they included the library codes.

In the mid-1990’s, a man named Christoph Kaindel, who later became one of the founders of the Lichtenauer Fechter (aka Dreynschlag), translated the manuscript of Sigmund Ringeck into modern German. This translation made it possible that the very first official training’s manual was written by John Clements.

In the later 1990’s, clubs all around the world were founded, most of them in Central Europe. Their main goal was to discover the manuscripts, translate them, transliterate them (bring them from handwritten versions to easy readable printed versions) and most importantly interpret the meaning of the written texts. Especially the last one was the most difficult task, because the techniques and the system have been extinct for at least the last 200 years. So the journey had begun.

At the beginning every club interpreted the texts for themselves and there was no sharing of knowledge, because no club knew the other one. In 2001, an unofficial association was brought into life – the HEMAC – the Historical European Martial Arts Coalition. In the same breath they started the very first international gathering of HEMA activists at Dijon (hosted by De Taille et d’estoc). Ever since then, this event has been organized annually in the past 10 years.

By today, when the second or maybe even the third generation of active fencers have appeared, there is no further need of new interpretations, most of the old books are completed and fully elaborated. But there was a need for the “newbies” to get combatative and lots of tournaments started to take place. Even a World Championship is staged every two years in Hannover.

Of course HEMA was an absolute new kind of sport with no comparable discipline out there in the world of fighting sports. So in the beginning, the martial artists stole a lot of equipment from different sports e.g. ice hockey, lacrosse, kendo and of course sport fencing. But as most of them say, this is not enough and also not acceptable for the future, especially if there will be more and more official tournaments with standardised rules.

This is why the PBT historical fencing equipment line was established. As one of the very first developers of a full HEMA line, we provide jackets, trousers, gloves, throat guards, arm guards and mask covers especially made for HEMA sports.

Ing. Harald Winter

Member of Dreynschlag, Main in charge for the Dreynevent and
Founder of the Austrian Federation for Historical Martial Arts