You will need to wear trainers (the flatter the sole the better). Black jogging bottoms or black combats are recommended as well as a black t-shirt. We'd also recommend bringing along bottle of water.
We will provide you with a training weapon and safety equipment when you start and if you choose to continue, we will give you all the help you need to find quality kit of your own at an affordable price (we frequently place "club" orders with a number of HEMA equipment suppliers).
We have a dress code for a number of reasons. Part of it is down to something as simple as appearance as, while it has its roots in history, the Historical European Martial Arts community is relatively young. For those of us who strive for it to be recognised as a legitimate martial art, we understand that how it is perceived by the outside world plays a big role in that. It doesn’t matter how skilled a combatant is, if they are wearing a t-shirt with a poor joke or slogan on it then they won't be taken seriously.
It also fosters a sense of community and inclusion, we all wear the same uniform because we’re part of the same Academy with the shared goal of improving ourselves and helping each other grow.
It also helps to hide the sweat, so… there’s also that….
We’ll provide you with a suitable "Rawlings" training sword when you start and, as with the safety kit, if you choose to continue we will help you research sites and swordsmiths which provide practical blades.
If you do bring your own weapon, it will be checked for suitability (both in terms of the weapon itself and the level of protective equipment you and your partner will be using).
No. We welcome people who have no training in martial arts, or alternatively, if you have some experience in martial arts and want to try something new, or if you have some training in fencing and want to keep on top of your game then come along and see what we’ve got.
While there are always dangers in any martial art, we seek to create a safe environment with which to practice our art. Masks are worn to protect practitioners from head injuries, safety gloves are worn that protect against blows to the hands and other protective equipment is used in sparring to provide as much protection as possible.
However, as it is a full contact martial discipline, you must expect to receive strikes. If this sounds like it will be too much for you or if you’re afraid of working up a sweat, then this is unlikely something you will enjoy.
Our sessions are very active and wielding a sword can take it out of you. That being said: as long as you are willing to make an effort then we cater to all levels of ability, and if you’re looking to get fitter then this can be a fun and unique way to do it!
Anyone over the age of sixteen is welcome. Unfortunately, if you’re younger than sixteen, then our insurance won’t cover you. This is something we may be able to change in the future.
Several members of the Academy are glasses wearers and we have found that different people take different approaches. Some members fence without their glasses and find that their vision is more than adequate and some members use alternative eyewear (such as contact lenses or sports goggles).
If you can't wear contacts and find that your vision is not suitable then some members do wear glasses during class; however, it is important to realise that this is a full contact martial art and we would recommend that you at least try to get lenses that are designed not to shatter (such as polycarbonate).
HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts and has a growing interest throughout Europe and North America. Events are held all over the world. We have a great deal of respect for the competitions and competition competitors in the HEMA community including our own members. However, we feel that when competition becomes the focus of a martial art, students train in how to win a contest which can re-enforce bad technique. That isn’t to say we won’t foster students’ competitive nature. Rather we wish to prioritise the development techniques that will work and have worked in a duelling or martial context. HEMA is also sometimes referred to as WMA or Western Martial Arts.
Historical re-enactment has been popular in Britain and Europe for a number of years and helps to give us a greater understanding of the function of weapons, military roles and strategies within a historical context. Knowing this allows us to recreate fighting techniques and reconstruct battle tactics employed by Roman generals, Viking raiders and British Field marshals. A common misconception is that these battles are entirely choreographed. Some societies no doubt choreograph the outcome of a battle to match the historical outcome, but there are many examples of re-enactors engaging competitively on a large scale. In terms of combat, while the competitive element can sometimes seem a little tame when compared to the likes of HEMA and there are more limitations and restrictions due to authentic equipment being used... There are few substitutes to getting involved in large scale group combat including dozens or even hundreds of warriors from all over the world.
LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Participants take on the role of fictional characters in fantasy or sci-fi worlds to develop a story. LARP tends to focus on narrative, world building and having fun whereas the Academy focuses on martial combat, that said many LARPs involve combat with swords and other weapons so there is definitely a degree of overlap.
BotN or Battle of the Nations are events where participants clad head to toe in armour use large weapons in order to fell opponents. This will no doubt come with something of a large price tag as the requirements for quality armour will cost a pretty penny. This is also referred to as HMB (Historical Medieval Battles) and Buhurt. We primarily study unarmoured combat in the Academy, however, we have also run several semesters of armoured combat including the use of longswords, poleaxes and daggers; not all of these techniques are allowed in BotN but some certainly are.
The majority of semesters draw inspiration from the late medieval work of Fiore dei Liberi and the many weapons detailed in Fior di Battaglia of which there are multiple surviving versions with extensive details and images. However, other traditions are also studied, both to augment Fiore’s techniques as well as to give some experience of what may be encountered from other practitioners. We expand upon Fiore with other masters of the Imperial Italian Tradition as well as comparing them with German masters such as Andre Lignitzer, Peter von Danzig, Sigmund ain Ringeck and other followers of the Liechtenauer tradition.
A particular focus within the Academy, and a favourite starting point for many students of HEMA is the longsword, one of the most celebrated weapons in history, literature and films. In addition we train techniques with other complimentary weapons including the rondel, a type of dagger used by a variety of people from merchants to knights in Europe during the late Middle Ages and the poleaxe, a long hafted weapon with a steel axe or hammer head designed to punch through the armour of knights and men at arms.
We also study the sword and buckler with the primary source being the I.33 “Anonymous Tower” manuscript complimented by some of the later German masters. The buckler is a small shield that was far more widely used than most people realise, from the latter half of the Middle Ages through into the Renaissance. It was traditionally paired with a one handed sword such as a rapier or falchion – though the Academy typically favours the traditional “knightly” arming sword.
Moving into the Renaissance we explore the use of the sidesword, a form of early rapier, either alone or accompanied with a secondary weapon such as a buckler, dagger or even a cloak. For this we mainly draw upon the sources of Achille Marozzo and Antonio Manciolino but also incorporate lessons from other traditions.
We will also be examining the work of more modern scholars such as Guy Windsor, Roland Warzecha and John Clements among others whose research has gone a long way in allowing us to reconstruct these historical martial arts.
We primarily train in South Wales with venues in and around Cardiff and Caerphilly including venues that are easy to reach from places further afield such as Swansea, Bridgend and Newport. There is parking available at all of the venues and many of our members also use public transport to reach us.
For more details take a look at our contact us page.