The acronym AMHE (European Historical Martial Arts) has been in use since the beginning of the years 2000. For years 90 in Europe, a passionate contagion seized practitioners of combat sports, academics, of dreamers, sometimes all three at the same time in the way our medieval ancestors fought, to understand and reproduce the warlike gesture. Since this is a contemporary phenomenon under construction, the understanding assumptions are not necessarily fixed and remain partially incomplete.
HEMA is a martial art because it refers to the art of the god Mars, roman god of war, which contains all the principles and techniques used in combat. The art of men who with various weapons, at various times and various techniques have been able to protect an idea, a piece of land, a group of humans. This art is historical because it is based on direct sources (combat treaties) and peripherals (iconographic, chronicles, regulations, archaeological objects, etc.) and European because these sources come from a defined cultural space, l’Europe.
The transmission of the art of medieval combat was interrupted by various factors. Schools like techniques and weapons have evolved with the times, the changes brought about by the war, the sophistication of powder weapons or the very evolution of society. Today the historical European martial arts cannot be studied in their original conditions : we do not live in a medieval community or a city-state, nor are we engaged in judicial or honorable duels, not prepared for a period war. The study of HEMA is not a matter of life and death. The resurrection of skills in the art of combat is only an approximation, even very close, of the reality of an era.
To start the study of the warlike gesture well, you need a process, a so-called scientific approach, to credit the work done. The main material is the written records left to us by fencing masters through what we call gun books (Fencing books) also called combat treaties or fencing treaties.
Weapons masters have left their knowledge in gun books which form an important body of manuscripts dealing with the art of combat and fencing. They include in the majority the period of XIIIe century to rebirth. The treatises set out combat techniques generally divided into sections, depending on the weapons used. Each of its sections is itself divided into pieces that correspond to techniques or to its sequences. Understanding the texts and their martial analyzes also require work and discussions., hand guns, in our weapons rooms, during seminars and internships. Translation of treaties is one thing, his interpretation is another. We start from the postulate that ancient and historical fencing is a language composed of many dialects, a language that is spoken with the body, the senses, not only with the verb. What makes a fighter, regardless of school, the master, the Treaty, the origin or the time will come to be understood by his disciple, his partner, his opponent and, leaving, his enemy.
HEMA is distinguished from the performing arts even if mounted combat draws its sources from historical combat. Show fencing is a modality designed for the show. In that case, there is no established rigid form, suddenly there are many variations on the subject as well as a wide variety of weapons used. We do not seek the effectiveness of the fight (as we hear in historical fencing), movements are amplified with long exchanges of blows, reels, jumping, kicks or cuffs and acrobatics of all kinds, enough to have the bib hole punched if we were in reality as my master at arms says so well (in sports fencing). We are far from the actual reality of the fight. The fight is simulated, choreographed to allow fluidity in the sequence of movements and thus give the impression of a real fight while escaping the dangerousness of the act (there is little or no protection).