Source Materials and Masters.
Source Materials that form the foundation of HEMA and the Masters of the tradition
As a martial arts tradition, Historical European Martial Arts is not a unified or even a continuous tradition: across the centuries, many Masters had different approaches and pedagogies to swordsmanship, and left behind written records differing in content and context. In that regard, HEMA should not be understood as a continuous and unbroken tradition handed from one Master to the next generation. However, past Masters or Maestros have left with a rich and diverse record of their teachings.
For earlier periods, written sources such as manuscripts and fighting books (German fechtbuch) constitutes the general foundation of HEMA. For later periods, especially in post-Napoleonic era, army manuals aimed at instructing field officers are also considered as primary source materials.
Modern (olympic) fencing, regardless of how much it evolved into a game of tag and touches while its martial arts side was blunted, should also be considered as a valid source for study; since concepts such as time (tempo) and measure (distance) as well as its well developed fencing theory and most of the sword and body mechanics are indisputably enlightening and applicable sources of inspiration for HEMA.
While this martial tradition had seen numerous Masters, systems and various textual sources, two names are more frequently referred to and studied in modern HEMA practice, these names are the Grand Master of German swordsmanship tradition Johannes Liechtenauer and the Italian Fiore de’i Liberi.
In HEMA, various terminologies are preferred when referring to various time periods, weapon systems and differing Masters. As a general trend, earlier sources tend to focus more on one and two handed swords, shield and buckler techniques. Following a natural evolution of the sword form, later periods seen new sword forms such as Rapier, Sidesword and curved blades such as Sabers. While earlier sources tend to be in German and Italian, depending on the preferred tradition, in later periods we tend to have a much wider selection of textual material from a wider cultural area; especially post-Renaissance era we tend to see Italian, Spanish, English and French sources and the terminology and jargon becomes more coloured.
Today HEMA is a globally practiced Martial Arts tradition, with hundreds of clubs and thousands of fighters in Europe, Americas and various Asian countries. Tournaments where practitioners can test the practical applicability of their interpretations are an important aspect of HEMA and various tournaments open to international participation are regularly held around the globe.
Unlike modern (olimpic) fencing, HEMA as a martial art does not have an internationally recognized regulatory federation with any authority. HEMA clubs tends to establish national federations are regulatory organizations within their countries and these national organizations decide the rule sets and set the participation requirements for fighters. Rule sets, judging priorities and tournament rules tend to differ between various tournaments.
Some International tournaments, such as the Swordfish tournament, which also known as “HEMA Olympics” and held in Sweden each Fall as well as the Longpoint tournaments organized in USA, are highly prestigious and are highly competitive events.
HEMA in Turkey is a developing martial art, with increasing participation of various clubs, associations, organizations and fighters from multiple cities.