What are Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)?

The Chicago Swordplay Guild (CSG) provides organized instruction in the serious study and practice of historical European swordplay and close quarter combat of the 14th – 17th centuries. Founded in 1999, the Guild is a modern school of swordsmanship and martial arts that seeks to be consistent with the methodology of the ancient European fencing schools by combining scholarship and research into the teachings of the historical Masters at Arms with the practical knowledge gained through solo drills,  partnered exercises, test-cutting with sharp weapons, fencing with specially-designed, blunt weapons and wrestling.

We do not train in a modern sport or theatrical display; techniques are taught in reference to how they were used in real combat. Therefore, the Guild practices with an absolute emphasis on safety, control, competence, and skill at arms.

What are Western Martial Arts (WMA) and Historical European Swordsmanship (HES)?

The rich tradition of European armed and unarmed martial arts is documented back to the 13th century. While some of these arts have survived to this day, many were discarded over the centuries as new weapons and methods of combat rose to take their place. Western Martial Arts (WMA) refers to the overall family of arts, while Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or Historical European Swordsmanship (HES) refers to those branches of the WMA family that focus upon traditional weapons and may or may not be reconstructions of systems with no living lineage.

john-trey-cropped-1Fortunately, from the year 1300 generation after generation of Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish Masters at Arms recorded their methods in pictures and words. These treatises instruct students in unarmed combat, knife fighting and defense, swordplay, the use of polearms, and mounted combat. Currently dozens of these texts are undergoing translation and interpretation by a growing world-wide community of enthusiasts, martial artists, and scholars. The Chicago Swordplay Guild is proud to be part of the re-discovery and reconstruction of an effective and battle-tested Western martial arts tradition.

You can find out a great deal more about the martial arts we study under the Tradition, an overview of our Curriculum, and where to find us under Classes. We welcome visitors interested in training or learning more about European swordsmanship, just be sure to contact us first, to let us know that you would like to observe a class and we’ll arrange a date.