About us

The Historical European Martial Arts Club is a Registered Student Organization at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It exists to help students and community members learn and practice “western martial arts,” traditions of self defense that were developed in the European middle ages and Renaissance.

HEMAC's members attempt to accurately reproduce the skills and techniques used by warriors of the past. To this end, it works with established practitioners and studies hitorical fighting manuals written by “masters of defense.” We primarily study armed combat technique, with particular focus on the German longsword.

Western martial arts should not be confused with modern sport fencing, which emphasizes competition and does not attempt to be historically accurate or a real martial art. (Although there is some overlap of skills.) Similarly, HEMA is unconnected to “boffing,” role-playing or stage combat. These are all fine activities but not martial arts.

How Do You Train?

HEMAC organizes regular meetings for physical training. We train with wooden practice weapons and steel facsimiles, working with partners to practice a variety of historical techniques and exercises.

While there will always be some element of danger involved in what we do, HEMAC prides itself on valuing safety above all else, and trains in ways that minimize risk.

Second only to safety is our goal of historical accuracy, which we attempt to meet through adherence to the historical sources and attention to physical skill. HEMAC belongs to the Association for Renaissance & Medieval Swordsmanship, which is active in researching and interpretting historical combat technique.

Can I Join?

HEMAC is an open organization, and anyone is free to join. No prior experience with martial arts is required (although a background in fencing or Eastern Martial Arts doesn't hurt either). The only real requirement is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

Similarly, while most of our members have invested in their own equipment—and we encourage everyone to do so—we can provide basic training equipment. Comfortable clothing and good footwear is recommended though.

When and Where Do You Meet?

HEMAC holds practice sessions several times a week, generally in Boyden Gymnasium. Many of its members participate in the more academic, interpretive meetings held by ARMS. We also arrange demonsrations and participate in various UMass events. See the schedule for details.

If you have questions about HEMAC, please contact us.