HEMA: Safe conduct of classes

Catling and Pritchard practising sword and bucler at May Melee 2014Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is the serious study and live application of combat techniques from the early Medieval period, through the Renaissance, to the late Nineteenth century.

HEMA is not a fantasy activity like LARP (Live Action Role-playing), it is not historical re-enactment, nor is it choreographed stage fighting. It should be treated the same as other martial arts such as boxing, karate, ju-jitsu and the like. This means a constant and strict regard for the risk of injury, with appropriate steps (instruction, donning protective gear) to mitigate and minimise such risk.

As such classes will be conducted in an environment that is:

Safe in respect of the techniques as demonstrated and taught

Open in that anyone participating is empowered to call a halt on safety grounds at any time; they may question the legitimacy or safety of any part of a lesson or drill; they may decline to participate in any lesson or drill that they themselves feel is beyond their ability or capacity to execute safely (for themselves or others)

Considered in respect of the abilities, knowledge and physical capabilities of the students.

In practical terms this means:

  • You should not be asked to execute any drill considered beyond your knowledge or capabilities, or to carry it out at the wrong intensity, or without proper safety gear.
  • If you ever feel unsafe – speak up. Lower the intensity and speed until you are comfortable and not fearing for your safety.
  • If you still feel unsafe at any time, stop what you’re doing and say thanks but no. Be absolutely certain on this and never give way under peer pressure on basic personal safety.
  • Your training partner is exactly that; your partner, not your enemy, both you and they should recognise the need to dial back the intensity of a drill if it is getting too hard, fast, or beginning to slide toward dangerous play likely to cause an injury.

We do this for fun: look after each other, be safe.


A takeaway version of this and the other safety posts mentioned is available here as a PDF (2MB).