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Western Martial Arts FAQ's PDF Print E-mail


In today's modern culture the term "martial arts" has come to be associated primarily with Asian martial arts but this is misleading as most cultures typically develop martial systems in order to defend themselves in a variety of circumstantial contexts.  " Western Martial Arts" is a term used to collectively describe the martial arts systems of the Western world.  Western cultures, particularly those of the European regions, are unique in that many of history's practitioners chose to write about their arts, very often in explicit detail and an impressive number of these manuscripts, manuals, articles and books have survived to the modern day.  This has enabled modern practitioner's a wide array of system's to research and explore and in recent decades a burgeoning movement to reclaim these arts has emerged across the world.

Western martial traditions encompass many different systems, and a wide variety of contexts including, but not limited to, hand-to-hand grappling, pugilism, dagger combat, a wide assortment of swords, sword and shields (including bucklers, targes, rondella, and duelling shields), poleaxes, spears and other polearms, equestrian combat, siege combat, bayonet, and more.

Since Western Martial Arts systems can be traced so far across history it is important to understand that this means there is a large selection of sword systems to enjoy.  Historically, the sword served a variety of purposes depending on context and therefore, a variety of swords were developed to accommodate them as needed.  Western Martial Arts typically only refers to those systems for which use can be verifiably documented to some significant detail.  These include, among others, the arming or knightly swords, longswords, rapiers, (so-called) sideswords, smallswords, and sabres.

The specific context for the construction and use of any martial art is an important matter and the European systems are no different in this regard.  Documented systems are known for many contexts including personal self defence, fighting multiple attackers, liesure fencing (tournaments and gentlemanly pursuits), fighting from horseback, judicial duels, the "gentlemans" duel, and much, much more.  While most martial artists tend to focus on interpersonal combat a lot of mass combat (warfare, etc.) material does survive as well.



Many names have surfaced to encompass the various Western Martial Arts (WMA) and Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA).  Other titles include Historical Martial Arts, Historical Fencing, and European Martial Arts.  The Western Martial Arts Coalition has chosen to use the "Western" moniker as research continues and inevitably more material will emerge from both North and South America, some of which will not easily be categorized as specifically European.  Additionally, their are several known indiginous 'living traditions' from many of these regions that are growing in the public awareness and these do not appropriately fit under the "European" moniker.  Understandings of these so-called New World Arts are only just emerging and so "Western" applies more fastidiously to include them.



Just as with the Asian Martial Arts, the Western Martial Arts are being practiced by individuals from all walks of life from rich to poor, male and female and all manner of ethnographic backgrounds.  There is no specific or singular demographic iinterested in these arts.


People come to Western Martial Arts for a variety of reasons.  Some are seduced by the romance of historical times, some wish to expand thier understandings of a foreign culture or perhaps their own cultural heritages.  Others are drawn by the physical activity itself, the workout opportunities, and enjoy the physical challenges that are inherent.  Others still are are drawn for the competitive aspects of fencing or grappling against other practitioners.  Some folks are interested in the research side of the Western Martial Arts as it allows them to expand and explore their interests in history.  The list goes on....



This is the easy part!  Depending on your area of interest, you have a variety of opportunities and this site can help you.  If you are interested in finding a group to train with, you can click on the "Training Opportunities" button on the home page where you will find listings with contact information of numerous clubs around the world known to be teaching or studying these arts.  Alternatively, you are recommended to go to the discussion forum to seek additional help as not all clubs have an online presence but may be known to other practitioners.

Fear not if you are unable to find an existing club in your area!  You can always start your own study group by simply finding one or two training partners that share your interest.  It's a lot easier than you might think, after all, this is how most practitioners began.  You will find our discussion forum is a great place to seek out good advice from people that can relate to your struggle and are more than willing to help you.  Before you know it you'll be taking Western Martial Arts to new levels and providing a valuable service by helping spread Western Martial Arts in your area.

It is highly recommended that you endeavour to improve your understandings by attending local, national, and international Western Martial Arts events where you will find other instructors to help in your studies.  The Western Martial Arts Coalition's International Gathering is a great place to get started and check the events page often, as local WMAC events are always cropping up.


If you are interested in becoming involved in the ongoing research efforts to uncover more information on the Western Martial Arts or have language skills that you think might be useful in translating some of the existing material, please inquire at the discussion forum or contact the site administrator.



(If you are interested in having your club's contact information added to the Training Opportunities List please contact the site administrator at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )






Last Updated on Thursday, 10 September 2009 20:39

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