Want to Learn Sword Fighting in Portsmouth?
“So does this noble science defend the body from wounds & slaughter. And moreover, the exercising of weapons puts away aches, griefs, and diseases, it increases strength, and sharpens the wits.”- George Silver 1599
Twice a week I get to hit people with swords.
It’s OK though, they get to hit me back. In fact they’re very good at it.
Do I run some kind of bizarre underground medieval fight club? Not at all. All these people are talented athletes and historians training with genuine fencing techniques from the 17th and 18th century British Isles.
Some of these swords-people are martial artists with a love for history.
Some of them are looking to get fit and meet friends with the same interests.
Some of them just enjoy knowing they could take Zorro in a sword fight (to each his own).
Either way we all love the clash of the broadsword in your hand when you land a parry. The thunk when you place a thrust with the quarterstaff. The ringing when a steel sword slides off your buckler.
We love HEMA!
What is HEMA?
Real swords. Real techniques. Real good fun.
HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts. See we’re not the only ones who love this fast growing hobby. Clubs all over the world right now are practising things like 16th Century Italian Rapier, 19th Century Napoleonic Sabre and 14th Century German Longsword.
Fighting styles from all over Europe, from all periods of history (or at least the ones where people wrote stuff down!).
But how do we study all these styles?
How do you learn anything? We read the instruction manual.
Fencing masters back in the day enjoyed selling books and getting famous, just like today. So they wrote down all their tips and techniques in tell-all manuals.
Once we rediscovered them in old collections and private libraries we practised what was inside.
A little trial and error and you get a worldwide practice of HEMA we can all enjoy and compete in!
What kind of swordsmanship do you study?
Why stop at swords?
The people of the Isles trained in a range of martial arts styles we study including:
- Basket Hilted Broadsword- The foundation of our study. Favourite of the Highland warrior, the Stage gladiator, the duellist, the soldier and the fencing masters of the British Isles. Men and women who proved the effectiveness of the style at home and around the globe as far as America and India.
- Broadsword and dagger- An offhand option and a favourite of some of our students. Offers a few more opportunities for sneaky techniques.
- Broadsword and buckler- Another offhand option, you’ll find the buckler to your liking if you prefer something more defensive.
- Broadsword and Highland Targe- A strapped wooden shield, favourite of the highland clansmen. There aren’t many historical manuals around describing larger shield techniques so you’ll definitely enjoy this is you prefer a slight medieval flavour to your training.
- Bayonet- Only two 18th century bayonet fencing manuals exist as far as we know. Fencing masters of the Isles argued for centuries over the sword vs the bayonet, we get to enjoy trying it for ourselves.
- Smallsword- Made for thrusting and a favourite for duellists and street brawlers alike. Anyone trained in Olympic fencing will recognise this as the ancestor of the fencing foil.
- Halberd- Halberds, English Bills, Half pikes, all kinds of British pole-arms. It might surprise you that weapons so large can be so technical to fence with.
- Shillelagh- “Bataireacht” was the old name given to Irish fencing with one or two sticks. We don’t have as many written techniques for these as other weapons, but some Irish families keep the style alive to this day.
- Quarterstaff- A very English weapon. Most quarterstaff fighting you’ll see on the big screen is technically “half staff” when held in the middle to strike with both ends. In China the spear is called the “king of weapons”, here that title goes to the Quarterstaff.
We practice styles from eleven manuscripts in total with a list available here. Most are available online but it’s fine if you don’t want to study them yourselves. We teach you every technique in those manuals step by step.
Don’t I need to be fit to practice HEMA?
It helps but the good news is everyone starts at square one when it comes to HEMA, the specific muscles used for swordsmanship aren’t usually trained in any other kind of hobby.
The best way to get fit for sword fighting…is fighting with swords.
Fencing might mainly be a game of technique and staying calm under pressure, but it’s also a great workout.
Is HEMA safe?
Safety gear must be worn when practising, a fencing mask with extra protection depending on the weapon; jackets, rigid gorgets, elbow knee and shin guards, protective gloves.
All swords etc are specially forged for HEMA practice with rounded tips and edges.
Safety when training is our number one priority.
Can I compete in HEMA?
Yes! If you want to.
There are competitions and events all over the UK and around the world if you’re feeling adventurous.
Each weapon style has it’s own competitions. While rules may vary between tournaments, good fencing will always win the day.
You’ll also find classes run alongside tournaments where you can experience styles from other countries and make the trip even more memorable.
Make friends, then hit them with swords
When you train with us you’re part of a team where everyone helps each other out during practice.
You’ll develop your own unique fencing style over time and challenge your training partners with something new each week.
Regular social events and sparring days on the weekend let students enjoy themselves outside of weekly classes.
For even more fencing and socialising you can visit other clubs! Ruthlessly steal techniques from other clubs to confound your sparring partners back home.
How do I start?
Learning British swordsmanship opens up a world of fun and fencing with new friends. It’s getting to experience history, satisfy your inner sword fan and get fit while doing it.
The best way to get started is by taking some lessons from an experienced coach and surrounding yourself with great people who’ve all been where you are. Starting from the very beginning.
Our three week beginner swordsmanship course takes you from total novice to being able to join in with group sparring and move on to other styles like Broadsword and shield devices, Smallsword, Quarterstaff, and more.
You’ll learn the basics of attack and defence with the Broadsword including:
- Footwork and posture
- Three guards
- Eight angles of attack
- Three types of feints
- Four ripostes
- The four fundamentals of the British martial arts (Distance, Judgement, Time and Intention)
We’ll lend you a training sword and mask in class so you can get started safely. Students are allowed to spar after their first lesson but we recommend you complete the course before joining in with sparring.
The beginner course is priced at £30 per person for three weeks of training, and includes a free week of membership at the end so you can get a taste of our regular classes after you finish the course.
If after your first session of training you feel like HEMA isn’t for you, we’ll refund your money no questions asked.
The course is only run once every six weeks and places are limited, it’s best to email early to reserve your place and avoid disappointment.