New Jersey Historical Fencing Association (NJHFA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the practice and study of the martial arts of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. In the modern world, this Art is often called Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) or simply historical fencing. The term “fencing” historically denotes all manners of the art and science of defense, with or without weapons. As the study of HEMA greatly diminished by the 18th century, and was all but extinct by the 19th due to the prevalence of firearms, it has not been widely practiced for over two-hundred years. However, this martial art has seen a revival in the last twenty-five years which would not have been possible without the martial arts treatises written by our ancient combat masters. Over a hundred of these source texts are extant, and they span from the late 13th century to the 18th. Our study of this martial art is derived from these fencing books, or fechtbucher, as they’ve come to be known by their German term, and these texts therefore make this both a physical and academic pursuit.
The term “Historical European Martial Arts” (HEMA) refers to a wide array of martial disciplines traditionally practiced in Europe and its
colonies. These consist of the following:
The NJHFA is a member of a larger umbrella organization dedicated to historical fencing called the Historical Fencing Affiliates (HFA). This group is a collective of autonomous fencing organizations that have united under a common ranking system and declaration. Thus, the NJHFA is part of a much larger whole! Dedicated martial artists from HEMA clubs across the United States, Greece, and Turkey all share ideas, videos, training regimens, and gatherings in order to enrich and enhance our martial studies. Membership with NJHFA also then includes membership in the HFA, and all members communicate regularly through ane-mail listserv on Google Groups (see below).
You may try out four free classes before you decide whether or not to join. Membership costs $50/month and is due on the first of the month. Once a member, you will be added to the HFA Google Groups e-mail listserv which we use to speak on a whole host of training topics with our other affiliated groups.
The NJHFA utilizes a ranking system that has been adopted by all member organizations of the HFA. Therefore, ranks earned in the NJHFA are recognized by many groups all over the country! The ranks are historically based (ranks in italics are historical): Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost.
You are expected to buy your own equipment when you become a member. Minimally, you’ll need a sword (a synthetic or plastic practice sword is cheaper than buying a steel sword), a 3-W fencing mask with a bib, and hand protection designed for HEMA (lacrosse gloves will NOT do). Men should wear an athletic cup. The most basic equipment costs usually run about $250 + tax and shipping.
The study of our Art can essentially take three tracks. The first is the traditional martial arts track. This track is focused on physical training and exercise coupled with study of the fechtbucher, our source texts. This traditional track utilizes the HFA ranking system. The second is the academic track. Here, a member is focused on the very fertile ground of research within our Art. It should be noted that the academic track does not participate in our ranking system. The third is the tournament track, which focuses on preparing for competitive sparring and may not include study of the source texts. These tracks are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and so practitioners who want to participate in tournaments, for example, can certainly also be involved in the traditional track. Academics are welcome to train as well!
NJHFA is on Facebook and Twitter (@NJHFA), but we most often communicate via listservs. As noted above, there are two separate Google Groups e-mail listservs that we use, and as a member, you have access to both. The first is for internal NJHFA matters and the second is for communication between members of the Historical Fencing Affiliates. Both of these listservs can be accessed either through the Google Groups web site interface at https://groups.google.com or via your e-mail.
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