The New Jersey Historical Fencing Association (NJHFA) is a LLC 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 focuses heavily on pedagogy. As such, teaching others is a core principle of our martial arts school. The rank structure (below) reflects this value, as the upper ranks are required to take on more and more teaching responsibilities. Teaching others is a vital component to learning and understanding a martial art, and our instructors are dedicated to improving their own pedagogical skills.
A novice is expected to focus on learning the rudiments of the art. They are also expected to begin buying their own equipment.
The serious student. A scholar is one who has demonstrated both dedication to the study of historical fencing and has developed proficiency with the rudiments of the art.
A free scholar is one who has proven themselves in a prizing--a series of bouts against different opponents-- and has also begun to teach classes. A free scholar is knowledgeable about our historical sources.
An instructor who has demonstrated strong proficiency with pedagogy and has successfully completed a prizing with at least three different weapons.
A lead instructor who has demonstrated command of the art, most notably through his or her teachings. A master must demonstrate his or her capabilities in a prizing of at least three different weapons.
You may try out two free classes before you decide whether or not to join. Once a member, you will be added to the NJHFA Google Groups e-mail listserv which we use to speak on a whole host of training topics.
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. Click HERE for some suggestions.
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 is a Google Groups e-mail listservs that we use, and as a member, you will have access to it. This listservs can be accessed either through the Google Groups web site interface at https://groups.google.com or via your e-mail.
Click here to learn more about our NJHFA Instructors