About THEMA

Who Are We?

Tampere HEMA is a Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) training group located in Tampere, Finland. In the absence of a prominent local training option, we have organized ourselves into a study group of both advanced students with years of experience and passionate newcomers. We’ve also been fortunate enough to find some of our members willing and capable of teaching what they know. We are well equipped to bring new practitioners into the HEMA community with confidence in our source material and teaching abilities. We stress, however, that we are first and foremost a study group of peers, united in our goal of furthering our knowledge, and not a school run by any master at arms. Differences in interpretation of the techniques found in HEMA are the lifeblood of a thriving global community. We welcome the opportunity to gain new perspective in our training by considering the ideas and experiences of all society members and guests valid and worth exploring.

Our Training Focus

We are dedicated to developing the practical skills of armed combat, not only the specific techniques shown in the manuals we study. While historical texts will form the absolute basis of our training, we are focused on the goal of building proficiency and highly mobile training methods applicable to free play, or sparring, where we can apply what we’ve learned. This is in contrast to some groups who train for largely academic reasons, studying only memorized material from the manuals. In this way we hope to become insightful training partners and evolving martial artists, just as the original practitioners were.

What are Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)?

HEMA is a broad term that encompasses a range of combat arts practiced by European cultures, loosely between the 13th-18th century. Typically, HEMA training and source material involves the use of one or more hand-to-hand weapons, from the dagger to the poleaxe, with wrestling forms often included as the natural result of an armed conflict at close range. The term Western Martial Arts (WMA) can also be applied to HEMA practices, but it implies a much broader range of sources throughout human history, from any culture not considered part of ‘the East’, where most surviving martial arts originated.

It is common conception that unlike other parts of the world, the martial traditions of Europe were either nonexistent or very rudimentary, but in fact we know this was not the case. The occupation of professional soldier has never been absent from any culture in human history. Combat manuals from the middle ages survive to this day, many of which are in private collections or museums, and they provide a window into deep martial traditions built upon centuries of hand-to hand combat, whether between soldiers in battle or in the dueling ring. Now and for the last several decades, scholars and martial artists have rallied to the task of resurrecting these nearly lost arts, and we are fortunate today that we have the opportunity to experience essentially complete martial arts systems derived from these sources. This is made possible through comparison to modern arts that descend from antiquity, cross-referencing with other surviving documents from centuries ago, and the simple fact that physics and the workings of the human body have remained constant.

In short, yes, it’s real. The traditions of armed combat during the middle ages and Renaissance have survived in words and pictures. Human enthusiasm and ingenuity have reconstructed how they were used. It’s an evolving process, with new translations and reinterpretations of the manuals constantly underway, and every HEMA practitioner is proud to be a part of it.