Frequently Asked Questions:

What is HEMA?
HEMA is a global standard acronym for “Historical European Martial Arts”. For decades, Eastern martial arts have been the focus of public awareness without too much coverage of traditional Western martial arts. The “Historical” aspect becomes important as it requires a certain amount of research and interpretation from historical document sources. The exact definition of the period “HEMA” covers is not clear but can be broadly said to encompass 1200 through to 1700 – although the exact date span can be quoted even further apart.

HEMA is a diverse term that can be overused to describe a particular activity, and that can get some purists a little irritated! HEMA covers the following specific sports:

  • Two-handed longsword
  • Side sword/single handed
  • Sword and buckler
  • Rapier
  • Saber
  • Dagger
  • Clubs/maces
  • Staff/Poll weapons
  • Wrestling (Ringen)

More information can be found here

How old do I need to be?
Although we have conducted basic training with children as young as 5-years-old; the minimum age that we accept people at regular training sessions is 18-years-old. If you are younger than this and wish to train/participate, feel free to send us a message and the TLA committee will evaluate each application on its merits. We have a spread of ages at regular training, from 21 up to 60-years old.

Do I need to be physically fit?
No. It helps as this is a very physical sport but you do not need to be a supreme specimen of physical performance to join! Attitude is a key determinator, balanced with a realistic understanding of what you are capable of. If you wish to become fitter, HEMA is a great way to do it but there is no obligation to do so. All sessions begin with a warm-up which is designed to get the blood flowing and muscles into a state ready to be stretched out, prior to the actual session focus. Some things you will not be able to do due to fitness or a physical injury – it is up to you to let TLA know so that we can accommodate your needs. Many members do not practice Ringen (wrestling) due to bad backs or dodgy joints. This is absolutely fine – just be aware of and responsible for your own well-being. We will always endeavour to include and encourage those with life-altering/profound physical disabilities but we also need to take a practical view on reasonable changes that we are able to make.

What kit do I need?
Not much, initially – it all depends on what your goals are for participating and becoming a member of the TLA. We DO NOT recommend anyone simply buys all the kit and turns up, that is a high risk strategy. See our KIT GUIDE here. Standard gym kit is all that is required to begin, although we do insist on indoor-only shoes (i.e. footwear that is never worn outside). This is for safety reasons and care of the facility we train in.

Bring your own water bottle to all sessions and NEVER wear skinny jeans when training!

Once you decide that the TLA is for you, and you know what your objectives are, we will be able to advise you on what kit you should buy and from where – ensuring as far as possible – you get the right stuff first time.

Do people get injured?
Yes of course, but not often and we have never had anyone go to hospital or even end up in a cast as a result of our training and sparring. We have an insurance approved risk assessment which can be read via the policy documents page.

Global research is forever ongoing into typical injuries in the various disciplines of HEMA. At TLA, when injuries do occur, they are always of the ‘minor’ variety and usually as a result kit failure or lack of control by a combatant. Bruised fingers or finger tips are most common followed by body or trunk bruising caused by undefended hits. Whilst TLA actively tries to minimise these injuries, a good bruise is also a good lesson on how to block properly! We wish to maintain and improve our excellent safety record so we do not allow people to sparr/fight until deemed ready by the instructors – usually a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks for nylon swords, and 12+ months for steel weapons (blunt).

Can I bring my own weapons to a session?
Default answer: NO! We have all seen the horror stories on YouTube of members of the public “going wild” in their garden with the latest internet/eBay weapon purchase and ending up with horrific injuries. Unless you are experienced and comfortable in the world of historical weaponry, it is too easy to buy something Conan would be seen with but will shatter upon sword-on-sword contact. Once you have been at TLA for a while, you will probably invest in your own kit specifically for HEMA, and we will guide you; these weapons purchased with guidance from us and through responsible retainers are absolutely fine to bring along as they are part of your sport kit. Naturally, if you are an experienced HEMA practitioner, you should bring your own kit and weapon(s).


Which is better, the katana or medieval longsword?
Go away and do some research. Never ask us this again.

What is your diversity policy?
Fully inclusive.  Live and let live is our motto. Negativity towards others shall not be tolerated but in the same spectrum, those forcing their opinions on others will also be warned to cease immediately. Frank and open discussion is fine, but not whilst at TLA which is considered neutral ground where all are united together in historical sports.

We will always endeavour to include and encourage those with life-altering/profound physical or mental disabilities but we also need to take a practical view on reasonable changes that we can make to do so. We need to ensure that not only the affected individual can enjoy and progress, but so too can our other members.