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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is HEMA? I've seen that in some articles on swordfighting.
HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts, the combat techniques used in Europe throughout history. ARMA specifically studies the fighting styles and techniques used in Europe during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Thus, we usually refer to our art by the more precise terms of MARE (Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe) or RMA (Renaissance Martial Arts). EMA, however, refers to Eastern Martial arts; those originating in Asia.

Q: Martial Art? But this isn't karate!
That is kind of like saying, "An automobile? But it's not a Toyota!" The term "martial arts" refers to "the arts of Mars, the god of war". In other words, any combat technique. Technically, even what the military teaches today is martial arts, even though it now involves assault rifles, grenades, and carpet bombing.

Thanks to television and movies, the first things that pop to most people's mind when you say "martial art" are things like karate, kung fu, Power Rangers, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, American Ninja vs. Godzilla, etc. For years, it was commonly thought that the European fighting man was little more than a Neanderthal with a big knife. We have since learned, however, that he had a fighting system every bit as complex, effective, and beautiful as that of the samurai.

Q: Do you do any reenacting?
No. We don't reenact battles, we don't dress up like elves (although we do have a historical fighting uniform we occasionally use for demonstrations), and we don't have tournaments. We are simply interested in learning about and mastering the art of historical swordplay (although we do have a lot of fun dueling with each other).

Q: I have three black belts in Kung Fu, I'm a master of Kendo, a maestro of fencing, I've got every episode of "Highlander" on DVD, and I'm a knight in...
Whoa, buddy! The first question is, "Do you want to learn RMA, or are you just here to try and show off?"

Reenactment groups are a lot of fun, so is watching movies and television. Sport fencers, kendo masters, and karate experts are great athletes and have a lot of cool moves.

But it isn't what we do.

While we strongly encourage our members to learn other martial arts, the best thing you can do when taking our classes is like Stephen Covey says in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"...

"Seek first to understand and then to be understood."

The difference between sport fencing and RMA longsword is akin to the difference between riding a bicycle and a motorcycle; one does not make you an expert on the other. Once, one of our members was discussing longsword with a fellow who was a self-proclaimed "self-taught expert". The "expert" demonstrated a totally worthless guard that in a real duel would have gotten him killed in ten seconds. He insisted that it was "the only guard you would ever need", and refused to listen to our member trying to point out that his "guard" left his entire right side and half of his left side open to attack. That is the kind of foolishness we are trying to avoid.

If you are an accomplished martial artist, reenactor, or sport fencer, great, we will welcome you with open arms. All that we ask is that you clear your mind of what you have been previously taught, and learn what we are teaching you. Once you have achieved a degree of knowledge and skill in RMA, and understand what we are doing and where we are coming from, you can then put your prior training to good use, and become a real help to us. ("Hey guys, I know what this freaky German dagger move is; we have the same move in Leaping Lizard Kung Fu. Watch...")

Q: Why are you called the North Siders if you practice in Missouri City?
Originally there was only one Study Group in Houston which practiced in Missouri City, and most of our regular members at that time lived on the north side of Houston. When another group formed in the Friendswood/Clear Lake area (now defunct), we tried to find a new practice location further north, but nobody in town could give us a better deal than Missouri City, so although we hail from the north, we practice in the south because that's what invading Northmen do.


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