The Society for Historical European Martial Arts Studies (SHEMAS) is an idea that turned into a project several years ago. It comes from a need that stems from both the academic and independent researchers’ communities involved into HEMA studies: visibility and recognition.

As I have argued in this article, the scholars dedicated to dance studies in the 1970’s faced the same lack of visibility and of academic recognition. They stumbled upon the same kind of issues: studying bodily knowledge mainly through technical literature and representations. They involved or collaborated with expert practitioners in their research projects. They did two things, the constitution of learned societies (researcher associations) and the publication of a high standard academic journal. These milestones brought them quickly academic visibility and support. From the 1990’s onwards, institutional support turned their emergent field of studies into an established one, with dedicated departments and laboratories popping up worldwide.

This is the line that we aim to follow. We already realised the academic journal (Acta Periodica Duellatorum), which we are improving year after year. Now it is time to constitute a proper learned society.

The Society for Historical European Martial Arts Studies (SHEMAS) will be an academic learned society (non-profit and independent association), networking various patrimonial and academic institutions, affiliated and independent researchers worldwide. It aims to promote HEMA studies, by means of (1) a dedicated website, (2) organising dedicated events (conferences, panels in congresses and workshops), and (3) supporting research (grant proposal, institutional support). The partner organisations ensure scientific visibility (Acta Periodica Duellatorum) and international outreach to the communities of practitioners (International Federation for Historical European Martial Arts).

The membership of Society is not restricted to professional scholars (researchers currently affiliated to an academic or patrimonial institution), but is opened to independent researchers and expert practitioners with a track record of published research. The idea is to bridge the gap between scholars and practitioners, as one needs the other.

Next steps (2017-2018)

Constitution of the society with a conference and roundtable (University of Burgundy, Dijon, May 5, 2017).

  • Release of the website with first portfolios
  • Project HEMA bibliography (extensive bibliography of secondary literature from 1850 onwards)
  • Organisation of an international conference about Pietro Monte and his work (CESR, University of Tours, February 2018), including both an academic symposium and a HEMA event.
  • Organisation of dedicated panels in relevant congresses (IMC, Leeds and Kalamazoo)
  • Planning of the next international conference 2019 (framework academic + event on an author and his work)
  • Planning of the submission of an ERC (European Research Council) proposal in 2018

I shall conclude this announcement with one of the question that may already be at the tip of the tongue of the readers of this blog:

Why create a “new” entity, when there are already existing entities that aim at the promotion of HEMA research?

One of the main reason is actually money. None of the existing entities are ideal partners for academic institutions or funding organisation. The idea is to help research with institutional money and for that we need a non-profit, well governed organization that can ensure the scientific quality of the research.

  • Why not HEMAC? HEMAC is a very well established non-profit entity that ensure communication between researchers chosen by peers, but it is a non-governed body that has no academic anchors.
  • Why not IFHEMA? IFHEMA is an International Federation whose main priority would be to offer HEMA an international recognition as a contemporary activity (may it be martial sport or martial art). Promoting research is part of the process, but such a body cannot be an ideal partner for academic institutions and it will deal with enough issues to leave research coordination and promotion to another entity.
  • Why not APD? Acta Periodica Duellatorum is a scholarly journal with a scientific board. It promotes HEMA researches by offering a publishing medium, but cannot serve as a research “organisation” as SHEMAS would.
  • Why not HROARR, Wiktenauer or other web based entities? Those entities offer a medium to publish research work and favour communication between researchers, as well as an open-access to resources. However, none of those has proper academic anchors.


Interested? More information on the website of the Society. There is a short presentation, subscription to our newsletter, as well as an anticipated Frequently Asked Question.