Association for Renaissance Martial Arts

The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA), is an international educational non-profit organization dedicated to the study and practice of Historical European martial arts of the 15th to 17th centuries. The ARMA focuses on increasing proficiency with Medieval and Renaissance weaponry, offering authoritative information via a catalog of historical manuals and articles, improving the relationship between practitioners and academics, and ultimately deepening the understanding of Medieval and Renaissance martial arts. It also focuses on promotion of information about the European martial heritage and fighting arts, arms and armor.

As of 2006, the ARMA claimed a number of less than 500 paying members. They also list a number of "Academic Consultants".


The word arma in Latin as well as Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese means "weapon". The ARMA asserts that for 13th century French knights, arma also referred to 'the valor of a fighter'. The "Renaissance" in the name is described as "doubly appropriate", referring both to the European Renaissance as the period of most of the surviving historical fencing manuals, and to a current "rebirth" of historical European martial arts.


The Historical Armed Combat Association

The ARMA began in 1992 as the Historical Armed Combat Association (HACA), a group lead principally by Hank Reinhardt, an avid sword enthusiast. Reinhardt's idea was to provide an umbrella organization for individuals interested in Western swords and historical weaponry. In 1993, John Clements took over the HACA 1993 saw the beginning of reforms within the organization and the foundation of its first Study Group. HACA began focusing more intently on the study and interpretation of the historical source literature of Renaissance Martial Arts, much of which was presented on the website along with example training methods.

Transition to ARMA

In 2001, the decision was made for the HACA to expand and evolve into what was believed would be a more effective educational organization for the study and practice of Medieval and Renaissance fencing. An efficient study curriculum for practice had also been developed at this time using the source literature.

As one of the changes, the organization was renamed "the ARMA." 2001 also saw the introduction of a "national training program" (a series of seminars and workshops), ranking and certifications in the curricula, and the implementation of the basic philosophy and methodology used by the ARMA today.

The ARMA's conceptualization was also influenced by the work of Sydney Anglo, as presented in his work, The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (Yale University Press 2000), hailed as the first academic treatment of Western martial arts in English


The ARMA greatly emphasizes both historical accuracy and martial efficiency, aiming at a true reconstruction of historical techniques, "borrowings" from living traditions of martial arts or classical fencing are consciously avoided. Their "ARMA Study Approach" includes "researching period fighting manuals, literature and iconography combined with comparative analysis from hands-on experience using accurate replica arms and armor. Interpretations of combat techniques are not accepted as valid until they have been tested under as realistic conditions as possible, or in other words, in practice at speed and power against a resisting opponent. The ARMA confines itself to historical sources and weapons, and tries to avoid techniques that are not historical or are drawn from other martial systems (such as Asian fighting arts).

Wooden wasters are used for basic drilling and technique work, up to and including free-play. Padded contact-weapons, along with helmets and appropriate padding, are used for more intense free-play, including sparring at full speed and power. Blunted replica swords are used for drilling and light free-play. Sharp replica swords are used only for test-cutting, and to teach students proper edge control and cutting technique. Test-cutting experience and frequent intense free-play are heavily emphasized.


Instead of focusing on any individual historical master, the ARMA's curriculum emphasizes fundamental principles, drawing on many masters for its understanding of any given technique. The foundational weapon of the ARMA training program is the longsword. This is due both to its nature as arguably the most popular and most versatile weapon of the time period, and because there is more source material available for the longsword than for any other weapon. All ARMA scholars begin training with the longsword, and with it learn universal principles of fighting that they then apply to other weapons as they continue their studies.

The body of training techniques and methods used by the ARMA is referred to as Armatura (a term borrowed from Roman military writers), and includes distance and timing drills, footwork and cutting drills, striking and counter-strike exercises, grappling elements, and flourish drills.

The ARMA curriculum encompasses a variety of weapons and weapon combinations, armored and unarmored, including longsword, greatsword, single sword (cut & thrust), sword & buckler, sword & dagger, Messer, rapier, rapier & dagger, single dagger, polearm, and short staff. Kampfringen, a historical system of unarmed combat, is also taught, both as it relates to fighting with weapons and as a separate discipline.


Associate Members and Study Groups

Upon joining the ARMA, new members receive learning material. Lone members are Associates and three or four members who work together locally may apply to form official Study Groups. Non-members are allowed limited practice with members and Study Groups, but are encouraged to join the organization.

In addition, regional Study Days, member Workshop events, and National Training Program Seminars are frequently held, and members in a given area will probably have the opportunity to attend at least one annually. Larger international gatherings are held less frequently. In both cases, senior students and expert instructors are invited to present classes, lectures, and National Training Program seminars to attendees. ARMA members are given priority in these events, and non-members may be prohibited from participating in certain Workshops. However, one and two day "open workshops" are offered in which non-member may attend.

Outside the USA, there are Study Groups in Poland, Sweden and Greece.

ARMA's forum is also an important means of community discussion within the organization, and currently contains over one thousand registered users.

National Training Program

The National Training Program acts as the core instructive curriculum of ARMA, offering basic fundamental knowledge to participants so that they may study and progress on their own. The program content is a composite approach derived from the teachings of a variety of historical masters, and specifically designed for students and practitioners over extended distances who are without the benefit of competent instruction or practice partners. All of the knowledge required for rank advancement within the ARMA is covered in the NTP.

The National Training Program provides training in six main areas, each featuring some subsets. These are the Longsword (NTP 1.x), the Sword and Dagger (NTP 2.x), the Rapier (NTP 3.x), unarmed fighting (NTP 4.x), dagger fighting (NTP 5.x), and armoured fighting (NTP 6.x). However, the ARMA currently focuses on the Longsword, Sword and Dagger, and the Rapier as foundational instructional principles.

Uniform and Rankings

The uniform worn by members of the ARMA consists of a red T-shirt and black sweatpants. Non-members who practice with ARMA study groups are encouraged to wear a white T-shirt and black sweatpants. ARMA members of Provost rank wear instead a black T-shirt with red pants. (Senior students may also assume this uniform when offering instruction at official seminars.) There is also a recognized but optional ARMA formal "dress uniform," which consists of period-style clothing in the same color scheme.

ARMA ranking is somewhat informal, and is based on the four-tiered system employed by the London Company of Masters, "Scholar", "Free Scholar", "Provost" and "Master".

All ARMA members are considered to possess the rank of "Scholar". Scholars who achieve sufficient command of the Armatura and basic principles of the ARMA program, and a matching knowledge of the fighting manuals and historical masters, are advanced to the rank of general "Free Scholar". Free Scholars who demonstrate considerable expertise in all areas of the ARMA training program and an advanced knowledge of the source material are considered for "Senior Free Scholar" rank. Testing for either rank involves an extensive oral examination and the physical demonstration of technique, as determined by the instructors conducting the test. Qualifying for Senior Free Scholar rank also requires a Prize Playing. Free Scholar testing may be administered by any Senior Free Scholar. Senior Free Scholar certification requires the oversight of two or more Senior Free Scholars or the Director; by custom, as many Senior Free Scholars as can be gathered are present to oversee such a test.

Unlike rankings in most martial arts organizations, Free Scholar rankings must be renewed; if a scholar has not advanced to a higher rank within four years of playing his prize, he must be retested in order to retain his current status. Free Scholar rankings are earned in a specific weapon, and a candidate must achieve a rank with the longsword before testing for any other weapon. At the present time, there are eight Senior Free Scholars in the longsword, and no rank has been awarded in any other weapon (though such rank likely will be once the curricula for other weapons is fully established).

Above Senior Free Scholar are the ranks of Provost, Senior Provost, and Master. At present there are no requirements for or current holders of these ranks. The ARMA considers it highly inappropriate at this juncture to consider naming any ARMA practitioner a "Master" of these extinct arts, as the ARMA believes that the restoration of Medieval and Renaissance martial arts is still in its infancy and no modern practitioner has contributed to the art enough to claim the title of "Master".

Outside of this system, there is a purely academic distinction called "Senior Researcher" that is granted to ARMA scholars who contribute significantly to the general body of knowledge on historical fencing. The ARMA also has over a dozen "Expert Consultants" from different fields who have offered their knowledge and expertise to its efforts.

Other Programs

ARMA-Youth is an additional program emphasizing history, physical fitness, and personal responsibility as derived from selected Chivalric traditions. ARMA-Youth seeks to offer children a healthy approach to learning about Medieval and Renaissance martial culture and Europe's martial heritage. Membership is open to participants of 12 years upwards with parental permission. For those who have been an ARMA Youth for at least one year upon reaching their 18th birthday, they automatically attain one year of full ARMA membership in the adults program for free.


Renaissance Swordsmanship: The Illustrated Use of Rapiers and Cut and Thrust Swords (written by John Clements, the director of The ARMA) was received some critical reviews.

According to Maestro Ramón Martínez, the book contains "glaring inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and poor scholarship. J. C. Amberger in a critical review in Fencers Quarterly Magazine criticized Clements' 1997 Renaissance Swordsmanship as well as the content of the HACA website. Amberger states that, "In his (mercifully short) chapter on medieval and Renaissance fencing literature, this self-made sage single-handedly maximizes the line-to-error ratio of written information... beating everything that has ever been written about medieval European fencing literature in regard to sheer misinformation and overall muddledness."

ARMA member-published literature

  • Anglo, Sydney. The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe. Yale University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-300-08352-1
  • Clements, John. Medieval Swordsmanship: Illustrated Methods and Techniques. Paladin Press, 1998. ISBN 1-58160-004-6
  • Clements, John. Renaissance Swordsmanship : The Illustrated Book Of Rapiers And Cut And Thrust Swords And Their Use. Paladin Press, 1997. ISBN 0-87364-919-2
  • Clements, John. Masters of Medieval and Renaissance Martial Arts: Rediscovering The Western Combat Heritage. Paladin Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58160-668-3
  • Green, Thomas. Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2001. ISBN 1-57607-150-2
  • Knight, David James & Brian Hunt. Polearms of Paulus Hector Mair. Paladin Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58160-644-7
  • Lindholm, David, & Peter Svärd. Sigmund Ringeck's Knightly Art of the Longsword. Paladin Press, 2003. ISBN 1-58160-410-6
  • Lindholm, David, & Peter Svärd. Knightly Arts of Combat - Sigmund Ringeck's Sword and Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor. Paladin Press, 2006. ISBN 1-58160-499-8
  • Lindholm, David. Fighting with the Quarterstaff. The Chivalry Bookshelf, 2006. ISBN 1-891448-36-6
  • Vail, Jason. Medieval and Renaissance Dagger Combat. Paladin Press, 2006.
  • Zabinski, Grzegorz, with Bartlomiej Walczak. The Codex Wallerstein : A Medieval Fighting Book from the Fifteenth Century on the Longsword, Falchion, Dagger, and Wrestling. Paladin Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58160-339-8

External links



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