The sword and combat arts that were practiced on battlefields and dueling grounds of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are the roots of modern day fencing. These arts are known as Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). VAF is only one of a handful of schools in North America to offer systematic instruction in HEMA, with classes offered at all levels from beginners to advanced, recreational and competitive. Students must be at least 8 years old to begin. Youth classes (8-13 years) and adult/teen classes and private lessons (14+) are offered in the following disciplines:
Rapier & Dagger
Sword & Buckler
Scottish Highland Broadsword
Ringen (Medieval German Grappling)
Polearms, Armored Combat, and more!
This two handed, knightly weapon of the 14th-15th centuries was a symbol of authority, power, and honor in the Middle Ages. Hollywood movies often portray this as an awkward and slow weapon, but in real life these were very lightweight and quick, as students will quickly learn. VAF's Longsword program focuses primarily on the teachings of the German Medieval Fencing Master Johannes Liechtenauer, whose tradition became one of the main martial arts systems of Europe at the time.
Students are introduced to the basic guards and strikes of the Liechtenauer school of fencing. They may then continue their study of longsword fencing at the intermediate, advanced, and competitive levels, where they also learn related skills of fencing with single-handed sword, the langes Messer (long knife), staff and polearms, armored combat, and dagger.
Rapier & Dagger
The rapier was the dueling weapon of the Renaissance. It was a weapon of distinction, carried by gentlemen as a means of self-defense and honor. This style of fencing is characterized by its quickness and precision. VAF's Historical Swordsmanship program focuses on the Italian school of rapier fencing, which was one of the most influential styles. Our primary focus is on the tradition of the Italian master Salvator Fabris, whose teachings were recorded and practiced by both commoners and kings all over Europe.
Students are introduced to the basic stances, guards, and the various techniques of Italian Rapier combat, including use of the off-hand to defend (with and without dagger). They may then go on to study rapier fencing at the intermediate, advanced, and competitive levels, where they learn more advanced techniques as well as how to fence with companion weapons other than the dagger, such as cloak, rotella (a round shield), and other related Italian combat arts of the 14th-19th centuries.
The broadsword was a weapon of the 16th-18th centuries, characterized by a baskethilt designed to protect the hand, a sturdy blade most suited to cutting attacks, and was a weapon preferred by cavalry and heavily used in military contexts. In our program, we specifically focus on the techniques taught and practiced in the Scottish Highlands and recorded in fencing manuals such as Henry Angelo’s On the Use of the Broadsword.
Students are introduced to the basic stances, guards, attacks, defenses, and strategies of Scottish Highland Broadsword, and students will practice related styles such as fighting with the Singlestick, Broadsword and Targe (a type of shield), and other Highland weapons.
Sword & Buckler
Sword & Buckler fencing was a ubiquitous weapon combination of the middle ages and renaissance. The combination of single-handed sword and a small shield known as the buckler allowed for an extremely efficient manner of attack and defense, and was widely carried for self-defense, dueling, sport, and warfare alike. In the Sword & Buckler program at VAF, we study both the earlier medieval styles of sword and buckler such as found in the 14th century I.33 manuscript, as well as the later Italian sidesword and buckler.
Students are introduced to the basic stances, guards, attacks, defenses, and strategies of Sword & Buckler fencing of the middle ages and renaissance, and may continue to study at the intermediate, advanced, and competitive level.
Ringen (Medieval German Wrestling)
Ringen is the German for wrestling, and refers to a form of grappling from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as was recorded in the wrestling treatises written by in the 15th and 16th centuries by wrestling masters such as Ott Jud, Fabian von Auerswald, and Hans Talhoffer.
The style of wrestling that we teach and is depicted in these Medieval and early Renaissance wrestling treatises is a standing grappling art (somewhat similar to Judo), and includes throws, trips, holds, and pins. Ringen was practiced for both sport and for earnest combat, and in addition to the sportive throws and techniques, features a number of strikes, arm locks, and other techniques used in real combat, but forbidden in sportive play, and while students learn these techniques they are not allowed in free-wrestling or Ringen matches and tournaments.
Students start by learning the basics of how to fall safely, and then move onto the basic grips, trips, and throws of the system. Students wear special Ringen jackets and a belt when wrestling and learning the techniques.