What does SHEMAS mean?

[provisional aims and means from the Statutes – not enforced yet]

The goals of SHEMAS are:

  • To promote and develop Historical European Martial Arts Studies (HEMAS) as a relevant academic field within the study of human history and culture.
  • To show the importance of martial arts discourses and fighting practices for an understanding of medieval and early modern European history.
  • To establish HEMAS as an integral part of the larger international and transdisciplinary project of Martial Arts Studies (MAS).
  • To support and coordinate academic research projects.
  • To facilitate communication and collaboration between independent and affiliated researchers, as well as between researchers and martial arts practitioners.

To achieve its goals, SHEMAS proposes:

  • To build and enlarge a network of university institutions, academic organisations, museums, publishers, and individual researchers involved in the study of historical European martial arts and their cultural contexts.
  • To run a website including a specialised bibliography of source material and secondary literature, a presentation of research projects, and researcher portfolios.
  • To organise international conferences dedicated to the academic study of historical European martial arts, as well as panels within renowned international congresses.
  • To facilitate funding applications, institutional collaborations, and the publication of high quality research.


The society is not involved in the practice or promotion of HEMA as a modern martial art, though its work may help to bridge the gap between researchers working on historical European martial arts cultures and practitioners who are trying to recreate embodied techniques of the past based on the interpretation of historical evidence.

SHEMAS opposes the ideological instrumentalisation of historical European martial arts in attempts to create national or cultural identities. Strongly promoting a critical, comparative, transnational, and transdisciplinary agenda, SHEMAS will neither tolerate apologetic research aiming at a promotion of the superiority of specific martial arts styles or cultures, nor any form of (cultural) racism, nationalism or sexism.


What is HEMA research?

Research is a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding (Cambridge Dictionary).

HEMA research is therefore any research related to Historical European Martial Arts.

Research is valuable only if it is shared with and tested again other research. There are different channels to publish or share research, both in a scholarly context and also within the communities of practitioners. If intended only for consumption by practitioners, the research can be shared in teaching situations, or to larger communities in workshops or conferences. However, if the research aims for a larger outreach, it should be documented on paper or electronically. At one end of the scale, there is the potential for self-publication (books on demand, digital publications with unstable url, documents in open-circulation, and videos); on the other end are peer-reviewed publications by scholarly publishing houses or journals.

The concept of practice as research (PaR) is often understood in the relate fields of research as inquiring about practices in their cultural context to bridge the gap between practitioners and scholars. However, not  just any practice can be considered as research in its scholarly definition. The same kind of nuance has been put forward for experiencing versus experimenting. Indeed, experiencing for oneself and reaching discoveries that are not documented is not the same as following a specific protocol according to an established method, producing data that is shared and discussed through publication. Researching for oneself or for a limited targeted audience without publication cannot be considered as research at the same level as a published research.

Any research can be proposed to SHEMAS, however each research project and output will be sorted by a series of objective labels, to allow the reader to understand its format, aims and potential impact. SHEMAS distinguishes between the different categories of research based on the following criteria:

Targeted audience: scholarly audience, communities of practitioners, and the general public.

Format: scholarly publication (with peer-review), publication (without peer-review, but edited), self-publication, orally transmitted (workshop, unpublished lecture).

Support: paper publication, electronic publication, video, conference, workshop.

Who can be considered as a “researcher”?

As argued in Jaquet (2016, and forthcoming) the issue of definition and identification of the researcher status challenges the potential development of the field of research itself. It also concerns the eligibility of the research as regards funding schemes. The problem comes from status recognition and qualitative criteria for evaluation of the research. If the same term (research) is used for activities related to scholarly context and those of the communities of practitioners, the different researchers do not produce or share their research by the same channels. The different activities qualified as research do not pursue the same objectives, may or may not follow academic methods, and are addressed to different type of audiences. The expertise and qualitative criteria are also different (defined by academic institution versus not standardised in the communities of practitioners).

The organisations aiming at governing or supporting HEMA activities do not yet have a framework for the recognition of researcher status within the communities of practitioners. Therefore, it is difficult to identify and to evaluate the researcher within those communities, especially if they do not publish or share their research.

SHEMAS distinguishes between the following status:

Status Affiliated researcher Independent published researcher Independent unpublished researcher
Description Has a main professional occupation related to research Has a main professional occupation unrelated to research
Affiliation Currently affiliated to an academic or patrimonial institution Currently not affiliated to an academic or patrimonial institution
Publication Physical or digital publication with peer-review Physical or digital publication without peer-review process
Education Master or higher (PhD) undefined


Remarks: Affiliation means that the academic or patrimonial institution employ the researcher. Students (bachelor, master, PhD) cannot be considered as affiliated, unless they are employed (as might be the case for some PhD student with an academic position).

Only publication with peer-review counts as publication for the status of published researcher. Peer-review means an evaluation process of the publication by the publishing house or the journal itself (no internal or self-organised review by peers).

Nota bene. This distinction between types of researcher is not to be seen as quality-oriented. Each type of researcher may produce different kind of research, addressed to different audiences, aiming at different criteria.

Why SHEMAS? Why not use already existing organisations or entities aiming at promoting research?

We think that only an independent, well-governed organisation with institutional support might be able to adequately support the field of research as it exists within academic and patrimonial institutions. One of the main reasons is money. None of the existing entities are ideal interlocutors for academic institutions or funding institutes. The idea is to be able to support research with grants, and for that we need a non-profit, well governed organisation 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 already deals 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.
  • 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 open-access to resources. However, none of those have proper academic anchors.

I’m not an academic, what’s the benefit for me as an independent researcher?

Membership of SHEMAS offers several benefits, such as visibility for your studies and research endeavours and improved networking with other researchers (and being informed of latest call for papers and projects). Moreover, in the near future, SHEMAS will deliver research certificates aiming at easing access to academic and patrimonial resources for non-affiliated researchers. Lastly, filling up the forms for record tracks and portfolios will provide data that can be exported for a curriculum vitae.

On a more selfless note, by recording your involvement in HEMA studies, you also give visibility to the importance of research in HEMA practices (as opposed to a public image focused on sportive side and leisure activity).

I’m not sure about my eligibility, what’s the criteria for membership?

A student is any individual doing a higher education diploma (Bachelors, Masters, Certificate of Advanced Studies), currently affiliated to an academic institution as a student. This includes unwaged PhD students.

An affiliated researcher is any individual who has a position at an academic or patrimonial institution (he/she is paid by a University or a Museum).

An established researcher is any individual with a tenured (or tenure track) position in an academic or patrimonial institution.

An independent researcher is any individual that is not a student or an affiliated researcher. SHEMAS also distinguishes between published and unpublished independent researcher.

How does SHEMAS work? Who decides what?

SHEMAS is a learned society. It is a non-profit association, constituted according to articles 60ff of the Swiss Civil Code. It is governed by Statutes available on our website.

The highest body is the General Assembly. Routine matters, mandates and main objectives are carried out under supervision by an elected Executive Committee. Two consultative bodies are also at play: the Scientific and Advisory Committees.

Who is involved at this preliminary stage?

This project is carried out by Daniel Jaquet. It reaches out to the members of IFHEMA, through a partnership with this organisation, as well as to the authors, staff and readers of the journal Acta Periodica Duellatorum, also a partner of the society. It aims to reach out to any researcher interested in the project. Through publication on Social Media and through dedicated organisations (HEMAC, HROARR), the project was publicly announced in March 2017. The website hosts an open registration for a newsletter. Any person interested can register and receive updates.