The art of swordsmanship is taking great strides in the modern era. With people recognizing the value of a well-seasoned military and the need to be prepared for natural disasters, there is a growing interest in this art.

Of course, many are familiar with Kendo, one of the Japanese martial arts that make use of training bamboo swords and protective armor.

However, a similarly popular counterpart has been unleashed in the form of Hema.

About HEMA

Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), or “Eastern Weapon,” is a martial art that emphasizes reconstructing and rekindling the fighting styles and weapons used in the European medieval and renaissance.

The style of swordplay used in Hema is reminiscent of the time when heavy cavalrymen dominated the battlefields, hence the name “Eastern Weapon.”

However, it should be noted that while most of them are heavily armored, they are still relatively quick to learn and execute.

Typically a HEMA practitioner will be proficient in one or two styles (such as historical fencing or stick fighting) and will train with a variety of weapons, including swords, axes,

What Does Kendo Entail?

Also known as the ”way of the sword,” Kendo is a Japanese martial art of sword-fighting that uses bamboo swords, protective armor, and a set of rules when training.

The basics of this “art of the sword” were developed by samurai warriors in the 12th century, which is said to have played an instrumental role in their victory over invading Mongols (who were known for their prowess with the bow and arrow).

Kendo emphasizes two main aspects: striking the opponent’s body with their sword, as well as proper etiquette.

Kendo stresses defensive techniques in its training. It is also known for being a brutally intense sport to observe, with the competitors wearing heavy armor and helmets as they poke each other with bamboo swords.

Differences between Hema vs. Kendo

It is important to note that there are many other differences between Hema and Kendo, but these stood out the most.

  • Hema is a Historical European Martial Art, while Kendo is a Japanese martial art
  • HEMA focuses on using swords, axes, shields, and other medieval weaponry, while Kendo uses bamboo swords or Katana (for experts).
  • HEMA stresses a more aggressive approach to fighting, while Kendo emphasizes defensive techniques.
  • HEMA is more diverse than Kendo as it has several lineages originating from Europe while Kendo is mainly derived in Japan.
  • Kendo includes rules and a variety of katas that must be performed in a very specific order. Hema, on the other hand, is a high sport with no strict rules or katas.
  • Kendo is more feudal, while Hema is more of a militaristic way of training
  • Kendo focuses mainly on swordsmanship, whereas Hema includes stick fighting and staves.
  • Kendo concentrates more on positioning and movement as opposed to Hema.
  • Differences in armor and helmets.
Historical European martial artsJapanese martial art
Focuses on historical fighting techniques and manualsFocuses on sword fighting and fencing
Uses a variety of weapons, including longsword, rapier, and daggerUses a bamboo sword (shinai) and armor (bogu)
Techniques are based on historical texts and researchTechniques are based on traditional kendo kata and forms
Competition is usually based on historical tournaments and duelsCompetition is based on sparring matches with strict rules and a scoring system
Often emphasizes individual interpretation and adaptation of techniquesOften emphasizes strict adherence to traditional forms and techniques

Similarities between Hema vs. Kendo

This is not to say that Hema and Kendo do not have any similarities.

  • Both arts are highly rigorous
  • Both arts emphasize learning how to fight using only wooden practice swords.
  • Both Hema and Kendo aim to use defensive skills in training to repel their opponents.
  • Both focus on striking the opponent, heavily armored opponents in the case of Kendo, who cannot retaliate.

What to choose?

HEMA is an art of the European Middle Ages that is heavily rooted in the medieval era and therefore encourages a heavy focus on training with medieval weaponry such as European swords and armor.

On the other hand, Kendo is one of the Japanese martial arts that comprises bamboo swords, armor, and a set of rules.

Although they both contain similar philosophies and may overlap in some areas, HEMA is harder to learn than Kendo due to it only being practiced in Europe or America.

What should you choose? It all depends on your preference.


Despite the similarities in training and fighting styles, Hema vs. Kendo is a question that should not be overlooked.

While Kendo is a brutal art, it is also very ancient in terms of its origin, dating back to the 12th century.

Moreover, the strict rules and regulations of Kendo are what make it a far better sport than Hema. Not to mention that Kendo is better suited for tournaments due to its more organized nature.

But then again, the training in Hema seems more hands-on, with its focus on swordsmanship, axemanship, and other medieval weaponry.

This is also a far more aggressive style of fighting than Kendo. The training and fighting involved in Hema also seem far less focused on following strict rules than Kendo.

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