About Us

Rocket City HEMA is closed due to the ongoing pandemic. We will reopen as soon as we are able.

What Is HEMA?

HEMA is an acronym which stands for historical European martial arts. HEMA is the study and practice of fencing traditions from Europe and the Western world, centering around the interpretation of fechtbuchs (fencing treatises) left by the masters that used these arts. Practitioners translate and reinterpret the advice of these masters to try to fight as they would have. HEMA encompases many martial traditions and geographical regions, growing each year as more sources are found and translated. We are a global community of historians, athletes, and nerds, and we are constantly expanding our knowledge and practice.

Besides the scholarly side of our practice, we also practice these arts for the sake of physical health and for athletic competition. Our modern tournaments encourage fencers to demonstrate historical behaviors by mimicing historical rulesets to provide a solid context in which to test our training. Competitive? Train, fight, and compete in tournaments. Just like swords? Come join us. History buffs are also in good company. If you are more at home playing video games but want to try the real thing, let's play. Come find your people here at Rocket City HEMA.

IMAGE: Group photo of RCH

What Is Rocket City HEMA?

Rocket City HEMA was founded in 2016 and is the largest HEMA school in Alabama. Coming from small beginnings with only one class a week, we've grown to a multi-class school with a permanent location. Our school focuses on promoting good physical health, bodily control, and familiarity with the sources. We study the systems of a wide variety of masters, including Johannes Liechtenauer, Francesco Fernando Alfieri, and Johannes Lecküchner, among others. We don't just want you to know the general moves, we want you to know why and when to use them. We have a diverse range of students from teens to older adults across many differing levels of athleticism. All are able to find a place in our classes and become proficient with their favored weapon art given time and practice.

Our school studies three main traditions: the kunst des fechtens (KdF) or art of fencing from 15th century Germany, which is grounded in the use of the longsword; the Italian traditions of rapier from the 16th and 17th century; and the Scottish backsword systems of 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Each of these traditions expand beyond their core weapon to include additional weapons and other unique aspects. For example, KdF includes wrestling and armor, rapier features the use of off-hand weapons like dagger and cape, and backsword is trained for use in tandem with the bayonet. If you desire to study something that we don't have a class in, no worries. We encourage our students to pursue their own interests after learning the basics of fencing from our core classes.

IMAGE: Armored sparring at our school

Contact Us

Got a question about what we do? Want us to run a demonstration at your event? The best way to get in touch with us is to send an email to contact@rocketcityhema.org. We do our best to respond as fast as possible, typically within one day. If you'd prefer to chat, you can also send us a message on Facebook. If you'd like to talk in person, you can stop by the space during one of our free hours (see the schedule for more info), or email us to arrange a time to meet.

Our Instructors

IMAGE: Walker Skaggs

Walker Skaggs

Walker is the founder and head instructor of Rocket City HEMA. He first started fencing in 2011, and trained in HEMA at the Virginia Academy of Fencing for the next four years before relocating to Alabama. Starting RCH in his driveway in June of 2016 and fostering our community from there.

IMAGE: Jarrett Anderson

Jarrett Anderson

Jarrett has been training at Rocket City HEMA since 2018. While he has experience with every weapon system taught by the school, he favors the three weapons taught by Joachim Meyer - the longsword, dussack, and rapier. He serves as the school's substitue instructor for longsword classes and as the head of the dussack study group.