HEMA is the collection of martial arts typical for the Indo-European people throughout history. They all share similar principles, strategies, tactics and techniques. Minimal differences exist between language subgroups and isolated geographical locations. Weapons and armour change throughout time but, barring equipment specific pro's and cons the style itself is very similar as well. Throughout all the great migrations of the Indo-European people conflict within and without was common due to the central position of its path in the world and simply put: human nature.
During the twelfth century book production changed from monasteries to universities for theology and liberal arts followed by a demand for specialized and general texts by commerce and the bourgeoisie. In the centuries that followed a lot of martial arts knowledge was written down and a lot of these manuscripts and books are still available in libraries and private collections around the world. They provide us with the knowledge of that time when HEMA was still used on the battle field and in other scenarios of conflict. Specific aspects of the Historical Martial Arts have been further proven by archaeological evidence such as weapons, armour, equipment and even bones and the injuries inflicted upon them.
Throughout the sixteenth century city states and nations in Europe established standing armies and even the early precursors of the police. More and more people lived in cities where arms in a highly dense population don't contribute to personal safety as much as they used too. With standing armies outside and constables within cities there was simply a much smaller need for personal arms. Add the rise of firearms to this situation and it is easy to see why the martial arts transformed to a less lethal form resulting in the martial sports we know nowadays such as fencing, boxing, savate and wrestling.
The modern HEMA revival researches the historical evidence and practices and tests these out in different situations. The modern uses of HEMA range from tournament duels to self-defence and from armoured group battle to professional use by law enforcement. Whatever your goal and need for Martial Arts, HEMA is very diverse and practical. Find the right teacher within your interest group and you are sure to have a great time while learning a highly practical and useful martial art.