hema vs bjj

BJJ practitioners are known for being open-minded and trying to incorporate techniques from other martial arts. It’s a great way to improve one’s game beyond the confines of what one particular school has on offer.

One question that some BJJ practitioners tend to have is in regard to the application of HEMA grappling techniques for BJJ and in the real world, in general. Is HEMA a legitimate martial art that can be used in real fight scenarios or in competition? Read below to find out.

What is HEMA?

HEMA is a martial art that, perhaps strangely, incorporates the grappling arts and the fencing arts, including daggers and longswords. As such, it would appear true to suggest that this martial art was more suited for use by medieval knights in combat scenarios – and has limited applications in the modern world.

This is not to say that the HEMA techniques are bad, per se. There are several techniques that can be used even at the highest levels of BJJ. Dagger fighting is not something that we would ever recommend unless it’s a life-or-death scenario, and even in such a case there would be no guarantee as to who would win given the incredibly volatile ways in which people can swing their hands when using a knife.

And as for sword-fighting – it’s not more than just a hobby that some people enjoy. Sure, you can develop your reflexes and train your eyesight to find and exploit weaknesses in your opponent’s stance momentarily, as well as to perform fast counter-attacks. But the fact remains that there’s no practical applications of using HEMA sword-fighting techniques in the real world nowadays.

Can you Wrestle in HEMA?

In short, yes, HEMA does incorporate various wrestling and grappling techniques as a part of the martial art curriculum and structure. However, if you take a quick look through some YouTube “demos” that HEMA experts show, you will see some gaping holes in the HEMA grappling and wrestling game.

It seems that the demos were developed without the notion of real-life applicability. Sure, if you were to wrestle against a complete novice using HEMA techniques, then you may even have a reasonable degree of success in putting them on the ground. But an experienced BJJ practitioner would eat the HEMA techniques for breakfast.

Namely, there are demonstrations where the person that’s pinned into side-control just uses his hands to push his opponent and reverses the position. Even worse – this exact same “technique” is used from the bottom mount position. If you have ever sparred in BJJ, then you know that it’s, if not impossible, then extremely hard to just push your opponent if you’re in bottom side-control or mounted by your opponent.

Those positions are known to be highly dominant and it’s far from easy to escape and reverse the position, especially if the opponent is skilled in using their weight on your body. It appears that HEMA has lost touch with reality and that its instructors are more concerned with performing flashy demos for the unskilled audience.


So, if you want to train the grappling arts in particular, then we would suggest that you go for BJJ. Of course, sometimes there are major differences between different schools and instructors – and the same can be said when it comes to HEMA. It’s best for you to do some research to find the best school that will fit your own particular needs and aspirations.

And since dagger fighting and sword fighting aren’t really our thing, we can’t give you adequate recommendations as to where to learn the best self-defense techniques in this regard. In either case, wielding a dagger is not something that should be taken lightly as even a slight misstep can get you killed. So, regardless of your own perceived knowledge of wielding a dagger, we would recommend that you never use a knife on the streets – unless you absolutely have to, to save your own life or the life of your close ones.