HEMA, Women and Data!

Last year we tried to engage as many HEMAists with the Big HEMA Survey as possible. While no sample is perfect, we are extremely overwhelmed and thankful to anyone who took the time and answered the quite extensive questionnaire. This is the first publication of data insights- befitting the 8th of March, it’s all about women and HEMA!

by Gerhild Grabitzer and Alina B.

This article has 3 pages! 

Everybody agrees that there are either certain differences between women and men that we can’t get past, that our experiences are different from each other, that we fight differently or that we are differently able- however, most agree that men and women in the HEMA community are not equal and a lot of us also recognize that this is not ideal.

Much can be said about how martial arts impact women differently than men, how men’s path to HEMA might be less complicated and so on. But what does data say? The Big Hema survey conducted last year was not only concerned with questions about gender but some insights about fencers of each sex can be gained. 

General description

In total 843 people from all over the world answered the HEMA survey. 796 of which filled out the question about the country they are currently living in. 34% stated living in the US, 12% in Germany, 9% in Austria, 5% in France, 4% respectively in Australia, Hungary, Canada and the United Kingdom, 2% respectively in Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Greece and Russia. All in all, people at the time the survey was conducted, were staying in almost 50 different countries. Further information about the countries can be found in the footnote*.

A total of 839 people told us about their age.

The survey included a question regarding how long people had been fencing which 824 people answered. Most people (32%) stated to have been training between 1 to 3 years. 8% have been training less than a year, 19% between 4-5 years, 22% between 5-10 years, 19% longer than that. 

Let us take a closer look at the data regarding differences between male and female fencers. According to this survey, HEMA seems to be a male-dominated sport. Of 836 people who answered the question about their gender, 77,6% stated to be male, 4,2% stated to be non-binary and 18,2% stated to be women. This is roughly in accordance with the HEMA Zensus 2021 which also found that 20% of Hemaists in Germany and 27,5% in Austria are female.  

With roughly 50% females in the general population, this does make you wonder why only 18,2% of people who participated in the HEMA survey are women. To compare this to other martial arts, Olympic fencing has a 37% share of women, boxing 28%, karate 37%, Jiu-Jitsu (non-Olympic) 28% DOCS; 2018). The worldwide share of female competitors in Judo is 24% (IJF, 2018).
Scholars have brought forth many different theories and insights into women and martial arts, however, this piece is only looking at the survey-backed data. Maybe women are not that into HEMA because they are uncomfortable- so let’s take a look at HEMA’s uncomfortable side!

*Italy (1%), Serbia(1%), Belgium(1%), Poland(1%), Scotland(1%), Bulgaria(1%), Denmark(1%), New Zealand(1%), Slovakia(1%), Portugal(1%), Philippines(1%), Slovenia(1%), Brazil, China, Czech Republik, Norway, Switzerland, Croatia, Spain, Iceland, Indonesia, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Republik Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam 

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