training : ranking system : overview & history

Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts
The material below provides a decription of the ranking system used in the Academy which is based based on the four grades defined in the English martial arts system in the 16th century as defined in the organizational structure of the "Four Ancient Maisters", which may have been "borrowed" from the historical academic system, formalized sometime around the 14th century. A similar structure of ranking is used by a few other organizations, including The Company of Maisters (UK), Chicago Swordplay Guild (USA) and The Exiles - Company of Medieval Martial Artists (UK). The ranking system emphasizes both the technical training and academic/theoretical education in order to develop well rounded, knowledgeable practitioners of historical European martial arts.

History and Overview of the Ranking System


The ranking system employed at AEMMA is based on the four grades defined in the English martial arts system in the 16th century as defined in the organizational structure of the "Four Ancient Maisters". In ascending order, they were: scholler, free scholler, provost and maister. The rank of "anciant maister" was reserved as a title of courtesy for acknowledging seniority within the organization.

The "Four Ancient Maisters" or later the Company of Maisters were an authoritive unit and quite powerful in the sixteenth century England, specifically in London. There is evidence of some elements of their power in the "Liber Albus" containing legislation that which applied to the Company of Maisters grants them total authority to actually imprison individuals who were rebellious or contrary to the Four Ancient Maisters. The history of the Four Ancient Maisters is convoluted with scanty evidence naming this authoritive unit explicitly. The history could be linked back to a warrant of 1540 in which King Henry VIII appointed the "Masters of the Science of Defence" as a commission, however, does not actually name the organization. Later, King James I, in his warrant of 1605 charged the "Masters of ye Noble Science of Defence" with the same duties as those of the Warrant of 1540. He too failed to name the organization explicitly. Although there is no concrete evidence proving that the maisters were members of a legally constituted company, the warrants mentioned strongly suggest that such was indeed the case. The Company of Maisters had both rules and constitution to govern its mode of operation. For historical references, The Provosts Othe and The Maisters Othe can be viewed online.

Sources and Notes:


The ranking system described forms the basis of the five (5) distinct levels employed today at AEMMA: recruit, scholler, free scholler, provost and maestro. The word scholler is derived from a Latin word "schola" or "school". Therefore, given that a scholar or scholler (old English) is someone who studies an academic subject (using the "under-graduate student" analogy), this was found to be applicable to the initial rank of a western martial arts student. Taking this further, a free scholler is one who is undergoing advanced training, similar to a graduate student from an academic perspective. The academic or research component of this ranking system begins early in the "scholler" rank during the student's training with his/her participation in an existing or ongoing research project.

The designation provost is granted by the school's governing body and is achieved when the student has The International Masters at Arms Federationachieved the highest technical skill of a weapon and that a research project is completed along with a research paper submission. A provost, by definition is an individual who is the head or master of a particular college or subject. Using this definition with respect to martial arts would also include weapons skills, relevant techniques and their surrounding history. One can use the analogy that a provost has obtained a doctorate in this particular weapon's type. A maestro is one who has been granted this title by an external governing body, such as the International Masters at Arms Federation (IMAF) and who has achieved the highest technical and academic skills with a minimum of three (3) weapons types (an individual who holds multiple "Ph.D's").

One of the most important steps in the progression from the rank of scholler to maestro is the concept of "prizes and challenges". The quest for the prize of promotion is a fundamental cultural component of the Academy, in which most, if not all students desire to obtain the prize through a minimum of 3 challenges against individuals in the next rank desired for each weapon currently being trained in. The play for the prize is comprised of two steps. The first step occurs as an event internal to the Academy in which the student's skills are assessed in private by the AEMMA governing body. The second step is for the student to submit a challenge for the prize of scholler, however, no student is allowed to submit challenges until the private examination is complete and deemed successful. There is no real time span before the student can play for the prize once the challenge has been submitted, however, it is usually left up to the student. Only the recruit and scholler has this prize option in the promotion to scholler and free scholler rank respectively. Higher ranks prizes are governed on a time basis structure.

The expectation of training is that the student, with regular practice and commitment can achieve the highest ranking and competency level, maestro in approximately 5 to 10 years. This has great variations, depending upon the commitment of the student to training, attendance to classes, research project development, availability of the student to training, physical capabilties, stamina and their natural physical skills of the student. Skill and safety are paramount in the training program. The ranking and competency levels are described below.

The rank of recruit identifies an entry level student of the martial art known as l`arte dell`armizare or simply as armizare. A newly registered student who first begins their training at AEMMA, they are informed with an overview of the Academy, the key personnel, and given an overview of the training program, its structure and duration. The recruit then begins with receiving instruction on the foundations of abrazare (grappling), daga (dagger) and spada (swordplay) based on the training schedule.

As a new recruit, the student is entitled the opportunity to assess whether or not to pursue this form of martial art with a level commitment which is compatible with their current life style and commitments. During this trial period, recruit training equipment requirements to begin training incurs a modest cost which encompasses the purchase of an AEMMA training t-shirt, leather garden-variety gloves, black training leggings/slacks and comfortable flat-soled running shoes (some of which may already be in possession of the new student).

After a period of training, which can take from 8 months to 2 or more years, the recruit may be ready to challenge for the rank of scholler. At this point of recruit training, the student should not consider him/herself a fighter just yet, however, he/she will possess the necessary foundational skills to build upon and to develop those skills into sophisticated fighting techniques in the scholler level of training, and will be able to deploy some basic defensive maneuvres if required if an opportunity presents itself. Upon completing the recruit training, the program is designed so that the student is then in a position and prepared to challenge for the prize of scholler by undergoing a public scholler test in the presence of the student's peers. Of course, at this point in the recruit's training, other compulsory scholler training equipment would have been purchased, as this is another requirement for challenging for the scholler rank.

Recruit Requirements

Recruit Study and Activities Expectations

Skills Development and Training Expectations for the Recruit



Other Recruit Attributes:


The rank of scholler identifies a student and practitioner of the historal European martial arts known as l`arte dell`armizare or simply as armizare and is one who has committed to learning and training in the art. The scholler recognizes that in order to become proficient in this art, as with any other martial arts systems, it is a life-style choice requiring the commitment and dedication necessary to achieve a level of excellence that will enrich the student's life both intellectually and physically. In order to achieve competency in the more advanced levels, the scholler must attempt to schedule him/herself accordingly to permit attending regular training sessions. The scholler must abide by the rules and constitution of the Academy, and be prepared to obtain the relevant historically accurate arms & armour for those weapons trained with. Scholler training is the longest and most intense of all the ranks.

It is during the scholler training where the student learns how to "fight" becoming both a knowledgable, skillful and competent martial artist. The foundational principles learned and trained during the recruit training forms the basis on which advanced techniques and combative principles are built upon. The training structure mirrors the format of Fiore dei Liberi's Flos Duellatorum in terms of training segments mapping to the fighting/weapons styles documented in the treatise. The scholler will continue to train in the core training components (abrazare, daga, spada) of the recruit training program, but will delve into these segments in far greater depth. These segments will be scheduled throughout the year, so that over time, a scholler will have the opportunity to train, practice and be tested in each of the segments.

The scholler training program will encompass the following segments: abrazare, daga, spada, spada e brocchiere, spada longa, poleweapons: azza e lanza, and arme not necessarily in that order. At the conclusion of each segment, the scholler is tested by the instructors. If the scholler passes the segment test, he/she will be awarded a badge representing the segment successfully completed. This badge will be suspended by the scholler's arms located on the armory rack at the salle d'armes.

grapplingdaggerarming swordlongswordsword & buckleraxe & speararmour

From a heraldic perspective, schollers are encouraged to become "invested with arms" so that their coats of arms can be suspended on display on the armory rack at the salle d'armes to which the schollar badges can be attached represented the segments successfully completed, and in the form of flags or banners during their participation in tournaments (armoured and/or unarmoured) or other events if appropriate. For examples of arms currently possessed by schollers and above, click here. There are a number of resources to assist in this matter, and it is imperative that the arms created, assumed, matriculated, registered, granted is heraldically correct and therefore, to that end, there are a good number of individuals in AEMMA that can offer assistance and guidance. Further information can be found at the bottom of this (scholler) section by clicking here.

Scholler Requirements

Scholler Study and Activities Expectations

Skill Development and Training Specifications for Scholler



Other Scholler Attributes:


Scholler's Heraldic Tradition - Resources:

A personal coat of arms is a form of personal identification of which the central element is a shield. Its roots can be found in the early Middle Ages spanning almost 1,000 years of heraldic history, still very much active today. In general, heraldic achievements (arms) design and symbolism follow traditional channels, but its use can be as modern as the arms of AEMMA displayed on this website. To create a personal coat of arms, or to assume a personal coat of arms, or register or obtain a grant of arms, the following resources will facilitate and educate on the art and science of heraldry.

On the subject of assuming of heraldic arms (heraldic achievement), to be clear, it is not illegal to assume arms in Canada, despite the existance of a heraldic authority. Having one's achievement authorized by the Canadian Heraldic Authority (CHA) means that your arms become the official personal property of you, and becomes a registered entity that can be inherited by your children, if more than one, then differenced to indicate birth order. The registration of arms with the CHA entitles the heraldic achievement to be included in the official Canadian Archives forever, in particular, the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. Assumed arms do not enjoy the same status, and are more difficult to protect legally if someone should decide to use your arms without your permission. Regardless, schollers are encouraged to have designed personal arms for display during tournaments, and to be suspended for display at the salle d'armes.

Royal Heraldry Society of Canada and its Branches mission is to promote the Art and Science of Heraldry, particularly Canadian heraldry, and to encourage an interest in the subject among Canadians. Since the Society's foundation more than three decades ago, the RHSC has never lost sight of its objectives and continues to this day informing and educating Canadians and assisting them and their institutions in the acquisition of properly granted coats of arms. During its first twenty-five years, the Society was the driving force toward the establishment of Canada's own body for the granting of arms.

Members of the Academy who develop a deep interest in the art and science of heraldry, are encouraged to join the Society. The Society has a local Toronto Branch, quite active in heraldry related tours within the GTA, and social functions. Membership fees apply and can be determined by visiting the Society's website at and the Toronto Branch website located at

Members of the Academy are encouraged to join the RHSC if they are interested in developing their interest and knowledge of heraldry. Membership will provide the opportunity for assistance in the design and development of personal arms.


Canadian Heraldic Authority major activities include: granting of new armorial bearings (arms, flags and badges) and native symbols; registration of recognized existing arms, flags and badges; approval of military badges, flags and other insignia of the Canadian Forces; registration of genealogical information related to the inheritance of arms; provision of information on correct heraldic practices; provision of information on heraldic artists who work in various media; and development of, and involvement in, national and regional heraldic ceremonies. These ceremonies, incidentally, may involve the Governor General, who may personally present the new coat of arms and sign the grant document. With few exceptions, only documents the Governor General has personally presented to corporate bodies bear her signature; others are signed by officers of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

For information on the procedure with respect to obtaining an official authorization of personal arms in the form of a grant of arms, click here. To view an example of an authorized grant of personal arms by the Canadian Heraldic Authority of a member of AEMMA, click here.


International Association of Amateur Heralds or the IAAH is a diverse assembly of professional and non-professional genealogists, heraldists, historians, and graphic artists dedicated to providing the general public with heraldic information and design guidance at no charge. The IAAH stands ready to help you with heraldic research or to design and emblazon a coat of arms you'd like to assume and/or which you've had or which you'd like to have registered with an official heraldic authority. Any armorial bearing the Association helps you design will follow the established rules of heraldry and will be designed free of charge.

Members of the Academy are encouraged to utilize the IAAH's service offerings for assistance in the design and development of their personal arms. Membership with the Association is optional and there are no membership fees.

Note: For those schollers who plan on pursuing armoured combat training are encouraged to pursue the acquisition of personal arms (assumed or granted) in order to satisfy further accoutrements for participation in tournaments. Armoured combatants are encouraged to conform to the requirements for arms (shield), banner and jupon/surcoat specified in the Combatant's Array Requirements.


The rank of free scholler is conveyed to an individual who is a student, practitioner and instructor in the l`arte dell`armizare and who has developed scholler level skills and expertise in:

  1. abrazare (grappling),
  2. daga (dagger),
  3. spada (arming sword),
  4. spada longa (longsword),
  5. arme (armoured combat) (optional),
  6. azza e lanza (poleaxe and spear),
  7. spada e brocchiere (sword & buckler) *
  8. a cavallo or mounted combat (optional).
A student is automatically conveyed the rank of free scholler by AEMMA should he/she be conveyed the designation of "Acknowledged Instructor" by the International Masters at Arms Federation (IMAF) in one or more weapons type. The free scholler will be expected to provide a supporting role as an instructor of the Academy. The free scholler must abide by the rules and constitution of the Academy and must have in possession all of the relevant arms & armour for those weapons types that the student has skill in. The rank of free scholler is the minimum required in order to create a chapter of the Academy.

Free Scholler Requirements

Responsibilities of a Free Scholler

Skill Development and Training Specifications for Free Scholler

Theory: Technical:
Other Free Scholler Attributes

The provost, for all intent and purposes, within the context of the Academy, is the Academy's maestro or master. Without a formal title of maestro conveyed to the provost by the IMAF or by an existing master of the art, the provost cannot use the title of maestro or master externally to the Academy.

First and foremost, the provost must have a proven track record in the instruction of the art, and is skilled in all weapons as described by Fiore dei Liberi's treatise. The provost has developed an intimate understanding of the different characteristics, underlying principles and theoretical approaches to each of the weapons and fighting styles described. This individual has obtained this rank after a minimum of eight (8) years of study and training. Key responsibilities of the provost is the training and teaching of students, and the contribution to the general operations and/or administration functions of the Academy. An official teaching license or letter is granted by the Academy governing body to those who have successfully prized at this rank.

The provost also must abide by the rules, similar to those rules of the maestro which describes ones responsibilities of this rank, which includes stating one's allegiance and loyalties to the organization (in this case, to the Academy), and an all-encompassing code of conduct and behaviour which the provost is expected to abide by within the context of historical martial arts. The provost must abide by the rules and constitution of the Academy, and promote the principles of historical martial arts and organizations that are focused on the formalization of these arts, e.g. IMAF.

Provost Requirements

Responsibilities of Provost

The rank of maestro can only be designated by an external body such as the The International Masters at Arms FederationInternational Masters at Arms Federation or IMAF, or from a recognized fencing master of a similar art. All of the responsibilities and attributes of a provost extend to this rank. The only additional responsibility may be the active participation on the governing body of IMAF by invitation or other similar organization, providing the maestro an international responsibility with respect to the promotion and formalization of historical fencing.

Criteria of the Candidate for the rank of Maestro

Copyright © 2000 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released: March 26, 2000 / Last modified: April 03, 2011