Jan. 16th, 2010

eosin: (Default)
As I've been studying more and more historical swordsmanship and European martial arts, I find more and more how drastically wrong public perceptions are on these things. For martial arts in general, and swordfighting in particular, the vast majority of practitioners and 'experts' don't really know the facts about the arts they study. This is especially true with medieval/renaissance swordplay, to the point where everyone in that field of study who calls himself a 'master' is clueless and/or deliberately misleading people; a tremendous amount of discoveries have been made that show how far off the public's and Hollywood's perceptions are. Many such 'masters' are known to only have studied a few years and make many beginner's mistakes, while a few such people who are accomplished sport fencers assume that they already know everything worth knowing about swords, and are either grandiose or dismissive about historical sword use. Some 'masters' try their hand at sparring and get beaten every time, while most claim practicing under realistic conditions was never done and should never be done, as a way to hide their lack of skill. This rant might seem to be a bit much, unless one sees the incredible arrogance of some of these guys.

Over the last several months, I've been working intensively with the medieval German wrestling system, and what I've found is nothing short of amazing. However, in the last week, I've noticed a striking similarity between the wrestling techniques in the old manuals and various karate and kung fu positions and techniques, but with a notable difference. To make a long story short, what one usually sees in a typical karate dojo are moves that are taken completely out of their original context and put to vastly inferior uses. This is why too many karate champions get stomped by your average untrained bar brawler. Conversely, many weird-looking moves become much more practical when one sees that a particular move is a body slam, a throw, a takedown, a stomp, a full-body arm break, and other moves that one usually sees in a serious fight without rules. This means that all the 'great masters' with their elevated titles and endless pompous arrogance who are still making the same stiff-arm moves in empty air or at a distance from an opponent are still just clueless dorks making the same mistakes for generation after generation. The lack of use in wartime conditions that degraded sword use in Europe has similarly degraded countless Asian martial arts that are now just art or sport forms.

This isn't to say that those disciplines have no benefit, because many of them do. Sport fencing, collegiate wrestling, traditional boxing, Chinese Wu-Shu, Capoeira, etc. will put you through a serious athletic workout, and give you many basics of coordination, timing, distance, and so on. Judo, Aikido, Tai Chi, Wing Chun, etc. will give you better sensitivity. And many arts are practiced to provide beauty and peace of mind. But they are not combat disciplines made for no-rules fighting where random weapons and multiple opponents may be present. And too many scammers have been taking advantage of people by making inflated claims. For a long time, people who deal with realistic combat (veterans, SWAT cops, bouncers, and so on) have had complaints about odd things from Asian dojos that don't work in the real world. Now with seeing the original context of many moves, we can see how things went wrong. There's nothing wrong with saying "oops, that didn't work out so well" and making some training changes. The problem is when one tries to cover up mistakes or pass them along by being less than honest. Dorks.

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eosin: (Default)
The Pedantic Swordsman

March 2013

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