Graureiher HEMA group at a Dog Brothers Gathering.

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts - General' started by Tony Dismukes, Aug 19, 2015.

  1. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I have all the respect in the world for practitioner's of Western martial studies so the following questions are posed to help people get to the right sources:

    The bigger question and I am not saying this to begin an argument or be rude is are there "real" experts on medieval fighting? Meaning, if most of the information we have has been translated from manuscripts do they really understand what people did back then? If there are "experts" who are they? How did they become and expert in their system?

    The other major question is what lineages do we have that have been passed down for generations and did not need to be reinvented or revived from a manuscript?

    If you are training in the US or Europe where and who would be a good person to study with? Why?

    I pose the above for our general audience here so that informed members can give them ideas to pursue in this area of study!
     
  2. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    I have little or no knowledge on this topic other than I see Mike Loades on many a history based TV show that talks about the subject.
     
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  3. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    [walking away]
     
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  4. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Depends on what you mean by "real" (beyond your following exposition). If you mean people using the same weapons with repeatable, verifiable, results in fighting which look like the available historic images and match the available historic texts, then, "yes."

    That's the $64,000 question, isn't it? It's sort of the same question that Flint Knappers get asked. "Are you sure that's how the cavemen did it?" The answer is, naturally, "We can't be 100% sure but I take the same inputs and get the same outputs so if it ain't exactly the same, it's pretty darn close." This is additionally bolstered by the fact that the human body hasn't changed at all since then. It still breaks in the same way and moves in the same ways. There's only going to be so many ways to make a given tool "work" against a human.


    <shrug> Look around. Find people who's stuff works against other people in resisting confrontations. Ask them how they got where they are.

    As we've seen many times, having an unbroken "living lineage" doesn't necessarily prevent changes in the system. Crap, Ueshiba died in 1969 and how many different styles of Aikido are there? You'd think that Nikyo would be the same in all of the, but it isn't. They're usually pretty similar but not always identical. I used to believe that having an unbroken lineage would ensure the veracity and purity of an art. Now I'm not so sure.

    But, anyway, on to the question. The answer is, "yes, there are unbroken instructor lineages." However, the answer is also, "no, the transmission of certain weapons is 'broken'." Most research into the subject seems to indicate that the people who were instructing "back then" taught others who then went on to instruct and pass their lineage on to the next generation instructor. However, what weapon(s) they were teaching fluctuated and evolved with whatever the common and/or in-demand weapons of the time were. This is most obvious in the German tradition where we see an evolution of Medeival "knightly" weapons taught and then, as they fell out of vogue, were slowly relegated to more and more sporting or "historic" interest weapons, which gave way to more "modern" weapons. For example, Joachim Meyer's fighting manual shows what was in his time "antique" Longsword (apparently for basic instruction and sport), "modern" Dussak (saber-like weapon), and emerging Rapier. Crucially, he says that all of the weapons are unified under the same method and system of body movement. In other words, the "rules" for how to use all of these very different weapons are the same at their basic level, merely modified in order to be most appropriate for that given weapon.

    These same Fencing schools continued on right up to today, where I could easily go study Smallsword or Foil with a direct lineage descendant from antiquity. But Smallsword isn't Longsword. Not by a long shot. However, because we know that these schools evolved from there, because we have a living instructor for the modern "rules" of movement and use, because we have texts describing the "rules" of movement and use for the "dead" weapon systems, then, yeah, I'd venture that a pretty close approximation is possible and, perhaps, identical interpretations are possible to achieve even if impossible to "prove." The "rules" for "verification" really haven't changed: Does it match the extant descriptions and images? Does it work? Does it follow the "rules" of fencing theory, particularly any listed in the manuals?

    Big places. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  5. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Keith thanks for the lengthy explanation. Your knowledge in this field exceeds most people that I know and certainly mine. Very interesting that certain lines have the lineage but lost skill sets with certain weapons/tools based on the times.

    One thing that is interesting though in the initial part of your answer is the verifiable results in resisting confrontations. Which on a base level for effectiveness I have no problem with. However, if that is the only methodology to determine who understands medieval fighting? That would be a shame. Do they really understand medieval fighting and weaponry or are they just an athlete. Because certain people will succeed regardless of how good or how bad their training is. (attributes + athleticism) Certainly that cannot be all there is to it because peoples attributes and athleticism would play a huge part in their success. Nor is athleticism and attributes indicative of medieval fighting skills. Anymore than a competition is with medieval tools. What would be indicative of medieval skill sets were ones that have been passed down whether through a family, lineage, etc. Like you mentioned with the unbroken lines but changes made in the weapons/tools utilized.

    So that brings me back to the question for people interested in Western martial arts who are the leaders in this field? Why and how did they learn! What makes them a good instructor in WMA?

    We have manuals. Who learned from a manual and now teaches? Why are they good or competent?

    Who learned from a teacher who learned from a manual and now teaches? Why are they competent?

    Who learned in an unbroken line? Surely there are some in Europe who can verify this?

    Was anyone a martial artist in an Asian style and it permeates what they do in their WMA?

    Here are the really big questions for people interested in pursuing WMA:

    If I am in the United States who is reputable with their skill sets, lineage, etc.?
    If I am in Europe who is reputable with skill sets, lineage, etc.?

    For anyone outside of the Western martial arts these are questions that they probably would like answered? So they can make an informed decision on who to train with and know that they are not being ripped off.
     
  6. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    ??? Kirk? ;)

    You have the same problem with Judo, for example.

    It's a big world. The U.S. is big. Europe is big. The closest I've ever been able to answer this question is, "where exactly are you at?" There's usually someone who's decent near there, but not always. And, often, they have students who I've never heard of. But if they come from a reputable source, odds are good that what they're teaching is good material.

    Where it really starts to get wonky is when people start to want "certification" and "rank." Rank offered in AEMMA isn't worth a whole lot in ARMA and neither of them mean much in the modern Fencing system.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  7. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Cool Kirk,

    Anything you could recommend for prospective students of WMA to avoid? Without fraudbusting of course.
     
  8. Argus

    Argus Black Belt

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    Iklawson gave an excellent response here already, but I thought I would add some thoughts here:

    1. I've studied a number of manuals in depth, and I believe that there is absolutely enough information out there to authentically practice these arts. Granted, that's just my take, for whatever that's worth.

    2. I would argue (and be right) in saying that, because these arts have been documented and passed down with explicit instructions from the founders, they are more intact (short of, perhaps, a few koryu arts from Japan, but even that is debatable) than even the most conservative lineage of traditional martial arts that has been passed down from individual to individual.

    3. Many of these manuals -- especially the later ones, were intended as instructional manuals. If the authors believed their art could be accurately understood and practiced via their instructions, there's much to be said for that.

    I do not subscribe to the commonly held belief that one needs someone there to teach them, even after a number of years of training with teachers in traditional systems. I do believe that this is the far better method if you want to learn a martial art which has a living lineage. But you must be aware that what you are learning is just as incomplete and modified from your teacher's teacher's teacher's practice as would be your own practice if you had very, very carefully and thoroughly studied and reconstructed the art via many detailed sources, cross reference, and experience in related martial arts.

    At the end of the day, Martial Arts are an objective endeavor, and operate based on limiting principles and common experience. While there is plenty of room for misinterpretation if one is not careful and thorough in their approach, it is very possible to authentically reconstruct the practice of these arts, and there are a large number of practitioners who have done just this. The kind of scholarly work, careful study, exploration, and cross reference of sources, critical examination and re-examination of one's practice, interpretations, theories, and hypothesis employed by credible HEMA scholars practitioners is nothing short of astounding, and is something that martial artists of all systems would do well to learn from.

    Just as with anything in science, objective truth is accessible if one has the will and intelligence to make a serious study of something, and does not require the approval or transmission of any perceived figure of authority.
     
  9. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Instructors wearing pointed rubber ears? ;)

    Seriously, however, it's just something that a person is going to have to research. Find out where the instructor/club got their training/certification and then track that down. Find out the reputation of the club and the rep of the org they may be associated with.

    It's a little like the advice people get when asking about a BJJ or MMA school, or, really pretty much any martial arts school. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  10. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    So Argus, you would objectively argue that studying from a manual is better than learning from a teacher with an authentic and traceable lineage? That is what I took from your #3.
     
  11. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I would totally agree to avoiding someone with rubber ears or other strange accoutrements. ;) However, to a new person starting out looking into HEMA or WMA there has to be some sort of guidance out there to help them. Just saying do some research could be daunting to someone with no background in WMA and no qualities to do good research and to make an educated opinion on where to study. I totally get it if you do not want to say don't train with this person but.................maybe if I rephrase the question?

    Kirk who if you had the opportunity and money was not an object who would you train with in the US and Europe?
     
  12. Argus

    Argus Black Belt

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    Nope.

    I would argue for both. I don't see any need for an "either or" approach. But of the two, there's far more room for error in your own interpretations as a beginner, and you can make much better progress training with someone experienced. So, even in the practice of HEMA, it's best to find someone knowledgeable to train with and get grounded in the art, but all the while retaining a critical and questioning mindset, referencing the original sources, and re-examining your practice.
     
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  13. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I bring up these questions because I personally think it would be very, very hard for someone starting out to have any clue what is and is not HEMA or what is just a form of athletic sparring with old weapons. How to separate the two for the novice?
     
  14. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Which brings me back to a main question for someone interested in HEMA. Who are the knowledgeable practitioners?
    What are the credentials?
     
  15. Argus

    Argus Black Belt

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    I'd say the credentials are the same as they are in any area of academia. The value of your work is measured by your peers -- other people who have taken the time to make themselves knowledgeable, do their research, and review your work.

    It really depends what you're interested in studying. If you ask "who are some credible authorities on X," we (or others who are more knowledgeable about X in the HEMA community) can give you some recommendations. And then, ultimately, you just have to look at what everyone is doing, read the original sources for yourself, and decide for yourself who's making the best study and practice of X.
     
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  16. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Okay Argus, who in your opinion in the HEMA community is worth studying with and why? Or as I asked Kirk if money was no object who would you study with in the US and Europe?
     
  17. Argus

    Argus Black Belt

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    That depends what you want to study, but as for myself, I'd study Longsword with Keith Farrell, Dierk Hagedorn, and Christian Tobler, and I'd study Sword and Buckler with Roland Warzecha.
     
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  18. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Very cool and I have heard at least one of the names before!
     
  19. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Sure, but it's the same thing with most other martial arts. It's why there's always a post on the newbie forum asking if a given instructor or school is "any good." BJJ, Ninjitsu, Boxing, Aikijujutsu, whatever. It's always the same question for the newbie and always for the same reason.

    Depends on what I wanted to study. For instance, if I wanted Spanish Rapier, I'd go visit Maestro Ramon Martinez. Fiore would be Bob Charron. When I wanted Bowie & 'Hawk, I went to Dwight McLemore (and his students such as Steve Huff). Jogo do Pau, Randal Gustitis. Highland Broadsword, Chris Thompson. Navaja, James Loriega. Marrozo, Brad Waller. I.33, Jared Kirby. Frankly, the list is freaking HUGE for good instructors and there are a lot of other guys who I'd also go to for some of these.

    There is, literally, no good way to make a comprehensive list. Could you make a comprehensive list of all the BJJ, GJJ, and Machado schools without having to update it every 3rd week?

    I know it seems "unhelpful" to just write, "prospective students need to do their research and ask around" but that's what they have to do with every other martial art if they want to avoid a McDojo. Why should WMA be any different?

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  20. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Same way they do with any other martial art. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     

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