Native American Fighting Arts

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts - General' started by Jonathan Randall, Jun 4, 2006.

  1. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    If you ever watched "Grizzly Adams" as a child, you saw more then your share of "Indian Wrestling". Anyone familiar with and can shed light upon Native American H2H styles and techniques? Thanks.
     
  2. Kwiter

    Kwiter Green Belt

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    Kwe Hello, I used to watch Grizzly Adams too! I'm an Enrolled Kahnawake Mohawk as far as I know the way Children were taught was thru Games like stick and hoop , lacrosse(attsihkwa'e) , wrestling etc
    No rigid training ala Dojo, I'd liken it more to the, hate to say it, Miyagi-do of Karate Kid where you're taught without actually realizing you're being taught eh. Learned to shoot a bow at an early age, and expected to hunt small game to help fill the belly's of the rest of the band.

    Having said this, I'm NOT an authority and I am a mere 42 so can't say for certain how my Ancestors trained at the height of their Power(During the Beaver Wars)
    This is just the way it was told to me, other Nations may have trained their boys differently.

    I have seen several systems advertised, Tushkahoma from Adrian Roman and theres an Apache Knife fighting system out there tho the Gentlemans name eludes me at the moment


    Skennen Peace
     
  3. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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    I’m a registered and enrolled member of the Shinnecock tribe on my father’s side, and a registered and enrolled member of the Wind River Shoshone on my mother’s side, so I can add a little something about the Eastern Woodland natives as well as a little on those of the plains.

    Just a little, though…..

    This is the way it was told to me:

    As far as wrestling goes, it's pretty much as Kwiter has said, though i should add that there are games that developed wrestling specific skills, and there were also competitions in those games, from time to time.

    In the eastern woodlands, warriors honed their archery, knife and war club skills through lifelong training, but that doesn’t mean the methods weren’t systemized. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, knives were made of bone and antler, and tomahawks were made of stone. Methods that would be taught to young boys included the fashioning of tools, as well as their use. Warfare was a huge part of tribal life, and “counting coup” was not the norm, as it was on the plains; lives were viciously taken, often under torturous circumstances. My dad used to joke that our ancestors were a big reason why Indians across the land were met with such fear and violence-they gave European settlers plenty of reason to be scared.

    The club most of the eastern tribes were known for is called the ga je wa in Algonquian (all names given here are in Algonquian, as they’re how I know them. The Cherokee and other southern Indians used the same sort of clubs, but they called them something else) or ball club, which was actually more of a wooden sword, a fire hardened and polished piece of wood with a long sharp edge to go with its heavy ball end. Methods of use were taught ranging from crippling techniques-such as blows that directed the edge to tendons- to killing techniques, as well as methods of execution, as this was a primary method of enforcing civil control in the Five Nations.

    According to early historical accounts, Indians along the eastern seaboard demonstrated impressive skill in using war clubs and were favorably compared to European fencing masters. If you saw the 1992 movie Last of the Mohicans, you saw the gajewa employed fairly authentically, as my friend and fellow lacrosse player Lewis K. Tall Bear was the fight coordinator for those sequences.

    The warriors of old also played a lacrosse-type sport, called baggataway or the “ball game” in which they employed war club–sized ball sticks and played in a way reminiscent of combat with war clubs. It’s entirely possible that if you could view an inter tribal lacrosse league in upstate New York, you would see the sticks employed in ways that are mostly illegal in the more familiar modern version of the game. I know that’s how I played in my youth, anyway.


    With the arrival of Europeans, metal tomahawks took the place of stone headed clubs,and steel knives took the place of those made of bone or antler, but the methods of employment were probably not changed too much, and the gajewa continued to be carried, both as a weapon as well as a symbol of status and authority.

    The gajewa is something of a collectors item today, with authentic examples being extremely valuable, and even modern replicas fetching hundreds of dollars.


    Briefly, because I can say very little, one may find some semblance of what were possibly systemized methods of the plains martial techniques for the lance, shield and war club in modern pow-wow "war dances" that employ those tools.

    As for the various "Native Martial Arts Masters," I have nothing to say about the majority of them-especially Adrian Roman.

    I do know a student of Robert Redfeather (that’s the “Apache” knife fellow brother kwiter referred to);he's on the lab's protective force special response team, though he did also have a long background in Filipino martial arts before meeting Mr. Redfeather, and through him and video, I’ve seen some of Mr. Redfeather’s material . From the little I've seen it's entirely possible that his methods were taught to him as Apache, but I think they may have evolved from a 16th or 17th century exposure to Spanish knife fighting methods, as many of the terms used are the same, when translated, as those used in methods such as acero sevillano.
     

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  4. Ken Pfrenger

    Ken Pfrenger Green Belt

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    Nice couple of posts guys.....very interesting stuff indeed. I am just really starting to get into some tomahawk work so this thread has really peaked my interest.
     
  5. monkey

    monkey Brown Belt

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    Too give a fair shake & no favorates on any tribe I sugguest see the dvd set 5000 nations.Historicaly done to show all of the ways.This should help a bit.
     
  6. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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    Actually, it's 500 Nations, and, while it's an excellent video, it hardly touches on the question at all-in fact, the only aspects of Indian warfare that it really covers well are the ones mentioned.....er...by me.
     
  7. lonecoyote

    lonecoyote Brown Belt

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    I've heard some martial horsemanship survives among some nations, you won't hear about it as they aren't trying to sell you anything. Is this really anybody's business? Exploitation on the horizon, pictures of native american warriors on the walls of training halls. Sacred rituals sold as trinkets, like dragon pendants and tshirts and how a lot of studios look like chinese restaurants, except a bunch of people will be running around in buckskins acting like idiots. There was a tragedy, a near genocide. A great shame upon our country. People have lost enough, don't need exploitation.
     
  8. Cruentus

    Cruentus Grandmaster

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    I wanted to say thanks for that information you posted. Very interesting and informative; I really appreciate it because it is hard to find accurate info on 1st nation combat methods today.

    I will say as to knives made of flint and stone to anyome else wondering about them; these can be VERY sharp. You can dress an animal -strip it completely of meat, hide, bone, etc. for use - very easily and effectively with a stone blade. I would imagine that these tools could be very combat effective. So, there is no doubt in my mind that there were blade related combat methodologies prior to the European invasion/influence.

    Also, as to Mr. Redfeathers material:

    A few months ago I had the chance to view some of his video material. I thought that it was really appliable stuff; very similar to some of the methods we use (not that we do anything specifically "Native," but fighting is fighting). I was pleasently impressed with it. I could see what you mean by possible Spanish/European influence however. I don't see this as a bad thing though; most effective combat methods aren't afraid to evolve when faced with different sets of challanges from different cultures.

    Anyways, thanks for the relavent info. I'll be reading anything ya got along the lines of Native American combat for sure. :)

    Paul
     
  9. Samurai

    Samurai Blue Belt

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    If you are looking for a good instructional book on the TOMAHAWK then look for Col Dwight McLemore's book FIGHTING TOMAHAWK from Paladin Press. Very good information on real and even 20 th century "practical" applications of the weapon.

    It even covers the ball-head warclub.
    I have a plastic tomahawk trainer that I sell on my site. Check it out
    http://www.woodlandarchery.com/Tomahawks.htm

    Thanks
    Jeremy Bays
     
  10. Ken Pfrenger

    Ken Pfrenger Green Belt

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    Hi Jeremy,

    Nice to see you here. I have one of your hawks and love it....great training tool. What he says about Col McLemores book is correct....great to train with him....also if anyone is interested try to get some training time in with Steve Huff.
     
  11. Dark

    Dark Purple Belt

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    I learned alittle Cherokee wrestling when I was younger, there was a huge focus on clitch fighting, sweeps, take downs and ground fighting. Kicking, forearm, knee and elbow strikes where the prefered striking methods. Otherwise not much else that hasn't already been said...
     
  12. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Thanks for the info! I'd love for you to start a thread in Western Martial Arts on this topic for us to discuss since you seem to be particularly knowledgeable about this aspect. Thanks. - Jonathan
     
  13. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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    I'm quite fond of Col. McLemore's work, but it isn't really Native American, strictly speaking-it's quite European, and even nautical in nature. The axe/tomahawk and long knife combination were utilized in Europe and the Caribbean by sailors:in the days when firearms were less reliable, these were tools used by boarding parties after discharging a flintlock.Remember, the Indians didn't have a metal tomahawk until the arrival of the Europeans, and adapted their methods to it. Given the nature of the tool, the transition was natural, and it's a given that the methods would have some similarities.

    It's great stuff, though...
     
  14. Ken Pfrenger

    Ken Pfrenger Green Belt

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    Definitely European but really better to call it "American" I would think. While the use of a small axe cannot be said to be the strict property of one region or culture, there is a certain colonial/frontier feel to the material in the Col's book that separates this work from being just an European transplant.

    He does site Van Horne's doctoral thesis on the warclub as a major influence on his studies. I know a while back that same thesis was online but I have been unable to find it as of late.

    The Col. is a member here on MT iirc...perhaps we could coax him into this conversation?
     
  15. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    Wikipedia has a bit of a description of early lacrosse games, I can't vouche for its accuracy but:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacrosse
     
  16. elder999

    elder999 El Oso de Dios!

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    Agreed.Another reason why I prefer to use the word "Indian," there.....:lol:
     
  17. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Thanks for the clarification. Still Western Martial Arts. It's also interesting to remember that the European Spaniards introduced horses to the Americas as well.
     
  18. Samurai

    Samurai Blue Belt

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    I have talked to Dr. Wayne Van Horne about his thesis and information. You can contact him at Kennesaw State University via email wvanhorn@kennesaw.edu and ask for a copy of his thesis called "War clubs and falcon warriors : war club use in southeastern native American chiefdoms". He will usually send you one for the price of postage. It was once on the Internet but I can no longer find it.

    It was also published in part in a book called "Combat, ritual, and performance : anthropology of the martial arts / edited by David E. Jones." published in 2002. It is a little stuffy but some good history inside.

    Another great book on Native American warfare is called THE SKULKING WAY OF WAR. Amazon.com has it here
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1568331657/sr=8-1/qid=1153335063/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-5864903-7736068?ie=UTF8

    Thanks,
    Jeremy Bays
     
  19. bobbo

    bobbo White Belt

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    It's actually an old prejudiced white guy myth that the spanish introduced horses to the america's. Horses were already here, such as stallions, mustangs, and paints. Although, only a few tribes were using horses.
    There are only a few common techniques in Skin's hand to hand combat techniques. Skin's fight low to the ground, almost like we're bent over. One defense technique I've seen a lot in defending against a spears thrust is to knock the spear down to the ground and then step on it. Also, another common principle is to fight like an animal (a lot of people prefer a bear). There isn't a lot of ground fighting. There's grabing, pushing, pulling, tripping in order to throw someone to the ground. There is a common stomping technique. In tomahawk and knife fighting most Skins prefer an icepick grip. The torrso and neck are the main targets. There aren't any standardized punches or kicks. In striking there are only three main directions and an occational fourth. One is a hammer type strike. Another is the thrust (usually just with the spear). The most common is the forehand (much like a hook). The occational fourth is a back forehand (it doesn't look like a karate backhand). There is also a common frontal choke/push type technique. The basic idea in defense is to knock the threat away as quickly as possible. Then Skin fighting has its own unique footwork. Basically footwork is performed on the balls of the feet.
     
  20. bobbo

    bobbo White Belt

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    I forget to mention a common Skin principle is to strike you where you aren't looking/defending. So against multiple attackers Skins defend against all directions.123
     

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