How Would Todays Martial Artist Stack Up?

DamianRoss

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By Damian Ross and William J. Pehush of The Self Defense Company

Not long ago the public was reintroduced to the Spartans and their warrior culture thanks to the film 300 based off of Frank Millers graphic novel of the same name. This latest retelling of events that happen in Greece in 480 BC shouldnt be considered historically accurate; it was never intended to be that way. None the less, the real Spartans even without their Hollywood Personas still remain impressive to this day. They were truly a martial society. They understood that in order to remain free you must always be ready to fight. Love of country and each other along with disciplined training made them an unstoppable force. They claimed to be descended from Hercules, but they didnt just talk the talk they walked the walk. Ancient Sparta had no need for walls; it relied on its fighting men alone to protect her.

The historical Spartans descended from the Dorian tribe who were one of the founding tribes of Greece (the great general Alexander the Great shares the same tribal heritage). Strategically located in Southern Greece Sparta was a local power and bitter rival to the city state of Athens. In Spartan society, military service was treated as a privilege and was only open to citizens.

From their first day of life, a Spartans faced a life or death situation. When a child was born, it was examined by city elders to ensure it was strong and healthy. If the child was determined to be unhealthy it would be thrown in a nearby gorge. A Spartan boy would be primarily raised by his mother until the age of seven. She would prepare him for the tough road ahead. Spartan womens reputation for child rearing was known throughout ancient Greece and to the point that many wealthy families sought after them as nannies to their own children. The Spartan mother had to be strict and demanding to prepare her child for what came next.

At the age of seven the Spartan boy would enter in the Agoge, a state run military school. There he would learn how to be a man and a warrior in environment that can only be described as a twelve-year Boy Scout camp from hell. Here he would learn social skills, military training and hunting along with other necessary survival skills. He would also learn the importance of loyalty and team work. The boys were divided up into troops or Ageles and supervised by an Eirena, thirteen year old Spartan. The young recruits were given little in the way of supplies and food. They were expected to endure pain. Hardship, hunger, thirst, cold, fatigue and lack of sleep forced them to become resourceful, self reliant and live off the land. No blankets were issued and each child was given one piece of clothing for a year. All training was done barefoot and if you wanted a bath it would be in freezing cold water.

Every aspect of the training was designed to test your physical and mental toughness. Everything was a challenge. The young recruits were only given broth to eat while the instructors would encourage them to try to steal their food. If you were a success and stole the food undetected it was yours to enjoy, but if you were caught, you could expect a whipping. Then when you were in your teens, you would be left in the wilderness in the winter without weapons or even proper clothing. This was your final exam. If you survived great, if not it was your own fault and there would be no rescue.

In addition to tough training the Spartans also understood the importance of good tactics in a close combat situation. Because teamwork was emphasized from day one of training they were able to form the phalanx, a tightly packed formation of spearmen with interlocking shields. The spears would stop any advancing cavalry, and the shields would protect the troops from arrows and other missile weapons.

Every warrior was expected to hold his own in personal combat as well so he would train relentlessly in various forms of martial arts. Boxing, wrestling, and fencing with swords, each soldier had to become proficient. Each Spartan was expected to give his all and do everything possible to support your comrades in arms.

Then on his 20th birthday, the Spartan would officially begin his military career. As part of your service, he had to join a mess or club with fifteen other men. These men would become his friends, comrades, and training partners for the rest of his life. During this time he would be allowed to marry, though you probably spend most of your time at the barracks. Spartan males were on active duty until the age of thirty when they became full citizens. At that time, you could choose to remain in active service or join the reserves and remain on call until you were sixty.

On active duty during peacetime a Spartan warriors service largely consisted of constant training, patrolling of Spartas borders and keeping a vigilant watch over Spartas serfs or Helots. Other units worked as police officers or personal protection of government officials. In the reserves you were expected to stay in shape and maintain your equipment. For the Spartan, every day was a day to train and prepare.

Though Spartan women saw it as their duty to give birth to more Spartan warriors if you were a woman in ancient Sparta you would enjoy many rights and privileges more so than any other woman in all of Greece. The Spartans were extremely progressive in this manner. As a woman of Sparta you would have the same educational opportunities as the men and you would also train as an athlete as well. You could own property and you could even divorce your spouse! Since the men could be called into action at any moment, women often took control and made sure the city state continued to run during wartime.

A Spartan warrior aspired to die in battle fighting among his friends and family. Prior to the invasion of Greece, Xerxes King of the Persians asked a Spartan exile named Demaratos if the Greeks would submit to his will. Demaratos replied Yes, all but Sparta. Xerxes asked why and Demaratos replied that the Spartans only fear the law and the law says no retreat no surrender. At the Battle of Thermopylae and many other battles to follow, the Spartans showed how a few can defeat many with the right mindset, the right training, love of country and love of family.

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