Historical European Martial ArtsSubmitted by Séamusín on Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:38
I have always been fascinated by swordplay. Most of you who know me, know that I am a traditionalist by nature. It wasn't something I decided rationally. More, I was a product of my environment and my upbringing. Naturally as a child, while the neighbors were playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians, I was playing Robin Hood and Peter Pan. While folks were playing 007: Goldeneye on their Nintendo 64's, I was trying to track down the original Nintendo version of Final Fantasy 1.
As I grew to become more cogent and grounded in reality, I shed a lot of the escapism that I used to safeguard myself from the conditions of a traumatic childhood. I became someone who was fully grounded in reality with a passion for the here and now; as opposed to someone with an irrational desire to live in the past, ignoring those frightful aspects that progress has shielded us from having to face.
Disclaimer: This is my personality. Not an attack on other peoples hobbies. I appreciate that I am limited to my own perspective. No need to defend yours.
Around this time however, I faced a challenge. How to reconcile my love for antiquity with my respect for the rational and present. I don't play video games, I don't watch TV. I spend much of my time educating myself. Whether it be with Philosophy, Health, Industry or Economy. I avoid team sports, I don't take part in water cooler conversations about... Well just about anything. I shoot guns for practical purposes, I am an archer for practical purposes. I play music because it is healthy for the soul and for the mind. I have purpose in every aspect of my life. When I was 20, I made a conscious decision to not allow any trivialities to be a part of my lifestyle.
In 2007 I started looking for a sport to use a way to develop myself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I despise any sport that uses a ball. I look at sports as a recreation of useful and productive activity, so as to exercise not just muscles, but neuro-pathways as well. That being said, baseball, football etc... are all sports that have very limited real world application. Besides running, wrestling, swimming, and fighting, I don't really consider any other sports sensible. And yet I am stuck with this mechanism of my childhood. An affinity for those things of the past.
I was watching the Olympics the next year and came across some Olympic Fencing. I thought to myself, now here is a way for me to harness my appetite for history and my conviction for rationality, in a way that kept me true to myself. I began to study fencing.
That lasted a week. Fencing was the dumbest sport I had ever seen. Completely removed from the historical fighting form it was meant to simulate. I wasn't an expert, but it was easy enough for me to know that a Foil was more akin to straightened wire hanger than an actual sword. I was severely disappointed . I had such energy for dedicating myself to this sport. I just had no appreciation for the way that fencing had manifested over the course of the last 200 years. After quite a bit of time spent researching the sport, I lost interest.
Then I saw the movie Reclaiming the Blade.
Holy Camollie! I was not prepared for what was in store. The Movie follows the history of fencing from the first European manuscripts to its appearance in modern film. It goes through the great movie fencing scenes that I grew up on. It discusses sport fencing(which I was disgusted with) and reenactment(Which I would have no part of). But then they touched on another aspect of fencing culture that I was unfamiliar with...
Historical European Martial Arts. The concept is simple. There are manuscripts that are 700 years old, and that were written by real combat experts, that really fought. Instead of developing a school of fencing with no real application but a high degree of artistry(Modern Olympic Fencing) or dressing up in costumes and whacking each other with foam "Swords", why not take the skills and techniques passed on by fencing masters through their manuscripts and practice them with the intensity and energy of a modern sport, with the actual weapons used for combat.
What I discovered about European martial arts was that a real revival was taking place. European martial arts were every bit as sophisticated as Oriental martial arts. And that heritage and tradition could be reconciled with cogency and reality.