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MA History Q&A


MA History Q&A
Original Poster: Hengest
Forum: Others
Posted On: 13-02-2006, 19:20

Orginal Post: Hengest: Alright chaps, I finally started my own Q&A: MA history. It’s here that I hope to be able to answer your questions on the history and development of MAs, either in general or for specific styles.

I don’t profess to be any kind of expert on this stuff, as I expect I’ll have to research a lot of queries (and for that reason don’t think I’m ignoring you if you don’t get my answer straight away!) but hopefully I’ll be able to give you a decent answer and point you in the right direction at least.

Lastly, a word of warning. Some of my views may go against the grain of the martial arts establishment. As I’ve said before, think of me as’s very own Fox Mulder. Some of you may think my views in this area are whacky, but look hard enough for the truth and you’ll find I was right all along… :cheesy:

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

*plays the X-Files theme* 😈

Righto, guv! First question…

…do you reckon that the martial arts as we know them today evolved out of methods of armed or unarmed combat? That is, which came first in the evolution of today’s martial arts, and which had more influence?>

Post: Hengest:

Thanks for starting me off with an easy one mate. 😯

Before I answer that, can I just clarify, when you say “today’s martial arts”, are we talking about modern systems of martial arts, e.g. TKD, judo, Shotokan, etc., or are we meaning it in a more general sense, e.g. the evolution of martial arts from caveman to Bruce Lee?>

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

I would say in a more general sense, with specifics for case study purposes. For instance, remember how the ancient Greeks boxed from a firm posture using the left arm to ward off blows and hammering with the right? That sounds like a direct import from weapon work to me :D>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

As soon as you’re done with the Hammster my nagging question has been the vein of martial arts evolution.

That is, most people will suggest that the Asian arts all stem from the original variation(s) of Kung Fu in China, while some further grant the lineage to India with Kaliyaparat (forgive my mispelling if that’s incorrect). Yet still some others would amend the lineage to Pankration being brought over by Alexander the Great and his armies. Since modern Western arts (namely Boxing and Wrestling) stem from Greek origins, is it fair to say that all modern martial styles are interpretations of the original Greek form, or do you believe there were some cases of parallel evolution out there that lead to distinct separations from the norm?>

Post: Hengest:

Rightey-dokey then Hammster, I’ll give it a bash, but I warn that this is almost complete speculation on my part!

I would say that armed systems were almost certainly first in the evolution of modern martial arts in a military context. If we look at the earliest records we have of human evolution, e.g. cave paintings, etc., we can see that man developed weapons many thousands of years before we have evidence of unarmed combat systems. Now, obviously, it’s unlikely that these weapons were for use against other men but were actually for hunting, but through this, weapons would’ve become part of everyday life. When man did start skirmishing with his brethren, it’s doubtful he would’ve gone to war with his bare hands when he had a few spears and a couple of knives lying round at home. Now, going to war with weapons is a different kettle of fish to actually developing systems of fighting with those weapons, but it establishes the scenario in which the development of weapon martial arts could occur in that weapons combat was far more important in war than unarmed.

It therefore follows that unarmed martial arts would be developed as secondary systems to armed martial arts. This can be seen in some martial arts existing today. In many systems where the empty-hand techniques bear a direct relation to armed techniques, e.g. kali, armed skills are taught before unarmed. In those styles where empty hand is taught first, e.g. many styles of kung fu and karate, you often find little relation to the armed techniques. Qi Jiguang wrote that boxing skills can be useful as a foundation for armed skills, but still thought fit to make boxing the last chapter of his most famous work! And, as I think I’ve mentioned before, Cheng Zhongdou, when writing on Shaolin’s warrior monks, stated that while their staff skills were excellent, their boxing was pretty poor.

My theory on the development of jujutsu also bears this point out. While many believe that jujutsu stemmed from the importation of Chinese or Korean combat skills, it seems more likely to me that it developed in direct relation to battlefield skills. The situation where two warriors would lose their main weapons and end up wrestling with each other in kumiuchi, trying to stab each other in the ribs with a knife, seems to have been fairly common and I believe it was this that gave rise to the need for better grappling skills and the requirement for what became jujutsu.

However, while I would contend that military unarmed combat systems stem from armed combat, I would also say that I think the development of unarmed systems has also been very heavily influenced by two other independant factors: sport and religion. Watch two kids playing and you’ll see rudimentary wrestling. The earliest depictions of unarmed combat generally show the practice not for combative purposes but for sportive or religious purposes: a Sumerian plaque at Nintu Temple VI shows wrestling as part of a religious rite; the headbutting game known as chiao-ti (pakchigi in Korea) was practiced by Chinese farmers as early as the 3rd century BC; boxing was often part of funeral rites in ancient Hellenic culture; the wrestling frescos at Beni Hasan were possibly there to show inhabitants of the tombs how to beat adversaries in the afterlife; and, of course there were the ancient Olympic games and the Irish Tailltenn games, both held for sporting and religious reasons, which featured wrestling and the like but, interestingly, few other combative, more militaristic events, e.g. fencing.

So, anyway, to finish rambling Hamm, I would sum up by saying that I don’t believe it’s quite as simple as a chicken and egg situation. In a military context, I believe armed combat systems came first, with unarmed systems developing from them for the purposes of a “back-up” system. However, in a more general sense, I would say that for many unarmed combat systems, the development has probably been independant of armed systems evolution and stemmed from a different need, that being a far more social one. It seems to me that many unarmed systems we know today have purely sporting origins and were to be used for sportive or religious reasons rather than battlefield combat.

Des, be with you in a minute old son. :D>

Post: bamboo:

I have a question concerning history of arts and the political motivation behind thier use. Can you write something about the japanese buddhist monks and thier “being” used and them “using” the administration at the time for thier own means insofar as the development of martial arts within monastaries and on the battlefield?

cheers :)


Post: Hengest:

Thanks for the question bamboo. I’ll get to it soon as. I’m beginning to regret doing this! 😆

Right Des, sorry for the wait mate. I’ll be honest with ya, I don’t really buy into this theory of all martial arts having a common source. I tend to believe that parallel development played the larger part in martial arts evolution, with arts influencing and giving birth to others only in a fairly regionalised manner.

As an example, let’s take the spear. The spear developed as a weapon in cultures worldwide. In fact I cannot think of a single culture where the spear was not a very important part of military operations, if not the most important. Now, if all these cultures were able to develop a common weapon with little or no influence from each other, why couldn’t they devise a system to use that weapon in the same manner?

Wrestling is another good example. There is evidence of wrestling systems developing from earliest times from the Sumerians and the Egyptians to the Irish celts and the Recuay of Peru. The earliest evidence is from Sumeria, so does that mean their system spread as far as Peru? I have my doubts.

Even if I’m wrong and, for the sake of arguement, Eastern martial arts all came from one source, I doubt that source would be any martial art practiced today. Kalaripayattu could be the closest relative of that source, but I see it as highly unlikely that the source is exactly the same as the kalaripayattu currently practiced. The style morphed into ch’a ch’uan in Muslim China, shorinji kenpo in Japan and harimau pentjak silat in Indonesia, but stayed the same in Kerala? I think not…

In closing, I’d also just like to quickly voice my opinion on the oft posited theory that modern boxing and wrestling stem from ancient Greece. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I don’t really agree with this either. (Maybe I’m just getting cantankerous in my old age. 😀 )

Firstly, as you probably know, modern boxing is essentially a direct descendant of English boxing. How long boxing has been practiced in England is unknown but it goes back at least as far as Henry VIII, who was apparently quite a boxer himself. However, there’s a big gap in boxing’s history from ancient Greece to Henry VIII. Roman writers describe the Celts as having a form of boxing and it’s possible that English boxing descended from this. It’s also possible that the Celts could’ve learnt boxing via the Romans, but this seems unlikely in the case of the Irish celts, who were somewhat more cut-off from the Roman Empire.

Modern wrestling has similar origins in my view. Collegiate and Olympic freestyle are both closely related to catch, which, in turn, stems from Lancashire wrestling. Lancashire wrestling is thought to come from Anglo-Saxon systems, and bears little resemblance to the systems we believe were practiced by the Greeks and later the Romans. The Germanic races had little contact with the Greeks. They did of course have contact with the Romans, but Roman wrestlers usually wrestled wearing oil (much like Turkish yagli gures, which may share a common root). Neither was their much in the way of groundwork, which is a facet of Lancashire style.

Olympic Greco-Roman, despite the name, is actually a French style, lutte Francaise. Where that stems from I’m not sure, but it looks a lot like the jacket wrestling practiced by the Breton, called gouren. Gouren is a direct relation of the Cornish and Devonshire styles still practiced in England and all share a Brythonic celtic ancestry. It’s probable that the Breton were originally Cornish who fled to the continent with the coming of the English. The Cornish and Breton languages are very, very similar.

I don’t deny that Greek arts may have influenced Western martial arts (there is a folk-style practiced in southern France called brancaille and it is often stated that this is the closest living relative to Greek pankration) but I don’t believe that they were the father of the arts, or that Shaolin, kalaripayattu or African martial arts were for that matter. It seems far more likely to me that parallel evolution formed a number of primary sources.

BTW, I doubt I have to tell Des this, but to everybody else, if you think I’m spouting bollocks, do tell me. I’m always open to other opinions, even if they are wrong! :cheesy:>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

Hmm, that’s about as good of a report as I could have hoped for, consice and loaded with semi-references. I’ll have to look into this Brancaille thing if it’s similar to Pankration, I didn’t think the French were so hard core. :lol:>

Post: Hengest:

Glad you liked it Des. If you do manage to find anything on brancaille, do let me know. I’ve found a few mentions of it on the web, mostly on French sites, but nothing else and I’m always in the market for some decent MA research! 😀

Bamboo, right then ya bast’d! 😆 This was a real toughie, and, I have to admit, I struggled to come up with anything to answer your question directly, but here goes.

Firstly, a bit of background. Japan’s warrior monks, usually called “sohei” (a relatively modern term), “yamabushi”, or “akuso”, started appearing in the 10th century, rose to their most powerful in the 11th-12th centuries, and were pretty much wiped out in the 16th century. They were notorious for their fighting skill, the naginata being the favoured weapon, and their wealth, the temples owning large amounts of land and general riches. Because of these factors, they wielded considerable political power in medieval Japan.

Now, getting to the question at hand, I found it very difficult to find any information on the martial arts practiced by these monks and the development thereof. But the more I read, the more I believe this was because the monks’ martial prowess was actually of little importance in terms of their use and abuse of their political power. They seemed to rely more on two other factors: the sheer size of their armed forces and the religious superstition of the Japanese population.

In terms of force size, the two most famous sohei temples, Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei and Kofukuji in Nara, both had armies of over 7,000 men and not all were monks. Large contingents were formed by mercenaries, as well as general undesirables as the temple land was a legal haven offering the same kind of “no-questions’asked” hiding place that the French Foreign Legion has in more modern times. An army of this size was one heck of an assett and this was one reason why people were reluctant to piss the monks off and actually went out of their way to keep them sweet in the case they themselves ran into problems and the monks were more likely to fight on their side.

Another reason, as I say, was that the population were scared of the monks for more superstitious reasons. It was believed that these men wielded great supernatural power and could call on the gods to bring down horrible punishment on those that offended them. When the monks of Enryakuji wanted the exile of Taira no Tadamori and his son, they marched on Kyoto en masse (which they did whenever something upset them) and brought with them their portable shrine, which was supposed to carry Sanno the mountain god himself. They left it standing in the street, knowing full well that no one would go near it, let alone try and move it lest they incurred the wrath of Sanno!

The issue of the monks’ skill in martial art must actually be called into question since whenever anybody did actually go to war against the monks, they were quite often successful it seems. In the 12th century, Taira Kiyomori attacked and burned down Kofukuji, while much later, in the 16th century, Oda Nobunaga did much the same to Enryakuji. It therefore begs the question, were the monks really the great warriors told of in stories in Japan to this day, or perhaps this was more the result of their wealth, superstition and the romantic picture painted of them in the many noh plays written about their exploits. I wonder if perhaps it was the latter.

Lastly, in reading up on this, it struck me the incredible similarities between the sohei and Europe’s knights templar, in terms of history, structure, and reputation. Shortly after I started thinking about this, I found a good article on the Net on exactly that subject. If anybody’s interested it’s at:>

Post: bamboo:

Thank you Hengest,

I enjoyed reading the politics behind this.


bamboo :)>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

It’s interesting you mentioned the similarity to Knights Templar, Hengest. Throughout my years I’ve done quite a number of studies into the Crusade era and found a keen interest in the Templars.

Of course, all of this study more or less focuses on battles they were involved in, their political and econonmic activity, etc. I’m interested in getting to know the knights themselves.

Originally, the knights would have been brought from all over Europe as the order was attached to the Church and not to a nation, correct? But, eventually, the order ended up with a dominating presence in France, unless I’m mistaken.

So, with your knowledge of European styles and of course history, how do you think the Templars would have trained? Specifically, were they eclectic reflecting their widespread base or did they adopt a particular training method as set by the higher-ups? Do their methods have a modern relative, or is it too far gone? Of course, any other nuggets of wisdom are welcome.>

Post: Hengest:

Sorry I haven’t answered sooner Des, had a hectic weekend. Superb question, by the way! 😀

For those who don’t know, the Knights Templar were Europe’s answer to the sohei of Japan or the Shaolin monks of China. Their full title being The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, they were founded at the end of the First Crusade by a knight by the name of Hugues de Payens. It was his vision to create a monastic order dedicated to the protection of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. However, for the first nine years of its existence, the Templars only consisted of de Payens and the eight knights who joined him originally and the order was on the brink of being dissolved for lack of membership. However, with the help of Bernard of Clairvaux, the Templars eventually began to flourish to become one of the most feared and respected fighting forces in the mediaeval era, spanning from Jerusalem to Scotland, and amassing unimaginable wealth and power in the process. In fact, we owe the modern system of banking to the Templars’ invention. As Des rightly said, they were annexed to the Church rather than a single state, although they were at the most powerful in France. However, they eventually became too powerful and in 1307, key French knights in the order were arrested, tried and executed for heresy by King Phillip IV of France, bringing about open season on all Templars, effectively bringing their legacy to an end.

While a fair amount of information is available concerning the Templars history and structure, their training methods were never well documented and, as a result, it’s largely a matter of guesswork. The knights of the order probably would’ve had fairly eclectic training backgrounds since they were of noble birth and would have received training in the martial arts from a very young age in their respective households. Any training they did as a group would probably have been in drilling battle formations and the like rather than learning combative techniques, which they would already be familiar with.

However, the knight, while forming the backbone of the Templars, was not its only warrior. The ranks were also made up of “sergeant brothers” and “turcopoles”, both of who would’ve been of ignoble birth and may well have received training in combat within the order itself.

A sergeant brother was a mounted warrior, much like the knight, the only difference being the benefits he received from the order and his social status. He would probably have received training in the use of the broadsword as well as the all-important lance.

The turcopole was a local soldier, probably little more than a mercenary, who would most likely have been drilled in the techniques of the bill and, of course, the sword.

The actual techniques these men would’ve learnt is not known for sure, but some external evidence exists to give us a clue. As far as sword training, the manuscript known as the Tower Fechtbuch, or simply I.33, gives us some insight. While not a specifically Templar document, this is the earliest known European sword manual in existence, dating to about 1280, and shows techniques with sword and buckler that could well have been the kind of thing taught within Templar ranks. An electronic copy of I.33 can be found at

To my knowledge, there are no styles of martial art today that claim a link to Templar techniques. That said, it’s possible that those groups currently resurrecting the European schools of mediaeval and Rennaissance combat are unwittingly learning techniques that were practiced or descended from those practiced by the Templars, particularly those studying English and German manuals where the use of the broadsword enjoyed continued popularity, despite the fashion for the rapier in other parts of Europe.>

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

…English and German manuals where the use of the broadsword enjoyed continued popularity, despite the fashion for the rapier in other parts of Europe.

Long live ye olde bigge arse sword! T3h rapier is t3h g4y :mrgreen:>

Post: bamboo:


With many of North America’s indiginous nations having a very war like tradition (both offensive and defensive), why do you think that most of thier martial traditions seem to have been either lost or ignored?


Post: Hengest:

With many of North America’s indiginous nations having a very war like tradition (both offensive and defensive), why do you think that most of thier martial traditions seem to have been either lost or ignored?

I think it’s down to a few factors really mate. The first thing you have to remember is how much the Native American population was damaged by the coming of whitey. First and foremost, there were the diseases that they brought with them that the natives didn’t have the immune systems to combat. One estimate says that this factor alone wiped out as much as 80% of the native population. Of course on top of that there’s the battles that followed and horrific events like Wounded Knee, which almost removed entire nations from the face of the earth. With all this happening, the impact on the Native Americans must have been simply massive, and it’s easy to see how a great deal of knowledge and learning, martial and otherwise, would’ve been lost as a result.

Another issue is that most nations had no system of written record keeping. Knowledge was passed down, but everything, from religion to tribal history to combat technique, was an oral tradition. If the bloke with the know-how died of smallpox, everybody had to start over. In Europe, where the resurrection of long-dead martial arts is going through somewhat of a boom, even though there are no teachers of these styles alive anymore, it can still be done since most Western European nations were meticulous record keepers, and numerous highly detailed manuals have been found illustrating the techniques that were practiced. A Native American martial artist wishing to do the same with his nation’s fighting arts faces a much, much harder task since the written materials just aren’t available.

Another possible reason is that the warriors of many Native American nations quite happily accepted the gun and put it to good use. Any culture that has been through the same thing is bound to see a gradual erosion of its hand-to-hand arts. It’s not that they are no longer necessary, but certainly no longer as necessary. The same thing happened with the European nations. In contrast, the Maori of New Zealand were seemingly less agreeable to the use of firearms in their conflicts with the Red Coats and, as a result, the practice of their martial skills, rau makau, still exists today (as anyone who’s seen Once Were Warriors can attest!). The Japanese also. Granted they happily adopted the harquebus from a very early stage, but this was a weapon so cumbersome, so inaccurate, and so ridiculously user-unfriendly that you still needed good hand-to-hand skills to be of any worth on the battlefield. And they didn’t change this weapon until the Meiji Restoration some 300 years later.

So with all this, in my mind, you’ve got a recipe for lost martial arts. In my time, I’ve only ever come across one authentic Native American art still being practiced and that’s an Inuit wrestling style called una tar tuq. Like Celtic styles, there’s been a few attempts to create styles “in the spirit” of Native American culture, two of the most popular being Inikte and Tushka-homa (aka Red Warrior). Inikte, as far as I can tell, is actually a synthesis of Asian systems. Tushka-homa, on the other hand, while the work of an 8th degree black belt in American kenpo (Adrian Roman) does not simply seem to be Native American kenpo. I’ve heard good reports of this system and that it has a very un-Asian feel to it. It’s therefore a shame that Mr. Roman blows all credibility by selling black-belt correspondance courses in his system for $1,000 a time…>

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

I’m just having fun reading this thread right now, but here’s my next question written in the midst of fevered delirium… 😯 wheeee!!!

With regard to massed infantry formations employing shield and sword (or any other weapon, for that matter), assuming right-handers predominated in the population as they do today, would the formation have been arranged with a common sword-side and shield-side, or would the markers at the extreme sword-hand side of the formation (assuming an oblong formation for simplicity’s sake) have switched their sword and shield hands? This small detail seems to be taken for granted by everyone, but in fact, if the sword-side markers used the same hands to employ sword and shield as all their mates, it would imply an asymmetrical formation. While not necessarily a bad thing, it would mean that things were possible on one side that weren’t possible on the other and an enemy might be able to exploit this. Again, I speak of course of basic formations.>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

I don’t mean to overload you, Hengest, so please take your time and don’t bother apologizing for making me wait; I’m always willing to wait for quality.

Why were certain weapons more popular than others? For example, all over Europe we have swordsmen and sword fighting styles – whether it be rapier swashbuckling or two-hander brutality – but we don’t see as much popularity or systematic training in weapons like the battle axe or flail. Of course, other weapons were used plenty, especially lances and bows, I don’t mean to give that impression. All I’m curious about is why we have well defined systems for swordsmanship but not for hammersmanship or axemanship, for example.

Or, am I totally off base and the popularity of the sword if modern, thus causing the real history to be ignored? If such is the case, are there any resources for systems using axes, because I want some. 😆

Thanks for the great thread and cheers mate.>

Post: Hengest:

With regard to massed infantry formations employing shield and sword… would the formation have been arranged with a common sword-side and shield-side, or would the markers at the extreme sword-hand side of the formation… have switched their sword and shield hands?

Well Hamm, I have yet to come across a culture that employed basic shield formations that required the weapon-side troopers to change hands. With the bias against and subsequent “re-education” of left-handers found in the majority of cultures the world over, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that almost all warriors would’ve been righties. Therefore, asking the line on the end to fight left-handed would’ve compromised their fighting skills I would imagine.

You raise a good point, but I don’t know if the weapon-side would’ve been that much weaker than the shield side to be honest. Formation would obviously have been pretty tightly packed, but I don’t think it would’ve been so restrictive as to prevent the weapon-side from being able to turn into an attack from the side. It would require a little more maneuvering than on the shield-side, but I don’t think a great deal more.

I believe, as you say, you do occassionally find it in more advanced, defensively minded formations. The one that springs to mind is the Roman testudo, or “tortoise”. I think I’m right in saying that those on the sword-side were required to change shield hand.>

Post: Hengest:

Why were certain weapons more popular than others? For example, all over Europe we have swordsmen and sword fighting styles… but we don’t see as much popularity or systematic training in weapons like the battle axe or flail.

Glad you like the thread Des. I’m just enjoying doing it. It’s aiding my understanding of the subject matter, if no one else’s! 😀

The popularity of one weapon over another generally seems to be down to environment. From the geology of your region to the style of your opponent’s armour to your society’s fashion sense, all these and more seem to play a part. However, as you point out, the popularity of the sword is particularly interesting, purely because it was so widespread.

I think we first have to point out though that the sword as an object in itself was nowhere near as popular as weapons such as the spear or knife; it was perhaps the “cult of the sword” that was popular. This seems to stem from the fact that the sword, from earliest times to the most recent, has always been an expensive weapon to produce. Practically anyone could afford and make use of a spear, but a sword that was actually worth its weight in battle was a pricey piece of gear. It therefore followed that the only people who could afford a sword were going to be those of noble blood or the professional warriors who served them and this is why, I believe, the sword came to be associated with the warrior soul in so many cultures. The cannon fodder, for want of a better term, would’ve carried a spear or poleaxe and not much else. The professional warrior, the Japanese samurai, the Saxon huscarl, the Indian Sikh, would’ve fought with the best weapon money could buy: the sword.

And I think this is why we have a lot of sword systems. A foot soldier often had to hold down another job when he wasn’t called up to fight, so he didn’t have time to develop complex spear methods. A professional warrior has nothing else to do other than practice his martial skills and with the sword being the predominant weapon of this warrior class, that’s the weapon that was practiced most. Of course, such a soldier may well have used other weapons but often this was down to personal taste and generally the knight using a morning star would’ve carried his sword as well. The Japanese tetsubo, or iron staff, is another good example. It is known that this was carried by a few particularly strong warriors, sometimes samurai but particularly sohei. However, it was not a weapon taught on the curriculum of a single ryuha; it was obviously a matter of devising a personal system.

This all said, systems for more unusual weapons have been found. There is a fifteenth century French manual on axe combat entitled Le Jeu de la Hache, while medieval and Rennaisance weapons masters weren’t averse to teaching weapons other than sword. Liberi’s, Talhoffer’s and Meyer’s works all have chapters on poleaxe combat. Talhoffer’s also details techniques with a highly unusual weapon called the hackenschilde, a long two-handed shield that made use of offensive blades and spikes on its ends. However, these all appear to be exceptions that prove the rule.>

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

We’re all enjoying this thread, guv. Your hoplology has us all discombobulated (how’s that for throat-twisting vowellellelation?) :mrgreen:

Great thread!>

Post: Hengest:

We’re all enjoying this thread, guv. Your hoplology has us all discombobulated

Discombobulated?!?! My God mate, what porn mag did you get that from? 😯

But in all seriousness, cheers for the kind words. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one getting something out of this.>

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

You’re welcome guv. And, FYI, I don’t pick up porn mags for the words :wink:>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

Ugh. 2 for 2 on the French having things I need to look into. If this keeps up, I might not be able to maintain my decent, American level of hatred for the frog bastards 😉

Cheers, Hengest.>

Post: Hengest:

Ugh. 2 for 2 on the French having things I need to look into. If this keeps up, I might not be able to maintain my decent, American level of hatred for the frog bastards

😆 Know what you mean. “England: Hating the French since 1066!”

If you haven’t located it already, I meant to post this link in my answer to your question but just plain forgot.

This is an English translation of the text of Le Jeu de la Hache, with an accompanying article by Sydney Anglo (Anglo’s always worth a read). The same site has some excerpts from the other works I mentioned as well, which you might find interesting.>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

Sorry that I seem to dominate your thread, mate, but I’ve always had an interest in the history of violence.

I’ve heard from some historical thinkers that warfare in the times of the Ancient Greeks was in all actuality about as violent as American Football. Of course, the general consensus of people still view war as war and would naturally conclude that ancient warfare was indeed a bloody affair. I was curious as to your take on the matter. Were the ‘good ole days’ of war just giant shoving matches and intimidation politics, or were our ancestors as savage as we think? Also, since I heard this about the Greeks specifically, can this concept really be applied to all ancient cultures, or just the aforementioned hoplites?>

Post: zefff:

IIRC Im sure I heard this might of been the case with certain tribes in Africa too, evn to a relatively recent time? Could it be true? I guess we must consider that the dark ages are what followed and the civilisations that emerged were far beyond those that where lost in intellectual terms.>

Post: lakan_sampu:

why on earth… people bother to immitate animals?in your oppinion………..>

Post: bamboo:

On a history/resource note- What do you think of the author “Giles Morton”? He has written a few books on history, but as novels rather than a text book. The one that comes to mind is “Samurai William”, the true story of William Adams as a western man given honour of wearing the two swords by Ieyasu Tokagawa in the 1600’s, after the battle of Sekigahara.



Post: Hengest:

Boys, boys, boys, please accept my humble apologies for my not being around to answer your questions. I will get to it without further delay. That said, after all this time, I may have to give three rather unsatisfactory answers….

Aynerhoo, Des first. Mate, don’t worry about taking up the thread. Your questions are always welcome. They’re always a challenge for me and fun to answer.

On this topic though, I must be honest. Although I have heard about these theories of Greek warfare being a little more than a playground ruck, I haven’t come across many in-depth articles on it, so I’m not particularly au fait with the technical points of the arguement. If you or zefff has links to any articles or know of any other sources where I can educate myself I’d be grateful! 😀

Looking at it from a general POV though, I’d have to say that it seems unlikely to me. First of all, it would seem to suggest to me a vast conspiracy spanning all the writers of classical history ever, which just doesn’t ring true. Accounts of battles from the time are usually quick to mention the huge number of casualties that took place and, while I accept that all writings should be questioned as everyone is prone to embellishing the facts, to say that “4,000 dead” actually meant “one broken ankle, a groin strain, two yellow cards and the substitution of Achilles shortly after half-time” is pushing it somewhat. Of course, as I say, classical writers were no doubt prone to exaggeration, but if the barbarism of war was supposed to offend ancient Greek sensibilities, why glorify it?

Secondly, what self-respecting warlord is going to accept defeat because he was outpostured? You’re fighting for territory, riches, power or just in an effort to ensure the survival of your people; would you really let that all go because the opposing army’s champion was a big lad and gave the scrum the leverage it needed to win? Even if there was a gentlemen’s agreement that that was how war was going to be, surely it would only take one ambitious guy to up the ante in the quest for power. “I’ve got an idea! What if we were to actually use our swords!?” That one guy would find himself to be king of the world in a very short space of time I would imagine.

Also, in the case that it is a charge that is levelled at the Greeks only, if they were used to playing “touch warfare”, how could they possibly have been a match for such elite outfits as the Immortals of Persia? It renders battles such as Thermopylae as entirely meaningless, which, personally, I have a problem with.

So, no, I don’t really buy it. But, as I say, I’ve never read any decent work on the opposing theory so, perhaps I should reserve judgement until I’m in a better position to comment! :oops:>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

I probably won’t be able to find the exact source I first read for some time, as I can’t recall title or author, but I’ll update you as soon as I find something I can really cite.

As I recall it, though, the main thrust of the argument was that the combative methods (i.e. charging your opponent and fighting in close combat) with the typical weapons used (often times, spears a few meters long) would make the combat itself less a fight with lethal weapons and much more like a scrum, meaning that any casualties from the fighting arose because they were essentially trampled to death.

Of course, just like with modern warfare, you also run into casualties by rout. Militia men and drafted farmboys don’t want to die, even if it is for a good cause and run off when things look bad. Certain units of Greek light infantry, I know for sure, were used to track down those that ran. So, many casualties cited by reputable sources are probably in fact already defeated soldiers who thought running meant survival, and thus aren’t really killed by the combat itself.

Given this argument, I think it applies best to the hoplites, who used a spear and fought in the phalanx formation. Given what Zeff said, I could see it applying to Masai warriors, who also use the spear, but I don’t know the ins and outs of warrior culture in every last tribe in existence, so I won’t delve deeper. Obviously, when you get to the Persians using archery and calvary to a greater extent and the Romans adopting the gladius for the bulk of the infantry, the argument falls apart.>

Post: Hengest:

Ah, OK. Well if that’s the crux of the arguement, then I find that much more believable. Yeah if you do find any sources mate, let me know.>

Post: Hengest:

why on earth… people bother to immitate animals?in your oppinion……….

Why? To be honest with you mate, I’m not too sure about the why. I could possibly help you out with the where, how and when but the why is probably more of a psychology issue.

It is a good question though. Animal styles aren’t just limited to the Chinese styles; they can also be found in Indonesian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Indian and African styles, among others, so it’s obviously a fairly international practice. Perhaps our resident psychologist/philosophist can come up with some ideas. Des, any thoughts?>

Post: Hengest:

What do you think of the author “Giles Morton”?

I have to come clean mate and say I’ve actually never read any of his stuff! 😳

It is somebody I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. Everytime I visit the book store Samurai William tempts me, but I’ve yet to cave in. I’m sure I will sometime soon though. Listening to other opinions about him, I haven’t heard a great deal of praise for his stuff, although I haven’t heard a great deal of trashing either, which is probably a good sign. People are usually quicker to criticise than to praise, after all.

What’s your views on the guy?>

Post: Hengest:

How do YOU define Shaolin kung fu? Direct lineage, being practiced in or around the modern day temple, fragments of old styles pieced together, if it holds this and that set? Or whatnot. What’s your definition?

I actually nicked this question from another thread as it’s an area full of misinformation and conjecture, and I thought the historical aspects would make for a good question on this thread. Some of this I’ve written on other threads before, so forgive me for repeating myself in some parts, but I think it would be nice to have all the issues together in one post.

Probably 90%-98% of the “information” appearing in books, magazines and documentaries concerning Shaolin is pure mythology, oral traditions for which there isn’t a shred of evidence. The Shaolin temple in Henan did exist and martial arts were practiced there but the rest is legend and little more.

The often posited theory that all kung fu originates from Shaolin is a relatively recent theory, first voiced in 1784 in Zhang Kongzhao’s Essentials of Boxing. It was around this time that Shaolin’s repututation was starting to grow. Before this time, Shaolin hadn’t really figured much in Chinese boxing’s history. In Qi Jiguang’s New Book of Effective Discipline of 1561, he listed the famous boxing schools of the time. Shaolin wasn’t one of them. He did, however, include it in the section of his book on staff play. Qi’s contemporary, Cheng Zhongdou, wrote a work entitled Explanation of the School of Shaolin Staff Technique. In this he mentioned boxing being practiced at the temple but said that it was not of a particularly high standard and that the monks were working on it in an effort to raise its reputation to the same level as that of its staff skills. Neither does it seem that the monks learnt much in the way of other weapon skills. A young monk was apparently overjoyed when Qi’s colleague Yu Dayou taught him sword technique; he hadn’t learnt the weapon before.

That Bodhidharma was the originator of Shaolin boxing is also myth. While there are many early stories that Bodhidharma visited the temple, that he taught them exercises which the monks developed into boxing didn’t figure into the mythology until it was published in a story entitled The Travels of Lao Ts’an, which was first published in Illustrated Fiction Magazine between 1904-1907. This story was expanded in the book Secrets of Shaolin Boxing in 1915 and it is this title that is largely responsible for the rubbish that is circulated as “kung fu history” today.

It must also be stressed that there was only ever one temple, the one in Henan. There is no historical evidence for a temple anywhere else. The story that there were two or more temples stems from two sources. One was a popular series of novels from the Ching dynasty called Sword-Man. This series posited that there were several Shaolin branches. The second source is the mythologies created by various secret societies in an effort to legitimise their schools of kung fu. These stories usually revolved around a second temple being situated in Fujian province and much of the styles of kung fu still practiced today claim their Shaolin “roots” from this temple, for which there is no actual evidence whatsoever. A few years ago Chinese archaeologists said they had found the remains of the mythical Southern Shaolin temple; however, the “evidence” presented to connect it with Shaolin was laughable and the site of the temple was quickly covered up when a “reconstruction” of the original Southern Shaolin temple was built slap bang on top of it. Governments will do anything for tourist cash it seems.

So what styles can actually really and truly claim Shaolin lineage? Probably none of them. Many schools claim lineage due to the above-mentioned secret societies’ myths, others claim it due to the way the term “Shaolin” is sometimes used in China. The country’s Central Martial Arts Institute originally classified the various styles into two categories: Wudang, which encompassed taijiquan, bagua and xing yi, i.e. the “internal” schools, and Shaolin, which encompassed everything else. The Institute later realised the misunderstandings that this system created and dropped it. It seems they did so too late though as, to this day, many use the term Shaolin to describe any “external” school of kung fu, leading to the mistaken impression that such schools are of Shaolin origin.

I personally think it’s OK to use the above classifications in Chinese martial arts but only if it is understood that the Shaolin label is just that: a label. There is little or no historical evidence to link any kung fu school with the temple and if people are going to use the term, they should be aware of that.>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

I was watching a home repair TV show the other day where the expert was helping a novice work the nail gun and something about the way he told her how to use it made me think more about the trigger.

I instantly thought to myself that everything in the modern world with a trigger design like that is based off of the gun. I was thinking out loud and my father said, “what about the crossbow?”

Who’s right?>

Post: TigerPaw:

I asked the question; “How do YOU define Shaolin kung fu? Direct lineage, being practiced in or around the modern day temple, fragments of old styles pieced together, if it holds this and that set? Or whatnot. What’s your definition? “
because it is a subject of much controversy, and because in many forums, it becomes a flame starter, I didnt start it to be that, though, I started it where I started it not because of if being the part for chinese martial art, but because I’ve been in that forum longer and somewhat know that the people that visit that forum are polite enough not to flame eachother over it, nor are they in my opinion that childish.

So I dont mind at all that you moved the thread.

I’ve been wondering; If there wasnt a southern shaolin temple, maybe it was a Temple.. POsing as monks, was slightly popular.. And When I’ve read around, some say different styles from shaolin hid in temples, Hiding and Training in a temple in the south could in my opinion easily be.. well.. mutated through vocal tradition.. Training + Temple in the context of shaolin can easily give the idea of the shaolin temple..
And of course, One can dispute alot about different lineages and far enough back in history, they’re all more or less a bit clouded.

But my point was, beyond the ranting; Since much of the shaolin myths we’re told through oral tradition, as far as it comes to the practicioners of the styles, Isnt it easy that, for an exmple “practicing martial art in a temple in the south” could be “Practicing in the martial arts temple of the south” in the mind of the storytellers?>

Post: Hengest:

[quote=DeStRuCtIkOn I instantly thought to myself that everything in the modern world with a trigger design like that is based off of the gun. I was thinking out loud and my father said, “what about the crossbow?”

Who’s right?[/quote 

While I hate to come in the middle of a household disagreement among the family Destructikon, I’d side with yourself Des. :) If you look at the trigger assembly of most crossbows before the modern era, it was quite different to a firearms trigger group. On crossbows, the stock was almost always linear with the trigger being a metal bar that ran parallel to it. To fire, the trigger would be pulled upwards with the fingers. You only really see crossbows with rifle-type shapes well after the invention of the firearm, and usually with sporting rather than military usage in mind. You can trace the development of the personal firearm directly from the mortar or cannon rather than from the crossbow so, if anything, the rifle-type crossbow is a descendant of firearm construction rather than the other way around.>

Post: Hengest:

[quote=GenericNPC Since much of the shaolin myths we’re told through oral tradition, as far as it comes to the practicioners of the styles, Isnt it easy that, for an exmple “practicing martial art in a temple in the south” could be “Practicing in the martial arts temple of the south” in the mind of the storytellers?[/quote 

Yeah, I’d say it’s entirely possible mate. Martial arts were practiced in temples other than Shaolin and, while the evidence for the recent Southern temple discovery being a Shaolin branch was virtually non-existent, I believe they did find evidence of martial arts practice, such as weapons and the like. So yeah, that could be an explanation.>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

Let’s revive the long dead.

I recall accounts from classical sources saying that when Spartans attacked Athens, the Athenians brought most if not all of their people within the walls of the city and sat tight for a good long while. At this point, the city broke out in plague, and some sources blamed the Spartans for this by dumping infected bodies into Athen’s water source(s).

As far as you know, how much truth is to these claims? This account aside, how old is biological warfare?>

Post: Hengest:

Thanks for the question Des. 😀

It’s entirely possible that that was the tactic used by the Spartans to end the siege of Athens; the Assyrians won the seige of Krissa with similar methods some 200 hundred years earlier. However, to my knowledge, there’s only one mention of this in the primary sources, that coming from Thucydides, who stated “it was supposed that Sparta poisoned the wells”, and it’s been posited that this was actually propaganda, used to discredit the Spartan victory, which, of course, is also highly possible.

Biological warfare is probably little younger than man himself though. The earliest examples can be found in the form of toxins being utilised on arrowheads and the like. The Scythians were most famous for this practice, though evidence has even been found on flint weapons. This was probably a matter of neccessity rather than spite though, since your average self-bow of the time would only have had a maximum effective range of about 30m, so for an arrow to kill all by itself was rare. In fact, it seems that the modern word “toxin” actually derives from the Greek word “toxon”, meaning “arrow”.

There are other even more ingenious examples of the early use of toxins though. In 190 BC, Hannibal defeated Eumenes II of Pergomon in a massive naval battle, which he accomplished by issuing his troops with jars of venomous snakes. When Eumenes’ ships got close enough, Hannibal’s men threw the jars onto the enemy vessels, causing the jars to smash and the snakes to spill out over the decks. The ensuing chaos helped Hannibal to an easy victory.

Throughout mediaeval warfare there are many examples of disease and infection being used as a weapon, which is quite impressive when you think that the whole germ idea was only discovered in the 19th century. During the siege of Kaffa during the 14th century, the Tartars used their catapults to fire over the corpses of plague victims into the city. While this gave them victory, it’s also thought that this action was responsible for spreading the bubonic plague to Europe, since Italian merchants were docked nearby at the time.

The same tactic was used by the Russian army during the siege of Reval many years later in 1710. In fact the 18th century, has a couple of the most famous cases of biological warfare. In 1763, there was the horrific British usage of small pox against the Native American population, accomplished by simply providing them with infected blankets. The effect was devestating. And in 1797, Napoleon tried to use swamp fever against the residents of Mantua.

So, as always, it seems there’s nothing new under the sun.>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

I just watched a show on the Discovery Channel (gee, that didn’t sound geeky at all) and it was a group of scholars trying to recreate Greek fire ships.

They had what they felt was a true rendition of a flame thrower solution, using oil some sort of resin and maybe some sawdust to make a sticky yet fluid substance that was sprayed through a hose by bellows. Then, they had a jar filled with some stuff that they used a small ballista to launch.

This stuff was made with various flamible materials and emulsified with eggs.

1) Would the ancient Greeks have had access to crude oil?
2) would eggs really act as a respectible emulsifier for an incidiary?
3) Wasn’t the ballista invented by the Romans?>

Post: Wilhelm von Wänkensteïn:

Crude oil was known in ancient times in places where it bubbled naturally to the surface, so yes, it’s not inconceivable that the ancient Greeks might have had limited access to it through, say, Palestinian merchants. But where does it say that Greek fire involved crude oil? Far as I know and from what you typed above, it more likely involved a mixture of tar/pitch with other substances, seasoned liberally with some sulphurous compound.

As for eggs acting as a respectable emulsifier for an incendiary, I guess there’s only one way to find out 😈 Mind you, Greek fire suppposed burned extremely hot, so the eggs may have served to not only stabilise the mixture (so it would be harder to set alight accidentally and necessitating a first fire agent) but, as it matured, to give it a gosh-awful smell as it burned :mrgreen:

The ballista and parallel weapons have been invented over and over again by cultures across the world – anywhere people had access to strong rope, someone probably got the idea of harnessing the tensile energy to settle heated disputes with neighbours 😉 Still, the weapon was probably perfected in Roman times, but the Greeks would certainly have had it before then and made liberal use of it.>

Post: Hengest:

There’s so many theories on what Greek fire comprised. I’ve heard of crude oil, bitumen, naptha, sulphar, and a whole bunch of stuff inbetween, so I think crude oil is a serious possibility.

I’d also have to concur with the Hammster on the egg thing. My knowledge of chemistry (or perhaps that should be home economics) isn’t really up to the task of answering your question in detail, but, again, I see it as possible.

The Greeks did have ballistas, only they referred to them as palintones. The palintone was more often used as a stone thrower, but they could also function as bolt throwers. I’m not sure who invented the ballista originally, but my money would probably be on the Assyrians. When it comes to siege engines, they pretty much wrote the book! 😀

However, all this said, I was under the impression that, despite the name, the Greeks didn’t use Greek fire and that it was invented sometime later. I’m pretty sure it was the Byzantines that came up with the fire ship concept, but maybe they were just the ones to make it famous.>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

Maybe that’s the case, to me Byzantines are just Greeks who showed up a little later. ;-)>

Post: Hengest:

[quote=DeStRuCtIkOn Maybe that’s the case, to me Byzantines are just Greeks who showed up a little later. ;-)[/quote 

Can’t really argue with that! :lol:>

Post: Hengest:

Right, I’m bored, so I thought I’d make an effort to revive this thread. Come on, someone must have a question?>

Post: lakan_sampu:

what about southeast asian arts? anyone?>

Post: Tease T Tickle:

This is how somebody resurrects a dead thread, and hopefully Hengest will be around to answer the question…I haven’t seen him in a while.

The thread over in the Korean MA forum talking about lineage made me think. A lot of martial arts want to claim ties to some highly skilled warriors. For instance, many jiu jutsu ryuha claim ancestry back to the samurai. Of course we know about schools for ninjutsu. And as previously alluded to, certain Korean arts with ties to the Hwarang.

Western martial arts, with very few exceptions, seem to descend from combative sports (Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, Pankration) or dueling (fencing, stilletto fighting styles, etc.) until you reach the contemporary era with “reality” styles claiming ties to Navy SEALs, Delta Force, etc.

It seems to me that the most successful military power had to have a very technically sound hand-to-hand program due to the unpredictable nature of a battlefield and the demand of success in my earlier critereon. So, where are the styles with ancestry going back to Napoleon’s armies, or the Roman Legions? I’ve seen some people try to recreate gladiatorial combat, most of them in Europe, but I’ve never seen anyone study ancient documents regarding the military and try to recreate such a style.

If there are such styles, or if the more mundane styles descended naturally from battlefield practices, why don’t westerners play up the origins like their eastern counterparts?>

Post: Hengest:

I just looked back at this thread to make sure I hadn’t missed any questions and, lo and behold, it seems I did. Sorry about that Des. Looking at the date, I reckon you’d posted it when I was holidaying back in the UK and I wasn’t getting to a computer much. On the off chance that you’re still interested, I’ll give it a go.

In truth, over the last ten years there have been efforts to reconstruct European military systems where documentation is available. I’m sure you’re aware of efforts to resurrect mediaeval European swordplay and the like, but what you may not be aware of are similar efforts with 17th-19th century swordplay. Mark Rector’s excellent book on Scottish military fencing is the first that springs to mind.

However, as you correctly point out, there doesn’t seem much of an effort by teachers to play up the military connections of the Western martial arts, until you get to modern combatives such as the methods of Fairburn and Sykes, etc.

I think the answer to this though is simply one of image. WMA’s still only seem to attract very serious open-minded MAists, which is exactly what the tutors of such systems are looking for. Even if they did start writing articles in magazines and advertising their classes as teaching “the noble sword arts of the British Redcoat” or somesuch, they probably wouldn’t increase their student numbers by a great deal. (In fact, I think there’s a danger they may actually lose students since WMAists tend to be very averse to such crass advertising.)

For the Eastern martial arts though, this works a treat. Take the average guy on the street, looking for an MA class. He sees two ads, one for an authentic 18th century English combat method and one for a TKD school that teaches “an art that can trace it’s roots back 2,000 years to the noble warriors of Korea – the Hwarang!” What’s he going to pick? The English? What did they ever do? Those Asian’s could kick some serious ass though! It’s an ironic but incredibly common attitude. In actual fact, Western nations generally achieved far more militarily than the Oriental nations did (with the obvious exception of Mongolia and perhaps China), but the layman was taught Western history at school and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon seemed way cooler! The unknown always carries a mystical attraction.

So, in short, I think it’s all down to marketing. WMA teachers generally present a far more sober image since it attracts the kind of students they wants. Other systems just want to get kids in dojos, and ninja stories do that.>


arise foul beast of ages past

Heng…..I dont know if it’s been asked/touched upon b4, but is there evidence that disproves Shaolin’s lineage or the existance of a Southern Temple?>

Post: Hengest:

I think I know where you’re going with this… 😀

No, in my opinion, there’s no evidence that categorically disproves either issue. There is a lot of evidence, however, that suggests that these are myths and have no grounding in fact, but, perhaps more importantly, there is a rather startling lack of evidence for either of them, e.g. no mention in historical records of the existence of any Shaolin temple outside of Henan.

Given the weight of evidence against and the lack of evidence for, I draw my oft-posted conclusions. How others take it is, of course, up to them. 😀

BTW, is it me or the thread that’s the “foul beast”?>


[quote=Hengest BTW, is it me or the thread that’s the “foul beast”?[/quote 

take your pick….lol…Nah man it’s the thread…>


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