You live in a city or country where you cannot carry a gun and your car breaks down. Your cell phone is out of juice but you see a store a couple of blocks down the street. Earlier in the day you had attended martial arts training and still have a trunk full of weapons. Now you see a bunch of guys approaching talking garbage.
I know this is a contrived situation but I had to figure out a way that one might legally have spears, staffs, swords, daggers, clubs, tomahawks, and such to talk about the differences in fighting methods. Before we get going into this discussion I would like to mention my expertise is with unarmed combat (Kenpo Karate or Eastern Martial Arts (EMA) if you will). While I have always had an idea how to use improvised weapons (I understand Kenpo staff fighting methods) , I’ve only started practicing improvised weapons and historical European weapons (HEMA) in the last year or two.
I’ll will try to limit this discussion to the differences I see at each distance. To start lets take an unrealistic view of how an unarmed man might fight a long sword attack.
Wow that is quite a mouthful – Eastern MA compared to Historical European MA vs Olympic Fencing? Many might not understand the differences and to be truthful – it is hard to see the difference between Eastern vs Western martial arts. Is East Japan Kenpo, Okinawan Karate, Korean Tae Kwon Do, or Chinese Kung Fu? or we talking some Mongolian wrestling or Greko Roman wrestling? Are we speaking Turkish oil wrestling? All might be argued as the “East.”
How about HEMA (historical European martial arts) or Western martial arts maybe? If so what does that entail? So just the French and English Saber or does it include the Turkish Saber? So you see when we talk terms it is easy to be confused. I’ll state what I mean.
What I usually refer as martial arts to me used to mean Japan and China region martial arts. You see in America the word martial arts pretty much became that. Even though boxing and wrestling are “martial” and “art” in the sense that a fighter has to be creative to be good at fighting. The thing about martial arts is they have evolved to modern fighting methods that work better.
HEMA is easy to describe as it is using sword fighting as described in the old manuals by masters. Some use the word “military” swords but I tend to use the word “real” swords. People who train with HEMA try to fight they way sword masters of old did (you know when they last fought with swords). Today we don’t fight with swords so there is no real equivalent or next generation masters.
Or is there? One Olympic event is called foil, eppe or sabre fencing. This is a modern method with really light strips of metal (you cannot really call them swords). Arguably the foil & eppe were supposed to be trainers for the small sword but I don’t see the use of the sabre. The Olympian sabre is too light to be used the same way as real military saber. It is about the same as modern day point fighting. You cannot strike some areas and electric scoring is employed.
We also have the Olympics that have Tae Kwon Do (Korean karate like) karate in the games. Funny thing is the practitioners think it is fighting but to me it is playing. True if you get kicked with one of those kicks – it will do real damage, but if you are a trained fighter – there is not much chance of that – at least for me when I was younger. They score more point for kicks as they get more complex. Even though a knock out is a knock out is a knock out – not matter if a punch or kick or fancy jump spinning kick to the head. So it is a game.
So in both WMA and HMEA you have older methods but in WMA you also have newer methods. In HEMA not having modern methods is the point. I mean soldiers do not use swords in battle. As the styles of swords changed over the years – the sword method (except for the manuals) died out. Watch this video for an overview of the differences between historical and modern fencing and I’ll add my thoughts about karate and why I like HEMA.
I used to watch Zoro as a kid and of course picked up sticks and fight with my friends. Later as I got involved in Eastern Martial Arts (I knew as Martial Arts), I discovered that kicking and punching is a more effective fighting method. I learned some sword katas in Kenpo but the stress was mostly on knowing how to use an improvised weapon.
So Kendo never really interested me much you see as one cannot walk to the grocery store with a Samurai sword strapped to your belt. Also I am not descended from Asia so there is no particular familial historical interest either. I always wondered how my ancestors survived the dark ages and how one used the weapons of the day but again – they would not work for real fighting today.
I saw this video the other day and got to thinking about Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). This post is just my thinking about taking up sword fighting in a modern age.