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  1. #1
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    Need help on the history of combat

    Hi all,

    I'm a freelance and MMA writer. I was hoping someone around here might be able to help me with a piece I'm working on.

    One of my current articles focus on the evolution of combat and our understanding of practical fighting techniques. I'm trying to track down someone with an expertise in the history of unarmed combat.

    One question I specifically want to pose is why combat is almost unique in the sense that our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently. There are a few reasons why I think this is the case, but I would love the input of an expert.

    However, most of the people and websites that specialize in the history of combat tend to have a little too much reverence for the fantasy martial arts and generally overstate their utility.

    If anyone could refer me to someone with the relevant expertise, I would greatly appreciate it.

  2. #2

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    I would normally call Matt Phillips up on this one most of question though is based more on hypothesis and conjecture rather than actual historical "facts"

    I can give you the best on my end what specifics would you like?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimMacDonaldMMA View Post

    One question I specifically want to pose is why combat is almost unique in the sense that our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently.
    Quote Originally Posted by JimMacDonaldMMA View Post
    However, most of the people and websites that specialize in the history of combat tend to have a little too much reverence for the fantasy martial arts and generally overstate their utility.
    Are you talking about combat in general, or about fantasy martial arts?

    1. What is the proof c.q. proof that 'our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently'?
    2. <<-- do you mean that the practical techniques regressed?
    3. Do you mean that our understanding of aforementioned techniques regressed?
    4. I have to go, to help you, go in nasty history teacher mode:
    5. who is 'we'? could you please verify? Reason being that combatitive expertise and experiences of the whole human race throughout history is rather large...

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    The Villain's Avatar
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    I'm gonna take issue with the premise. I imagine your average Thug was quite adept at strangling people and that the Zealot was good with the knife and that the Greeks could in fact wrestle.

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    Reading up on historical Pankration stuff would probably be a good place to start.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moenstah View Post
    Are you talking about combat in general, or about fantasy martial arts?

    1. What is the proof c.q. proof that 'our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently'?
    2. <<-- do you mean that the practical techniques regressed?
    3. Do you mean that our understanding of aforementioned techniques regressed?
    4. I have to go, to help you, go in nasty history teacher mode:
    5. who is 'we'? could you please verify? Reason being that combatitive expertise and experiences of the whole human race throughout history is rather large...
    ^^^^^^what he said.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moenstah View Post
    Are you talking about combat in general, or about fantasy martial arts?

    1. What is the proof c.q. proof that 'our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently'?
    2. <<-- do you mean that the practical techniques regressed?
    3. Do you mean that our understanding of aforementioned techniques regressed?
    4. I have to go, to help you, go in nasty history teacher mode:
    5. who is 'we'? could you please verify? Reason being that combatitive expertise and experiences of the whole human race throughout history is rather large...
    Apologies. I can see my original message was a little too vague. I'll attempt to clarify.

    1. That depends on how one defines proof. UFC 1 was so successful precisely because we didn't truly know which system/techniques had the most practical utility, and the event functioned as an experiment that played out in front of a large audience. The fantasy martial arts flourished, while concepts like chi and dim mak weren't viewed with the same skepticism as they are today. In the 1980s, a member of the general public was less likely to be skeptical of Jim Carrey "Karate Instructor" than he would be today.

    Now, this isn't proof that I'd submit for peer review. However, I don't think it's controversial to say that the rise of MMA debunked many myths and generally added to our understanding of unarmed combat.

    2. Yes. Given that we, until recently, arguably had a better understanding of unarmed combat over 2,000 years ago with Pankration. I say "arguably" because it is a hypothesis. Exhibitions of violence included more constraints as time went on, which would obviously undermine our understanding of unconstrained violence. Either way, the point of the expert would be shed some light on the subject, whether that means agreeing or disagreeing with whatever intuitions I have.

    3. When I use words like "we" and "our", I'm referring to the general understanding of unarmed combat at any given time. There may have been an individual/group who was centuries ahead of his time back in 1750, but generally the world currently has a better understanding of what works in a fight and what doesn't.

    Hopefully that clarified my aim to some extent. I'm going to be interviewing Tony Blauer on Monday. That's for a different part of the article, though.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Villain View Post
    I'm gonna take issue with the premise. I imagine your average Thug was quite adept at strangling people and that the Zealot was good with the knife and that the Greeks could in fact wrestle.
    I don't see how any of that is at odds with my premise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Omega Supreme View Post
    I would normally call Matt Phillips up on this one most of question though is based more on hypothesis and conjecture rather than actual historical "facts"

    I can give you the best on my end what specifics would you like?
    I tried to answer in the above post. I'm not sure if that clarifies my aim sufficiently, but it's the best I've got. :)

    I have a feeling that what I'm looking for may be too niche. I'd probably be better off simply researching multiple sources, as opposed to interviewing a single expert.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimMacDonaldMMA View Post
    One question I specifically want to pose is why combat is almost unique in the sense that our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently.
    They didn't really become "techniques" until they were formalized and taught as such in schools which is a relatively recent thing (last few thousand years).

    Every effective technique is probably way older than the first martial arts school, from a practical point of view nature gave us these skills, we didn't "create" them. All animals develop unique fighting skills. That's how they can become intuitive with training; we are really born with the potentials, they just have to be honed through training.

    Somebody in another thread just pointed out the oldest arrowheads are about 60,000 years old, but from a very isolated and unique culture of that time. I wonder if their boxing or grappling was much different than today, what kinds of crazy kung fu **** they must have practiced.

    It's hard to imagine that in prehistory, our ancestors didn't develop effective "proto-boxing" and "proto-grappling" skills, because their modern counterparts still do that sort of thing. Want to see an elite grappling match? Watch two monkeys fight. They would have had to be to survive, until they evolved and learned to build tools. We didn't have teeth or claws for fighting, we just had our bare hands, arms, and legs.

    I think regardless of what art you look at and what age it was developed in whether its 2000BC or 2000AD, our evolutionary ancestors probably did it first, at some point and humans only rediscover these skills through tempering that isn't common in today's age, but a long time ago was the only way to avoid being the road kill of the gene pool, something you learned naturally, or you probably didn't last long.

    But then as a species we developed tools and melee weapons and then gunpowder and firearms, it became less and less common to have to temper hand to hand skills for any practical purpose, which is why in places like the East it went further than practical combat, and used for other purposes (meditation, healing).... until weapons become scarce, unnecessary...and then humans start tempering empty handed skills again for the same reasons they did in 4000 years ago (sport, competition, recreation).

    And because of the lack of truly natural or practical need, only a very small % of the human race today will learn hand to hand combat skills in a practical fashion, but I'll bet 10,000 years ago, most humans had a more natural, primeval fighting capability related to their overall survival skills. Modern humans can probably still tap in to, with the right elements.

    Curious which are the "fantasy martial arts" in your opinion, and which other sites you are referring to. I read...a lot of those.
    Last edited by W. Rabbit; 8/20/2015 12:47am at .

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimMacDonaldMMA View Post
    One question I specifically want to pose is why combat is almost unique in the sense that our understanding of practical techniques arguably regressed until recently. There are a few reasons why I think this is the case, but I would love the input of an expert.
    Objection: Statement assumes facts not yet in evidence...

    For two reasons. One, knowledge has definitely been lost before in many other areas; architecture, and property and historical/birth records being the most obvious. Martial art is not unique in that regard.
    Two, I think that human ingenuity has proven fairly consistent in providing adequate answers for combat when needed, regardless of the era. The art of war has changed drastically since the days of small Koreans trying to flying-kick spear-wielding horsemen off their mounts.... Now the art of war might consist of shooting a sniper off his perch.
    At least, this is what I typically think of when somebody uses the term "combat."

    Pankration was already mentioned; more recently, there's HEMA; more recently, there's some of the mixed Asian styles; more recently, there's WWII combatives, etc. We can argue about their effectiveness as much as we like, but there's a certain level of viability for different circumstances offered by historical evidence we can't really deny. "MMA" as an "art" is - IMO - merely a more modern variation of many viable systems, which is well-suited to modern civilian and some military situations.

    I could try to argue with this "MMA" terminology people are fond of using, but that's probably a dead horse on this forum and I doubt I'd be bringing anything new to anyone here anyway. It's probably not relevant.

    However, most of the people and websites that specialize in the history of combat tend to have a little too much reverence for the fantasy martial arts and generally overstate their utility.
    Basically true, but there are also those who think that "MMA" - or, God forbid, "streetfighting" - in the hands of any ol' boy is better than any traditional martial art. There are morons and extremists of both persuasions...
    Just because something is new-fangled doesn't mean the older - and some would say, proven - stuff isn't viable (assuming proper training, of course).

    Krav Maga is new, and the people who train in that piss me off. Talk about "fantasy martial arts!"

    If anyone could refer me to someone with the relevant expertise, I would greatly appreciate it.
    Oh! You want expertise! Then ignore me. I just like to hit things ineffectually and pretend I know what I'm doing.

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