Do WMAs teach any "mystical" skills?WHy/not?
DO any WMAs preach any kind of mystical or esoteric skills like many eastern MAs (ex. chi/ki manipulation, no touch kos,disabling shouts/kiais)? IF not why do you think this is so?
I blame the British Empire, I would think that esoteric styles of fighting were pretty much wiped out by the advance of modern warfare, chi energies are all we and good against a guy hitting you across the stomach with a stick but less effective against a gunship off the coast of hong kong.
Don't get me wrong I love watching wu shu demonstrations and seeing praying mantis practitioners push people about on stage with their mind but it's all a bit of a show and not that useful as a fighting style. In the west what worked stayed and was distilled and codified into genuine fighting styles while the more artistic and entertaining elements were left out.
Then again WTF do I know? I've never been disabled by a kia, unlike my neighbour who was left paralysed after a particularly bad 'kia' training accident
If you go back far enough, Hans Talhoffer (one of the early German masters) recorded a system of gematria that attempted to predict who would win a duel, the best times of day for particular people to fight duels, etc., based on the supposedly mystical correspondence between the individual's name and either St. George or the Virgin Mary. This system was basically similar to astrology; Talhoffer himself admitted that it didn't always work.
Various Renaissance-era masters did use esoteric symbols in teaching their systems, but this was esotericism in the literal sense of being "hidden"; they would use poetic images based on geometry, animal symbolism, etc. as mnemonics, or so as to conceal the teaching from people who hadn't actually studied with them. For example, here's an image from Fiore dei Liberi's "Flos Duellatorum":
The animals and the objects they are holding represent certain combat skills and strategies, relative to various angles of attack, parts of the body etc. There's nothing mystical about it, but it was intended to be understood by people who had actually trained with dei Liberi, as opposed to people who just happened to read his combat treatise.
There is no WMA equivalent to ki, unless you count breathing exercises, nor any equivalent to no-touch KOs, disabling kiai and so-on.
As to "why?", I think that the short answer is "Christianity". During the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, anyone claiming to be able to knock someone out without touching them or kill them with a shout would probably have been persecuted, if not executed, for being a witch.
I think you could also note that many polytheistic religions had a specific deity of war (romans, greeks, norse) and even christianity created the Templar knights. I think the closest you would get to any kind of equivelant for chi/ki would be the beliefe that their particular god would help them in battle but more through luck or granting of courage rather than any kind of direct intervention or granting of mystical skill.
Originally Posted by DdlR
True, but we don't have any detailed records of, for example, ancient Norse or Celtic martial arts. Some people do work at reconstructing them, but it's largely speculative, as opposed to the systems developed during the 1500s and thereafter, which were recorded in treatises; those were the systems that I was addressing, in the context of the question about WMA.
Originally Posted by Hooded Justice
Prayer was ubiquitous; in fact, the whole "rationale" behind the practice of judicial dueling was that the combatant most favored by God (therefore, the one who most deserved justice) would win the duel. Fortunately, people then developed trial by jury ...
Overall, very informative replies. Not even one scarcastic a*hole out there? Maybe later. I pretty much agree with whats been said so far. The influence of Christianity (anyone claiming to be supernatural gets burned alive) combined with the advent of firearms probably eliminated any techniques that weren't proven or effective over time.
Indeed, I have just been teaching Shakespeare's *Richard II* and *Henry IV, part 1*, in which you can see that Shakespeare is trying to sort the archaic from the modern according to which system of justice the characters prefer. Richard and then Harry Hotspur both favor trial by combat, whereas Bolingbroke/Henry IV is more of a Machiavellian-realpolitick kind of guy, and is accordingly seen as founding a more modern (though less chivalrous) form of government.
Originally Posted by DdlR
As for mystical business in the modern western arts - my coach is a very good man-manager and motivator of the young kids, and speaks endlessly (as is ubiquitous in sports) about motivation, self-respect and "heart." These amorphous terms are, one could argue, equivalent to many esoteric ideas, just with the overtly spiritual aspect emptied out.
Op, not taught but the berserker legends of norse warriors seem to be somewhat along the lines of western fighting mysticism.
I think that the word "esoteric" is probably too amorphous to be strictly useful. Insofar as it just means "hidden" then yes, historical European martial artists did try to keep some of their methods secret, as noted above. Variations on the "universal parry", the "unstoppable attack", etc. were kept in reserve by some masters, although the practice was decried by others and is now generally considered to have been basically a marketing ploy.
If "esoteric" is read as meaning "supernatural powers", then there are precious few examples in the WMA tradition unless we count prayers to God and various saints, and none that I can think of that are really equivalent to kiaijutsu, etc. as mystical powers exhibited by individual fighters. That's excepting the truly ancient pre-Christian traditions as described in folklore, which are full of warriors capable of all sorts of superhuman feats (and which would make an interesting thread, come to think of it).
Then there's simple moral instruction; "do not use these skills for evil purposes", etc., which is pretty much the universal fall-back position for people who earn their livings by teaching other people how to maim and kill.
There's also a kind of borderland definition that combines poetic imagery and motivation. Johannes Lichtenauer, who is often considered to have been the "father" of Renaissance-era German martial arts, recorded his combat system in a series of cryptic poems (merkversen) which would make virtually no sense at all to modern readers, and precious little to people of his own time who weren't his own students. As with dei Liberi's use of animal imagery (and as with modern advertising, etc.) the idea was to "encode" a series of useful teachings into a potent image; it serves as shorthand, as a motivational tool and to conceal the practical teaching from non-initiates.
Fortunately, some of those students took it upon themselves to write "commentaries" upon Lichtenauer's verse, explaining it in less esoteric terms.
By esoteric I was referring to supernatural I tried to clarify by adding mystical and giving examples if chi/ki. However, esoteric in a secretive sense also adds to the mystique behind a specific art so facts stated by DdlR and Hooded Justice about Lichtenauer & Fiore dei Liberi's "Flos Duellatorum" I still find very applicable to the overall conversation.
After checking out the wikipedia link listed I think mike321's example of the norse berserkers is probably the closest thing to a western mystical power.
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