You are right. 'Scuse me. :)
Originally Posted by SBG-ape
Peace favor your sword,
Some things to consider:
I. Self Improvement in WMA: In my experience there does seem to be a notion of self-improvement in WMA, though it is more implied than outright stated. The building of grace, strength, discipline, and wit all seem intertwined with the practice of WMA. Linguistically this can inferred. The Latin definition of disciplina and the Greek definitions of katalepsis and esoterike harmonia, both seem to tell me this. Also take a look at indigenous works of literature. Wrestling and swordsmanship seems connected to an idealized man, as can be seen in the Eddas and in the tale of Beowulf. Great warriors, Greco-Roman or Germanic, are seen as virtuous through their warrior crafts because of the values said crafts instill in those warriors.
II. H. Knight: As previously stated there is a difference between being athletic and fat, and just plain old fat. I have a friend is training to be a boxer and while he is quite fat, he is also amazing (for his size) when it comes to cardio and can lift (to me) ridiculous amounts of weights. Then there are people who just plain fat. People who went through any sort of boot camp know these sorts of people. Fat but can't do any push ups, pull ups, or run for more than a minute at a time. That all being said, I don't want to comment on the fatness of the man in question because I've never seen him in person. For all I know he could actually be quite muscular under all that padding. Only way we'll know for sure is if we get someone out to him for some sparring which seems pretty unlikely to happen. Fatness aside, I think his videos have a little value to them. The codex Le Jeu de La Hachewas difficult for me to visually understand until I saw some of the actions in his video on it, so that is sort of nice. His videos make it easier to picture material in the codices but that's about it, in my opinion. His static way of fighting is totally unrealistic and pathetic, and would hardly work against a non-compliant fighter. If anything his videos are sort of a "what not to do" take on the fencing books, in that he does the moves smoothly but without any intent or speed.
I think you misunderstood, He says that blossfechten free play is not effective because of modern protection and simulators, but harnessfechten freeplay is ok. Some people said that that his statements are a excuse not to spar, well, he said he has no problem sparring with armour. If anybody lives near him, weŽd love to see some videos.
What do you guys think of his statements about japanese swordsmanship has no free play?
I think the idea that no kenjutsu ryuha engage in freeplay and only do kata is a misconception. Certainly, however, kata is the fundamental practice method in Japanese weapons systems. I have heard of freeplay in anecdotes, but I do not have any firsthand knowledge of it. Dave Lowry describes in one of his memoirs a form of "freeplay" within the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu in which his instructor changed the kata in midflow and expected him to respond appropriately. Ellis Amdur, in his book Old School, mentions without detail freeplay between a practice sword and practice kusarigama. Perhaps someone else can share their experiences?
Originally Posted by cerkuenik
I would also guess that there are more than a few practitioners of kenjutsu ryuha that are active in Kendo. It seems pretty common-sensical to me that they would experiment with the kenjutsu ryuha tactics and strategies within the boundaries of the Kendo competition. Again, this is my speculation.
Have to disagree there. The historical literature, and the post 1500 sources in particular (although it starts earlier, with masters such as Vadi) all stress the importance and benefits of fencing as physical exercise and character building (including the notion of 'service' to the nation/prince/community etc).
Originally Posted by lklawson
In 1570 Joachim Meyer stressed the importance of self improvement and moral behaviour, as well as mentioning the health benefits of committed fencing practice:
"...instead they will seek to thoroughly understand this art, and to learn to apply a true honourable earnestness, to purge themselves of useless peasants' brawling, and to be diligent in all manliness, discipline, and breeding, so that when they have truly and fully learnt this art, and lead an honourable life, then they may be thought able to direct others, and particularly the youth, and thereby to be of service...
...Whatever additional benefit this practice will yield for the fitness and health of the body, I will leave for the more perceptive to recognise."
"Forward to the reader" pgs 42, 45 of J Forgeng's translation.
In his 1599 "Paradoxes of Defence" George Silver says this:
"And moreover, the exercising of weapons puts away aches, griefs, and diseases, it increases strength, and sharpens the wits. It gives a perfect judgement, it expels melancholy, choleric and evil conceits, it keeps a man in breath, perfect health, and long life. It is unto him that has the perfection thereof, a most friendly and comfortable companion when he is alone, having but only his weapon about him. It puts him out of fear, & in the wars and places of most danger, it makes him bold, hardy and valiant."
Sounds like self improvement is a very real goal there.
Today, perhaps. But clearly, the masters' own words make it clear that self improvement, including improved fitness and health, was a very real goal in the past. If it was seen as worthwhile by previous masters such as Meyer and Silver, why should improving one's fitness not be also be consideration today? Especially for anyone claiming the title of "Meister" (Master)?
Even today, most people who train MA do so because it's a fun hobby and "Self Improvement" (and even "Self Defense") are distant seconds which more often are only given lip service.
I think many of the historical masters would disagree with you. Clearly Meyer and Silver thought the physical benefits of fencing as exercise were worth mentioning and striving for. Silver explicitly mentions improved health and even aerobic fitness ("breath") and extended life as benefits of practice. Clearly fencing was meant to be "athletic" enough to have real health and life extending benefits in the past - why should we hold ourselves to a lower standard today?
There is a certain subset of martial artists who are Body Nazis or are otherwise truly doing MA for "Self Improvement" but it's a comparatively small subset. So, no, "Self Improvement" isn't a required goal in order to qualify as "a serious martial artist."
The fact is, our physical health (strength, flexability, aerobic fitness) and weight affects our interpretations of the sources. In some cases (e.g. obesity or extreme weakness) it places great restrictions on one's capacity to execute the physical actions with the correct mechanics at full speed.
No one is doubting the potential strength, skill or stamina of an obese person who is highly conditioned. But the reality is, a very obese person carries their body in certain ways in order to manage the imposed load and prevent injury and stress on joints and muscles: such compensatory carriage has an impact on their stance, footwork, bodywork and swordwork. No matter how impressive their knowledge, this can, unfortunately, make them poor instructors for leaner, fitter students who are "visual" learners and need to see actions performed correctly when learning them.
In Hugh's videos his physical condition is clearly imposing certain limitations on his ability to athletically perform the actions of the German school of longsword. I've no intention to attack the man over his appearance, but the reality of our physical condition and its impact on our physical performance should be acknowledged for the sake of intellectual and martial honesty.
Last edited by WMA Cynic; 2/13/2010 11:45pm at .
Yes, they certainly write about "moral" improvements. But looking back at the actual history and events surrounding the arts (I've had the privilege of recently working on republishing a History of Duelling) I'd have to say that the idea either wasn't particularly popular, never "caught on," or was little more than lip-service (much the way it is today). Oh sure, the Duellists went on about this or that honor but when you look at most of the actions, it's pretty clear that they weren't training for moral reasons, nor were they typically fighting for them.
Originally Posted by WMA Cynic
Then they'd be wrong. The idea of "self improvement" is amorphous enough as it stands and there are countless examples of genuine "serious martial artists" who aren't body nazis. There are a lot of hard drinking, heavy smoking, mean SOB's who'll stab you as soon as look at you and they've been represented in the arts since Unk clubbed Gru over the head with a stick.
I think many of the historical masters would disagree with you.
Peace favor your sword,
Well of course, you get out of it what you put into it, same then as it is now. A little martial training isn't a magic wand that automatically turns a couch potato into Achilles, or a Hyde into a Jekyll. My point was, self improvement (physical, mental) was a stated goal of many historical masters and some of them did more than merely 'paying lip service' to the idea of self improvement - they actively strived for it and advised us to strive for it too.
Originally Posted by lklawson
Not all the masters who left treatises were duellists. Some, such as Silver, went to great pains to criticise duellists (particularly with the rapier), because they murdered one another in times of peace when they should have been honing and saving their skills with battle worthy arms for martial service in times of war.
Oh sure, the Duellists went on about this or that honor but when you look at most of the actions, it's pretty clear that they weren't training for moral reasons, nor were they typically fighting for them.
Pithy. A bit of an odd view, though, for anyone studying 'historical' martial arts.
What's this 'body nazi' stuff about? Forget what people look like. We're not talking about a beauty pageant or underwear modelling shoot here. We're talking about the physical conditioning and fitness required for fighting: ask any competitive boxer or MMAer whether fitness matters or not. I think we all know the answer.
The idea of "self improvement" is amorphous enough as it stands and there are countless examples of genuine "serious martial artists" who aren't body nazis.
Certainly, fitness probably matters a bit more for unarmed fighters, since weapons are (by design) force multipliers that allow a more skilled but weaker fighter to overcome a stronger but less skilled one. Still, superior fitness is a potential edge, and only a fool gives up any edge (especially if their life is on the line).
In addition to Silver and Meyer, Hans Talhoffer (writing in the 15th century) describes how a Master should train a fighter for an impending duel. The fighter is advised to work out for as much as 4 hours a day in the lead up to the duel: 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the evening, at a variety of fencing and general athletic activities to improve his general physical fitness (e.g. flexibility, coordination, strength, balance). The fighter is advised to observe a healthy diet, including steeped black bread for 'good breath' and a 'free heart' (again, the importance of aerobic fitness is stressed). It's hard to imagine a hard drinking, heavy smoking and obese martial artist being capable of such a regimen.
There are a lot of hard drinking, heavy smoking, mean SOB's who'll stab you as soon as look at you and they've been represented in the arts since Unk clubbed Gru over the head with a stick.
For a modern example, imagine our hard drinking, heavy smoking guy going into a real boxing gym and telling the old coach there he should be taken seriously as a martial artist, despite the fact he never works out, doesn't do any conditioning, does no roadwork, no skipping, no situps or pushups, no shadowboxing and no work on the heavy bag. I think we can all imagine the coach's reaction when the guy says he doesn't need any of that physical fitness work, because he's a 'hard drinking, heavy smoking, mean SOB who'll stab anyone as soon as look at em'.
All other things being equal (skill, experience, determination etc) the physically fitter, stronger, faster and hardier fighter has the edge. Importantly, the well conditioned fighter can train harder, longer and more often, making increased skill based gains compared to less well conditioned fighters who cannot train as hard or as often.
So all excuses and self-justifications for inaction aside, the fact most of us have some physical limitations, whether it results from old injuries, lifestyle, lack of time or motivation, our genes etc, doesn't change the reality that physical fitness matters a great deal in hand to hand combat. We can choose to acknowledge this truth and try to improve our fitness as best we can (limitations and all) or we can choose to completely ignore it, pretend it doesn't matter, handicaping ourselves and limiting our martial potential in the process.
Ultimately, it's a question left up to each individual.
This would have been a good term for you to look up before commenting on it.
Originally Posted by WMA Cynic
Peace favor your sword,
Hm.. according to the urban-dictionary article you linked, his guess at what "body nazi" could be referring to fits quite well. So whats your point?
Originally Posted by lklawson
Who in this tread would qualify as a "body nazi" anyhow? There is a difference between "You need a certain level of fitness to effectively wield a sword and Hugh Knight does not meet these basic requirements" and "Look how admirable my biceps is!".
You are drawing on tremendously short and rotten straws. Why do you take this discussion so overly personel anyhow?
No cigar. I suspect you are struggling to form a cogent counter argument here (understandable, since trying to argue that physical fitness isn't a factor in fighting effectiveness is a logic dead end). Instead, we’ve been caught in a diversionary noise loop about body nazis, in what seems an attempted sidestep around the real issues, history and science of the substantive debate.
Diet, health and fitness matters in the physically intense and antagonistic activity of fighting. This is very old wisdom, ancient in fact. The Greeks (with their athletic games and martial sports) knew the importance and value of fitness and exercise for soldiers, as did Medieval and Renaissance Europeans (cue Silver, Meyer and Talhoffer for starters). Modern boxing and wrestling coaches will tell you the same things: the old adage "sweat more (when you train), bleed less (when you fight)" is a truism professional European warriors all throughout history would almost certainly agree on.
So what are the counter arguments against fitness in martial arts? Bearing in mind everyone has their limits and handicaps, why shouldn't serious Western martial artists assess and work on their fitness? Shouldn't modern instructors (especially self-proclaimed masters) set a good example for their students and try and lead by example as best they can?
Outside the strict realm of fighting effectiveness, other good reasons to promote healthy, active lifestyles among Western martial artists include helping reduce the incidence of diseases and premature death from things such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research has shown the poor diet and inactive, sedentary lifestyles of many modern people is having serious impacts on their physical and mental health and wellbeing and is driving up demand and thus the cost for reactive health care and hospitals: preventative health care in the form of healthy, active lifestyles benefits both individuals and the community at large.
Ultimately, if some martial artists don’t see any role for health and fitness in martial training, that’s fine. It’s their life and body to use and abuse as they see fit (no pun intended). So long as they’re honest about it, and don’t go around claiming that fitness doesn’t impact martial effectiveness (especially with their students, if they have any).
Happy to debate the issues and evidence upfront. Not really interested in continuing this if it is going to devolve into word games.
Last edited by WMA Cynic; 2/19/2010 11:46am at .
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