The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Friday, 22 January 2021

An art is an expression of the time that created it

An art or a system is the product of the time that it was created and evolved in.

 

It is an expression of what those that created it thought was important to survive and thrive in the context that it was intended for.

 The framework they give it will be based upon and expressed through how they and their culture understood the world.

They were of course still operating under the influence and effects of the world the same as we do.

In a culture before modern physics, but where the concepts relating to the physical world were expressed, these may well be used to communicate or support those Principles and Concepts contained in the system.

 

It can be hard for us now to understand things from a time before. We are seeing with a different baseline of how the world is. Both more and less naive.

 However, if we hold that our modern understanding of the world gained by a more refined grasp of the sciences, is true, those rules would have been affecting the people in the past as well. Even if the people then did not have the ways to frame that understanding.

 

For example, now have a deeper understanding of Physics and Physiology. We can study an action with a set of tools that the practitioners of the past did not possess.

That can be both a benefit and a curse. A curse because we cannot truly unsee these things. It, further distances us from them.

 

However, whether we have more tools at our disposal or not. We have to ask the question does that really matter.

While I may have a “better” understanding of the rules of biomechanics, time, and motion and so on, it does not mean I can impart he skills of a martial art any better to a student. Nor can they understand it better? Because, although this understanding is part of the make up of our culture, that does not mean it has a deep personal impact or meaning. Most people are experiential, and we as guides to a new skill, have to find those we work with, where their experience lies and build from there.

 

There is an old trope that people of the past thought the world was flat. However, people have known the world was round for tens of centuries. Does that mean everyone understood the word was round? Heck, we even no have people who think the world is flat and who try to use modern science to prove it!

However, we have to ask, how useful to most people in the past was this information? They had no experience of it, nor did it add to anything to their lives, as such it made no difference. So its truth was not useful.

 

So, what do we need to understand about the grasp of the world, people of the past had?

We need to consider and grasp what they thought was important. What they express in the words they leave us.

For example, George Silver says there are True and False times, that The True times are Time of the hand, Hand body, Hand Body Foot and Hand Body Feet.

It is not important whether these may or may not be “True” in a modern scientific sense; even if we can interpret them clearly enough to allow us to assess that in the modern sense.

We also need to recognise that it may not have been thought True then; I am not suggesting this is the case but making an example.

What we do need to recognise   is that those ideas were held to be True by Silver when he wrote his work.

Why? Because he used those terms and ideas to get people to understand his Practice and why it worked and why it was better, in his opinion, than those of others.

This does imply that his expected audience would recognise and accept these concepts with the frame of their understanding. Or that the use of these ideas would be influential to the audience he hoped to attract.

 

Conclusion

We need to consider that what we are studying is a product of its time. We need to think Holistically about the time, how it thought about the world and how it thought about its own past. We can use concepts from our time us practice the analyse these things. But we must not lose sight that while many things have remained the same Others have changed markedly.

However, the purpose, to convey ideas is one that still holds a place now, even if who we do it has changed.

Also that the motivations to do so may well carry through to the present day as well. Notoriety, fame, influence, ego etc.


Saturday, 16 January 2021

Interpreting your interpretation

Some thoughts and considerations in part sparked by recent discussions of an oft debated source in the history or European Martial arts, and no I am not going to talk about who it is, though you might guess.

 

How do we interpret the effectiveness of our interpretation?

First or all we are all interpreting a system, whether the system is living or dead, we are interpreting through our own mentally, physicality and a host of other factors. When we have a teacher, they can guide us and perhaps lets us know when we are heading in an inappropriate direction, though of course when we have a teacher we are interpreting, we are interpreting their interpretation. This rabbit hole is another post if I have not done wone already.

So, let us consider some things we need to reflect on to interpret our Interpretation.

 

What are the sources for?

Fighting? What is that? There are obviously different goals for martial arts, and we need to be clear what those are. We need to know what those goals are, what the source we are looking at is intended for and what we are looking for in that source.

What we are looking for colours what we see, and we will interpret what we are looking at through he lens of what we are looking for.

Now while we can say fighting, as if it were one encompassing thing. However, a system is a summation of the things the person who created thought was important to function and succeed in combat, fighting, the goal they intended it for. So really a system is a preservation of those things, it is not about success in fighting, for us.  

 

What is this source aimed at?

So, we need to consider what the source we are looking at is aimed at. What problems is it claiming to solve, explicitly or implicitly. We also need to consider time and context, place etc. they will all effect the system that creates it. Are we matching the source to our approach?

 

What does the source say?

Obviously, we need to understand what the source is saying. What are the key concepts and Principles of the system? If the system says we should only do X when Y happens, then we need to recognise that and only do X when happens otherwise we are contradicting the system.

We also need to remember that a source will sell itself and the person who created it. A source will say it is the best for solving a problem that of course may or may not be true. Unfortunately, many systems do not address this with examples of being of them being used, or when they do, they are often self-referential. So, it hard to be sure how effective it was. Just because the source survived, does not of itself mean it was s effective. Regardless, a system is only as effective as the people saying they use it.


Is the Source Unique or does it claim that it is?

Many systems claim themselves to be part of a wider school or lineage, others makes claims of being different to all the rest, others make claims of being "New".

Now the veracity of those clams is less important than they are actually made. If the source is saying it doing something different, I need to make my interpretation with that in mind, especially when they are expressing ideas that are an outlier to the others of the time and in wider context.

 

Are we doing what the source says or are we “fighting”? 

Neither is wrong as such, unless we are claiming  we are doing the system when we are not

If the system says we should fight this way, then if we are doing that system, we should fight that way.

If I am ignoring the approach of the system, I might be highly successful as a fighter, but I am not doing the system, my success as a fighter says nothing about the effective of the system or my interpretation of it unless I can show to be doing what I say I am doing.

 

Do we know that the source was actually conveying an effective approach to the problem?

Too often it is treated as self-evident that because a source is from a period where people used the sword for example to fight for their lives that it means any system that survives from that time is inherently effective. 

However we do not know that. 

Especially if the source claims itself to be different and outlier, new or unique. Even with more popular and widespread a system may be, just means it was good at surviving in the market and sustaining itself. In the modern world we cannot judge the effectiveness or validity of a system based upon how popular it is, number of students, number of schools or how present in the wider consciousness of the society it is.

 

When we do what we say we are doing, is that congruent with what we say it is?

My interpretation of the concepts and Principles of the system may be a good interpretation. However, is my physical application of those things in line with what I say they are or should be.

 

Just because I say I am doing something does not mean I am actually doing it?

Just because I or others claim I am doing the system, am I really. I have seen skilful fighters, who claim they were doing system X, they stood in a stance of system X they had their fight, which was utilising g system Y and then when they had won, were standing in a stance of system X. Look at how effective system X is!! Most vocally the supporters of system X.

 

Just because we say the same thing does not mean we are doing the same things?

Lots of systems say similar things or the same things. Yet there can be a huge variation in how those things are executed in practice. Two systems talk about economy of motion, one does something in one move, the other in three. Wing Chun, and the various spellings etc, talk about similar concepts, use artefacts like Chi Sau to train them they produce a huge variety of results,

 

How do we test our interpretations effectiveness?

Success in free play, competitions? Maybe? But are those things a valid analogue of the intended goal of the original system? A practitioner of that system may be applying as correctly as possible the Principles of the system. However, they may fail in the modern analogues available. This may be because the analogue is not an effective representation, the fighter themselves is not skilled or experienced enough to makes what they know succeed in the analogue, or the system itself is flawed.

 

Conclusion

We have to constantly ask questions of what we are doing what we think we are doing, what and how we look at things. We also need to vigorously assess how we think about and verify what we are doing. This becomes more important when we make claims about what we are doing being based upon a source.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Lock down catch up

Who would of thought (actually quite a lot of people actually, ut that's another thing)... that we would be sat here in lockdown, during a modern plague.

Something from the past that we have now been exposed to, something the practitioners of old would have been exposed to on a pretty regular basis.

As with many people, Im planning to use this to make more of out thoughts available here on the blog and on the website.

Looks to see more stuff coming.

Keep well and stay safe.
Above all honour

Sunday, 16 February 2020

ehcg.net working again

We are glad to say that the Guild website, ehcg.net is working again.

Go here Guild Website

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Failure, expertise and time

"The one thing that all expertise theorists agree on is that it takes enormous effort to build" the expert mind, either in the realm of chess or in another discipline, Ross states. 

In the process, "motivation appears to be a more important factor than
innate ability.... The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates" that professionals with outstanding skills, in short, "are made, not born."

Research indicates that the key "is not experience per se but 'effortful study,'" according to Ross. Such study involves learning and practice that entail "continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence." 
In other words, Lewinski explains, as you gain in ability, "the bar is constantly moved higher so that your skill level must keep stretching and improving to reach it."

The brief goes to say later:
"Instead of departmental policies and priorities that encourage mediocrity, we need a training philosophy that encourages, nurtures and guides the development of expertise. It's what the community expects and deserves."

If you have the burning drive of a 5%er, determined to maximize your Skills regardless of obstacles, understand that "in the early stages, effortful study is very difficult," Lewinski says. 

"Pushing your limits inevitably involves a lot of failure. When you fail, you need to back off a bit, learn to correct your weaknesses, and build your way back up."

"To get really, really good takes time. Be patient with yourself, because you need that time for your training and experience to evolve into mastery."

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Website up and running again

So after much hassle with the site hosts, the Guild website is up and running again

The job of rebuilding th site from scratch has begun, but is a slow process. Also much of the old content was mislaid or disappeared.

We are also updating the content the last over haul of the Guild site was 10 years ago and much has changed since then.

Go to the Guild site ehcg.net



Saturday, 23 March 2019

If it could have happened, how would it have happened?

After John Waller's death many people obviously remembered things that he had said and done that had an impact on their livers and how they thought about things.

This one was from Guy Wilson, former Master of the Royal Armouries and Johns friend and colleague for many years.

As John and he worked together on many projects, the films, How a Man Schall be armyed, Masters of Defence and the building and setting up of the purpose built museum in Leeds and all that entailed.

Guy was remembering that in the quest to attempt to understand and to understand and bring history to life we needed to ask this question...

That it was an ongoing question, that one can not continue to question what we know and what we believe about the the answers we have.

Others may do that but evenn iof they don't we should questions it ourselves.

The renowned archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, an influence on John in his youth from his appearances on television amounsgt others things,  said that any theory he had, if not challenged by others after some time, then he needed to challenge it himself.

We can not be too certain of what we know, with any subject, and especially when dealing with one separated from us in time or about which we may have little or small amounts of information.

More worrying than not knowing something is being too certain of what we think we know.

If it could have happened, how would it of happened.