The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Friday, 15 October 2010

Living in the shades of grey

This is a response to a comment left by Hugh on my post on Training methods.

I think that the grey area is where all training takes place, as close to reality as we can get to make it have some value and meaning, while balancing it with safety. In the long term it is all shades of grey, what works and when it does are suggestions not absolute truths.
Especially when studying and recreating historical arts, where the process is in many ways the goal. It also depends very much on what actual arts, skill, you want to recreate. Better, more safe weapons, better protective equipment, may be great, especially if your goal is more free-play and competition.

However we are trying to recreate a lost or historical arts. So as well as trying to find out what they did, or how we can go some way toward how they put those skills into practice, should there not also be an equal drive to understand how they learnt it? What methods they used, how their training might of developed? Is this not the other wheel of the cart of understanding what the people of the past did? What they could do and how they actually learnt it.
I'm not saying that one has to but its worth considering.


  1. Interesting point about learning about older training methods. Hadn't really given much thought to how similar or dissimilar our training techniques are to the ones used historically.
    More food for thought...

  2. It was written by someone on the subject of training...and I paraphrase here "By the age of seven a child should have seen his blood flow, and heard the sound of his bones break"

    In the same way as we cannot duplicate the reality of fighting for our lives, nor I think can we duplicate the training methods of the past. The best we can do, I think, is try to reconnect that broken link with our past. We can never know if we have correctly interpreted the information that is available to us. Every WMA group have their own take on any given system.

    Did they practice indoors or out? demonstrably both. did they use protection while training, once again I think demonstrably so. Blunted swords, wooden and ivory wasters were also used. Should we shy away from modern alternatives? I personally think not.

    If there had been an unbroken line of the use of broad swords, bucklers etc. there would have been a constant desire to improve the equipment. As the weapons fell out of use for war, we would have moved towards fencing as sport (as in epee, foil etc.)

    If we are to revive these skill in any meaningful way, there are two things that need to be done.

    One, Those with the skills and ability, to carry on researching, interpreting and disseminating what they find.

    Two, Find ways of presenting this to a modern student, in such a way as, he/she can indulge without seeing, his/her blood flow, or hearing the sound of bones breaking....experience tells me, we have a way to go in that one ;-)

  3. @ Hugh
    From my point of view, one has to support the other, finding what they could do with a sword is one thing, but how did they learn to use it? Someone can make a sword with modern materials and methods, but making the sword with as authentic methods as possible will give a wider insight.