The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Interpretation... or making stuff up?

A short last post for 2013.
This is one of a number of pieces that have been sitting in the Drafts folder, that I intend to get published as we enter the new year.
I hope that  you have all had a good 2013 and will have a better 2014...

I have seen some videos recently, and have again been reminded of the issue that comes back to the interpretation of sources...
When a video is posted claiming to be an interpretation  of some images from a MS. and then the live action shown. looks nothing like the images shown.

While I understand the idea extrapolating concepts, principles, tactics etc from techniques. However if one is going to show specific illustrations, I believe it holds that the moving interpretation you shown should contain moments where the illustrations are reflected.

For example is the MS shows the technique being done from behind someone who has been turned in the set up, then the "interpretation" shows a technique being done from the front of the opponent, then it really is not an interpretation but an extrapolation. The same thing with hand and foot positions, either do the action as illustrated and then explain why you can or may need to do it differently, or don't show the illustration.

Otherwise all I am seeing is stuff that has been made up claiming to be something it is not.

Of course once you have done a faithful interpretation of the technique etc. then show how it may be applied in different ways and under varying circumstances, but show it being done the original way first


  1. I agree. There is nothing wrong with interpretive work, as long as the interpretive work is honest and tries to be both martially correct and authentic to the sources that inspired the interpretation.

    Back in July last year I wrote an article about the advantages and disadvantages of interpretive systems within HEMA, it may be interesting for you:

  2. Keith I believe I commented on that blog post of yours and we exchanged a few replies ;) I think we have a slight difference on the use of the term interpretation, I would say that any learning process when one is receiving from a teacher or a written source is interpretive. Although there is the concept of direct transmission, it is generally hard to achieve and is often blocked by poor delivery by the teacher or the pre-set mindset of the student in receiving the source material When one looks at something for which we don't have a source, no teacher of actual material of what is necessary to learn the skill, I would call extrapolation.

    The issue I have in the post above is that people should images or quotes from MS but then show what is in effect an extrapolation but they call it an interpretation.