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.



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.

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