Martial Arts in Historical Fighting – Or Just Wild Battle Thrashing?
[Intro theme] All right, today I want to talk about martial arts in historical fighting. Oddly enough on numerous occasions I’ve seen it sort of dismissed as just fancy techniques, and even juxtaposed to real fighting, so there’s also a tendency for people to jump to the conclusion based on some of my videos that I think all fighting, you know battlefields or in duels, in history were always done with these fancy rehearsed techniques, and it was never a matter of just winning through brute strength and endurance. Which is absolutely not true. that is, certainly, strength and endurance are important and, Sometimes that’s the only thing that separated life from death especially on a battlefield. duels are a little bit different, but… Let’s just talk about it in general terms. So first off, how many people were actually professionally trained of those who fought? Well that varies a lot from time period to time period and different regions of the world so you’ve had everything from peasant levies who have never fought outside of a bar room brawl, maybe who just took up pitchforks, axes and whatever tools they had available, and had to show up on the battlefield and fight somehow. And then all the way at the top you have the professional warrior elites. Knights, any sort of fighting nobility, Samurai, etc, etc. The people who would get the most training there was, and the best equipment. That was available at the time. It doesn’t get any better than that. Then you’ve got everything in between. So I’ve often seen people argue that even the ones who were professionally trained, would then on a battlefield resort to just brute forcing their way and just swinging their weapon wildly until everything around them was either dead or friendly Now, that may have happened occasionally, but I would think, when we’re talking about professional warriors, This would really be more kind of ‘noob’ behavior. If you don’t mind that term. This is not something that somebody would do who has been trained since the age of six or seven, like Knights would have been. They would have trained so much that this would be second nature. That these techniques, be it fancy or not, Will just be so ingrained that their muscle memory takes over and they would just do what they have trained in a real battle even when it becomes stressful, even when adrenaline is flooding their system, they would still resort to the most basic level of their training, what they’ve practiced the most. Now that may be simpler than some of the more advanced, complex techniques that you might see in a one on one duel, but it still doesn’t mean that it would be wild flailing. Kind of messy. Now That’s how a lot of people imagine a battle (a historical battle) and to be fair sometimes It was just that. It did get messy at times, absolutely and the issue, however that I see here is it still requires a certain amount of marshal training, which a lot of fighting units on the battlefield would have received in one form or another. Now it could be professional training like a Roman legionary would receive for example. It might be more informal training like the Vikings for example were well known to practice martial arts in their downtime, like a recreational activity. wrestling, for example. It could be Knights who were formally trained from a young age It could be african tribesmen who participated in martial arts training and martial arts related games things like that, you know cultures that valued fighting and warfare, and would often incorporate that into their fun pastime games. Either way there is a tremendous advantage to knowing how to fight, as opposed to just being strong and fast and and having lots of stamina. For example a common problem that beginners have in martial arts is they’re very tense. They just have this really rigid posture and all the muscles are contracting. And just *GRR* go about it You know very stiffly which is for one biomechanically less efficient. If you have already have all your muscles tensed up and you throw this cut it’s actually not going to hit as hard as a cut that is nice and relaxed first has good body mechanics, and then tenses up at the moment of impact. It’ll deliver much more force and thereby do more damage also, if you know how to stay relaxed you conserve your energy much more, and this is quite a substantial issue, especially on a historical battlefield. Now in these battle events nowadays when people show up an armor and bash each other until they fall down these are cases where they they are most likely, well rested well fed, and they do it for a day and or half a day whatever and then they’re done. In a historical context imagine you are a soldier who had to march for several days, possibly even a forced march maybe even through part of the night, getting minimal sleep, possibly running out of rations, being hungry, being out in the elements in the rain and cold nights etc etc while carrying heavy equipment. And then lining up on the battle when you’re completely exhausted and tired and starving, Then you have to fight. That is harsh. This is where folks often argue, “That’s why techniques went out the window because people were this exhausted and tired”, but knowing martial arts knowing how to move effectively Actually helps you because you expend less energy. You move more efficiently. That’s really a large part of what martial arts is about: How to accomplish the goal of delivering damage while avoiding damage yourself, Incapacitating an opponent, doing that in the most efficient way possible Not to mention the fact that professional fighting units who had to maintain a certain formation, Like the Greek phalanx for example, they would have to know how to move. They couldn’t be completely out of sync with all their movements because it would disturb the formation And if you for example if they have to overlap their shields with the guy next to them They need to know how to do that and then how to march effectively and how to strike when to strike What to aim for all of that. So they most likely received some form of training Now this, you have to keep in mind, is all speculation. I’m just talking based on what seems to make sense because we don’t know really for sure how they fought There was minimal evidence about that in the fighting manuals from medieval times that dealt with one-on-one duels we have specifics It tells you “fight this way and use this technique to break that guard” Etc is very specific and it shows us the pictures and describes how so, and it still Requires some interpretation and reconstruction and trial and error and all of that, but it’s much, much clearer. Whereas for battlefield fighting, we don’t have that much. Sure we have formations we have tactics general things, but how the individual soldier was expected to move and fight? We don’t really have anything about that. At least, I’m not aware of any detailed sources, so it’s just conjecture for the most part. And as said, there were definitely people who didn’t know what they were doing. No doubt about it. I mean, as I said, there were levees. there were people who were just forced to take up arms, whatever they had and go out, and do the thing. so they would not be professional soldiers. They would not know how to fight the majority of Celts on historical battlefields, for example, would be farmers, craftsmen, lower classes, they wouldn’t be the higher-ups, they wouldn’t be nobility. Nobility can be expected to learn how to fight. The lower classes, not so much, but it depends they may, as said, had done that recreationally. For example, English archers would practice their archery on a regular basis for example during the Hundred Years War between England and France at certain times it was forbidden on Sunday to practice any sport or play any games other than during archery because men were supposed to be encouraged to refine their skills with a bow and be more useful on a battlefield Now whether they practiced hand-to-hand combat that I’m not so sure about. I’m guessing that they would mainly focus on archery, and then when it came down to hand-to-hand combat. They would probably literally just draw their ax, or whatever they can pick up on the battlefield and just have at it and hack at the opponent until they’re dead. So no doubt that happened, so obviously it was not all just fancy technique. Especially on the battlefield in duels as well of course sometimes you had people who weren’t very good at fighting, but who found themselves in a situation where they have to accept a challenge or lose face, and then they would also not be particularly effective. At the same time there was plenty of elite fighting units That did practice a form of martial art, so yeah That’s pretty much what I’ve got to say about that topic for right now. I hope you found it interesting, and thanks for watching. [Outtake] On historical battles, and duels, Now, [Cough break] The guy who’s never smoked a cigarette in his entire life seems to be getting throat cancer Skall: What? Female: You okay? Skall: Yeah, I’m just [cough] my voice doesn’t work (dude) That’s okay. I’m not suffocating here [Cough break] Okay, let’s try that again. [Outro music]