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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 12:00 pm    Post subject: Why I don't join HEMA groups         Reply with quote

I've often been tempted to pursue formalized study of historical European martial arts. It's a natural outgrowth of my interest in the weapons and armour I love.

I have chosen not to pursue joining any established group because I simply can't abide the name-calling, finger-pointing, we're-right-you're-wrong attitude so prevalent in a number of the groups out there (there are exceptions, of course). They've lost a potential member (and source of revenue, I might add) and have turned off someone who otherwise had a genuine interest in the art. That's unfortunate for all of us.

And I suspect I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I'll reconsider my stance when the groups show me that they are simply out to do the best interpretation they can of the old masterworks; when they stop trying (pointlessly, I might add) to convince the rest of the world that they are right and everyone else is wrong; when their goal is simply to the best they can be, doing the best interpretation they can and leaving everyone else to do what they feel is best.

I relate many things in this hobby to my profession: music. We can debate exactly how Beethoven intended his works to be played, but we can't know for sure, despite the sources we have. (And Beethoven is more recent than many of the HEMA arts we try to recreate!) So, people simply strive to do the best they can based on what they know and leave others to do the same.

For example, I've yet to see the New York Philharmonic musicians get into it with people from the Cleveland Orchestra because of disagreements on vibrato or bowing, etc. If everyone agreed on performance practice for Beethoven's music, we wouldn't need or want the countless different recordings that exist. Instead, we benefit from the diversity of interpretations even when we don't agree with them.

My advice to HEMA groups: Do your job and let others do theirs. Worry more about your own interpretation than theirs. Agree to disagree and move the hell on.

Maybe some day you'll stop turning people off and the arts can expand even further, fueled by a diversity of opinions.

This is meant to be food for thought. I'm not interested in the least in representatives of HEMA factions posting about how they aren't like that, it's the other guys who are. I simply want groups to know they are potentially losing members because of the pointless in-fighting.

Happy

ChadA

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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah I never understood the point of it. I would understand if someone disagreed and said why they disagreed and gave sources/examples/whatever to back why they disagreed . . . And then left it at that. That's one of the things about the ARMA I admire they keep a tight rein on that sort of thing (Forumwise at least).

It reminds me of history and certain theories that just give me so much grief when you're trying to have a thoughtful discussion and then someone jumps in and quotes someone's pet theory and the thread degenerates into a I'mrightyou'rewrongnoI'mrightandyou'rewrong fest.

And of course it's annoying as all get out when you're trying to learn the technique(s) and have been working at it for a while and then you're told you're wrong, so you do it the other way, and then you're told that wrong, and so you try again, and on, and on . . . So I end up confused frustrated because I have no clue which way is the right way and all I want to do is learn how to defend myself
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Nathan Gilleland





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad,

That's really food for thought, and I must say that you're not alone in your opinions. I find it really unfortunate that people feel that they must argue about something that is so dependent on personal interpretation. I personally would like to attend several schools, and gather the different interpretations on the same treatise. Diversity is part of our culture.

You summarized my feelings better than I could have.

Seek Honor before Wealth,
Truth before Honor,
God Before all
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that's part of the activity. It's not like the bickering is restricted to HEMA, it happens in nearly all martial activity that I know about. I know it sounds a bit desperating, but there are things that make the martial arts stand appart from music (as far as I know about music, feel free to correct me Wink ).

First of all the masters themselves were constantly criticizing one another, the schools were competing with each other. How long do you think it would have taken before George Silver would have been banned from myArmoury Happy ? Basically they were all convinced that they had the truth of it and were calling the others liars, since they were selling something different from the true Art, and therefore were cheating their students. There is no such strife among musicians that I know of.

The activity itself is also inherently combative. A martial artist becomes better by training hard to overcome others. He must question everything he sees and ask himself "how can I take advantage of someone that does that?". I guess you can think of it as an overblown critical thinking. I believe this is necessary; people that just imitate without questioning what they do tend to stall in martial arts (even in traditionnal ones). Of course, the leaders are the one that got better and this trait is more pronounced in them. All the more so since they also have to teach others.

The one thing that prevents that tendency to criticism is respect. Respect is gained mainly through practice together, and that's why you tend to see "polite" communities grouped around events (WMAW/ARMA events/European gatherings...) or around the material they use (shinai/steel/wood/plastic...) or around their focus (longsword/rapier/grappling...). As soon as you get isolated communities that cannot communicate through common practice, you'll get some bickering because only the critical eye is left. Since the HEMA community is still relatively sparse, this effect can be important.

Another trait that is somewhat selected in those that undertake HEMA is the tendency to go against the grain. There are still many preconceptions around about how people fought, and it takes a good level of self-confidence to go against these popular notions and fight them. This tends to give birth to pretty polarizing personnalities, I think.

With all that said, the level of proficiency and understanding is steadily increasing. I don't mind a little friction and heat as long as it is profitable over the long run.

Regards,

--
Vincent
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David Teague




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 3:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Why I don't join HEMA groups         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
I'll reconsider my stance when the groups show me that they are simply out to do the best interpretation they can of the old masterworks; when they stop trying (pointlessly, I might add) to convince the rest of the world that they are right and everyone else is wrong; when their goal is simply to the best they can be, doing the best interpretation they can and leaving everyone else to do what they feel is best.


Hello Chad,

The smell of dirty laundry does cause people to leave the area...

With this thought in mind, you just might want to go watch any nearby classes to see if there is anybody near you who's teaching style/ current interpretation you like. Don't base your opinions solely on any heated internet exchanges as many posters are not the instructor(s) of that group.

Believe it or not, regardless of the bickering you might see online, when we are all training in our salles we tend to be focused on the sword work at hand not the latest internet battle royale . I think most groups leave the internet gossip to the voluntary pub session after training. Most students don't even care then.

In my personal case, I don't charge for my classes, I supply thousands of dollars worth of training gear for new beginners to use and I pay for a 2 million dollar MA insurance policy for my students. Why?by doing what I do, it allows me to grow as a practitioner of the art and it allows me to share the knowledge that I have learned thus far. I travel to the events to work with the latest changes and then incorporate them into my core curriculum. My students and I are in the process of relearning the base of the system I teach due to some rather cool changes I picked up from fellow instructors when I was at the WMAW. That's the point of those events.

In summary, try out a few near by groups, see if there is anybody you like, involvement beyond class is voluntary, and there are far more people out in the world trying to come as close as they can to the masters' work. They are always willing to trash what they know. Change it be be closer/better at what they do, than just bicker on the net.

Yours,

David Teague

This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

Free Scholar/ Instructor Selohaar Fechtschule
The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."


Last edited by David Teague on Sat 03 Oct, 2009 10:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hate to say it, but I see exactly where Chad is coming from, even as a WMA practitioner. But I'll also say this: There is a much stronger sense of disagreement and vitriol on the internet than there is in person... and there are far more practitioners who don't ever post online (for similar reasons to what Chad is talking about) than there are who do. So in the defense of WMA (and any activity where people get impassioned for that matter), the worst is magnified on the web, but isn't, in my experience, the norm.

I can't tell you how many times I've traveled to visit with other groups or at an open event where I've left, not only as a better martial artist, but as a better person. Just next weekend, I'm driving up to New Jersey to get together with the New York Historical Fencing Association and the Medieval European Martial Arts Guild just so we can talk shop, trade notes and get some good training in... and have a few beers afterward. Happy That latter is always the most important part! And honestly, that's much more the norm of my experiences of the WMA world.

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--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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David Teague




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
I can't tell you how many times I've traveled to visit with other groups or at an open event where I've left, not only as a better martial artist, but as a better person.


Amen, Brother Bill, Amen. Exclamation

This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

Free Scholar/ Instructor Selohaar Fechtschule
The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."
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Mike Fawk





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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow
Don't take this the wrong way....
But doesn't this sound a little hypocritical? I mean I have NEVER seen a place with more arguing, and more bickering, than myArmoury. People get kicked off at random, one wrong comment can kick one person off while another person can make hundreds of snide remarks and never get kicked off. This is why I spent YEARS lurking and never joining, and why (unless there are major changes) I will NEVER donate. If the mods woud have a standard they kicked people off with or stop arguments I would be ok, or if the mods simply step back and let things play out as they will. What I dissagree with is the doublestandard with which the mods work.
I have met dozens of HEMA groups and the only group I know of that says "we're right your wrong" is ARMA. Most groups are pretty levelheaded and admit they don't know everything, and admit that others interpretations may be better.
When myArmoury can stop the arguing and name calling, and the mods can get over the doublestandard with which they remove people, I will make a significant donation.
Please do not take offense as none was meant.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 4:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
There is a much stronger sense of disagreement and vitriol on the internet than there is in person...


That's very true; anonymity does bring out the worst in people. I suppose if I went to a WMA gathering I might find more open-mindedness and consideration than I have seen online.


Quote:
I have NEVER seen a place with more arguing, and more bickering, than myArmoury. People get kicked off at random, one wrong comment can kick one person off while another person can make hundreds of snide remarks and never get kicked off.


I'm more than a little surprised by this Mike - myArmoury is by far the most civil place I have ever found. It's not perfect, but it's not the wild west either. I think the Mods here are very, very fair about when they intervene.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Andrew Shultz




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are plenty of people who are just trying to get better and exchanging ideas and not bothering to get into pissing matches. Taking the loud as the only examples of the field does your study a disservice. Look around, you'll find plenty of practicioners who are more interested in improvement than argument. But you'll have to actually contact them, you won't hear from them on the forums except as occasional "here's what I think, you're welcome to think whatever" posts, which you probably have ignored because they're not loud enough.
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 5:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:

I'm more than a little surprised by this Mike - myArmoury is by far the most civil place I have ever found. It's not perfect, but it's not the wild west either. I think the Mods here are very, very fair about when they intervene.


Best thing I can probably say is ditto.

"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy


Last edited by Joe Fults on Sat 03 Oct, 2009 5:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is unfortunate for WMA/HEMA that its most accessible, and often its most public face, is on the Internet where the bickering can get the loudest. Simply put, the first impression that these heated debates can create is not all that good and can be a barrier that keeps people away from the art.
"Our life is what our thoughts make it"
-Marcus Aurelius

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
-John F. Kennedy
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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 6:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joe Fults wrote:
Quote:

I'm more than a little surprised by this Mike - myArmoury is by far the most civil place I have ever found. It's not perfect, but it's not the wild west either. I think the Mods here are very, very fair about when they intervene.


Best thing I can probably say is ditto.


Indeed, there is no:

Crude or Sexual Humor (None that I've seen anyway) whereas other forums allow that stuff to go on despite the fact it violates their terms of use

Insults

Trolling (Okay there was some in the 'Cavalry Lance Impaling Multiple Foes' Thread but to be fair the trollers did give some helpful and serious input to offset the silliness)

Flaming

Baiting

Profanity

Off Topic Behavior

Etc, etc.
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 7:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think part of the reason for the bickering is that it is still an area of interest that is in its infancy, and as a result tends to be about personalities and folowers. A bit like the early days of body building, there were only a few people around doing it, and fewr trainers, who tended to have quite diferent aproaches, so folks just starting to get involved would follow a particular school, and hang on the every word of its Guru. After a while, as more people got involved the endevor itself overshadowed the founders and things improved for nearly everyone. One pressumes that the same thing will happen with WMAs
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 7:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The public discussion of moderation policies is specifically prohibited by our rules of conduct. I will contact you privately now with more information. Such public discussion will end immediately.

Edit: The above account has been disabled, as it belonged to another member who's made multiple accounts with the intention of starting arguments. Each account has now been disabled.

------

I want to publicly state that no person has ever been "randomly" kicked from this site. In fact, so few people have been booted from the site over six years that I'd wager our list is amongst the smallest on the 'net for the size and age of our community. Our ban list has 18 members, currently.

Some people complain when we publicly moderate and others complain when they are not aware of the private moderation. People feel they are entitled to an opinion on the matter even though they are very rarely exposed to all of the information: What moderation has happened in private? What has happened in public? What is the backstory? What specifically is our policy on the matter? It's tacky as hell to comment on a matter from an uninformed position.

It's difficult to win in such situations. But frankly, I don't care. I'm not here to win, I'm here to make a worthwhile site on the 'net to the best of my abilities. (limited as they may be)

I invite any person to make their own online community and see where that goes. Go for it. This hobby would benefit greatly from more sites dedicated to it.

We don't have a double-standard about anything. We look at each situation one at a time and make a call. Sometimes it's not an easy one and requires a lot of work behind the scenes. Other times we try to do so with a quick comment in public to try to 'steer' people one way or another. It's not easy, but I'm perfectly confident in the intentions of our actions each and every time. We aren't perfect. Never will be. But our intentions are good and the outcome speaks for itself.

I am confident with the fact that myArmoury.com is by and large one of the healthiest communities on the 'net, lacking a lot of the childish crap found elsewhere. We encourage our members to debate and challenge each other in an attempt to get better informed. We do so with the expectation of professionalism and I'm pleased to know that we get closer to that goal than most sites on the 'net.

Questions? Comments? Private message me.

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 8:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

...back on topic...

Chad, you are describing what I call "WMA Extremist Fanaticism". This is no different then the various forms of religious extremist fanaticism that arise out of "this is the only true religion". Naturally, religious fanatics don't realize that they are fanatics. They think everyone else is a sinner.

I think the community needs to accept the doctrine of "There is no one right way" or it will continue to fracture and fragment.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad,

While I'm on board with you in a general sense I'll have to say that you're way off base with your specific viewpoint. It's true that if you look at the vitriol spewed on the internet you'd think WMAers are a bunch of overgrown manchildren stomping around the playground with an overinflated sense of their own importance. Quite frankly, most of the ones with a strong internet presence that I've met in person fit that mold to a tee.

On the other hand many, the majority in fact, of the ones I've met in person and away from the crazynet are perfectly fine ordinary folk who are trying to be as productive as they can in their hobby. Most of them never post on a forum such as this, they're far too busy practicing and studying in real time with real people to waste energy with this kind of silliness. Yes, there are those who seem to think what they're doing has some kind of world-shaping importance and will shift the planet on its access but they're in the minority. (you'll find those types in any endeavor, even music if you're honest about it)

Now like I said, I'm on board with you in a large way because I've seen this kind of bovine feces manifest itself in many hobbies. As you know, firearms are a large part of my professional life and I was recently invited to join my agencies pistol team. Since I've relocated driving to the academy for practice isn't an all-day affair like it used to be so I decided to give it a try. I showed up and within half an hour knew it wasn't for me, there was far too much Type-A personality penis comparing going on for me. (I know, from a bunch of cops, shocking!) I'm far too old to put up with that so I passed. On the other hand I didn't give up engaging in that particular hobby because of that experience. In fact, the very same week I joined a local pistol league. I found the group to be full of fine gentlemen and it's a great time. I wasn't about to paint the entire hobby with a wide brush of negativity.

I don't want this to seem like a personal attack, it isn't even a criticism, but I think you're unfairly judging a large group of people based on a distinct minority present on the internet. Step away from the key board and engage in real time with real people before passing judgement like this. I think you'll find most of them are pretty good folks with a love of a common passion.

Wow, it's been years since I typed that much into a post. Big Grin
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 9:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Chad,

I hope you will receive the following in the spirit it is offered, with respect for you, but also firmly worded.

I really think you need to "get out more" before expressing such strong sentiments To my knowledge, you haven't attended many, if any, multi-school WMA events. Judging any endeavor, and its participants, by the noisy traffic of the internet is unfair, both to them, and to yourself.

I also think you're painting a rosy picture of the music business that's simply not supported by inspection. I've personally known incredibly bitter and competitive music directors; their back-biting and malicious gossip makes anything here pale in comparison. And one need look no further than the ferocious debate regarding personalities such as Herbert von Karajan (both him personally, and his interpretations of Beethoven, specifically with regard to tempo), let alone the more obvious examples of reactions to such polarizing figures as Richard Wagner.

I'm confident with only a small investment of time that I could find lots of online vitriol among musicians, critics, and those who just plain 'have an opinion'. Hell, some of the criticisms *among* the great Classical and Romantic masters is legendary. The same would go for enthusiasts, craftsmen, artists, etc. of all persuasions.

Passionate subjects draw passionate exponents. Some of them are polite, others are not. The latter find it even easier to be rude online - 'internet courage' goes a long way in creating a comfort level for such outlandish discourse. I can speak to this personally, because as someone who does appear in public a lot for seminars and the like, I've met more than my fair share of 'Internet Lions' who were real-world mice.

The sword lives in the hands. Please, before you allow yourself to become too disillusioned, get out there and experience the community the way it should be experienced: with sword in hand. If you'd been at Racine for WMAW, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about.

In friendship,

Christian

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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 10:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
... the very same week I joined a local pistol league. I found the group to be full of fine gentlemen and it's a great time.


If it is not too impertinent a question, can I ask what the average ages were?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Oct, 2009 11:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps I am judging the greater community by the actions of a small number. And that is probably not fair to the level-headed ones out there who are hard at work recreating things. I'll acknowledge that and offer apologies to those folks.

I can say, though, that in my years participating on sites like this and the years moderating this site, I have seen some of the principal figures of the some of the larger groups and/or their high-ranking officials (not just noisy hangers-on) and haven't always been impressed by how they conduct themselves.

Even when it is their followers being loud about the opinions, I don't see much effort by the leading players to bring their followers into line.

All those things have turned me off. Is it reasonable? I don't know, but that's this man's opinion as of today. Happy

Happy

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