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Lafayette C Curtis

Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
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Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 4:02 am    Post subject: Medieval parkour/mobility techniques         Reply with quote

Seeing as mobility techniques similar to modern parkour are all over the place in Chinese martial arts and Japanese ninjutsu, I'd be really, really surprised if medieval European warriors never developed anything similar, especially considering the kinds of obstacles they would have had to regularly deal with (woods, castle interiors, all that kind of stuff) and the basic mobility feats they would have had to be able to do in order to be able to do their jobs at all (like vaulting into the saddle in full armour). The question is: do we have any surviving sources that describe the kind of mobility feats/techniques/capabilities they would have been expected to possess? And has anyone tried to reconstruct/emulate these skills in any way?
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Colt Reeves

Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 10:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, see this ARMA essay:

"Now cased in armour, he would practise leaping on to the back of a horse; anon, to accustom himself to become long-winded and enduring, he would walk and run long distances on foot…In order to accustom himself to the weight of his armour, he would turn somersaults whilst clad in a complete suit of mail, with the exception of his helmet, or would dance vigorously in a shirt of steel; he would place one hand on the saddle-bow of a tall charger, and the other on his neck, and vault over him…He would climb up between two perpendicular walls that stood four or five feet asunder by the mere pressure of his arms and legs, and would thus reach the top, even if it were as high as a tower, without resting either in the ascent or descent..." -Jean Le Meingre, 14th c.

The essay gives a great overview on this subject, showing that in some periods and places a knight/man-at-arms might be expected to routinely vault onto/over a horse, run cross-country, climb buildings, fence/wrestle, left/hurl weights, joust, perform gymnastics, work at the pell, etc, etc.

Here's another little essay:

I like the line "But somehow, in the popular mind, we went from naked Greeks wearing laurel wreaths to Arnold Schwarzenegger and now to Cross-Fit, without much in between."

The essay also links to this nifty little video:

In addition I'm sure you've probably heard tales of feats such as going up a seige ladder on the underside hand over hand in full armor. (Though these sorts of things are implied to be something special and not expected of every knight.)

Lastly, I would love to find out if anyone has more information on this subject. I have been attempting some of these exercises (I'm not sure what the neighbors think of me throwing a 40lb rock around the backyard for 15 minutes straight) and would like to know more.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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