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Luke Adams




Location: NYC
Joined: 10 May 2014

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PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 8:24 am    Post subject: Lineage in HEMA         Reply with quote

So, I've been asking myself something recently. Being a practitioner of koryu bujutsu as well as kung fu, I've always been told that the lineage of the school is very important as a sort of quality control to prevent techniques from being needlessly altered or made up - usually from a lack of battlefield experience. While I don't have an awful a lot of experience with HEMA (~1 month of formal training), I really haven't seen many schools in them that have teachers with credentials equivalent to say Menkyo - a license required to teach the school's arts given by either the headmaster or equivalent of in traditional Japanese martial arts.

I'm not trying to put down the way people teach HEMA through fighting manuals and scientific analysis. I know that it's just a different method to achieve the same goal (i.e. mastery of a fighting art). However, I was wondering if any of you know of legitimate schools that have actually managed to preserve a fighting lineage in the realm of historical European martial arts. Preserve in this case meaning passed down from successor to successor since the time the school in question was first opened.

"God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them."
- German proverb
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I doubt anything like longswords or rapiers survived . Perhaps some classical fencing schools claim some link to French schools of smallsword/foil/epee fencing. Mensur might have had some sort of lineage or characteristics in Fraternities but I doubt there was anything like a living tradition.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 11:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You could argue for some kind of lineage, although I'm not sure how documentable it would be.

For example in France there has been a fencing masters association since the early 17th century, with a process to teach and certify new members. The teaching is uninterrupted to this day, I believe. So there is, theoretically at least, a living lineage to this period - and you could most likely trace it further down as all these people have been taught too. There is a sort of quality control in place, as a master has been approved by his peers.

Thing is, in Europe there was no emphasis on the preservation of a skill-set. What has been passed down has been altered at each generation to better fit to social and martial context, which saw tremedous changes. And this is how we ended up with fencing masters knowing next to nothing about the original martial arts, and even misrepresenting them. There is value in what they know, but it would be impossible to reverse all the gradual changes that have happened if we had no sources from the early days.

The key thing to note is thus that a living lineage is no guarantee of unaltered transmissing through generation. You have to have a will to transmit without altering.

Regards,

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A living lineage is one way to claim legitimacy for your technique. Not the only one, though - of which more later.

The first thing to remember is that 'HEMA' is extremely broad. It goes from late 13th century sword and buckler (not even remotely a living lineage survives) to classical fencing with the epee (strong living lineage), and covers nearly everything in-between.

Some arts that fall into the HEMA umbrella do have living lineages. Classical fencing is the most obvious - Sean Hayes springs to mind as someone who is trained in a true living lineage, and teaches that art. Jogo do Pau is a portugese stick-fighting art that has a living tradition today, and there's plenty of knife arts out there that are traditional (or at at least claimed to be).

But lots of arts that people practice don't. Liechtenauer's Kunst des Fechten has no living tradition, nor does Fiore's art, nor does MS I.33, the Bolognese school, Destreza, etc etc. The critical thing these do have is a textual tradition - we have technical sources describing them, written at the time. So studying KdF is viable not because there is a living tradition in that art, but because there is written material which we can use to reconstruct it.

That has both advantages and disadvantages over a living lineage. The obvious advantage is that a book is a frozen source - if properly interpreted, you are guaranteed that you are practicing the art at that time. By contrast, living lineages have a tendency to live, which means they evolve to fit new circumstances*, potentially compromising them as a representation of the past. One can argue Olympic fencing is a living lineage from rapier duelling, after all.

The big disadvantage was hidden in the 'if' above - it's the interpretation step. It's obviously much harder to learn a system of fighting from a written source, and that's compounded by old books often being quite cryptic and unclear. A teacher who has been taught directly can pass that information on much more easily.

Of course, it's also not one or the other. Sean Hayes, who I mentioned above, teaches both classical fencing (living tradition) and Fiore's armizare (manuscript tradition).

As it currently stands, HEMA is quite anarchic. A teacher's credentials are basically a result of their presence in the community, quality of their scholarship, how well they and/or their students fight, and so on. Some organisations have certification programs for teachers (e.g. the HEMA Alliance operates such a program), which have exactly as much reputation as anyone cares to give them. This is both an advantage (it's very easy for stuff to get started and grow, and most people are pretty honest about their level of skill**) and a disadvantage (there's really no actual measure of just how good someone is as a teacher).

*Interestingly, we can see this in the written sources for Liechtenauer's KdF. We have material from the early 15th century to the late 16th, all in recognisably the same tradition, and showing a great deal of change in the specifics during that time. Our hints about how it developed for the next hundred years are similarly interesting. I see no reason to expect that if it had survived to the present, the art being taught as the living lineage would bear much direct similarity to the fourteenth century fighting art that it originated as.

**Time to declare my slight bias here - I teach HEMA (Ringeck/pseudo-Danzig unarmoured longsword). But I'm quite open about working from sources, not being an expert/authority myself, and learning as I go - and that's true for every decent teacher of any art from a dead tradition that I've met.
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
You could argue for some kind of lineage, although I'm not sure how documentable it would be...


Seattle has a fellow, Cecil Longino, whose training lineage can be followed back to a time, place, and a specific man who fits this description, where fencing masters had direct military association when soldiers still carried and at least occasionally used swords on the battlefield, as well as in matters of honor off the battlefield.

http://www.martinez-destreza.com/instructors/...il-longino

From Mr. Longino, follow the links toward the bottom of the page, you'll go generation by generation back to a Luigi Barbasetti who I think qualifies as such a link to a living combat/ battlefield tradition (his master, Giuseppe Radaelli, you'll have to "google" for more info).

This of course doesn't ensure a battlefield-ready offense/defense art! There's not much call for it with these implements. In reply to Mr. Adams' original post, even Asian martial traditions with well-documented lineages have been altered, tuned as it were, to a very specific use and context. I don't mean this as a blanket statement, my knowledge here is limited.

You might make a case for certain stick arts, descended from the English quarterstaff, as being more-or-less continuous in method, tutelage, and use (civilian, urban, otherwise unarmed self-defense) from Renaissance times, but somebody else would have to come up with evidence for that.

-Eric
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Chidester came up with a very useful typology for Western martial arts.

Quote:
The way I see it, there are three broad categories of Western Martial Arts (WMAs), or of martial arts in general.

Type I WMAs are those with an accessible living tradition. These do not require reconstruction as they still exist in the form of teachers and often schools. These tend to be the easiest to learn because the techniques, pedagogy, and support structure are all established. Examples include Olympic fencing and Scandinavian glima. All WMAs begin as Type I; note that although many have centuries of history behind them, that is not a requirement to be Type I.

Type II WMAs are those with an accessible "dead" tradition—meaning that in the period when it was still a Type I, instructions were recorded by initiates (teachers and/or students) and those writings survive to this day. Type IIs are reconstructed by studying the surviving documentation and translating the instructions into physical action. Examples include Kunst des Fechtens and la Verdadera Destreza. While much more difficult to learn and progress in than Type I, Type II systems are quite popular in part because they often treat weapon combinations for which no Type I system exists.

Type III WMAs are those with no accessible tradition, living or dead. They may still be reconstructed through careful review of non-instructional historical data like sagas, iconography, artifact analysis, forensic archaeology, etc. (or by analogy from a Type I or II), but all such reconstructions are purely speculative in nature. Examples include Viking sword and shield and Greek Pankration. Type III systems are the most difficult to learn, but they are the only systems covering weapons and styles that lost popularity before 1320 or so.

(There are also Type I/II arts in which a living tradition exists alongside ample historical documentation which can aid a student in learning and understanding the system, and even assist in recovering appendages to the Type I art that have died off in the past. Examples include classical fencing and jogo de pau. Type I/II thus represents the best possible scenario for the WMA enthusiast, which explains why many practitioners go to great lengths to locate a Type I art that is even vaguely related to a Type II art they wish to study, even turning sometimes to Type I EMAs to complement their Type II WMA studies.)


There is quite a bit of type Type I WMA's, legit stuff, that is still around but since training can be somewhat difficult to access because advanced practitioners are somewhat rare it's widely misunderstood. To begin with most people don't really understand what the ancient treatises represent, they aren't some kind of original, pure source they're documentation of an ancient practitioner's personal style and philosophy which existed in a greater context. For instance many people hear "KDF" and think "Liechtenauer" but he didn't invent KDF, it was already hundreds of years old when he learned it and he learned by studying with many different masters in many different lands. The zettel, a term that more accurately means "brief note on a piece of paper" than "epitome," just represents Liechtenauer's personal take on organizing information and specific techniques or concepts he felt were particularly important.

Similarly, kind of like Mr. Kew already mentioned, none of this stuff was ever set in stone and it's still not set in stone. I'm trained in a "classical" fencing system. I spent four hours a week in private lessons with my teacher and another fours hours a week in group lessons. I did this for years. I also did quite a bit of private and group training with his teachers. I don't fence exactly like he does and I don't use the art for the same things he does, he doesn't fence exactly like his masters either, and so on. Realistically it's more like a game of telephone than a digital copy but as Joachim Meyer put it,

Quote:
For as we are not all of a single nature, so we also cannot have a single style in combat, yet all must nonetheless arise and be derived from a single basis.


It's the single basis that really matters and that's what I've poured all my effort into for the last several years. The foil and saber were the weapons I was originally trained on but something like 16 of Liechtenauer's 17 hauptstucke were part of the art I learned even though by my time they were no longer called that and information was organized differently. It's not coincidence, either. At this point we have enough documentation to show the development of swordsmanship in the relevant cultures across the centuries and sources like Magister Andreas as well as Joachim Meyer that map out how single-handed sword technique and two-handed are related to each other.

Similarly many things aren't what they at first appear to be. For instance foil fencing as we know it today was originally just intended as preliminary training for weapons like the epee du combat or late era small sword and rapier. It was even intended to carry over to things like the saber or bayonet. That wasn't even that long ago, second half of the 1800's. The fact that most fencers today don't ever practice the more advanced exercises doesn't mean the art itself isn't still perfectly suitable for its intended purpose. I can teach a student KDF on the longsword and then apply it seamlessly to the small sword, if you understand the single basis the weapon configuration doesn't matter as much though you'd still need to train with a given configuration to become proficient with it just like anything else.

So yeah, legit Western martial swordsmanship that can be clearly traced back over the centuries is out there if you happen to have the opportunity and interest to seek it out. What you can't legitimately claim is lineage to the specific personal style of some individual ancient masters. We have clear lineages to the 19th century and somebody might even be able to trace back precise master-pupil relationships to the 18th century but much beyond that the records of who taught who just don't exist anymore even if we can much more clearly see what style came from where or how the art as a whole was evolving.

Historical fencing on Florida's Treasure Coast!
www.tcfencers.com
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Apr, 2015 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
The key thing to note is thus that a living lineage is no guarantee of unaltered transmissing through generation. You have to have a will to transmit without altering.


This is the case even where no new techniques have been added, or techniques taken out. For example, we have continuous lineages in some Chinese armed martial arts where this is the case, but the forms (which exemplify the art) have lost their application along the way. All the techniques have survived, but something is missing.

As a result, teachers who want to restore the idea of combat to the art need to reconstruct applications for the techniques in the forms. Even good teachers will produce silly applications. But it's an easier reconstruction than having to also reconstruct the techniques from textual description and pictures.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Luke Adams




Location: NYC
Joined: 10 May 2014

Posts: 57

PostPosted: Sat 25 Apr, 2015 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:
Michael Chidester came up with a very useful typology for Western martial arts.

Quote:
The way I see it, there are three broad categories of Western Martial Arts (WMAs), or of martial arts in general.

Type I WMAs are those with an accessible living tradition. These do not require reconstruction as they still exist in the form of teachers and often schools. These tend to be the easiest to learn because the techniques, pedagogy, and support structure are all established. Examples include Olympic fencing and Scandinavian glima. All WMAs begin as Type I; note that although many have centuries of history behind them, that is not a requirement to be Type I.

Type II WMAs are those with an accessible "dead" tradition—meaning that in the period when it was still a Type I, instructions were recorded by initiates (teachers and/or students) and those writings survive to this day. Type IIs are reconstructed by studying the surviving documentation and translating the instructions into physical action. Examples include Kunst des Fechtens and la Verdadera Destreza. While much more difficult to learn and progress in than Type I, Type II systems are quite popular in part because they often treat weapon combinations for which no Type I system exists.

Type III WMAs are those with no accessible tradition, living or dead. They may still be reconstructed through careful review of non-instructional historical data like sagas, iconography, artifact analysis, forensic archaeology, etc. (or by analogy from a Type I or II), but all such reconstructions are purely speculative in nature. Examples include Viking sword and shield and Greek Pankration. Type III systems are the most difficult to learn, but they are the only systems covering weapons and styles that lost popularity before 1320 or so.

(There are also Type I/II arts in which a living tradition exists alongside ample historical documentation which can aid a student in learning and understanding the system, and even assist in recovering appendages to the Type I art that have died off in the past. Examples include classical fencing and jogo de pau. Type I/II thus represents the best possible scenario for the WMA enthusiast, which explains why many practitioners go to great lengths to locate a Type I art that is even vaguely related to a Type II art they wish to study, even turning sometimes to Type I EMAs to complement their Type II WMA studies.)


Very interesting typology! Makes it a lot easier to analyze forms of WMA. Also, thanks to everyone giving examples of "Type I" or Type I/II" schools.

"God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them."
- German proverb
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