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Sam Arwas




Location: Australia
Joined: 02 Dec 2015

Posts: 74

PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2015 2:48 am    Post subject: Popular depictions of Asian and Euro styles question         Reply with quote

To anyone who has studied both Asian and European weapon systems, is there any historical basis for Asian styles being depicted as more flashy/flowery than European styles in popular culture? From what I've seen of HEMA and Kendo it seems the European style generally looks more dramatic.
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2015 4:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Flourishing and sword fighting are two very different skills, being good at one has little bearing on proficiency in the other and some people are good at both. From what I've seen the really showy stuff in Asian martial arts sprung up over the last century or so as a way to keep the arts relevant to a modern audience. On the German side of the house there was the concept of the "klopfechter," essentially a "sports entertainer" in the professional wrestling sense and they weren't looked upon kindly by the advocates of the serious martial art. A lot of times the flourishes that look most impressive to laymen have serious, glaring flaws that are easily spotted by someone who has knowledge of how the weapon actually works when cutting targets or fighting a resisting opponent. Martially valid flourishing is worthwhile in as much as it helps you become more comfortable and familiar with your weapon and allows an observer to experience something of the art without having to actually participate.
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Andrew Gill





Joined: 19 Feb 2015

Posts: 95

PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2015 4:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some thoughts in response to Sam's question:
Firstly, what you regard as flashy may be very different to someone else, so it depends whos asking. Are you wowed by intricate plays from the bind ending in a complex disarm, or lighning-quick attack-from draw techniques (both of which occur in german, italian and japanese sworsmanship to my definite knowledge, btw)
Secondly, there are many european martial arts which differ wildly from each other (eg. compare german longsword and french smallsword) and also many asian martial arts with the same problem - so you can't really compare them en mass, even if disregarding my previous point and Mike's important point about individual practitioners' differences and skills.
Thirdly, the human body moves the same ways and is subject to the same limitations all over the world, so there are a lot of techniques which occur in many martial arts under different names but relatively minor differences in execution. I practise longsword (mostly german, occasionally also Fiore in the past) but when I compared notes with a friend who did kenjitsu (a much better comparison than kendo by the way; kendo is apparently the japanese equivalent of olympic fencing - more a martial-derived sport than a "true" martial art), we found that we recognised much of what the other was doing.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2015 12:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Popular depictions of Asian and Euro styles question         Reply with quote

Sam Arwas wrote:
To anyone who has studied both Asian and European weapon systems, is there any historical basis for Asian styles being depicted as more flashy/flowery than European styles in popular culture? From what I've seen of HEMA and Kendo it seems the European style generally looks more dramatic.


In popular culture, we have:
1. Sword fighting in kungfu movies.
2. The clunky and lumbering depiction of medieval European swordsmanship in movies, especially older movies.

1 is influenced by martial arts as entertainment. Street performers in China would do martial arts demos (and then pass around the hat). The modern version is Wushu weapons forms. So this has historical basis, but in entertainment, not fighting.

2 also has historical basis: the prejudices of 19th century swordsmen.

"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: Mon 14 Dec, 2015 4:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Compare kata from kenjutsu to sparring from classical/historical fencing. One's Asian and uses forms to simulate dueling and the other is European and uses free-combat to simulate dueling; however, both focus on much of the same things (e.g. technique, spacing, awareness) without being "flashy" at all.

Wushu is acrobatics, sanda is kickboxing, and modern kendo is a sport.

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