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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Oct, 2005 4:57 pm    Post subject: Origin of phrase "Martial Arts"?         Reply with quote

Just for fun and interest, I thought I would see what response this post might bring.

Many Western and Eastern "Martial Arts" web sites attribute the phrase "Martial Arts" as being Greek/ Roman in origin (after the God of War... Mars.) One could argue the term has Homerian origins, and was very well established for both armed and unarmed cases between 700 to 600 B.C. in central Europe. Today, I would credit Eastern arts as having more relevance (unless you actually walk the streets with a sword at your side.) However, even unarmed wrestling technique has strong Greek roots. Although I am only familiar with European sword fighting masters works, they relegated a considerable portion of their texts to wrestling and non-weapon or post-weapon moves.

http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=164

I thought it might be interesting to see what forum members know regarding earliest "provable" sports and martial arts systems origins.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Sat 15 Oct, 2005 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mars was the Roman god of war, the Greek version was Ares. In the Renaissance reference to Classical times and beliefs was fashionable, so people started referring to the various combat arts as "the Arts of Mars". The first use of the term martial art that I am aware of is from 1639. IO Sotheby, who wrote one of the many prefaces to the anonymous fencing manual, Pallas Armata refers to "that famous Martiall art Of Fencing".

Or as I say to uppity Asian MA practitioners, "it's our term, and if you're nice we'll let you use it".

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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2005 8:04 am    Post subject: Re: Origin of phrase "Martial Arts"?         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Just for fun and interest, I thought I would see what response this post might bring.

Many Western and Eastern "Martial Arts" web sites attribute the phrase "Martial Arts" as being Greek/ Roman in origin (after the God of War... Mars.) One could argue the term has Homerian origins, and was very well established for both armed and unarmed cases between 700 to 600 B.C. in central Europe. Today, I would credit Eastern arts as having more relevance (unless you actually walk the streets with a sword at your side.)


Define "relevance".

Anyway, what about the surviving Western combat sports--boxing, wrestling, & fencing?

Quote:
However, even unarmed wrestling technique has strong Greek roots. Although I am only familiar with European sword fighting masters works, they relegated a considerable portion of their texts to wrestling and non-weapon or post-weapon moves.

http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=164

I thought it might be interesting to see what forum members know regarding earliest "provable" sports and martial arts systems origins.


Earliest "provable" martial arts & combat sports?

Wrestling is the oldest. Animals wrestle.

The illustrations from Beni Hasan in Egypt, which show techniques recognizable to any modern-day grappler, are from 2,000 B.C., IIRC.

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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Joachim Nilsson





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PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2005 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd say that the medieval and renaissance kampfringen techniques and unarmed defences against dagger/knife attacks are as relevant now as they have ever been. Even when compared to Eastern martial arts.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2005 8:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Define "relevance".

Anyway, what about the surviving Western combat sports--boxing, wrestling, & fencing?

I will have a go at it....


The Illiad and the Odyssey gives some pretty good (although peotic) descriptions of "sporting matches" between professional warriors. Many schollars claim the components of the tale are possibly much older than the actual event (historical event around 1200 to 1300 B.C. time frame.) Around 1700 B.C. organized contests are known to have been held on the island of Crete. Original contests included boxing, wrestling, spear, and swords matches. In the 600 to 700 B.C. time frame, boxing and wrestling were included in the earliest Olympics. Swordsmanship, as far as I know, was not included amongst contests between free men.

Relevance is dependent on circumstances.

At least some instructors of Eastern martial arts have told me that their methods evolved as a result of weapons (such as swords) being forbidden from the common populace. I suspect that there are not many situations and public places today where one can carry a polearm or fully functional sword without possible ejection, arrest, or termination of employment.

The following will spark a lot of controversy. Do not get lost in the details, but observe that it is comparatively easy to gain permission to carry a gun in many locations, as compared to permission to have a substantial knife. At least in my U.S. state a knife equal or longer than 4" is basically illegal in any "public" or corporate location if concealed. If not concealed, it is actually easier to get a gun carry permit (including military bases) than work through the confusion over how a civilian can gain permission to carry an obvious combat knife.

Conversely, techniques based upon being completely unarmed, one can pretty much practice without location specific complications today.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2005 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared wrote:
Conversely, techniques based upon being completely unarmed, one can pretty much practice without location specific complications today.


Very true. Unarmed techniques of wrestling, grappling and striking are the foundation of western martial arts. The armed portion of these arts are built upon these concepts, concepts which are just as effective as their oriental cousins (and I have studied both). Anyone doing an unbiased study devoid of preconceptions will see this almost immediately.

Quote:
Do not get lost in the details


It's all about the details Jared.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2005 9:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared;

Well I wish carry permits were given out up here but they are not even if the law does allow it : The legislation allows the giving out of carry permits for handguns, but the agencies given out the permits won't give you one even if you could prove that your life has been threatened by someone and even if attempts to kill you have been made. Oh, they won't let you carry and they won't assign cops to protect you either but they will happily investigate your murder.

Oh, one can get a transport permit to go to a gun club, but the guns have to be transported unloaded with gun locks in a locked guncase. ( Not much use for selfdefense ....... LOL ).

Better a dead victim than a live armed citizen. Razz ( Well getting into the politics would be too long and off-topic / controversial. )

Getting back to relevance: Having skills with edged weapons or unarmed fighting skill is mostly a hobby and one would rather never have to use them for real.

Polearm skills can be used with a broom handle or a rake, shovel, axe, 2X4 etc....

Joachim I think was talking about knives: Not only using one but knowing how to DEFEND against knives and that some of the WMA knife techniques are at least the equal of eastern martial arts techniques. Unarmed combat his always a part of the training of a warrior or should be on principal.

Oh, so far, we don't have a blade length limit up here in Canada: You could in theory be legal carrying sword up here as long as it wasn't a concealed weapon. From a practical point of view you might still have a lot of EXPLAINING to do and might be charged with something like disturbing the peace.

No law against a 6" inch folder but for P.R. / P.C. reasons keeping it under 4" blade length makes sense, at least in cities.
There are some local city bylaws forbidding knife carry but they are not "criminal code" violations: More like a parking ticket and not strictly enforced ( Unless you go out of your way to seem menacing ).

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Joachim Nilsson





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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2005 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:


Getting back to relevance: Having skills with edged weapons or unarmed fighting skill is mostly a hobby and one would rather never have to use them for real.


But it does happen. Unless one lives a completely sheltered life.

Quote:
Polearm skills can be used with a broom handle or a rake, shovel, axe, 2X4 etc....


A lot of the longsword techniques can be utilized with a broom handle or the like too.

Quote:
Joachim I think was talking about knives: Not only using one but knowing how to DEFEND against knives and that some of the WMA knife techniques are at least the equal of eastern martial arts techniques. Unarmed combat his always a part of the training of a warrior or should be on principal.


Correct. I was talking about defending against knives, daggers, various stabbing implements etc. They are out there and sooner or later most of us will run into someone who won't hesitate to use them.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2005 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joachim;

Here is one experience I had a few years ago: I was sitting quietly reading a newspaper and drinking coffee in the food court of tall office building that is also a shopping mall at ground level in our downtown when somebody put a knife in front of my face and from behind and saying something threatening that I don't remember.

I should have been scared if I had taken the time to think about it ! In any case, I got very angry instead and said to myself
" NO WAY " under my breath. I grabbed the guy's wrist with my left hand ( I'm left handed by the way. ) and twisted the knife away from my face and ended up with the guys arm him still holding the blade now a few inches from his inner thigh ( femoral artery. ) ( I was still sitting and he was standing, )

This all happened faster than I could say it out loud.

At this point the panicking " IDIOT " was saying STOP STOP while saying my name: It was a guy we used in our T.V. studio as a freelance camera man, and I suddenly recognized him. So I stopped pushing the blade towards his leg.

So, in a way this wasn't a real attack but I reacted not knowing that and I also didn't over-react either as I managed to stop my counter attack before doing any damage. ( Or killing the guy. )

Now, this guy was only joking around and was trying to freak me out but it turned out differently than what he expected.

I had a nice talk explaining to him how this was a stupid thing to do and how embarrassing this could have become if the mall security had spotted the action and how NOT cool my having to explain why I a knife was sticking out of his leg if I hadn't stopped in time.

Hard to tell if I would have been this effective if the "attacher " had been real but I did react to it as if it was: Sort of surprised myself as this wasn't something / technique I had learned: I just reacted instantly. Eek! Laughing Out Loud

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2005 3:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I respect and appreciate the response opinions, experiences, and the "details" offered. Truthfully, I am only at the "beginning basics" stage of training.

The real purpose of my post was really to see what others knew of the history of ancient training in combat technique and combat sport as a developed "art." I am not interested in a superiority debate between East and West. I especially would like to know what earliest dates and schools of swordsmanship are known.

I was hoping not to have to define art, but just in case will offer some candidate concepts of "indicators" of an established "martial art" system. I definately would not exclude organized armies from inclusion of "martial artists" and propose that any definition should be loose enough to qualify just about any type of soldier, as long as they trained and drilled and measured/ tested their skills in a sporting manner. Implying, they could improve and advance their art form, not loose it, even in times of peace.


1) The skills should have been practical and useful in a type of combat that would be expected to occur in war during the period when the skills were developed.

2) There should be organized sporting events between respected practicioners. Be these funeral games, tournaments, or some form of game that utilizes a high degree of the skills needed for the "real thing". Mercy (ancient Chivalry) and safety may be optional. (The Illiad illustrates that mercy was indeed practiced, but at the discretion of the victor.)

3) Schools or at least known masters who train others (be they squadrons of subordinates, paying students, or orders to train children of a ruler... ) should exist.

I would expect recognition of unarmed systems to include boxing (actually wearing leather gloves) and wrestling in Egypt around 4000 B.C. to comply with the above definition. Also, the Crete and later Greek traditions that "refined" the boxing and wrestling events between 1700 B.C. to ~650 B.C. should qualify. Similarly, Chinese Tang Dynasty monks (600-900 A.D.) served as auxilliary army and established a well recognized unarmed system. Their system reportedly spread to much of the rest of the Eastern areas. Other practices such as chariot racing could be construed as a martial art as well.

The question is, who and how old are the known "ancient masters and schools" of armed (bow, spear, sword, etc.) combat forms.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2005 7:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared;

Thank for your kind words about our posts so far: Very nice of you to acknowledge them before explaining more clearly what answers you are looking for.

Maybe your title for the topic gave the impression that the origings of the word was your question and then side tracked again by the word " relevance ".

Getting back to topic: When do we define a fighthing system as a martial art at a very early historical period or even in pre-history ? I assume that fighting was a necessary survival skill at the very earliest times.

At it's most basic fighting ability can be inate and transmitted from father to son and then to tribe, city or larger political units.

At some point in history some system(s) became a school of fighting that someone might hear about and try to get a master to teach it to them. Once codified as a system with students and aspiring students I guess at this point we should call it a martial art as opposed to skillful selftaught warriors.

Sorry if I am just restating or repeating your question: I just wanted to make the point that maybe fighthing systems may predate history by a large margin if defined loosely enough.

In any case I hope people with specific references will give us more than my speculations.

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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2005 8:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Define "relevance".

Anyway, what about the surviving Western combat sports--boxing, wrestling, & fencing?

I will have a go at it....


The Illiad and the Odyssey gives some pretty good (although peotic) descriptions of "sporting matches" between professional warriors. Many schollars claim the components of the tale are possibly much older than the actual event (historical event around 1200 to 1300 B.C. time frame.) Around 1700 B.C. organized contests are known to have been held on the island of Crete. Original contests included boxing, wrestling, spear, and swords matches. In the 600 to 700 B.C. time frame, boxing and wrestling were included in the earliest Olympics. Swordsmanship, as far as I know, was not included amongst contests between free men.

Relevance is dependent on circumstances.

At least some instructors of Eastern martial arts have told me that their methods evolved as a result of weapons (such as swords) being forbidden from the common populace. I suspect that there are not many situations and public places today where one can carry a polearm or fully functional sword without possible ejection, arrest, or termination of employment.

The following will spark a lot of controversy. Do not get lost in the details, but observe that it is comparatively easy to gain permission to carry a gun in many locations, as compared to permission to have a substantial knife. At least in my U.S. state a knife equal or longer than 4" is basically illegal in any "public" or corporate location if concealed. If not concealed, it is actually easier to get a gun carry permit (including military bases) than work through the confusion over how a civilian can gain permission to carry an obvious combat knife.

Conversely, techniques based upon being completely unarmed, one can pretty much practice without location specific complications today.


Great, and I'll ask again (while limiting myself to unarmed material)--what about boxing and wrestling?

I ask this in reaction to your statement:

Quote:
Today, I would credit Eastern arts as having more relevance (unless you actually walk the streets with a sword at your side.


I'm still curious as to why you "credit Eastern arts as having more relevance". Is it because of their self-defense techniques?

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Oct, 2005 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David,

I stated that I considered Eastern martial arts to have more relevance today simply because I believe the majority of people are taking this route (i.e. popularity.) I have not looked very hard for alternate organizations, but can say the majority of schools I notice are some type of karate, Judo, Tae Kwando, or similary Eastern type art. I drive over an hour (70 miles) to reach the closest ARMA group, and in truth never encountered someone else that serious about sword technique before this year. Also, what I understand from friends who went to "Eastern Martial Arts" schools is that they emphasize unarmed tactics first, then introduce weapons as the student becomes more advanced. Hence, I speculate that the "most popular" martial arts practiced today are primarily "Eastern", and emphasize "unarmed tactics" first.


Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and other arts are not something that I wish to put down. However, I have never fully bought into the U.S. television "professional wrestling" as being highly developed art. Highschool and olympic wrestling are absolutely grueling, and a very different matter. If I had to take on one of these skilled youth (typically more than 20 years younger than myself), I would feel like I had better chances of winning with a sword! Realistically, I admit that many fights beginning with a sword actually ended as a blend of wrestling/ grappling, and dagger work.

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Joachim Nilsson





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PostPosted: Wed 19 Oct, 2005 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
David,

I stated that I considered Eastern martial arts to have more relevance today simply because I believe the majority of people are taking this route (i.e. popularity.) I have not looked very hard for alternate organizations, but can say the majority of schools I notice are some type of karate, Judo, Tae Kwando, or similary Eastern type art. I drive over an hour (70 miles) to reach the closest ARMA group, and in truth never encountered someone else that serious about sword technique before this year. Also, what I understand from friends who went to "Eastern Martial Arts" schools is that they emphasize unarmed tactics first, then introduce weapons as the student becomes more advanced. Hence, I speculate that the "most popular" martial arts practiced today are primarily "Eastern", and emphasize "unarmed tactics" first.



We (ARMA Gimo) devote half our training sessions to unarmed and dagger work. Which isn't saying much either way since fencing in itself is basically just ringen with a tool in your hands. Happy
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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Oct, 2005 10:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
David,

I stated that I considered Eastern martial arts to have more relevance today simply because I believe the majority of people are taking this route (i.e. popularity.) I have not looked very hard for alternate organizations, but can say the majority of schools I notice are some type of karate, Judo, Tae Kwando, or similary Eastern type art. I drive over an hour (70 miles) to reach the closest ARMA group, and in truth never encountered someone else that serious about sword technique before this year. Also, what I understand from friends who went to "Eastern Martial Arts" schools is that they emphasize unarmed tactics first, then introduce weapons as the student becomes more advanced. Hence, I speculate that the "most popular" martial arts practiced today are primarily "Eastern", and emphasize "unarmed tactics" first.


Thanks for you clarification.

Now, allow me to add some of my own.

It should be stressed that not all "Eastern" or "Asian" martial arts emphasize unarmed fighting first. The most notable exception would be the Filipino sword, stick, & knife arts--i.e., eskrima, arnis de mano, and "kali"*. These arts are military in origin, and thus weapons are taught first (one doesn't go off to battle a sword-armed enemy only with fists), and any unarmed combat is simply seen as an adjunct to the weapons.


Quote:
Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and other arts are not something that I wish to put down.


That's good, considering how effective they are. Note how, in kickboxing, while Asian-style kicks are common, you don't typcially see the contestants throwing reverse punches from the hip--instead, they use jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, etc.

Quote:
However, I have never fully bought into the U.S. television "professional wrestling" as being highly developed art.


That's good too, because modern "professional wrestling" is not wrestling. Hasn't been for about 70 or 80 years, actually.

Quote:
Highschool and olympic wrestling are absolutely grueling, and a very different matter. If I had to take on one of these skilled youth (typically more than 20 years younger than myself), I would feel like I had better chances of winning with a sword!


Indeed. You should also consider professional CACC (catch-as-catch-can) wrestling, which is what the modern "professional wrestling" used to be. This is like freestyle wrestling with submission holds.

Quote:
Realistically, I admit that many fights beginning with a sword actually ended as a blend of wrestling/ grappling, and dagger work.


Ringkampf, yes.

_______________________
*Note: I place "kali" in quotes only because it is not a valid historical term (so far as can be ascertained, at least) for the Filipino arts, but it is nevertheless an extremely popular term used today.

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Oct, 2005 3:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding the Philipino "stick" combat technique...

One young man (around age 25) who primarily practices the Phillipino stick combat came to about 3 of our ARMA sessions early this summer. He was quite capable of holding his own against wooden wasters, and I quickly learned to "fear" my turn at sparring against him. I left every match with bleeding knuckles (it was no contest regardless of whether he used our form of weapon or his.)

You will not hear derogatory comments about that school from me!

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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Oct, 2005 5:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
One young man (around age 25) who primarily practices the Phillipino stick combat came to about 3 of our ARMA sessions early this summer. He was quite capable of holding his own against wooden wasters, and I quickly learned to "fear" my turn at sparring against him. I left every match with bleeding knuckles (it was no contest regardless of whether he used our form of weapon or his.)


The Filipino arts emphasize strikes to the weapon-hand of the opponent, and they also emphasize the ability to use essenitally any hand-held object as a weapon (something which the old European fencing styles once advocated too; see di Grassi).

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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Daniel Parry




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Oct, 2005 11:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suppose though when we're talking about relative popularity of western and eastern arts the comparison maybe shouldn't be between the nearest karate or kendo club and the nearest ARMA club but between the nearest karate or kendo club and the nearest boxing gym or fencing club (though I remember Aaron saying to me that where he lived fencing clubs were very scarce, maybe a difference in interest between Europe and the US) as the latter are the most popular modern versions of western martial arts I'd imagine. I don't know which are more common.

I think also in popularity terms you have to admit trends and availability. ARMA in various forms in the US and UK seems to be picking up - I know a lot of fencers now who are starting to dabble in historical fencing forms- but it's still in its infancy. But that may change. How many karate or tae kwondo clubs in the US or Europe were there in 1960 ? I don't know the answer but I'd imagine not many. It became fashionable and a lot of people now do it but you never know... in 10 years time there could be western ancient form clubs popping up. Boxa-cise could become Talhoffer-cise !!! I think the lack of a continued stream of practitioners is an obvious reason why there is a current lack of western clubs but that's changing. Also I think a lot of eastern martial arts encountered a wave of interest, through mystique and ideas of some devasting abilities which could be acquired, largely through cinema, which we all know to be untrue.

Finally there's the pain factor in popularity. I think a lot of people take up eastern martial arts classes because it has the martial arts element but most clubs (I know kick-boxing and full contact clubs are different) do not practise techniques to the point of pain or injury. It's good exercise and punches are pulled. Whereas many people have the image, whether true or not, that to start boxing or something they will have to go a gym in the most dangerous part of town where some scarred bruiser will beat the living crap out of them in the ring. I think this conception is quite widely held and why a lot of people don't go to their local boxing club when they think of martial arts.

To answer the original question -the earliest depictions I've seen in books or museums were the Egyptian ones, which appear to be of fencingof some type but don't know when the first equivalent verbal term appeared.
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Oct, 2005 11:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Parry wrote:
ARMA in various forms in the US and UK seems to be picking up - I know a lot of fencers now who are starting to dabble in historical fencing forms- but it's still in its infancy.


Dear Daniel,

This is just an aside as I largely agree with your post. You seem to be using the term ARMA as a generic term for historical western swordsmanship groups. This is not correct. ARMA are one organisation out of hundreds studying these arts. To my knowledge they do not have a group in the UK and don't have one here in Australia. To get an idea of the large number of western swordsmanship groups, please consult my organisation, Stoccata's links page, here.

Cheers
Stephen

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Martin Wallgren




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Oct, 2005 12:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For new readers who are not familiar with the terminology of Martial Arts:

I like to use the term MRMA (medieval and renaissance Martial Arts). To distinguish it from MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) , WMA (Western Martial Arts), EMA (Eastern Martial Arts).

Martin

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