European Martial Arts?

I tried a search on this but it didn’t seem to come up with anything.

Japanese hand-hand combat is very prevalent in self-defense training and such, and I was wondering if there were traditional European styles developed during the middle ages and such?

Did the Europeans neglect hand-hand fighting in favor of extensive weapons training? Or were there extensive hand-hand arts, but they haven’t quite carried on and gained popularity today? If so, why is that?

What’re the major differences between Asian and European martial arts?

Ok, yes, the European Martial Arts were mostly centered on weapons. Fighting with your hands was rude, and low class.

The problem that we’ve seen is that many of the text’s that exist from that era are discussing tournament fighting, which was different in many ways from the actual combat that occured on the field.

Do a google for “fechbukt” or “fechtbook”, and see what you get.

Most of the sites will probably be German, or Italian, as that seems to be the origins of many of the remaining fechtbooks.


Didn’t know Austrailia was in Europe…
Most types of swordfighting involved alot of hitting and kicking, so I wouldn’t say that they would think it was low class. Wrestling and boxing types of hand to hand was probably looked down upon as peasants play though.

Look for the work of Fiore dei Liberi. The hand-to-hand techniques he discussed were probably abandoned about the time of gunpowder because you could shoot somebody before he got to you. Also, they’re not practiced much today because they are really, really brutal.

Not only gunpowder, Ethilrist – it seems that the use bows and arrows might have influenced the direction of European martial arts.

Did medieval Asian cultures get much use from bows and arrows?

The site is Australian, but a perusal of the Essays linked on the left side of the home page indicates that Savate is French.

I can’t think of any “European” martial arts at this time but I know that the Brazilians developed a interesting style known as Kopweria <sp?>. Most of the moves involved are done from a hand stand position. It was developed by slaves whos feet were manicled as a means of self defense. Very artistic and quite nasty.

As for the Asians. The bow was quite popular actually. Many martial arts (Ninjitsu comes to mind first) used them as a part of the trainig.

Capoeira. “cap-oy-err-ah.” Practitioners are called capoeiristas.

icky thump!
(sorry no cites found but UK dopers will remember this ancient martial art)

Would Boxing and Greco-Roman Wrestling count? or are you looking for applied martial arts rather than simply practiced ones?

Not to hijack this thread overmuch, but did East Asian cultures borrow the bow from Europeans/Middle Easterners or was the bow developed independently in East Asia? My understanding is that Ninjitsu, while having ancient roots, has incorporated many new elements in modern times.

My point is that the common use of bows in Europe may have precluded the development of a “formalized” system of hand-to-hand unarmed combat.

Most Asian non-weapon (OP’s hand-to-hand) martial arts evolved in the lower classes who were forbidden weapons. So karate and ju-jitsu are weaponless Japanese arts. Nanchukas evolved from flails, used to thresh rice. Not a weapon so peasants can use them. IIRC there’s an obscure Okinawan martial art using spikes for handling cotton bales. (Saw it years ago on TV, so no cite.) Anybody with access to weapons used them, e.g. samurai. A man armed with a sword will normally beat a armed man with a fist.

In Europe the lower orders weren’t restricted in weapon use but even so, some weapons evolved from agricultural implements, e.g. bill hooks. With a greater choice of weapons, all classes in Europe developed martial arts based on weapons, much like the upper classes in the Far East.

I always thought it was Ecky Thump!

I will make the obligatory Scottish Martial Art joke - Fuh Kyu, and then tell you that a Russian wrestling style calleed Sambo is studied as a martial art at a multi-discipline dojo here in Glasgow.

There are many styles of wrestling in Europe, and I see no reason why these should not be classed as martial arts, although they tend not to be viewed as such.

Checks he hasn’t accidentally typed “marital arts” anywhere, and submits…

You are confusing Japanese with Okinawan, which is where karate developed. And jujitsu is not exclusively weaponless, but was always taught (during the classical bushido period) in the context of weapons training. Jujitsu was used when you lost your sword, or against a peasant who was too low-class to dirty up your weapon with. It was also used to close against an armed opponent to throw him to the ground so you could stab thru the joints of his armor with a special dagger (wielded left-handed) that samurai carried for this purpose.

See Don Cunningham’s Secret Weapons of Jujitsu at the E-budo website for more on this.

The Historical Armed Combat Association has far more than you can handle on European martial arts.


Well, the OP did ask about medieval martial arts; boxing’s too late and GR wrestling’s too early…

The Irish were forbidden weapons during the English occupation, but there the response seemed to be mostly easily concealed or disguised weapons. Yes, of course this big heavy knob at the end of my walking stick is to make it easier to hold. It has nothing to do with clobbering Redcoats over the head.

Eeh by gum lad you are right. No wonder I couldn’t find it. Deadly in the wrong hands. Probably best to keep it quiet.
On the other hand you can go to Chipping Camden every year in june to watch the Cotswold Olympicks to watch the ancient martial art of Shin Kicking. Believe me you have to be tough to win. See for an old engraving of the sport.

ahhh… missed that part:smack: . though seeing as GR wrestling is still with us today, I would assume that it was also used then. I could be wrong though, I know next to nothing about GR Wrestling.

Here follows a brief timeline of world martial arts.

Well the world first martial art was Pankration.

A holistic martial art involving punching, kicking, grappling and wrestling. An olympic sport for a thousand years.
Taught to Alexander the Great’s troops to make them extra lethal.

Over time it spreads throughout Russia. Eventually there is such a huge diversity of styles and techiniques that this martial art is just refered to as ‘SAMBO’. An acronym that stands for ‘Self Defense Without Weapons’. It still flourishes today and it is quite nasty :slight_smile:

Meanwhile Pankratin is taken to India through cultural osmosis where it became the Indian wrestling style whose name escapes me.

From there it may or may not have been taken by Bodhi Dharma (spelling?) from India to China where he may have taught it to the Shaolin monks. Even if Dharma himself did not study this martial art it is highly unlukely that he did not know of it’s existence.

Back in europe the romans take over sport Pankration and introduce a bladed gauntlet (the cestus) in order to turn it into a deathmatch. The sport dies out but various techniques are spread around and watered down until they become savate, savatte and probably boxing as well.

Back in China the Shaolin monks develop Kung-Fu. Hundreds of thousand of styles. Those that suck die out (literally) those that are effective prosper. Eventually Kung-Fu becomes a far richer source of technique than Pankration ever was.

At some point a Japanese fisherman is blown across to China from Okinawa, he spends a few years there and learns a bit of kung-fu. When he goes back he begins the Okinawan martial arts tradition.

Cultural osmosis again: karate is developed from the okinawan styles. Ju-jitsu (and thus hapkido and aikido) is developed by the samurai by combining the positional strength of and foot movements of kendo with the joint manipulation techniques of the okinawan martial arts. Judo is derived from ju-jitsu by focusing on very particular parts of the style: throws and positional control.

1950’s: several korean practitioners of karate seek to distance themselves from Japanese culture after WWII. They combine their karate with a korean sport that is thousands of years old and involves throuws and kicks and stuff. Thus Tae Kwon Do is born.

1980’s an american martial artist of greek descent discovers that his beloved homeland was responsilbe for the world’s first martial art (historians had always known about pankration but THEY didnt really care). He does major research and opens a Pankration academy. Currently the sport is experiencing a revival. I am sure you will all here about it sooner or later. In fact I am competing in the South African National Championships on saturday.

1700’s: As stated above Angolan slaves in Brazil begin adapting a centuries old game involing acrobatics and faked kicks into a lethal fighting style that does not require hands in order to work. Thus Capoeria is born. The object is to throw a kick out and then, without losing any momentum to reassess your opponent’s position and throw another one. This continues until one of you lands a kick. Trust me guys: when you do capoeira you olny need one. Every kick is thrown will the total body weight behind it and the force is amplified by co-ordinating one’s muscles into the strike. Even when the kicks are down incoreclty it is impossible to block them. They are just too powerful.

Anyway the slaves break free, carve themselves out a piece of jungle to call their own, fight several small battles with the Spanish and hold out until slavery is abolished

Thats about it. Pretty off topic but interesting none the less.

The only thing I am unsure of is how the Phillapino martial styles (Kali, Escrima etc) were developed. I assume that they are a derivation of Kung-Fu as well but I dont want to piss anybody off if I am wrong.