Lost Embodied Knowledge: Experimenting with Historical European Martial Arts out of Books by Daniel Jaquet

Illustration from Meyer's Longsword. Source: Bloody Elbow, MMA History Blog.
Illustration from Meyer’s Longsword.






If all has gone according to plan, I am now back in the United States and recovering after my recent trip to Germany.  As such, I would like to share with you another keynote addresses from this summer’s Martial Arts Studies conference in Cardiff as I work on on my report for next week.

This was an interesting talk for a number of reasons.  To begin with, Daniel gave it while wearing armor, which is something that one does not see every day.  Secondly, I have been hoping to get some discussion of the Historical European Martial Arts movement (HEMA) onto Kung Fu Tea for some time now.

In this paper Daniel asks whether it is possible to reconstruct a lost fighting system from existing books.  The answer seems to be that this sort of exercise is much more difficult than we often assume.  And while this talk is specifically discussing the reconstruction of Western fight books, I suspect that many of these issues might also be applicable to those thinking about Chinese or Japanese manuals.  As such, this paper may be of interest to a wide range of readers interested in the historical martial arts.

As Daniel is a younger scholar who we have not discussed before, a few words of introduction are in order.  He is a medievalist with a background in literary studies as well as the history of science and the material culture of the early modern period.  He received a PhD from the University of Geneva in 2013, is the co-editor of the Acta-Periodica Duellatorum (which you should definitely check out) and he just co-edited a new volume on Western fight books.  Lastly, if you are curious as to what he can actually do in that armor, be sure to check out this clip!


Lost Embodied Knowledge: Experimenting with Historical European Martial Arts out of Books


5 Comments Add yours

  1. wp1176479-ethnomedia says:

    Dear Ben Judkins, related to the general topic addressed in your very interesting recent post inlined below, I want to make you aware of two methodically interesting structure-analytical studies that have been made by Gabriele Berlin (2001: 18-21) on the stick dance of the Tharus from Nepal, and its possibilities of including remnants of an extinct martial art of this people, and, by the same author (2008: 39-42), on bharata natyam postures, martial arts techniques, and the problem of interpreting symbolic movements. References quoted:

    Berlin, Gabriele. 2001. The Stick Dance of the Tharus in Nepal: The Relationship between an extinct Martial Art and a living Dance tradition. In: Proceedings 21st Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology. 2000, Korcula, p.18-21. Elsie Ivancich Dunin, Tvrtko Zebec (eds.). Zagreb: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research.

    1. benjudkins says:

      Thanks for the reference, I will be sure to check that out!

  2. David says:

    Interesting stuff. I think there are lots of underestimated works on strategy and martial arts from Europe in the middle ages.

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