What defines a Historical Martial Art (HMA)?
The purpose of research and practice in Historical Martial Arts (HMA) is to liberate a Combat System from its medium of preservation: written word and illustration. To take something described and to install it into one’s habit so that its function becomes natural is the purpose of such effort.
The defining aspect of HMA is perhaps it’s “Historical” component, because the field must entirely be based upon research standards6.
Yet the importance of the medium should always remain secondary to the practice of the instruction. Fidelity to sources is higher than fidelity to the function described in the sources, then there is a displaced balance in the activity. To paraphrase Aristotle, "the sources are my friends, but the truth in historical martial arts is the truest friend".
The purpose of Historical Martial Arts is therefore in the transfer of combative behaviours from descriptions on a page into the physical practice of an art. In which case, we are particularly interested in the inward significance of the descriptions rather than the specific descriptions themselves.
‘Verbum caro factum est’ (John 1:14) means ‘the word made flesh’, where ‘verbum’ relates to the spoken transmission of Word ‘logos’, or logic. The quote describes how Jesus was the embodiment of the logic of God. In our context, the aim of Historical Martial Arts is in the accurate translation of combative behaviours from their medium of transmission. To take something from an inorganic medium, a body of scripture (‘corpus’), and to place them within the living corpus, so that the person becomes the living representation of a described martial art is the fundamental goal of Historical Martial Arts.
The Purpose of the HEMA Roadmap
Constructing the Roadmap was critical to appreciating the volume of work which had been done, but more importantly, to understanding the work still to be done. It also identified the path to an outcome, not only by stating the outcome outright and making it explicit, but also to map the requisites to its fulfilment.
Many practitioners around the world are involved in some form or some aspect of the Roadmap, as outlined here. However, another subset of practitioners do not realise that there is, or should be, any particular framework for the study. Conducting any activity without an overall view of what one is looking to achieve may arguably be a fruitless activity.
The HEMA Roadmap is an established method, and framework. It is not restrictive, but merely aims at making the goal of the activity explicit, as well as defining the requisite tasks to achieving those goals. Therefore, the fourfold functions of the Roadmap are as follows:
1. To make the outcome of research explicit
2. To establish a systematic process for research toward that outcome
3. To identify processes which are already present within the HEMA movement
4. To anticipate the future of HEMA as a movement, as well as one’s outcome within it
Because of the medium of transmission for historical martial arts, we are confronted with a challenge which the authors of those works would not have encountered. We must enter to a process of data processing, or the handling of the information on order to present it for practice. These aspects are covered in HEMA Roadmap 1.0, parts 1 and 2. The components practiced by historical instructors are covered in Stages 3 and 4 (see below).
The intended application of the Roadmap includes, but is not limited to, Historical European Martial Arts.
An overview of current Methods
The ARMA System (Method)1 is perhaps the oldest of the methods, and often used as the basis for other research methods. This method is based upon interpretation of sources based upon potentially incomplete understanding of Martial Art functions. One is guided by potentially a certain level of ignorance, taking the words of the author literally where they were intended to be metaphorical, or specifically where they were intended universally. The use of 'interpretation' without a framework as a guide certainly is not without risks.
Some methods are simply demonstrations of the approach, and does little to describe a specific interation between information on the page and how it becomes integrated into a ‘living system’ for practice. The MFG Method2 for example, covers the range of approaches included within the practice, but merely cites ‘Scholarship’ as an aspect. By its own admission, the approach definition is inspired by the ARMA Method.
AGISE Research Method 3 (2004) and it’s later revision ADVISE Method (2010)4 is evidently based upon a data handling model, used within the Data industry. This process comes the closest of all the methods to the HEMA Roadmap, both in character and achievement. The aim of the AGISE/ADVISE Method is to collect information from the sources, looking for patterns and trends and grouping them collectively together. Specific techniques are identifie in the form of Simple Actions, with a mind to identifying the underlying rules to those patterns. This is a suitable method to liberating martial arts from historical sources, and therefore the HEMA Roadmap is built upon it.
Another Method, proposed recently is the GANGTAPA Research Method (2011)5. This Method pursues the orthodox historical method, using a Who, What, Why, Where, When, How, Who for approach. This method allows for the context of a given source to be understood, as well as it’s relativity to other sources on the topic, yet this too offers little about how to take techniques and integrate them into the Combat System. However, given that thorough understanding of each source, on a source-by-source basis is a requirement for the HEMA Roadmap, this method is effectively reconciled into it at Data Compilation (1.1).
Overall, the HEMA Roadmap is built upon these preexisting methods, but has taken a Cybernetic approach to the topic, as well as one based upon thorough statistical analysis by means of Stemmatology. These approaches allow for deep and thorough reconciliation of information, extrapolated from a body of 'Data Sources'. This effectively facilitates a holistic view of the topic, as opposed to singular source study.
STRUCTURE of community
The HEMA Roadmap involves a substantial number of tasks to be fulfilled. Given the number, the range, and the depth of knowledge required to fulfill them adequately, it is therefore a task undertaken by groups of people.
HEMA is typically a topic tackled by a collective, simply because there are so many components in the Roadmap that it is difficult for a single individual to cover all aspects of it accurately. For this reason, a community inclined towards the activity typically consists of specialists in one or more components:
1. Historiographers / historians
2. Transcribers / Palaeographers
Some individuals have skills which stretch across a number of these areas, yet most specialise in particular areas. Theoretically speaking, if we were to take a cross-section of the individuals and groups engaging in HEMA, we may often identify inclinations towards one or more of these six.
The Roadmap is comprised of four parts, or stages.
1. Data Compilation
2. Data Reconciliation
3. Data Assimilation
4. Data Liberation
- 1. Definition of the study
- 1.1. Sources
- 1.1.1. Broad / Specific5
- 1.1.2. Transition
- 1.2. Nationality / Language
- 1.3. Time-period / Epoch
- 1.4. Author
- 1.5. Popularity
- 1.6. Accessibility
- 1.1. Sources
- 2. Accessibility of Sources
- 2.1. Reading
- 2.2. Transcription
- 2.3. Translation
1. Data Structuring
1.1. Higher Criticism
1.2. Lower Criticism5
1.3. Identification of Stemma
2. Data Topology
2.3. Framework Mapping
3. Data Matching / Reduction
3.1. Match content
3.5. Produce ‘Critical Editions’
4. Data contextualisation
4.1. Historiographical evidence
5. Seek new data-sets (sources)
1. Physical Training
1.1. Lesson plans
1.3. Proficiency within confines of Curriculum
2.2. Systemic context
3. Polarisation of approaches
3.1. Reality-based value
3.2. Historical value
3.3. Athletic value
3.4. Performance / aesthetic value
1. Establish Martial Art
1.2. Visual manifestation
1.3. Coherent Brand Identity
- 1. Definition of the study
The reason why we've finally typed up our approach and offered it here is to open it up to peer-review. This means it may now be appraised by anyone, or applied by anyone. Send us your feedback or your thoughts, we're keen to make it even better.
As it stands, the HEMA Roadmap has been refined and perfected over the previous six or seven years (up to 2014, time of writing). During this process, it has often been adapted as changes occur in training, or research redirects the goals slightly. It should be expected that at this general release of the Roadmap, that it remains open to change, open to improvement. Therefore, we have named it HEMA Roadmap 1.0, until changes and amendments will update the Roadmap.
We will cite updates here, and if you wish, give you full credit with it.
GANGTAPA Methodology - Given (What the source tells us), Author (Who), Not Given (what the source doesn’t tell us), Timing (When), Accuracy (Interrogator’s perspective), Purpose (Why), Audience (Who for). ↩
There are a number of efforts taking place around the world to recreate or re-enact extinct martial arts. Various terms are used in relation to specifically European revival efforts, such as 'Historical Swordsmanship', 'Historical Fencing' or 'Historical European Martial Arts' et al. We shall refer to HMA and HEMA here, largely because HMA refers to the revival of any extinct martial art, whereas HEMA refers to the revival of extinct European Martial Arts. The roadmap presented here, whilst being called the HEMA Roadmap might rightly be referred to as HMA Roadmap, given that its function is not constraint only to European sources. ↩
Whether the study focusses upon a single source or upon a Range of Sources. Much of the definition of a Range of Sources may be made later once Textual Criticism has been performed. There is a likelihood that, should study be narrow (i.e. restricted to a single source), that one’s interpretation might be liable to be offset by source idiosyncrasies. I have described this as ‘Recreating the account, rather than the System it describes’. The alternative view considers an holistic research method: whilst there remains any source unconsidered albeit because it’s obscure, ‘perceived’ as irrelevant, unpopular etc, there remains the potential for the key to the entire pursuit stay undiscovered. Only by looking at everything available to us, are we able to construct the most complete picture possible. ↩
My own method is to use Computer-assisted methods, built in PHP. ↩