The Future of Historical European Martial Arts Studies. A discussion (Daniel Jaquet) - APD4/2 (2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 91–97, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apd-2016-0012, December 2016


The two panels of the conference were concluded by a round-table aiming at discussing the future of HEMA studies, by crossing the views of the speakers on three levels: personal involvement, major contribution needed for the field, strategies to make it happen. This article will focus on (1) reviewing the most important matters discussed and to balance them with the latest published desiderata for further research, (2) situating them in the latest developments in, on the one hand, martial arts studies, and on the other, Practice as Research (PaR) in other fields of research, and finally (3) comparing them with the developments of a similar fields of study over the last 60 years, notably dance studies.

Keywords: Historical European Martial Arts studies; Dance studies; Musicology; communities of practitioners

Prologues, Poetry, Prose and Portrayals: The Purposes of Fifteenth Century Fight Books According to the Diplomatic Evidence (Jacob Henry Deacon) - APD4/2 (2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 69–90, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apd-2016-0011, December 2016


Although by far the most popular use of fifteenth century Fight Books in recent years has been their application to the study of Historical European Martial Arts and interpretations of medieval combat, this manner of learning from them was rarely what their creators had in mind. The following paper, relying primarily on the materials produced by Fiore dei Liberi, Filippo Vadi, Hans Talhoffer, and the anonymous author of Le Jeu de la Hache, will address modern practice and its connection to the source material via a study of the diplomatics of fifteenth century Fight Books, that is to say common tropes that are definitive of the genre. This has been done through analysing the roles of three of these; the purposes of introductions, of the use of language relating to the employment of either a prose or poetic structure, and the importance of the relationships between texts and illustrations. Through this application of diplomatics to Fight Books, the paper shall demonstrate how modern claims regarding authenticity are often overstated and in need of moderation.

Keywords: Diplomatics; Fifteenth Century; Fight Books; Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA); Palaeography & Manuscript Studies

“Your Kung Fu is very good, Master Fiore!” Asian and European fight books in comparison (Sixt Wetzler) - APD4/2 (2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 47–67, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apd-2016-0010, December 2016


The phenomenon of the fight book is not restricted to the European tradition. Similar artefacts, usually combining text and image to describe the techniques of close quarter combat with and without weapons, exist also in various Asian cultures, in China, Japan, Korea, and India. In the article, the question shall be raised in how far and to which end fight books of different cultures can be taken into one perspective, and be compared. To do so, similarities and dissimilarities between European and early Chinese fight books will be pointed out, and preliminary areas for comparison will be introduced. The aim of the article is to raise awareness for the topic, and to lay the ground for further discussion between specialists on the respective European and Chinese fields.

Keywords: fight books; martial arts studies; Chinese martial arts; comparative approach; Qi Jiguang

A Look Behind the Scenes: Danish Renaissance Martial Arts during the Reign of Christian IV (Claus Frederik Sørensen) - APD4/2(2016)

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 31–45, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apd-2016-0009, December 2016


From the 4th – 7th of July 2016, the annual International Medieval Congress was held in Leeds, England. Among the many different sessions two specifically addressed historical European martial arts. The first session discussed and commented upon modern practices and interpretations of historical European martial arts, each paper being based on good practice and the proper criteria for academic research. The second session, in which this paper was presented, went more “behind the scenes”, discussing the importance of thorough analysis of the historical context which remains essential to forming a foundation for solid hypotheses and interpretations.

This article discusses and sheds light upon Danish historical martial art during the reign of the Danish King Christian IV (r.1588 to 1648). At this point in time Europe consisted of many small principalities in addition to a few larger states and kingdoms. Thoughts and ideas could spread as quickly as ripples in water but also be bound by political and religious alliances or enmities, plague, famine and not to mention the role also played by topographical and cultural differences. Thus, at times, vast cultural differences could be seen from region to region.

To this should be added a wide range of social factors, such as the role of relationships and mentalities, and the obeying of unspoken norms and codes which can also affect modern researchers’ interpretations of what is shown or described. Therefore, the aim of this article is to provide a series of “behind the scenes” examples which all have the potential to affect hypotheses, interpretations, and overall understandings of the context of historical European martial arts.

Keywords: Denmark; Soro Academy; Christian IV; Historical European Martial Arts; Martial arts; History; Renaissance

Limits of Understanding in the Study of Lost Martial Arts (Eric Burkart) - APD4/2 2016

Citation Information: Acta Periodica Duellatorum. Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 5–30, ISSN (Online) 2064-0404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apd-2016-0008, December 2016


The paper is organised around the notion of embodied technique. The recent attempts to formulate scientific methodologies for the reconstruction of medieval fighting techniques based on a study of premodern fight books raise questions about the epistemological status of these (re)constructed techniques developed by modern practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA).

Approaching the subject from a perspective of cultural history and martial arts studies, the following questions are discussed: What is technique and how is it related to practice? How is technique acquired and transmitted? How can technique be recorded? And finally, how can historical records of technique be understood, interpreted and converted into practice?

Following Ben Spatz, technique is defined as the knowledge content of specific practices and the semiotic references between practice, technique, and symbols referring to embodied technique are discussed. By looking at the intersubjective communication of subjective fighting skills and relying on the work of Michael Polanyi, the possibility to record the “tacit knowing” of these skills as explicit knowledge is questioned. Given the low knowledge content of the fight books in regard to the execution of the referenced techniques, modern HEMA techniques therefore are to be addressed as purely modern constructions based on modern fighting practices instead of as reconstructions of medieval technique. The discourses in HEMA are also compared to a similar debate in musicology, where the status and the “authenticity” of attempts to recreate the sound of medieval music based on interpretations of early musical notation systems was vividly discussed until the early 2000s.

Fighting techniques are furthermore addressed as elements of complex fighting systems that only exist within a given historical culture of fighting and are transformed when transferred to another societal context.

Keywords: martial arts studies; cultural history; cultures of fighting; martial arts; fighting system; embodied knowledge; embodiment; technique; Ben Spatz; tacit knowing; Michael Polanyi; mediality; hermeneutics of movement