Questions for the Audience: Approaches to HMA   4 comments

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this recently. These questions are getting at some pretty subtle distinctions, if they exist at all – I suspect Dante, given his trollish mien, might answer with a single word.

Why do you study HMA? What is your goal?

What’s the draw? Broadly, are you informing your own ability to spar (and win) with historical material? Or are you attempting to resurrect history, to fight, in mind and body, as nearly as would a person from this century and that nationality? Is it a performance art, a ballet of swords, substituting Plate 1 for First Position, etc? Or is it more of a puzzle to you – figuring out why people did such-and-such thing, or conceived of the fight in such-and-such a way, and why these are viable solutions within the constraints of physics and body mechanics? (There’s overlap, of course, but I’d like specifics.)

How do you study HMA? What is your methodology, and why is it effective vis-a-vis some other method?

Broadly: translations, interpretations, or original text? How do you work through a text? What does the process look like, in detail? Is it better to learn the history and traditions overarching a specific system or weapon, to fill the gaps created by assumed knowledge, or are those better filled by free-play and experimentation, devoid of preconceptions? How do you resolve confusing or contradictory text or plates? Is the text a “master” who is always right, or a “guide” to show you how to develop a fight of your own?

How much credence can we even give the texts we use, knowing that teaching via a book was something of a new idea for much of period; that they’re incomplete; that it might not progress in a neat stepwise “curriculum” style that we’ve come to expect from modern pedagogy, opening the door for mistakes; and that many masters were deliberately cryptic, their illustrations stylized? How do you avoid false positives stemming from a too-close reading of the text or pictures? How much weight can we give to modern interpretations, many of which are still first-generation and done by enthusiasts rather than professionals?

How does your chosen methodology support your reasons for studying in the first place?

When do you know you’ve reached your goal?

Given that combat is analog, and art is digital (maybe even binary), how good is good enough? How many iterations are required until you can profess true understanding?

Posted August 16, 2013 by Ruairc in Musings

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