native american martial arts

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts' started by Jordan, Nov 14, 2006.

  1. Malcolm Sheppar

    Malcolm Sheppar Valued Member

    Oki Chi Taw fulfills three requirements one might have for a legitimate tradition:

    1) Its history is honestly transmitted, including where the teacher altered it.

    2) It is an accepted practice in a First Peoples organization.

    3) It is taught by a recognized member of that community.

    Lepine does say that he's integrated the material with other things and devised his own structure. AFAIK, he teaches it as an integrated program with taekwondo.
  2. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    Interresting. My question then is: Is it us "Martial artists" or the Linguists that are preaching lost causes? If the linguists you refer to are right, but the consept of martial art -based on the wrong sources- today means what langenschwert (and I) believe most people associates it with, isn't it still a valid convention today -even if this convention is based on misreading sources?

    -Anyway; in Floss Duellatorum, an italian MA-manual from roughly 1410, the word art is used for describing fighting. I don't think the term martial art is used, though; rather things like "the art of wresteling", "the art of fencing", etc.

    The funny thing is that languages and words change, and the meaning we put in words change. In norway today, for instance, many linguists are mad about the fact that the sound "kj" is disappering from the norwegian sound-systen, beeing replaced by the "sj"-sound. The funny thing is that 800 years ago neither sound existed in norwegian, so what today seems like hardliner norwegian-traditionalists actually defend a sound that 800 years ago was regarded as a degeneration of the norwegian language by the hardlinder norwegian-traditionalists back then :topic:
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2007
  3. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    I'm not quoting John Clements. I'm quoting the introduction of Pallas Armata, a 17th Century Rapier manual:

    Best regards,

  4. Malcolm Sheppar

    Malcolm Sheppar Valued Member

    You're paraphrasing John Clements' claim that "martial arts" was a term in the same sense it is now using the Pallas Armata -- specifically, using a poem that was not written by the author and furthermore, one that demonstrates that "Martiall art" doesn't mean that, because "Martiall art of fencing" is a redundant term in 17th Century English, because "fencing" was already a general term for martial art. "Martiall art" means the quality of bravery. Otherwise, the couplet is senseless, like uttering, "I study the martial art of fighting system."
  5. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter


    Beat down by linguists eh...
    Now there's a misappropriation of a term if there ever was one. :D

    Pot meet kettle.
  6. Malcolm Sheppar

    Malcolm Sheppar Valued Member

    Fencing was a more general term then and was used as a general term for close range fighting systems, along with its brother' "Defence." Art? Certainly.

    "Martial arts" certainly is a valid usage for WMA today. I just wish ARMAteers and WMA enthusiasts would stop trying to hard in the "me too! Me too!" vein whnever it comes to any situation where Asian martial arts have been predominant in the 20th Century. For one thing, the arete/martial art connection has some philosophical depth that is distinctly European, but that's been missed in attempts to push the term's modern usage back in time.
  7. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    As a WMA'er, I'm potentially touchy on this subject, but if I read your post right, I agree with you that moden-historical-WMA is a resurrected affair, whereas the EMA'ers of today (excluding the imposters) can trace a line backwards over several centuries.

    IMO, and from what I've heard from one of the guys that have been doing WMA for a very long time; Colin Richards; I'd say that moden-historical-WMA (excluding boxing, wresteling and olympic fencing, etc, etc) emerged in the 1980's, first as a romantic tolkien goes vikings, kind of way, but gradually incorporating more and more fassination for old european martial manuscripts that had been preserved around the world.

    Acording to Colin, there seems to have been a similar wave in europe, roughly 100 years ago, but it all died out in the trenches of WWI (There exists pictures from Norway, from around 1880 showing knight-reenacters re-enacting jousting :love: )
  8. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    There definitely was a revival of interest in (and practice of) "antique" European martial arts especially around the turn of the 1900s. This was part of what was known as the "Gothic revival", a cultural movement that affected art, literature and architecture and eventually filtered down to sport and martial arts training.

    Aside from the reconstruction of Medieval tournaments (jousting, etc.), which happened throughout Europe, people were also reviving the ancient Greek Olympic competitions ( ) - in fact, this movement is the origin of the modern Olympic Games.

    In Paris and London during the late 1800s and early 1900s, a number of fencers were actively researching and practicing earlier forms of swordplay, including the two-handed sword, rapier and dagger, etc. Most notable were Egerton Castle, Captain Alfred Hutton and Carl Thimm in London and George Dubois in Paris, but there were many others.

    Unfortunately, as Stolenbjorn noted, these efforts did not survive the trenches of WW1 and it took another seventy or eighty years before the "second revival" got underway.

  9. Malcolm Sheppar

    Malcolm Sheppar Valued Member

    The odd thing there is that during WW1, soldiers actually used older tools and methods on the battlefield. I've seen maces and shields on display from that period in the War Museum in Ottawa.
  10. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    while browsing over different forums and threads earlier today i ran across this one and have read all the posts for thread with great intrest. subjects concerning the native americans have always fascinated me.

    there are numerous reasons for my wanting to learn more about the native american peoples. some of my descendents were from the cherokee tribe found in this area. there is a common love for the outdoors and related skills that include hunting and survival methods. the native americans having some form of martial arts or not is something i have been researching along with the other areas for over two decades.

    before going there i would like to point out some questionable statements made in earlier posts.
    1. inthespirit-the navajo peoples maintain thier oral history teaches native american tribes came here from south america by foot and asia by using primitive boats. although scientists prefer the bering strait theory some evidence has surfaced recently to substantiat those claims.
    2. disgruntuled-custer did not lose the battle even though his calvary troops had superior weaponry. the spensers used by the calvary were notorious for jamming while the native americans were armed with some winchesters. the better reliability and greater firepower were not in custors favor.
    3. louie-dim mak in native american fighting? was that a joke?

    now about those martial art claims. have seen the advertisements for native american martial arts. including those by adrian roman (sorry thats kenpo). none of those claims has ever been verified by any native american peoples to my knowledge. most of the material resembles some recycled asian martial arts technique in a different package. the earlier posts that suggested the native americans had fighting skill just not in an orginized manner sounds far more likely.

    nothing i have ever read or heard from various native americans suggests martial arts. if they did exist it seems the knowledge was lost somewhere or never existed in the first place. my bet is for the latter. were native american martial arts available not to mentioned could be verified i would be first in line to be a student.
  11. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    I have a suspicion that we define MA a little different, windtalker. As the Indians did fight, they must have in some form of MA(at least the way I define MA) (or perhaps they only poisoned their enemies, or bored them to death with silly jokes :p )

    So personally, I think that the indians had their MA; perhaps not like korean/japaneese/chineese MA's are described in Hong-Kong-movies, but some sort of teaching/training of martial skills mus have existed (one example is the tradition of beeing able to touch an enemy without killing him, earning the right to have a feather as a trophy; provided that this example is based on actual fact, not romantic fantasies by immigrants from Europe :rolleyes: )

    I must say that I don't know anything about indians, but as I have a theory that modern indians' attempts to ressurect/re-discover/theorise on their ancestors' MA, resembles europeans attemts to ressurect/re-discover/theorise on their ancestors' MA; I think that indians could learn from "our" 20 years of making errors, jumping to conclutions, etc. :)

    Just because a 50 year old norwegian living in England claims to know a quarterstaff-fighting-system used by the vikings, that have been orally passed through the generations in his family, ending with him, doesn't make it right.... and I guess people seriously interrested in the Indians MA should be aware that such imposters probably exist in the Indian community as well (as windtalkers post indicates with his comments on indian ma's really beeing EMA-systems dressed in indian staffache)
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2007
  12. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    hello stolenbjorn,
    didnt mean to be gone from thread for so long. nor to suggest that native americans had no form of martial arts. these days i see a lot of martial arts that were supposed to come from some exotic location. from ancient greek to celtic era fighting skills. from native american to scandanavian combat methods.

    back in high school the history teachings were among the few things in the way of classes that appealed to me. otherwise my efforts were directed to chasing girls or hunting. anyway i have always been interested with history in general and ancient cultures in specific. the efforts to learn about fighting skills from days past does intrest me. and i can understand the desire that people have to investigate thier roots.

    these days i have become jaded and very skeptical toward claims of the older combative methods being found. these claims usually have false pretense to make cash in mind as opposed to research and developing what once had significance. more often than not what i see are recycled asian or european martial arts.

    from what i gather after speaking with various native american tribes is that fighting skills both existed and there were established training methods. for example i was given the opprotunity to learn how that some ancient weapons had been made. and i often hear about native american wrestling. the reason given for the latter varies. wrestling for native americans was supposed to be a form of entertainment and build confidence. also to settle disputes without bloodshed and maybe grappling against weapons.

    they also practiced a great deal with thier weapons. from using archery while on horseback to throwing spears. according to my limited sources the latter avalability of firearms diminshed the intrest of using time honored weapons. and learning about firearms became necessary to be on equal ground with the white invaders. with a lot of effort those skills could be learned again yet unlikely ressurected.

    despite having been criticized and ridiculed for my trouble some effort has been made on my part to combine jeet kune do with outdoor skills and in turn do something resembling what native americans might have. maybe that does lack practicality yet has been an enjoyable adventure. besided hunting and martial arts are both something i love doing.
  13. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    I sounded perhaps a little bombastic in my prevous post.
    Just to clarify:
    I have no problem with people mixing jeet kune do with outdoor skills; doing somthing that might resemble what native americans might have done, if the drafting-poster on the wall reads:

    "In this class, you will learn to perform jeet kune do mixed with outdoor skills, to be able to do something that might resemble what native americans might have done"

    Not a poster like this:
    "In thiss class, you will learn to fight like the Indians did"

    In my vocabulary, I use the following terms:

    Resurrected MA = Re-awaking a MA-system based on written/drawn manuals from the actual time. Allthough the principes might be lost, the founder; if ressurected should at least be able to recognize the basic stances and cuts.

    WMA's as Students of Liechtenauer and Fiore di Liberi can stand as examples.

    Interpretated MA = By quallified GUESSWORK based on archeologial finds and claims in sagas/non-martial written sources +MA-manuals from previous/later periodes or from other cultures using similar weaponry; trying to demonstrate possible uses/techniques by any given culture.

    Performers of "Viking re-enactment", can stand as an example.

    Traditional MA = Performing katas as taught by the current "masters", passed on through the generations (and alledgedly changed little). Performers of Shinten Ryu Kenjutsu can stand as an example.

    Martial sports = Performing a martial system within given rules; not primarely to kill the opponent, but to declare a winner. Karate and Boxing can stand as examples.

    If I were to try create an interpretation of Indian-pre-17th-century-MA, I'd perhaps look to following sources?
    -actual indian weapons; their weight, balance, etc + any MA-system in the world that allso use such weapons; perhaps like paccific "stone age" cultures; like aboriginies/maori; as their cultural level (pre-metal) could give an indication on what weapons were used and how.
    -Escimo/indian/northeast-asian-nature-people's oral traditions
    -If it was a horse-using indian tribe; perhaps some mongol/pakistani horse-tribe games/martial systems (if any still exist)
    -Written sources from the first immigrants to "the new world"
    -Any given MA-system that cover basic body mechanics-wresteling/striking(perhaps allso kicking)

    If 100 people were to make an "indian mix" from theese sources; I'm sure we'd end up with 100 different interpretations; and non of them would probably be correct (and we'll never know anyway). -But for a "Indian market", where we were to demonstrate an "indian MA-show"; I'd might try to go along theese lines, but I would ensure the audience that it was an interpretation, not the facit. -Probably, the organisers of an indian market would prefere the Hollywood-cliché, with indians on horseback with winchesters, howling and galloping around some settlers' wagons :p
  14. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    hey there stolenbjorn,

    nice to here someone offering positive remarks about my endeavor to mix jeet kune do with outdoor skills. the effort is made to blend my love of martial arts and hunting (not to mention camping, hiking, etc.) for a functional stlye that could apply to both.

    there never has been any intention on my part of creating a new 'stlye' for the purpose to open a school of in the future. nor will you ever read about my having 'discovered ancient fighting skills of native americans' or any such nonsense. this is a personal goal. although i would share my ideas with interested parties yet not in a class setting.

    have gathered some material from different sources concerning weapon skills. first i began with the tommahawk and used material from the cold steel dvds along with fma. then i began researching knife skills which is currently a blend of hunting skills (dressing out game and the like) with more fma. this could change in the future.

    the fighting stick is a tough one. because im tempted to use fma there as well yet have reservations based on wanting to keep the material simple yet effective. have been looking into numerous sources for those skills. another big problem is the spear. had no luck whatsoever finding good base methods for a spear. looked at cma yet decided it was a bit to much.

    far as the empty hand material goes have been training more in freestyle wrestling to better approximate what i think native american fighting might have resembled. and using a little muay thai. have a lot of work ahead of me and realize it probably will only vaugly resemble what existed in the past.

    hope this post did not bore you. never had the chance to speak with any other people that might appreciate my efforts. and i also dislike how native americans have been depicted in the past. movies like 'dances with wolves' or 'into the west' might give others a different perspective on tribal culture.
  15. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    Have you tried european medieval manuals? The parts where people fight in armor is perhaps a little of-topic, but most of the spear is pretty basic. You could browse through some basic spear online on theese pages?
    (This page have an english translation + italian, but the pictures are reserved for members, me thinks: )

    In this PDF document: -finally a link to pictures, but in italian only, slow to load, be patient!
    -On page 31-34 (polearms without armor)
    Page 55-57 (poleaxes in armor; not so relevant, perhaps)
    Page 57-62 (lance/spear on horseback)

    I know that there are other online pics out there from german traditions as well, perhaps Langenswert or other WMA'ers on this forum can provide links.
  16. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    There are specific anthropological and 19th century historical records of various Native American wrestling sports, spear throwing (training) games, etc.; EJMAS links to some of them.

    I've heard that the sport of lacrosse originally included a system of body checks and tripping techniques, but I've never seen them detailed.

  17. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    the largest problem with learning what kind of skills the native americans had back in the day relates to misconceptions. the movie industry did thier part and these martial arts instructors claiming to actually teach native american fighting skills are doing thier part of misrepresentation. if you think about it theres really no difference between them. both attempt to sell an product that is largely for entertainment value. neither do any research or make the slightest effort to portray the native americans in a accurate manner. the end result is the same being money.

    where to start learning about authentic native american skills is to imo just overlook what has been done. the advanced level of technique is a good indication something is wrong. native american skills did not remotely even begin to resemble technique of most asian martial arts. and there is the best place to start. by seperating what native american skills might look in further advanced stages as compared to how they actually were.

    some might and probably will disagree with me about this. the model i have been using for native american fighting skills is the filipino martial arts. and the effort to seperate what fma has evolved into from how it used to be done in the past. from my understanding (limited as it may be) the fma styles favor weapons first then disarms and retention. and those skills pave the way for empty hand work.

    right now the general idea for how native american skills might have looked is broken down in this manner. weapons first. practice with the weapons being second. fighting to keep your weapon or take away the opponents third. and i was thinking native american wrestling starts there. and finally empty hand work again from basic wrestling and striking. not kickboxing and aikido. thats too much.

    the sources mentioned were never considered before. although i did look into asian martial arts for some indication how certain weapons might have been used (like any relationship between kama and tommahawk technique). the european martial arts were never seriously considered because i had never seen a lot of fighting there with spears.

    from what i have read based on the given references that might be a good place to start. also im trying to learn about the work burton richardson did with african martial arts. the idea here is not to over-enginear the skills into something as it might have progressed to now. because i think (just my opinion) the native americans would have kept it simple to preserve basic effectiveness.

    anyway thanks for all the help and any other advice would be welcome.
  18. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    As Stolenbjorn mentioned, "reconstructing" a style for which there are few, if any detailed technical records is no easy task. It requires serious, dedicated research into what historical records there are, combined with an honest anthropological approach in choosing appropriate secondary sources. In this case, martial arts from similar (i.e. pre-literate, pre-metallurgical, tribal) cultures would probably be the best starting point.

    You can come up with some very reasonable hypotheses in terms of how particular weapons were used through trial and error training. I'd strongly suggest finding detailed, accurate replicas of the original weapons and then creating safe training versions; in combination with appropriate body armor and realistic pressure testing in the form of sparring, drills etc., the form of the weapon often provides a good notion of its function. Bear in mind the type of armor, or lack of armor, that the weapons would have historically come up against, as well.

    The Jeet Kune Do approach would be a good "base" for this project as it's all about figuring out the technical/tactical connection points between various MAs, via experimentation. Directly appropriating, say, kama technique for the tomahawk would work up to a point in that the weapons are similar in form, but again, armor is an issue and the posture, "body language" etc. of the various techniques would obviously be rather different, given the differences between Native American and Okinawan cultures (transmission by kata vs. "training games", etc.

    You might want to get in touch with the Historical Maritime Combat Association. They've undertaken a similar project, developing training /fighting systems for several historical weapons (including the tomahawk, bowie knife etc.) that were never recorded in detailed instruction manuals. The HCMA website is at .

    You should also check out the American Heritage Fighting Arts Association:

    Also on the tomahawk, see Col. Dwight McLemore's book:

    He does a lot of work with the HMCA and AHFAA guys and they have a good, non-nonsense approach to the task of reconstructing these "forgotten arts".

  19. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    the weapons have to be modified for safety and effectiveness. using a recurve made of modern laminates (or wood) with carbon arrows is much safer and functional than just a primitive bow using wooden arrows and flint arrowheads. (have tried both). having a tommahawk and knives made of steel is better than using rocks (including obsidian). have made various weapons the 'old-fashioned' way and used them a little.

    the key here is having safe, durable and functional weapons that can be used for outdoor activities. the historically accurate knives look good and provided a great learning experience to make. yet they are best kept at home while a moden counterpart makes it to the woods. dont get me wrong as i enjoy learning about the original designs including making/practicing with them. just that using such weapons during a regular outdoor activity (especially hunting) doesnt seem that great of an idea.

    just finished crafting a gunstock club. thats not something i would use in the woods. yet learning how to make/fight with them will be nice.
  20. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    Sorry for entering in late in the game guys.


    I guess that may be true with a lot of sportive martial arts systems and al least for a number of modern Japanese martial systems.

    However, I don't think that koryu bujutsu (Classical Japanese martial traditions) would hold the same viewpoint though. Their's would be very much along the same lines as yours for the most part. Every feudal school of military science is based upon very different theories and experiences related to each founder. Some schools specialize in the use of just one weapon while others will train in all infantry weapons of the period (i.e. spear, halberd, sword, shortsword, etc.) and each school has a specific ideology, scientific theory and "flavour" in how things are done.

    Quite a number of koryu teachers I have had the privelige of meeting and training with in Japan have had this kind of mindset, or at least something similar.

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