native american martial arts

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

  1. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    I agree with both of you :love:
    Yes, drilling with weapons that lie as close as possible to authentic form, shape, balance and weight is important.

    -But when I do "viking"-reenactment, I don't do full contact show fighting with a folded-blade, gold/silver-inlay-sword worth $2000++

    For test-cutting, I use stripped down, sharp replicas made by modern means, but having a shape, durability, structure and balance as close as possible to "the real thing"

    For full-contact-sparring, I use a modernly made sword, with a blade perhaps stronger than the original ones (and with a 2,5mm blunt edge)-for safety-reasons.

    For feeling the real thing, I visit museums and ask to be able to hold an original, or (when I'm full of money) I order a replica of an original.
  2. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    It sounds like you're on a good track there, but I should probably clarify that I was talking about using safe facsimile weapons - trainers - in developing your fighting system(s) with these weapons. The problem with using full-weight replicas in training is that you constantly have to slow down and be careful for the sake of safety, which can lead to some very unrealistic techniques that can only really be performed with a co-operative training partner.

    Returning to the HMCA approach to tomahawk fighting, they use relatively lightweight 'hawk trainers and body armor (including fencing masks, hand protectors, groin cups etc.) and do a lot of "freestyle" full-contact training to pressure-test their techniques and strategies. The theory is that if you can consistently make a technique work against a non-cooperative opponent in sparring, then it's more likely to represent the way the weapon was historically used in battle.

    The HCMA guys use both commercially made trainers - - and home-made. The latter are sturdy but relatively lightweight, wood or aluminum "blades" with a line of heavy felt or rubber along the points and edges.

    There are some good points made and links offered in this thread about Native American martial arts - .
  3. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    I totally agree that trainingweapons with realistic weight can be a problem, and I forgot to mention in my last post that we allso use wooden "waisters", rubber-daggers and modified "shinai"'s

    The dilemma is that using too light weapons can cause equal faults in technique, so doing a bit of both is probably the best.
  4. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    I find that this is less of an issue with very short, single-handed weapons like tomahawks than with two-handed weapons like longswords. We're on the same page, though; to get a clear idea of how Native American warriors would have used tomahawks, you'd need to practice with full-weight replicas as well as light trainers.

    Just to reinforce the point, the light trainers are for improvised contact sparring and pre-arranged contact drills against a padded training partner, to pressure-test technique and strategy; full-weight replicas would best be used for test cutting/chopping against suitable (inanimate!) targets, and possibly for controlled (non-contact) pre-set exercises with a partner.
  5. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    lol... it ain't rocket science... aim tomahawk and skull and swing.
    Pretty much all there is to it. :D
  6. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    What if he blocks your swing?
  7. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    And how does he swing it? "Research" on Viking-axes, the variety of bladedesigns from the same period and finds on helmets** suggests that they could have had several different ways of using them:
    *Thrusting, using the tip of the edge arc to pierce/smash.
    *Draw-Cutting with the edge to make huge gashes in an unprotected body.
    *Choping/cleaving with the edge to smack through padding/flesh to break bone beneath.
    *Smashing with the lower "tip" of the edge to pierce helmets**
    *Hooking shields/weapons/arms/neck/knee with the lower side of the blade.
  8. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    I think you guys are way over thinking the angle here. I can understand the desire to delve into training with particular weapons and trying to get at what people were using in terms of technique... but that being said... Humans don't necessarily have to have a set of codified techniques in order to be able to smash someones skull in during combat. Humans are not entirely helpless if they run into something like a blocked swing in a fight or for that matter a missed swing. People can and do react on the fly and are amazingly adaptable under stressful situations... why would Native Americans be any different? :confused:

    I've yet to see any records showing techniques of Native American martial arts... if you know of some then by all means please post them - I'd be interested to check them out.
  9. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    The skills/techniques of tomahawk fighting may well not have been codified, but the historical record suggests that they were often effective; hence the process of experimental archaeology applied to how these skills were likely transmitted and how they might have been employed.

    To extend your example, perhaps Native American MAs were largely based on improvization and adaptability, honed by years of training in games such as lacrosse, wrestling sports, etc. Many advanced and effective physical skills are transmitted and mastered without any formal curriculum of "techniques". The trick for Windtalker, then, will be to learn through historical research and practical experimentation the "what" and "how" of the use of weapons such as the ball club and tomahawk.

    As far as references go, I haven't looked into this area very closely but there is a thesis, ""War clubs and falcon warriors : war club use in southeastern native American chiefdoms" by Dr. Wayne Van Horne of Kennesaw State University. An excerpt is available in the excellent "Combat, Ritual and Performance: Anthropolgy ogf the Martial Arts", edited by David E. Jones.
  10. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    would you say the same thing about using say a katana or escrima stick? there are safety considerations besides learning how to attack/defend with any kind of weapon. how many people have been injured attempting to use weapons they know nothing about? when dealing with a sharp weapon like a tommahawk or sword the risk is considerable. besides would you not agree that people who dont know how to use a weapon are more likely to have the weapon taken away from them? sometimes there are students that swing an escrima stick too wide and either miss or let someone get inside. and the number of times that ive seen a stick get stripped or trapped is numerous.

    honestly my take here is not to be using weapons that a person has no experience with. for that very reason i might look at swords even pick one up to admire the craftmanship yet have no intrest hurting myself or anyone else by attempting to use the weapon. attempting to use a weapon before having some training and taking steps to ensure safety is reckless.
  11. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    theres a real problem with over-enginnering in many endeavors including the martial arts. the longer i practice jkd the more apparent it becomes that simple techniques which dont require a high degree of fine motor skill usually prove more likely to work in slow practice or sparring.

    granted humans certainly dont need any kind of formalized training for starting or ending conflict. look at the number of fights that occur every day between people without any martial arts experience. theres a lot to be said for natural reaction. it seems unlikely to me that a person would not throw up thier arms in defense or throw a punch without having training in boxing.

    yet the effort to learn more efficent and effective ways to fight has been going on since the beginning of time. because there have been and still are opponents that have superior attributes including thier physical size and fighting skills. how many people could realistically wrestle around with say rorin gracie or chuck liddel with much success with no training? the same goes with trading punches with lennox lewis or another well trained boxer.

    if we dont need any strategy including technique and sparring why do any of us take any measure of time practicing in martial art classes for? we need to keep our technique simple and be adaptable yet have formalized training methods like sparring. just suggesting that we can think and do without some kind of training is under-thinking the problem.
  12. Stolenbjorn

    Stolenbjorn Valued Member

    Well, swinging a tomahawk wildly would in my book allso be defined as martial arts, and if it's done with the intent to kill, it's far more relevant than many sport-systems that are called martial arts, but who really is about scoring points and wearing pyamases :p

    We might be overthinking, but I think you're underthinking. Any culture that have a triadition for making warfare would have done some thinking in martial direction. To suggest otherwise would be as naive as thinking that a hunter-people never think about where to put the trappings, how to approach the game, just grabbing some random implements of hunting and flailing about in the woods :rolleyes:

    But you make a very importaint point, slipthejab:
    We'll never be able to say exactly how the "indians" fought, and what kind of systems they had, there seems to be too little reliable sources left for that.

    -but by going to their weaponry, we can explore the possebilities, and present theese interpretations/possebilities to an audience, that are willing to listen :)

    This is where I -when I dress up in viking-costume and shows tourists/audience my gear; -am very careful to allways making clear which parts of my "lecture" that are interpretations, and which parts that are solid facts.
  13. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Good points by everyone. Partially my post was in jest... and partially not.
    I can see the need for exploring techniques further or what might have worked further. To an extent it reminds me of how WMA's and sword techniques were viewed by so many (sadly many still view them that way)... the classic:

    'What western martial arts techniques? They didn't have techniques it was just two blokes in armer hacking away at one and other!'

    I've no doubt you've come across that attitude - perhaps some of you even much more than I have. One point about that is that at least for WMA we have a surprising amount of documentation around in terms of techniques and even images, documents, languages and artifacts to be able to start figuring some of the stuff out.

    I don't think there exists anywhere near as much data for those wishing to go back in and start recreating Native American martial techniques... if they even ever existed in a manner that can be called similar to western techniques.

    I guess in many repsects... I think of the times I've been to places where a machete is a daily part of life - most of the people in these places don't have the time nor the interest to train martial arts... yet often times these places are violent... and the main weapon is often the machete... and yet even without any codified system of technique... they have no shortage of people being attacked and killed with machetes. Meaning that humans don't require a codified set of techniques to be able to exhibit martial behavior. It's not all that hard to kill another person.

    Not that I stand in the way of anyone endeavoring to dig deeper into Native American martial arts... I don't want to be the crash test dummy for a tommahawk... :D
    But I think that as is often the case... people spend a lot of time looking for systems that are parallel with the white pajama social hour that so many view martial arts as these days.
  14. Devon

    Devon Valued Member

    You're absolutely right - this is what I was trying to get at with the earlier post about uncodified, but still very effective, physical skills.

    Every martial art is, to some extent, a microcosm of the culture that produced it. The highly formal, ritualized movements and training procedures you'd find in a feudal Japanese dojo or Renaissance Italian fencing school reflected the way those cultures conceptualized "combat training". It would be a classic mistake to assume that a pre-literate tribal society such those of the pre-European contact Native Americans would approach fighting, or training to fight, in the same way. Hence, the process of research into how fighting/training did happen, at least insofar as these were reliably recorded by European observers.

    It's pretty well established that Native American societies integrated their "training" into daily life - children learned and continued to practice "warrior games" to develop the attributes of strength, agility, cunning, endurance etc. throughout their young lives. Augment those attributes with serious and honest pressure testing based on the ergonomics of the weapons themselves, the armor they had to oppose, the environments in which they were used, etc. and you'll probably arrive at a decent representation, or at least a solid hypothesis, re. how they were originally used.
  15. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    hey slipthejab- during last post there was mention of people looking for styles/sytems that were similar to what you refered to as the 'white pajama social hour'. and i would like to address that subject.

    there NEVER will be a day anyone hears that im advertising a (insert words like secret or deadly) native american martial art that was recently (again insert favorite line such as re-discovered or taught) brought to light. this is not about opening a school then creating some kind of ciriculum. nor about having unique types of uniforms and using native american terminology for students to learn.

    what i have been attempting to do over many years is figure out how to incorporate outdoor and fighting skills into something functional. military skills might seem feasable yet they dont use the same kinds of weapons used for hunting. maybe rifle material could be adapted yet what about using a bow for hunting or knives in a non-combat way? does the military issue hatchets or tommahawks?

    there could be similarities between military and hunting/outdoor skill. for example the use of camo. and military surplus does provide excellent products for hiking, camping and the like. still what the military does and the tools used by them doesnt necessarily translate into the best way to hunt, camp, fish, hike etc. and thier combatives (is that right) have little to do with the same.

    somehow the native americans did manage to combine hunting/outdoor and fighting skills with sucess. most likely i will never know exactly what they done or how for that matter. yet what they did and what i want to do seem to be along the same basic lines. how did they use a hatchet/tommahawk for utility purpose and fighting? although i would intend to use the tool for more of the former it might not hurt to figure out the latter.

    the weapons i use to hunt with could also serve as protection. and the know-how seems to have been with the native americans. any usefull outdoor skills they had could prove benificial as well. somehow the native americans managed to blend all this into one package and that is a model worth building from.

    the 'bottom line' here is that im not a historian making an effort to start with re-creations of native american skills. what i am is the avid hunter and martial arts student that wants to combine my two favorite pastimes into a realistic method. there is research material and many of the weapons the native americans used still exist. some of them are very common to hunters. would it be possible to resurect the native american fighting skills? no. would it be possible to study what they did and apply that to my outdoors/fighting skills? maybe.

    theres no effort here to sell anybody on native american martial arts. and no effort to create a 'style'. that is useless to me and has nothing to do with my current endeavors. the blend of skills that i could use outdoors is my effort no more or less.
  16. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    I think you misunderstood what I posted. I'm not pointing the finger at you... it was more of a reference to the whole phenomena that I see pretty much anytime when Native American martial arts is brought up.

    Rhetorical questions aside I agree with what you've posted and find it interesting.
  17. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    those kind of liars that claim to be teaching some kind of ancient martial art have always irritated me as well. and i wasnt suggesting that you were accusing me of the same. just attempting to explain what my efforts were and were clearly not. that kind of nonsense about celtic or native american martial arts being taught as they used to be is shamefull behavior and those kins of people need to be pointed out for what they are frauds.
  18. Louie

    Louie STUNT DAD Supporter

    Hi Windtalker....
    Thought I'd better point out that unlike those with a Native American background wanting to study native american martial practices, many instuctors who are teaching/researching celtic forms of MA from both Ireland and Scotland do so using illustrated period manuals, there are also a lot of written accounts regarding techniques and of course some arts like traditional celtic wrestling, martial dance, Highland games and weaponry such as singlestick have survived to the present day.

    Not to say that there aren't a few who have mixed bits and pieces from their knowledge of eastern arts and western arts and labelled it as 'celtic' or WMA

  19. windtalker

    windtalker Pleased to return to MAP

    hey louie- maybe i wasnt being fair to some authentic instructors with the best of intentions in mind. it was completly wrong of me to put all in the same group. and if anyone that represnts honest efforts is reading this please accept my apology.

    there are just so many frauds out there ive become maybe too suspicious of claims being made. and ive been a little jaded when my efforts to learn what they offer are wasted on something thats a scam. its good to know that some people are making an effort to do otherwise.

    btw, there was a specific example of a fraudulent celtic martial art that i had in mind there. and ive seen way to many excuses for native american fighting skills. maybe there are some legitimate schools that i havent run across yet and someone here knows of.
  20. KuKulzA

    KuKulzA Taiwanese independence!

    many points have been brought up...
    it's been a good discussion so far I think

    here are just some thoughts and I hope they add to the discussion

    every culture that has war, has a way to fight in war...

    imagine, a veteran warrior with a few less experienced ones... and the older trooper is explaining a few techniques he developed that work... he says punching like this (when you lost your weapon) hurts the head most... he says kicking like this is effective... he says it's best to slip behind the enemy like this to choke them... his buddies all practice this to some degree so that should they drop or lose their weapons in a fight, they can have a chance to taking out the opponent and either getting a weapon or getting the hell outa there...
    this could happen to a bunch of Mayans, Chinese, Zulus, British, Arabians... just about anyone who has a particular factor in life - violence

    but this doesn't have to happen.... being good with X-weapon can have the same result as being brutal and striking quickly/strongly with X-weapon. But somewhere along the line people begin to specialize a bit, and when people can spend time to be more technical about fighting... I think that is the root of turning it into an art.... so that veteran delves into his past experiences, and passes his fighting knowledge onto his students who continuously perfect it... with live combat experience

    it's definitely possible that some Native American groups developed martial arts... it is safe to assume that there was some exchange of techniques between individuals in any warrior-society...
    but in general, around the world, martial arts had their greater emphasis on the use of a weapon... because that hatchet or that lance hurts hell of a lot more and is more likely to kill than that punch...

    so I think it is entirely possible, and we know many Amerindian peoples had very rigorous training for their warriors ranging from sports, dueling, taking younger ones on raids, etc. and was often part of life for those involved...
    for the part-time warrior, part-time hunter/father/tribesman it was integrated into how a male in the society lives... in another case, for example Mayans, it was both integrated into how males lived, which is where troops were levied from, but also there was a class/career of men called holkanob (braves/warriors) and they could devote their time to learning how to fight. I feel the best source of Native American martial arts would be from these sort of warrior-societies. And they could be found in almost every tribe and people.

    But as we all know, much of what was is lost... :(
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2007

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