Tuesday, June 6, 2017

4.5 Ninja Stars for Historical European Martial Arts in its Context

In the interests of full disclosure, I received this book for review purposes.

Title: Historical European Martial Arts In Its Context (Single-Combat, Duels, Tournaments, Self-Defense, Masters and their Treatises)
Author: Richard Marsden
Publisher: Tyrant Industries Publishing
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 215 with Index
Cover Price: $59.99

Take Away: A great book at explaining the "why" of HEMA

  HEMA is a general terms used to describe historical European martial arts.  This is a very general term which, if you wanted it to, could cover not only an entire continent's worth of combat styles, but also several millennia as well.  Generally those that are covering what they do HEMA limit themselves from the medieval period up to the 18th or 19th century.  This still covers many different societal and technological changes that influenced how and, of course, why they fought.  This book does an amazing job of covering both the temporal and geographical difference of the "why" people fought, mainly with regards to melee weapons.


    Mr. Marsden uses the history of the European continent to define how and why people were fighting they way they were.  He starts off with the different types of personal combat we have records of, which mainly consisted of types of duels.  The author goes through the differences and similarities of Judicial Duels, Private Duels, and how these techniques and methods could be used in self-defense in the different times and places.  He then, briefly, examines some of the weapons that could be used in these situations.  He concludes by taking the reader through time and location by looking specifically at the Treatises of the various masters, who they were, and what they taught.


    First off, let me say this is physically a beautiful book.  It almost reminds me of a coffee table book you'd have out for other people to browse through.  It is hardcover, which is a rarity in martial arts books today.  The book is full of beautiful full color pictures, both from the source material, and from The Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship, demonstrating some of the points showcased in the book.  I know, its a small thing, but every page number is in color.  I appreciate the extra effort and cost that went into this book.
    As far as the material, this book accomplishes what it set out to do in a brilliant fashion.  It goes a long way to show that the fighting styles changed greatly over time and location, and although we now lump it all together as "HEMA" there was a lot of variation in methodology, and even reasons for combat.


    The only reason this book would have any negatives would be on the part of the reader.  If you come into this book looking for techniques or strategies, then you've come to the wrong place.  There are other books on that subject, including one specifically on Polish Saber by the same author.


    I really believe that HEMA should become more accepted into the general idea of martial arts than it currently is.  It faces an uphill battle of stereotype and bad-image control (maybe nerdy image-control), but I think books like this that give more historical context for what people are doing in HEMA will help.  HEMA is just as just as the traditional koryu of Japan, they just come from halfway around the world.  If you are curious not just about how those in Europe fought, but why they would engage in these matters, then this book is for you.  It is for that reason that I'm going to give this book 4.5 out of 5 Ninja Stars.  It very nicely fulfills its purpose and does so in a educational manner.  I learned a lot of historical context by reading this book.  The only reason I don't give it the full five stars, is that part of my ranking system is based on usefulness to all martial artists.  If you're only looking on improving your martial art, this might not be the most appropriate book for you.  If you're looking to expand your knowledge of martial arts from around the world (and I am) then this is a great book.

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