Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Back to the Source -- A documentary on Historical European Martial Arts

Whatever you think of the subject matter -- the re-creation of late medieval and early modern martial arts starting with the surviving treatises from the period -- Back to the Source is quite an amazingly good documentary.

I have enough experience of the earliest SCA and its later evolution to recognize the attractive glow around people who are inventing something from early exemplars and creating a dream -- and creating a community in which the pioneering impulse is very strong.  Some of the interviewees worry that as HEMA progresses and becomes more standardized -- in other words as the pioneers teach a more sophisticated art to a large number of people -- something will be lost.

Sorry, folks, this is guaranteed to happen. You will attract people who want to practice "sport for sport's sake."  Some of them will care a lot more about winning than recreating a historical art.  Where pioneering HEMA members of today may respect scholarship as much or more than winning, a large, developed HEMA community will include plenty of people who value winning and winners more than the historical purists.

Enjoy it while you have got it.  Whatever your particular "it" is.

1 comment:

  1. (From Sean Manning, who is routinely blocked from commenting)

    That is a very good documentary. Cheap fossil fuels and digitalization have borne many evils, but crowdfunding is a very good thing (and hey, I can get photos and transcriptions of tablets in a few minutes off Achemenet rather than over the course of weeks through the old boy's network).

    I love that he labeled the section on clothing "HEMA identity." One of the things which I find most bewildering about the people who have come to dominate the movement is their eagerness to create and enforce the use of uniforms modeled on modern sportswear in black (and to ban metal safety equipment in favour of synthetic substitutes). But the people who call themselves Franks in 400 CE did not get to have a veto on who got to call themself a Frank in 600.

    Ethnogenesis, and changes in who identify themselves with a term, can be very fast these days.