Showing posts from March, 2020

Martial Arts and Convergent Evolution

One of the myths one encounters in debates on martial arts is that of the "single origin." This is the false idea that there must have been one "original art," and that others are derivatives. Some say Chinese kung fu is the mother of all arts, and that the Shaolin Temple is its birthplace. Others say the semi-mythical Bodhidharma is the origin, as he supposedly taught the Shaolin monks how to fight. Still others claim that Egypt is the origin, because of the wrestling art in the tomb of Baqet III , more popularly known as part of the  Beni Hasa n  tombs in Egypt dating to the 21st century BCE. It's a myth. Plenty of people like Iain Abernethy and friends have explained why there is no single origin. While it's true that some arts did indeed draw upon techniques from prior arts, it does not mean there is some sort of chain or tree that links all arts and techniques to a common ancestor. Recognizing that the single origin is a myth, how should we

New books on early MMA (and BJJ) history (Portuguese now, English soon?)

If anyone can read Portuguese, or is friends with someone who likes to translate for them from Portuguese into their native language (hah), then you might want to check out these new books on the history of MMA in Brazil from 1845-1934 by Elton Silva and Eduardo Corrêa. They are called "Muito Antes do MMA" and are available on Amazon in Kindle format . I spoke with one of the co-authors, and he told me that they plan to use proceeds from the Portuguese edition to fund an English translation. I can't read Portuguese, so I can't vouch for the books at the moment. I welcome anyone's assessment of them! If you like reading BJJ history like me, you know it's tough to find reliable English sources. I hope supporting books like this will make a difference. Thanks for your time.

American College of Physical Culture and Jiu-Jitsu

Advertisement in System (magazine), Vol VII, No 1, January 1905 I'm working on a WorldCat list of English-language, translated into English, jujutsu/jujitsu/jiujitsu/judo-themed martial arts "treatises," i.e., documents of substantial length, dating from the very end of the 19th century through the very beginning of the 20th century. At the moment I'm considering the 1890s-1910s as being in scope. While searching for entries in Robert W. Smith's judo bibliography, published in "A Complete Guide to Judo: Its Story and Practice," I encountered this entry: "American College of Physical Culture and Jiu-Jitsu. Prospectus . Boston: SP [self-published], 1905, 60 p[ages]." That sounded interesting. I had encountered this organization when I read the introduction to John J. O'Brien's "A Complete Course of Jiu-Jitsu and Physical Culture," published in 1905. O'Brien had been President Roosevelt's instructor for l

Referencing a Martial Arts Treatise Database to find Early English Language Sources

Plate LIII, British Manly Exercises by Donald Walker, 1835, wrestling chapter Today I found a great resource for researching martial arts treatises. It's called the  Schola Artis Gladii et Armorum Treatise database  and it's hosted by a martial arts school in Hungary. They offer over 3,000 entries contributed by users, many of which have working links to source material.  One of the best aspects of the site is the ability to select search parameters. For example, when I searched for English, grappling and wrestling, groundfighting, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling in armour, the search yielded 79 hits. It's important to verify the search results. For example, the results of my query yielded the following first result: Title: Cottonian MS Titus A. XXV Alternative title: The strokes if ij hand swerde Year: around 1457 Language: English Secondary language: Latin Located in: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München <-- Click the name for more information.

Exploring the Origin of Krav Maga

Recently I was looking at books on judo by Moshe Feldenkrais , and it made me wonder if he had any connection with Krav Maga. I studied Krav Maga for 3 1/2 years in the Krav Maga Global system, and had never heard a word about Mr. Feldenkrais, or anyone of his generation, or earlier, beyond Imi Lichtenfeld, who was always cited as the founder of Krav Maga. When you speak with those in KMG, or almost anyone I've encountered who studies Krav, their story of the system always begins with Imi. It's basically the same tale: Imi was a boxer, wrestler, and gymnast who learned self defense techniques from his father, a policeman, in 1920s Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia. In the 1930s, Imi helped defend other Jewish people during the anti-Semitic violence. In the 1940s he migrated to Israel, where he invented Krav Maga and taught the Israeli Defense Force. He later brought the system to the civilian world, from where it has now flourished across the globe. It turns out th

Le match Re-Nie Georges Dubois, October 23, 1905

Professeur Re-Nie Applies an Arm Bar. Source: L'Illustration, 4 Nov 1905, as posted in Project Gutenberg Primary written sources are the lifeblood of sourced research and real history. While poking through a directory of old, public source martial arts manuals, I came across a copy of "Les Secrets du Jiu-Jitsu," published in 1905, in French, by "Professeur Re-Nie." His real name was Ernest Regnier, and there's a ton of information about him available. For example, there's a set of 24 photographs showing him teach self defense, posted on YouTube . I haven't sourced these yet, but I wanted to mention them as an investigative lead. The primary source I wanted to note however is a 4 November 1905 article on a "mixed martial arts match" Regnier fought against an opponent named Georges Dubois. That's Mr Dubois at the wrong end of an arm bar being applied by Le Professeur, above. The image and the original story is posted on Project

Shining a Light on the HEMA Wrestling Tradition

I've been looking at wrestling in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) and found some great work on Fabian von Auerswald's "Ringer kunst: funf und Achtzig Stücke (The Art of Wrestling: Eighty Five Techniques)." First, there is an English translation available if your 16th century German isn't up to par, courtesy of James Klock . Second, Tim Hall, David Rowe and Bill Grandy, instructors at the Virginia Academy of Fencing, Historical Swordsmanship Division, wrote an article and filmed multiple videos showing techniques from Auerswald's text. Third, I created a YouTube playlist with all the videos, for easy access. This is a great combination of translation, interpretation, and practice for an important work of martial arts history.

Adventures in Managing a Library

For several years I've been tracking items in my library using private Amazon wish lists. This worked well enough because I could create a different list for each topic, and Amazon had just about every book I wanted to document. If Amazon lacked the book, I could add an entry as an "idea." It was clunky, but decent. Recently I decided I needed a better solution. I wanted a way to tag books, such that a single title on judo history could be tagged with grappling, judo , and history , while a different title on judo techniques could be tagged with grappling , judo , techniques . I wanted a solution that had an iOS app and a Web interface. It needed to let me add custom content, and export lists is CSV of similar format. If it interfaced with a public database of books, so much the better. I was willing to pay for all of this, but if there was a free version with a book limit (say, 1000 books), then that was a bonus. Before mentioning the solution I found, I want to expl