The Future of Honorable Combat

15 Jul 2014 by gebhard, 1 Comment »

futureWhat makes our sport different than nearly every other martial art is that it is the recipient who must call a shot “good”.

Of course, this isn’t without it’s downside. In theory, someone could decided to “never” take a hit. In a recent conversation with a friend, I was asked if I thought modern equipment such as body sensors could help eliminate this problem. I think some highly competitive people don’t care for the idea of a “subjective” resolution to a fight.

After I shook the visions of cyborg samurai warriors running around the lists at Pennsic only to be chased down by a man in lanskennect with a laser eye and a robotic arm, I started to focus on what such an implementation, assuming it was even possible, would mean.

Modern fencing has done just this. Participants wear a helm connected to a jacket with a cable running out the back.  If the electric field is broken (by the opponent’s sword contact), an alarm goes off, and the winner is known.

In HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) competitions are judged by referees holding two flags, one red and one blue.  When a good hit is scored, the ref holds up the colored flag of the winner.

These methods could be effective in our sport, but they remove a critical piece of what it is that we do. We do not just recreate combat, we recreate honorable combat.

Without a scoreboard and a referee to pass judgement on us, we must judge ourselves.

I must be willing to admit when I have failed and to show humility.  It is in this that we keep our ego in check. If a buzzer sounded or a flag waved anytime a good blow was placed, there would never be a need for me to admit my failure or my opponent’s success. I could always think, “Maybe the ref is against me? Maybe the equipment was just acting up today? Whatever it was, I’m doing everything perfectly, and the problem lies somewhere else in the system.  If I’m not winning as much as I should be, it’s because I’m getting screwed by the system.”

This allows another perspective. I was hit because my opponent did something awesome. This one is his or hers, and I can celebrate a shot well thrown. When was the last time you were in a sports bar, and the local team was scored on, did you hear “That really was a good play” rather than cursing and the gnashing of teeth?  Complimenting an opponent is something I frequently see in our game.

I could take this idea one step further and go so far as to say that if I’m going to get a person to take my blows, I must be a person he or she is willing to take blows from. If I’m a huge jerk, it’s going to be a long messy fight. I must show respect in order to receive it.
Lastly, in honorable combat, we can start to evaluate what is needed to improve ourselves. Lessons learned on the list like: being respectful to all, taking responsibility for performance, celebrating awesome feats even when they aren’t ours and learning from failure, are all lessons that apply in every area of life.

Calling shots is a critical part of our game.  Trying to remove it would change our game for the worse. Whatever flaws our system of deciding victors has, it’s better than than the removal of honor.




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One Comment

  1. Donal Mac Ruiseart says:

    I concur.

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