ARMA Inducted into the World Martial Arts Union
The ARMA is now the official representative for the martial arts of Renaissance Europe to the World Martial Arts Union (WoMAU). Under the official patronage of UNESCO, the WoMAU is a Non-Governmental Organization for sustaining Intangible Cultural Heritage.
In September 2010, at the 9th general meeting in Chungju, South Korea, ARMA Director John Clements had the privilege of presiding for Renaissance close-combat methods when he was officially seated as a delegate to the World Martial Arts Union's committee.
The ARMA was selected as a WoMAU delegate for its recognized expertise and long-time international educational efforts in the authentic practice of these transnational pan-European historical teachings. Representing the entire historical fencing community, the ARMA now advises the Union on reviving and promoting authentic Western European fighting styles from the 14th to 17th centuries.
As Clements remarks, "This is an unprecedented and prestigious opportunity to advance the legitimacy and credibility of the modern study of these forgotten fighting disciplines." Clements added, "Regardless of what source work you study, what weapon skills you pursue, how you do it, who you're affiliated with or what country you're in, the benefit of this to our subject is in everyone's interest."
This development (in the works for more than two years) came about directly because of the notice given to ARMA's dedicated efforts to revive these extinct teachings as a living tradition that acknowledges a cultural framework and character values.As an international educational fighting guild, our goal has long been recovering and preserving martial heritage as a restored tradition. This combined with our demonstrated physical expertise made the ARMA an ideal candidate.
Notified of ARMA's candidacy and invited just two weeks before the general meeting, Clements notes: "In my presentation to the chairman and secretary general of the Union I was able to establish how there can be no question our surviving fight lore is factually among the best documented material on martial arts teachings in all history. There's also no doubt that it can now be legitimately reconstructed and restored in a manner that is both historically accurate and martially sound."
Since the WoMAU is an NGO under the auspices of UNESCO, as an officially recognized expert delegate member, Clements by extension now represents the practice of authentic Medieval and Renaissance fighting disciplines not just for them but also for the United Nations. The ARMA is now accredited by the highest possible authority conceivable for this subject: a world body that specifically recognizes efforts at the conservation and revival of martial traditions by expert practitioners. This may come to have a profound positive impact on our subject. However, nothing will change or be affected regarding the ARMA's structure, function, mission, or curricula. It should be understood that recognition and assistance from the Union does not grant it any power or influence over any aspect of our subject.
While the Union makes the exception that it is a body for "martial arts" rather than "traditional martial arts," preserving and encouraging perishable knowledge is its main goal. The inclusion of the martial arts of Renaissance Europe will be valuable in helping them better determine vernacular from historical fighting disciplines in all the world's combatives.
Says Clements: "My role in the WoMAU will be to represent the worldwide community of students and enthusiasts studying this craft. As an advocate promoting this subject, I will be acting to advise on modern efforts to revive the source teachings and consult on criteria for authentic practice. It is a responsibility I take seriously and will use to foster the integrity and standing of this craft. Chief among my goals will be preventing contamination of study by modern activities or its deterioration into mere sport."
In welcoming our member delegation, the WoMAU was able to avoid contending with the divergent numbers of emerging groups and organizations all posturing to represent a different portion of the modern practice of Medieval and Renaissance fencing. In other words, having to consider every federation, club, society, or school in the world claiming some unique ethnographic authority or special proprietary ownership over a part of these historical teachings. This way the Union is able to steer clear of the problem of selecting individual representatives from every modern nation or state for every possible fighting tradition or martial culture associated with the martial arts of Renaissance Europe, conveniently abbreviated as "MARE."
As Clements points out: "I come to this as a professional martial arts instructor, full-time researcher, and educator who has international experience in not only an open public curriculum, but also a private fight curriculum, as well as my own personal curriculum. Because of such experience I understand the challenges and difficulties people face at every level, from beginner to novice to teacher."
At present, the WoMAU (made up of numerous world-class martial artists and veteran instructors) is undergoing some changes. Yet it had been entirely unaware of the existence of any historical European martial arts. Originally it admitted members only from individual nation states. (In effect, presuming that each country / ethnic culture simply had "one traditional art" with various "styles" that embodied the entirety of their martial history.) As would be expected, this inconsistency has proven... less workable. The Union has plenty of time ahead of it to improve its standing and establish its influence -- especially in regard to how it determines what unfamiliar styles are genuine arts.
Clements comments: "There are some elements that are not very satisfying. But we know we are the best possible source to help on this as the Union grows. I believe the addition of a recovered European martial art further credits the Union as being the highest authoritative body possible on martial arts. Whatever method you follow, provided you are trying to reestablish the historical craft and not trying to reformulate it into a new modern thing, all practitioners today are in the same boat. We all study the same core sources and are all essentially self-taught, with no one coming from any surviving school or 'living lineage.' Because our martial art is so well documented in terms of authentic source material, as a community we are in a unique position to be able to say we know a great deal about researching, recovering, and reviving extinct fighting methods that in some cases were fully integrated self defense systems. In my view it makes us ideal for advising on claims to 'secret' knowledge in extinct styles or sudden 'discoveries' of long-forgotten 'traditions' and new hybrid arts invented from East-West amalgams. This is something the WoMAU has been in need of -- if not entirely welcomed by every current delegate member."
While in attendance at this meeting of the Union, John also visited the 2010 World Martial Arts Festival and toured the new World Martial Arts Museum in Chungju. The festival features select WoMAU representatives of traditional indigenous martial art styles as well as reconstituted or vernacular fighting arts from dozens of U.N. member nations. A full ARMA delegation will perform a demonstration on MARE at the 2011 World Martial Arts Festival. The museum, which is still new, is set to soon expand its exhibits as well as include material on Medieval and Renaissance combatives. It still has a great deal of room for improvement ahead of it, particularly in regard to its current examples of supposedly historical European artifacts.
Time will tell what benefits recognition by the WoMAU will bring to our subject, but there is no denying that the historical fighting styles of the Renaissance now stand on equal footing with all the world's traditional combat arts. Whether you call it the Art of Fighting, the Art of Defence, the Noble Science, or the discipline of arms, this achievement brings an overdue recognition to the modern practice of Renaissance martial arts. It has been a long time coming and every serious student of this craft should take pride in this achievement.
Direct any questions to John Clements via the ARMA here.