Our Chosen Model and Example

By John Clements
ARMA Director

In this modern revival of historical fighting skills, the very model for our efforts and approach to recovering this forgotten wisdom is that of the historical schools and guilds themselves --one that accepts the authentic craft was (and must be) pursued with certain shared values, shared standards, and shared sense of personal honor, loyalty, and brotherhood. In doing so, we accept that these Arts were not (and should not be) pursued as a mere ad hoc amateur collective run by some loose communal affiliation of "lone wolves" without concern for the virtues and, yes, ethics that once comprised their study. It is a singular truth of civilization that the "tragedy of the commons" never produces excellence and great martial artists are never made by committee.

The historical schools we seek to emulate were a fraternity of arms for a very good reason that went beyond learning self-defense. In our modern age where shameless unprincipled selfishness has become an accepted norm, and mere sportsmanship and predilection for violence are both commonly mistaken for true martial spirit, this approach is needed more than ever. In countless fighting schools and styles throughout history, conditions were placed upon instruction and participation whereby individuals were asked to uphold pledges regarding the support for the virtues of the craft and respect their teachers and brothers in arms.

The old guilds and masters of Europe were no different in this, and it is their example we endeavor to emulate now. They readily understood what every serious mature martial artist comes to know: that the physical, emotional, mental, and moral are inseperable in becoming the best possible fighter you can. What this means is not practicing "with anyone any time anywhere" for mere sharpening of combative skill or gratification in competitive sport. Rather, it means accepting that, ultimately, personal knowledge and prowess are intimately tied to how, where, why, and with whom you train. It is this underlying truth that our ancestors expressed in both their combat lessons and their heroic tales. It is what has empowered my own personal accomplishments and it is this central idea that is very the basis for the ARMA's entire fellowship and our associated training program. We are a member supported and maintained guild, a union with a code, a testable curriculum, an experienced leader, and a vision and mission greater than any one single individual's education. This must be affirmed by anyone wishing to become a part of our efforts.

Historical European Schools of Defense are Our Model and ExampleThere is a certain truth that applies to all high-level martial arts the world over throughout history. One never says, "I just like to fight" or "I just want to learn to fight." If so, then you have learned nothing. You are a mere streetfighter, a brawler, a thug, not a practitioner of martial arts, and not a warrior. You will never understand what the craft of Renaissance fencing is all about because they were never concerned "just about fighting" and "just wanting to be fighters." With such an attitude one will never come to anything but a superficial understanding of this Art.

As with many others around the world throughout history, the old guilds protected the privilege of earning rank through the integrity of a unified curriculum. There was no lowest common denominator reduction of content or watering down of teachings to meet some general consensus mediocrity. They did not disrespect martial spirit by reducing the craft to sportified contests and mock play. Private masters chose who to teach and who not to teach and membership in a fighting guild was not automatic to anyone who walked in the door.

Thus, studying with the ARMA is a commitment to work with your fellows within our program and to uphold the integrity of our community's values and efforts. Just as with the historical Schools of Defence, we aspire to be brothers-in-arms who are part of a fraternity of martial scholars. One of the very reasons we exist is to help the novice solo practitioner training alone. Many of us were once there ourselves ---and did so without the guidance, network, and fellowship we now provide. This is why we promote study groups of like-minded enthusiasts working together to reclaim this craft through a common system pursued with shared value and concerns. We invite all students of the craft to join us in exploring and reviving our lost martial heritage.

If anyone rejects the above model or cannot sincerely accept its virtues as their own, then they really don't belong here among us.

See also:
The ARMA Credo
Doing things the "ARMA Way"
Musings Upon the Spirit of Renaissance Martial Culture

Aug 2012


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