Bronze Age Strength

3200 years in the past, amongst the fens of northern Germany, within a valley near the Baltic Sea was perhaps the largest battle to take place in Europe to that day. It is to be called the Battle of Tollense, as the battle was fought at the river Tollense. A key terrain piece being a long bridge/ “mound bridge” over this river. It is an interesting story. One of a “uniquely” great scale of violence for this part of the world. If one sifts through the mud. It is an archaeologically rich find, and may reveal much more. This is an ever going discovery, very slow. Somewhat not new.

What you have is a collection of skeletons and artifacts from what was obviously a battle. Bones left in violence, bronze and stone weapons. From bronze and stone axes, spears, arrow heads, clubs, perhaps other organic weapons. Horses were also used. A large amount of jewellery, the hair rings I find attractive. A large amount of dead. Perhaps 130 and more, with other areas yet to be discovered. We have many examples of the battle wounds to study those given and received. Humans do not fight to the last man, especially in this era or fashion of violence, so one can multiply the combatants numbers. It is theorized from hundreds to thousands. We can also discover the origins of the dead, as in were they grew up. The large majority of the slain were not local. We know not exactly were, yet is seems a distant “neighbor”. Few of the dead were local. This speaks of the narrative. This is what I seek.
Much has been written of this discovery. In research one must brace himself, for strange perspectives of violence and such, yet you will find the facts of archaeology. Sift through scholars opinions and feel obligated to listen to no ones opinion. This is a stomping of the dead horse within history.

Yet what is this era and fashion? In warfare reason and style, we do not exactly know. It seems most past encounters during the bronze age were no more than skirmishes, not large bodies of warriors. Yet a skirmish can lead to extremely high casualty rates very quick, an entire band being wiped out within seconds or minutes. Many believe the bronze age was a more peaceful time overall. I believe this is true. Not because mankind was more peaceful, we could actually be more aggressive, and yet still it would be more peaceful. It was a lack of population crisis. People typically want to kill people because there so many of them to close. In this land and this area, there was theorized to live around 4 in a square kilometer, perhaps a family. Neighbors are distant. Of course there may be small centers of “power”. A small cluster of kin groups. So in essence, one must wish to truly take for the sake of taking, if one acted out in great numbers against another. Famine or some natural catastrophe excluded. Yet this was not the case here. The land and environment were plentiful, and have been for millennia. (Thus the interesting case of Herxheim…) Many also believe warfare may have been a contestation of groups displaying masculinity and prowess without violence. What would be a judgement of who is stronger. Whether true or not this would most likely be the beginning of most Northern European violence at this time. This said posturing could lead to duels. Once again a way of winning that would see few die. This was probably common. Yet to what outcome? For one could still not take what the other had. There for the system of deciding other terms. Not needing resources, yet establishing boundaries, hunting grounds. Perhaps dominance of subjected yet respected vassals. Did only trained warriors compete, or did all men. From the finds we see some were far better equipped than others. Horses were slain with a 1/25 ratio to humans. Did these horses belong to the “warrior caste”? Does this display a separation of caste? Makes sense. Were the warriors responsible for most warfare, yet in a case of true invasion many “others” came forth, makes sense. What were the warriors role? Administrative, religious, attached to bands, or separate and gathering in times of need, really just gangs? From a martial standpoint given technology, were the “warriors” greater then the population of “tribesmen”. The average tribesman was most likely a very capable hunter/ farmer/ gatherer/ builder/ survivor. As these are all skills one would need to live. This is why primitive skills go hand and hand with modern survival techniques. If technology was the separation of “caste”, as is often the way through time, this is a time of closely even technology. Whether one is wielding bronze, stone, or just wood, an even playing field… In an ideal environment the “trained warrior caste” had greater time to train for only war and does so. “And does so” is a large variation through time. This is of ultimately “feudal”/“tribal” perspectives. Modern becomes a different beast and time. Yet the mentality of Tollense continues forward always the same. The future of mankind. On and on. One surety is we are human. We take, we kill, we enslave, we rape, we plunder. It has always been this way. The battle of Tollense seems to speak of a sense of “total war”, kill them all mentality. A prime example of this would be the taking of Troy. A “contemporary battle” for the reasons of greed. The greek city states needed nothing from Troy, nor were they a threat. It was a reason of plunder, due to the threat of ego. Desire of water power. The numbers of combatants, the size of the city, far smaller then you believe. Hundreds, perhaps into thousands on either side. The Tollense battle thus stands as another, perhaps as great, if not fewer combatants. I guess three – four hundred, more if we find more slain, simply because if one loses a third or more of his forces, while the enemy did not, that would be great reason to retreat given these circumstances. And one would probably be unable to stop his men from doing so, if you could even call them his “men”.We have archaeology that speaks the story. That comes to life. That tells an immortal narrative, that no one recorded.

The narrative is simple yet one can see the life of Bronze age warfare. Or perhaps one can view a rare example of something, just as Troy would have been rare… The story is likely thus put simply without character. Somewhere within Germany, there rose a powerful war leader. One who united many kin groups under his power, surrounded by his immediate warriors. He wished to take from others. He most likely did so successfully. He decided to invade neighboring lands. This land south of the Baltic was his choice. His force came in strength, obviously to cause great damage to those living upon the lands. To take materials, enslave woman and children, kill men, make sacrifices, get drunk. There was knowledge of their coming. Word was spread by horse. Men took up arms in strength. Met them at a specific location of their choosing, the simplest way to enter their territory. A bridge that existed for generations, somewhat crude because it was old. Yet strong as much rock and timber has been added through the years. The two sides met. This was not and act of intimidation at this point and masculine pride. It was an act of true war. There would be the typical display of prowess by champions, one could theorize. Perhaps even some duels. Yet it came to battle, a rarity in this time. Probably some skirmishing were terrain permitted. Yet a large defense of the bridge. The fighting was desperate and intense. Hand to hand combat with no mercy. Men wailed in pain dying mortally wounded. Many slain outright, stabbed multiple times. Heads caved in with clubs. War trumpets sounding. Screams of rage, mixed with excitement and fear. Men yelling and shouting curses and blessings. Horses squealing in pain. The smell of blood and human insides. The invaders lost. And retreated home empty handed. Bodies were looted, perhaps thrown together. Some falling underwater to escape looting and not resurface.

What caused this victory to such a great extreme? Or simply did the victor carry off nearly all of his dead? The losing attempting to carry theirs as well, or not, depending on desperation of retreat. Technology was the same. And no side seemed to have terrain advantage, even if the battlefield was a choke point. Or did they? the tactics we do not know. Were defences of some sort built. Did one side have greater warriors, more skilled? Was the defending leader simply greater, inspired greater acts of valour? Or was it simply they were defending, and must act as one must. Not an invader, who truly did not need what he was taking. For there is an old saying, that when a man refuses to retreat from something, he gains the strength of two. Perhaps the enemy was simply outdone in strength.

European Martial Arts

Historical European Martial Arts are no longer historical. Nor should they be. Under this theory, there are many martial arts that are rooted in history, yet no longer pertain to history. The future of “Hema” is rooted in moving forward, with a foundation of stone much stronger and compacted than nearly every other martial art. Take your face out of the book and apply.
The historical legacy is of the upmost importance. The foundation of the masters. Not all books are masterful. Just because something is old does not mean it is done well. Study the proper material. Yet most importantly understand the fight. The fact, that anything can happen as is reality. Body movements react to anything, and what one views in a fight will not be viewed in the controlled artistic model of a fight book. This does not cancel out that it is Hema. This is simply Hema given life. Many practitioners wish to object to this, wishing only to repeat the sources directly. Repeat the picture of two men standing still in peak artistic and statue form in order for another man who is not a very good artist to attempt to communicate what they are doing. Do you understand the problem with that. Scholarly debate is weak and leads no where. The fight is fluid, the book is stone. Stones are simply shot at unhindered. The other problem with this aspect, amongst the “scholarly community”, is exactly that. Any martial practitioner should be judged by their body. Whether it is ready for combat or not. Ridicule is black and white here, there is no grey. If you are not fit to fight, please sit down and be silent. Read silently as your opinion does not matter in this circumstance. It is this view of Hema that brings the overall image dishonour to the world.
This is were a positive aspect of Hema tournaments/tournament style training comes into play. A view of swordsmanship. A chance to see men move with force and intent. Although with many problems from a death driven perspective. Yet when you see them clash, you see something distinct, you see Hema, you see the manuals come to life. While many wish to call red flag, they are the ones who sit, and have the bodies of sitters. For many seek a freeze frame to match to a manual, this is silly, weak, and unenlightened view of violence and martial arts. In a way, the tournament style combat is the future of the longsword. Yet there are trends in the tournament rules that are unbecoming of swordsmanship. First and foremost in a sword fight, if you are able to touch limbs with the opponent, you are no longer sword fighting, you are sword grappling. Just because a man steps forward does not mean you should as well. It is stupid and suicidal. Lack of blood, shows lack of sense. Or perhaps if money was involved in the match, others would have a deeper desire to be smart and ferocious at the same time. Next is judges must take into account cuts with deeper effect. You can slice your opponent to pieces with never striking him. You could slide about his limbs and body and cause death and pain, this must be judged. The hands must be keenly watched, a hand cut is as ending as a torso strike. Step away from the torso as only importance in the match. Step away from the desire for swords to be touching when a blow is made. This does encourage technique, yet the true aspect of a fight is to touch with never being touched, this includes your sword. Another, if ones limbs are touching their opponents limbs, sports ringen should be allowed. This includes striking/clashing, use of pommel and cross on opponents body, and dropping people to the ground. Such as in Muay Thai clinching, one often falls. Not separating men when the “second” fight actually starts. Allow domination to be declared. Such a thing will cause the average tournament practitioner to train harder, or step away. And practitioners will stop using such short range. Or they will have a fight on their hand at that close range, a consequence for limb touching. We do not need laziness.Just a few thoughts on tournaments combat. Sports, it will always be sport in this sense. For that is the destiny of “Hema”. There will be the martial art and the sport. There will always be these two forms. The peak of the art form is found in Meyers fight book. End of discussion. Sports will speak for themselves, and already do as the style is immediately recognizable as Hema, especially when under pressure. Life and death encounters will become what is shown, a fearsome armour, that only is expressed by the way you train, and what your body has become.

Battle Axe Culture

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Of the “Battle Axe Culture”, both literally and extended. This will be a writing of martial arts perspectives while using an axe. European martial arts. As it can be easily viewed, that the axe obtained prevalence in Europe. That on the land of Europe, humans used the axe far more excessivly ,then is present on other continents. Yet first, when speaking of European martial arts. One should first understand what the word European actually means. This will be an extremely general overview. Academic perspective of writing can be silly at times, causing an over categorization that does not need to exist, in terms of overall understanding. I avoid writing in such a way, as we must expand our thinking. Very little in history, especially pre history is set in stone. It is built upon the imagination of intellegent men, who view artifacts and apply it to “cultural” understandings of contemporary times or times shortly there after, along with enviroment knowledge. It will change and is ever changing. We often categorize things using language, but when speaking of such old times, one cannot. And yet still identify.

Long ago, Europe was settled by Neanderthals. This is a reasonable point to start as we are speaking of European humans. These tribes, or small kin groups existed for tens of thousands of years, in a changing landscape. European Neanderthal was a “fairish” coloured creature. Hair, skin, etc. Over time came what one would call modern human. By the time they actually lived within Europe on a large scale, one in which we can view, they had developed unique characteristics from the land. We are speaking in terms of thousands of slow years of movement and integration. This contact would result in an Extremely slow assimilation of species. Both displacement of neanderthal, and interbreeding. Thus why those of modern European descent have neanderthal genes. This European species, now exists as hunters gatherers. It will remain this way for thousand upon thousand of years. The environment changing over time. Small movements and mixing with other “local” small groups. The landscape ever changing of course, as well as the animals similar and unfamiliar. Slowly from the south, agricultural practices grow greater and greater, and of course hunting continues. Wild land is ripe with meat, and hunting is not difficult. The pure hunter cultures become not pushed, yet simply existed further north due to climate. A way to separate culture academically, the hunters and the growers/ hunters. The landscape is greatly different. Europe was a large connected land mass. The British isles connect to land as well as Scandinavia, with a great mass between. We call this Doggerland. The landscape continues to change. The waters take much of the northern lands. Onward with late stone age cultures. Religion and mythologies continue to develop. Neanderthal man tens of thousands of years prior practiced what can be viewed as spiritual rites. The bronze age comes. The late stone and bronze age stand out both for the change of technology as well as what seems a change of rulership practice. It is genetically viewed that humans from the eastern european steppes came across Europe over these centuries. This is not an invasion, this is not a sweep. It is a slow moving migration of of kin groups. Some displacement, some setting up new aristocratic families, some just picking up new ways of existing. This will basically happen other times through and into the Iron age, under different cultures and names.. One can always count on mingling groups to mate with one another, especially when these groups appear similar in appearance. This changes the genetic data, if only slightly. Yet, this culture seemed more war like. We call this spreading culture the Battle Axe culture, or Corded Ware culture. Due to the beginnings of extensive axe motifs. Yet there is nothing unified of this culture, just art forms across areas and slight variations. Perhaps it was due to an increase of population pressure. Causing a more warlike perspective. A sense of competition as neighbors became too close. This is mankind’s instincts at work. These herders speak what we might begin to call Indo-European. In these times language is not a functional way to classify groups, as we know so little. During the bronze age, an extensive amount of cultures appear archaeologically. We over categorize things. Yet it does make sense. Yet understand what will separate two cultures within books. This culture created butterknives with a triangle drawn upon them. This other culture created the same knife with circles drawn upon it. This is often the depth of differences within neighboring cultures. Look at the large scale… Some of Mediterranean Europe begins what scholars call becoming more “asiatic”, this means middle eastern, as in the land said cultures existing upon them for tens of thousands of years. Then comes the Iron age, at various points across Europe. Once again the increased difference within Mediterranean Europe. Although you see in Greece around 1,000bc, what seems a rapid integration from a close northern culture, this happens in other areas as well. This is due to the warlike descendants of steppes cultures already greatly inter mingled with “Greek areas”, displacing some of the larger aristocracies, and large population comings. The Sparta of the Iliad is not the Sparta of classical Greece. This is a strange thing to point out, yet an obvious corrupted truth, the Mediterranean did display a large fondness to homosexual pedophilia perhaps due to their exposure to other eastern cultures who did as well. As well as many “civilized atrocities”. No matter what positive thing I read of the Greeks I always see them as a mockery of respect and ways. Their obsession is very viewable. And we as humans whitewash history with stupidity. It is an enigma as we view cultures. All are Scarred. Much human sacrifice for example, so many “barbaric atrocities”. Can you even separate the two? Your choice of perspective I say, and always present… Sparta was the most obsessed of all with their ways. Sparta is such a silly lie to the average man inspired by such a thing. But then again, my military interest does not lie in modern military perspectives. I am more interested in the aspect of tribal groups and said protectors and culture/ society that created them and they existed in. Pushing into the understanding of modern establishments, the development through centuries. Consequences, importance, misuse, futile actions, advanced thoughts of progression, are why we study history. We desperately need to understand it in order to move properly forward. Too many mistakes to view… Were some cultures more free than others? The ways were so confined, the paths so little. Yet any different than today? In particular places in the world today, yes. We have great choice and freedom, When acting within a culture. While confining, still more free than what others in the past experienced, and many experience today… Thus, long ago, one can on a general level, view Europe as Northern and Southern. Not West and East as we view today, broadly, for one can classify four. Yes, the south created “modern” civilizations and roads and such. Yet personally, I would rather live in a self made cabin in the middle of the woods of Canada, than a penthouse in Los Angeles. Thus a write from my perspective. Cultures continue to develop, and we keep using axes. Time continues, as it does, we understand history more. Christianity brings a somewhat cultural unification of Europe in place of Rome. Or perhaps in place of Rome. Both equally administrative. Yet also splitting, just like Rome. A somewhat foreign unification. On and on. Viking, Knights, etc. And then modern establishments. Back to axes…

From the European martial arts perspective. One can view the peak of the axe as the pollaxe. The go to weapon of the unmounted knight. Yet first we return to the “Battle Axe culture”. In prehistory we have clubs, then you attach stone. Stone that starts looking like an axe. Then we have bronze. Now we have axes. The bronze age gives us many examples. A culture that stands out is the Nordic Bronze age. A time the nordic land was warmer, than becoming very wet, and shortly after cold as one would think today. We have many axe examples, as well as large axe heads we found buried for ceremonial use. These axeheads are not ceremonially unusable. They could easily be used mounted up a large shaft the height of a man. A proto-dane axe if you will. Whether for combat or simply status. There are contemporary Nordic Bronze age images that show men using such axes. Yet can one take the proportions literally.? Yes and no. Yet it is under this path you will find the earliest version of the pollaxe. The nordic bronze age is a collection of artifacts from around 1700 bc-500bc. It is unique in the richness of material we have. It seems it circulated around a sun cult, as well as an earth goddess cult. As well as representations of many twin forms, most likely said two deities. Images of what could be proto-viking gods, yet this is a stretch and not, and never to be pressed further. As inspiration is what the culture seeks. Inspiration expressed in creativity and thoughts passed on. One of the most remarkable discoveries is the Egtved Girl. One who wore a beautiful and extremely attractive outfit, and with ones imagination makes an inspiring figure. Re-enactment, role-play, at it’s peak… Onward and onward. Two handed axes appear in the iron age. and onward to pollaxes. Styles and variations of many sorts. In an excessive amount.

Axe martial arts? There are few. Yet when one is skilled in longsword and ringen you will understand. First, the axe is horrible in an unarmored duel. A combat axe. Tool axes are a wedge, fighting ones a typical even thickness meat cleaver. As a tool, perhaps the single greatest modernly. For one can build nearly anything of natural materials with only an axe. In combat, with a combative one, forget about the sense of axing someone. Thrust and pull in the duel. Many axes are theorized to be mounted upside down if created traditionally. Just for this purpose, as well as better throwing qualities. Thrust push and strike pull. In a boom boom, saw way. This way you pull down shields, throw other off balance if strong, and attempt to strategically use it as a sword than a hook, or perhaps hook than sword. If two handed use as a “staff”. Upon grappling one handed, one may slip hand toward top in order to protect forearm to protect you. Especially if in armour on the field. It becomes more an aspect of ringen than axe. If allowed to swing, than in armour swing, as to dent the opponents. The ax can be used to slip range. As in hold it high then slip low. Yet anyone should know this and understand the slipped range. The two handed axe is to be used erect placed vertically in front of you. An attack of feet and collar. Always defended. Or as a “staff”. One could view in formation a dropping of a great wall of axes, Gallowglass style. An obstacle to say the least to wade into. Yet after the initial striking, no more “axe swinging”. It simply does not pertain to reality. Thus the vertical vortex. Or use as a spear that can pull. The use of the Hema poleaxe. A weapon existing in similar form for thousands of years. The basic axe, and how to wield it, how to create a better one combatively. If anything, one can always appreciate the imagery of the axe. a powerful, capable symbol. When studying, it is best to know what it is you study and why.

Thus a quick over view of Europe. Pre history is often a confusing thing to try and create a fluid timeline with. Especially one that may have any sense of unity. While all the timelines have unity, it is up to what we find in addition to our intelligent imaginations to seek the truth of it. History, Hema, on and on.