The path of martial arts brings one’s sight towards warriors of old. Inspirations, so to speak, of past men. Whether Samurai of Japan, Knights of Europe, etc, there is always an archetype lingering over the traditions. Yet when viewing these past men, it is important to see truth, and understand ones inspiration. Understand ones time. The truth is, that as modern men, true modern practitioners of martial arts, we are often above these past men in quality of character. Yet what of ability? This is up to the practitioner. You must sift through the fantasy and truth. Understand the archetype of the art.
When studying history, one must understand the truth and quality of men. That is the disgust of mankind and our behavior, if you choose to learn the details. A perfect example is the modern obsession with vikings. This is so lost and disconnected from reality to be laughable. The vikings were horrible people on average. I speak of the mob. They were not unique, everyone at this time, on average, was a horrible person. The knowledge that we have of their true religious rites, later mythology recordings aside, are quite disgusting and unneccesary. Acts of social dominance and fear that have little place within an enlightened society. Yes, the old laws of Christianity were often horrendous, yet the ways of paganism were often far worse. This goes hand in hand with the false aspect of feminism and viking times. This may be the most ignorant romance of modern minds and history. Sexism within norse society was extreme. The idea of a shield maiden is one of mythology. The pagan truth of mythological woman attendants in the hall is a representation of the actual countless sex slaves held by chieftains, shared with his warriors, serving the mens food. Funeral rites when such chieftains died were disgusting, slaves recorded to be raped and sacrificed, sent alongside their chieftains. This was not a society that valued women as you would wish to believe. Women fighting in old war is a romantic and fantasy driven concept. I speak of the warfield. Women can become great combatants/duelers with blades, thus perhaps the true shield maiden, the extreme rarity. Yet, within the shield wall, or any formation of close combat, this falls apart. This is simply nature at work, there were no sports supplements then. Most modern minds can not even properly imagine close combat in a reality based sense. Therefor are not envisioning what I speak of. Many examples could be given. The viking romance is only a romance. They are not unique, so many cultures through history are this way. This is the end perspective of history, to be completely jaded and disgusted by it all. Samurai of Japan are similarly lost in romance. The qualities of these men, their actions. The laws of Samurai Japan when one understands, there is nothing romantic here. Nor nothing too unique, regardless of religion or not, men will always be monsters. The same can be said of Knights of Europe, on and on.
So, what is it that inspires us? Truthfully it often comes down to artistic style and idealism. Idealism, in the sense that very few strove to high standards as human beings. That some men were worthy of respect. That “these” Knights truly followed chivalry to the grave. That “these” Samurai truly followed Bushido in a righteous way. Vikings who embodied the higher aspects of the later recorded Thor, I want to believe. These men are worth inspiration. One must always remember, the “average”, was nothing but disgust. Artistic style drives much of what humans partake in. What it is we are attracted to. For example, I really enjoy the style of medieval and renaissance Ireland and Scotland. The arms and styles of the Gallowglass. From the early Scottish “aristocratic” warriors, to the later native Irish “recruitment ” fighters. Am I inspired by the average Gallowglass. Of course not. The average was an ignorant brute, destined to live a short life, trained “quickly”(especially of the later), and cared nothing of right from wrong. His life was valued equally to his equipment. He was replaceable. It is up to command, and the veteran/clansmen immediately surrounding him, to be the intelligent ones (hopefully), this is why they filter into command. Are there a few that lived worthy of respect of character and true skill? Yes. Were most simple idiots, meat to fill armour and form a wall of axes? Yes. Therefore the old style appeals, simply as a modern perspective. This is the ideal of vikings for instance. It is the appeal of the artistic style that holds sway over us. Not the appeal of their truths. The romance of their mythologies, which were romantically recorded at the time of writing. Never facts of a religion and ritual. In the sense of artistic appeal, the Vendels are far more inspiring, the “pre-vikings”. The same I would say of the Landsknechts, and their great swords. Inspiring artistically, yet most falling short in truth. The Doppelsoldner being the backbone of skill amongst them. Same words to write of as the Gallowglass.
As modern martial artists, we are above most of these men. Our minds, our intelligence, our creativity, our diets, our fitness, and oftentimes, our martial ability. Does this make us greater combatants, that is up to you. For ones martial arts ability does not always translate into the ability to quickly win. This is the ability of the man. For this day, men are weaker in this sense, far weaker. The success of society has broken us. We have become limp and incapable on a mass scale, not all, simply many. Ever decreasing generation from generation. The strange hormonal exposure found within commercialized diets have affected all humans eating such a way. The combinations of such factors are taking a heavy toll on natural balances or lack of. Partake as you wish. Yet equally, we are still the same monsters. Controlled, hidden, veiled. Kept in line with just law. What would happen if such law was lifted? Well, horrible things would happen. For it is our natural behavior to act with disgust and hate. To dominate those weaker and create pain. This is the nature of the mob. Never to be trusted. The mob is always low and ignorant. It is the responsibility of righteous men, leaders and higher examples who stand above the mob, to control the mob. Therefore the control exerted upon society is a necessary one. Humanity does not deserve anything else.
Thus in this world of martial archetypes, understand the truth. Most importantly, create your own archetype. Take the greatest aspects of everything that inspires you. Everything that stands true and tall. Combine it all into a pillar of higher humanity and conciousness. Will it stand as unique and new? Of course not, there is not such thing. We only continue to build and develop what was. Therefore choose with honour. Truly become. Become your own Archetype.
Art: Gallowglass Concept, 2011