Friday, 25 March 2011

Peasant weapons

The above image is from Paulus Hector Mair's sixteenth-century encyclopedia of German martial arts. (A number of such Fechtbücher were produced during the late middle ages and early Renaissance). As well as including instructions for knightly techniques, Mair's encyclopedia discusses peasant weapons such as scythes, sickles and cudgels (pictured above).

For scans of the first two volumes see:

There are youtube clips of reconstructions of some of the techniques described by Mair for European peasant weaponry at:

In the Chinese martial arts, there are also, of course, a number of weapons that derive not from military use, but from peasant tools: scythes, spades, staffs, knives, hoes, rakes, and, of course, rice flails – the iconic nunchaku of Bruce Lee derives from the Okinawan version of this last tool, and as M.T. Kato points out in From Kung Fu to Hip Hop: Globalisation, Revolution and Popular Culture (New York: SUNY Press, 2007), the development of the nunchaku as a weapon harks back to the ban on the native population carrying bladed weapons under Japan's occupation of Okinawa during the seventeenth century (pp.42-3).

Such weapons, then, were adaptations used for village self-defence, and speak of an 'other' martial art, aside from that created by the military. Kato even goes as far as to argue for two opposing categories: the officially-instituted, drilled, imperialist martial arts of order and discipline such as judo or the samurai sword on the one hand, and a more improvisatory and informal decolonising martial arts of resistance or revolt on the other – 'martial arts from below' as it were. (Of course, such an opposition seems to beg for deconstruction or dialecticisation...)

Monkey: What is that thing?

Pigsy: This? It was made for me by Lao Tzu.

Monkey: The Venerable Lao?!

Pigsy: It was to comepensate me for this incarnation. It's my muck rake...

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