Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Art of Combat


Art, and what it is has been a question which has plagued theorists for many years and no doubt will continue to plague them as art changes and changes again. This blog addresses the idea about the art being found in a different place namely in the combat manuals of the medieval and Renaissance periods.

In the search for the art of the medieval and Renaissance period most people go to the typical sources, examining known artists of the period. Names such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo Giotto and Durer others are very well known for their various pieces of art, some of which have become famous and stayed as such even into our own period. What needs to be realised is that art can also be found in other sources. The manuscripts of the period are one good example, another is the combat manuals of the period, a source which is often overlooked in the search for art.

Examples of the art of which I speak can be found as early as the fifteenth century and indeed earlier an example of this can be found here This is a page out of a manual from 1410 written by Fiore dei Liberi. Now many Western Martial Artists will know of this manual and will know of the art which can be found within it. However for them it is the application of the techniques which are present rather than the artwork which is more significant for them. The artwork which is present and the skill it took to present such art cannot be denied.

What is even more interesting is that well-known artists of the period even dabbled in the martial arts as well. It is well known that Benvenuto Cellini an Italian artist of some note was involved in at one significant duel in his history in which he killed a man. What is less known is that the renowned artist Albrecht Durer actually wrote and did the art for a fencing manual of his own (

More information about this manual can be found here: The significance of this is not only that respected artists were involved in the arts of combat themselves, but were also interested and invested enough that they would use their art in order to represent it in print, not a small prospect in the period.

The martial arts of the medieval and Renaissance periods have and are being revived by people devoted to their arts. More and more of these manuals are discovered and investigations made into them as time goes by. As the arts of combat are revived by the martial artists, mainly through the discovery and exploration of manuals and manuscripts of the period, so too should the art which is present in such manuals and manuscripts be recognised for the artwork which is present in them even if the subject is a little distasteful to some. From the martial artists' point of view also the art which is present in the manuals which they are using must also be recognised and the manual recognised as a significant document and artwork, not merely and instructional manual.