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Historical Development of Fighting Styles

While the following section may provide few clues as to how to fight your warriors, it is interesting in its own right. In addition, an understanding of the historical development of fighting styles can help in imaging warriors of each style in combat. The ability to visualize in this manner is often the first step to good Duelmasters strategy. Read and enjoy.

The ten fighting styles in Duelmasters are based on classical fighting styles from around the world. As has been discussed, each of these fighting styles can be greatly modified by the use of offensive or defensive tactics. The ten basic fighting styles are based on enhancing certain combat actions. The concept is easy, but the development of a style which is effective in general, and exceptional in one or more aspects, is very rare and difficult. The Japanese striking attack succeeded, the Picts' did not. The Viking wall of steel style succeeded, the Maobites' did not.

Historically, various nations have trained their warriors in a single modified style. For example, the Egyptian swordsmen used a Parry-Lunge fighting style modified with slash tactics for over a thousand years. Nations taught a single, and thus limiting, fighting style to their warriors for a number of reasons:

1. Weapon Design. For example, the Egyptians used an unhilted, slightly curved shortsword, well suited to slashing and lunging, adequate in parry. The Egyptian modified Parry-Lunge fighting style made good use of their odd shortsword design.

2. Systemization of Training. It is much easier to teach all warriors to use a single style of combat. Warriors trained in three or more variants (tactics) to their fighting style were expensive to train, and required a professional caste of warriors.

3. Refinement of Style. This focus on one fighting style allowed the teachers and finest warriors to refine and define the "perfect" way to execute that fighting style. In Egypt, the warrior-nobles sought to attain a styled perfect technique in sword, lance, and bow use.

4. Tradition. Most historical nations were tradition bound. The "This is the way our fathers fought, so this is the way we will fight!" syndrome was common. It's not a bad argument; if their fathers survived their battles using that fighting style, that fighting style must have had some merit.

The concepts and principles of the bashing attack are the oldest of the ten fighting styles. Almost certainly some prehistoric tribes and culture owed their survival to using their clubs and crude war hammers better than their foes. As these superior principles were passed down from father to son, the first bashing attack styles developed.

Nearly every culture developed some form of bashing attack style. It is not by accident that Thor, the Norse god of thunder, wields a war hammer and not the much more common Viking axe or longsword. In more advanced cultures with axes, swords, and lances, this style becomes less significant. In Europe, the bashing attack style nearly disappeared until the Dark Ages and the advent of heavy armor.

With the advent of heavy armor, morning stars, war hammers, and maces suddenly became important weapons with which to bash a heavily armored foe. Many European knights used the bashing attack style, with this style seeing the height of its development with some legendary morning star and greatsword wielding warriors. The Japanese developed the bashing styles of Bojutsu (quarterstaff), Jittejutsu (Jitte, short iron truncheon), Jojutsu (light staff), and Nunchaku-Te (two lengths of wood joined by a short length of rope or chain), as well as more exotic methods. The Swiss halberdiers of the 18th and 19th centuries used the bashing attack. The warriors of Greece who stormed the city state of Troy list some maul wielding warriors among their most powerful elite, and their military schools taught the style to their club wielding troops, although this was later abandoned in favor of the pike.

Most early sword and axe designs were not balanced well enough for slashing, making the slashing style fairly late to develop. Egypt was the first major Western Empire to develop a slashing stroke. The virtues of the slashing attack only really became apparent from horseback. Suddenly an attack which allowed a swordsman to do great damage, while not leaving their sword stuck in each foe whom they rode past made good sense. The Arabs developed this style to a high degree, both on horse and on foot. The Franks used huge battle axes with a slashing style, with terrific effect. Most eighteenth and nineteenth century European Cavalry used the slashing style. Many Southeast Asian cultures developed slashing styles. Some schools of Chinese martial arts also favored the slashing attack styles. The principle fighting style of the Mongollians, Saracens, and Tarters was the slashing attack.

What culture did not develop the lunging attack style, or a modified version of it? Throughout history, the spear, not the sword, has been the primary military weapon. The best example might be the Zulu warrior; other examples are the Medes and the early Greeks. The Japanese actually developed a technique whereby the side to side lunging movement was continued even after a successful thrust, in order to maintain defensive skills, to increase the wound as the weapon twisted, and to help pull the weapon out of the wound. We won't go into what the other guy must have thought of this technique. In the more modern age, forms of lunging attack styles developed in France and Germany in the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. The current style used by the German National Fencing team has a heavy lunging attack emphasis.

Striking attack styles tended to develop in cultures where weapon quality has out-stripped armor development, with some examples being Japan, many American Indian tribes, Celtic kingdoms of England and the early Siam empire just to name a few. When common weapons can easily penetrate the common armor, striking the first blow becomes vital! This style also offers the benefits of a wide range of weapons and is easily taught, which has made variants of the Striking Attack common throughout history. Few cultures have developed the concept of this style better than the Japanese Samurai. The best swordsmen of Japan turned the striking attack style into a deadly art form with grace of execution and jeweler's precision. The Samurai swordsmen were trained in the slash tactic, and may have also been taught iaijutsu, perhaps the most refined decisiveness tactic the world has ever seen. The striking attack was also notably popular in fourteenth to eighteenth century Europe, often bash-tactic modified, and was the most common fighting style among the Inca and Aztec nations.

The most devastating aimed blow styled warrior throughout history might be the "precision stroke" Samurai-trained warrior. The most elegant, the sixteenth century France "show" duelist, who fought to the first serious wound (or Touche). The Greeks laid a great importance on the single, devastating blow.

The Wall of Steel warrior is most often embodied by the Viking, their Greatsword swinging an arc above their head. However, the Wall of Steel style is a rare but consistent style throughout history. Some martial schools of the Bojutsu training in Japan taught a Wall of Steel method with the Bo (quarterstaff). Wall of Steel quarterstaff methods also were notable in Northern China, and among the "common" troops in twelfth to sixteenth century Europe (in later centuries nobility learned the Quarterstaff Wall of Steel method as a second style). The Viking was actually more prone to use their Viking axe with the Wall of Steel style. The Berbers used, and use today, a distinctive Wall of Steel fighting style. Documented greatsword-using Wall of Steel warriors were the English Greatsword Yeoman troop, and the Tulwar swinging Afghan tribesman.

At least two places in the world taught specialized forms of Total Parry. The "Florentine" style of sixteenth through nineteenth century Northern Italy, could be a defensive style, but was often used in a wild lunging or slashing fashion. A specialized fighting style of the Nobility of Northwestern China went so far as to using a specialized "Parry Stick" weapon.

Cultures which developed the Parry-Lunge style include the duelists of fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth century France, Germany, and England, the elite sword warriors of Siam, the Roman gladiatorial schools, and some Chinese schools of martial arts. Why didn't more cultures develop this style which seems to offer so much? Because the formulation of the style requires a number of pre-existent items and conditions to be practical. These are, (1) a light yet sturdy sword, with a fine trusting tip and a good hilt guard, (2) light, yet effective armor which will absorb a few blows, yet allows movement, (3) a military, cultural basis which allows the cost and training of a fighting style which most martial experts agree would have been sub-standard in massed combat.

Just as the striking attack styles, Parry-Strike styles tended to develop in cultures where weapon quality had out-stripped armor development. For example, lacquered bamboo does not stop a Katana. However, rather than the simple "attack first" principle of striking attack styles, the Parry-Strike style attempts to turn the superior weapon into a superior defensive tool to offset the lack of armor quality. Thus, if the culture failed to favor weapons well suited to the parry, that culture was equally unlikely to develop a Parry-Strike fighting style.

Examples of cultures known to develop some form of the Parry-Strike style are the nobility class of fourteenth and fifteenth century England, Germany, and Sweden; the Early Roman Army's fighting style (which later shifted to a more simple bashing attack or bash modified striking styles as the organization of the Roman army decayed), and Persian Heavy Infantry Troops. (Curious isn't it, that both the Roman legions and the Persian Indomitables, perhaps the two most irresistible bodies of troops in all history, used a defensive style, rather than an offensive one?)

The major heyday of the Parry-Riposte style came during the 16th to 19th centuries in France, and to a lesser extent, Western Europe. Duelists (and men of culture) used the Parry-Riposte style because it suited the light weapons of the times, the nature of un-armored dueling, and...well... for the style's elegance. Modern fencing has a heavy influence of the Parry-Riposte, to the extent that its scoring is biased toward the Parry-Riposte style.

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Published on: 2002-07-14 (1931 reads)

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