Better than the Ancients?

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Better than the Ancients?

Postby MaartenSFS on Mon Mar 05, 2018 3:58 pm

In some ways I believe that with modern training equipment we can become better fighters than those in ancient times. Modern medicine has improved significantly so that we may recover faster and treat injuries that would have crippled those in the past. In unarmed fighting we can soften the blows with gloves and headgear. In sword fighting we can fight full-contact and "die" over and over again with special training swords, fencing masks, gloves and chest protectors, learning from our mistakes. Not too long ago even getting a scratch could easily lead to death and this kind of equipment had not been invented, so it was a risky business.

Because of this I believe that it is possible for us to become better fighters than those of the past - especially when it comes to weapon arts, as the ancients would have engaged in battle far less than we do now. I'd go as far as saying that in my relatively short time of studying swordsmanship that I've done more sword fighting than most would have in their entire lives. Training with wooden swords and pulling every blow and thrust is not the same at all. Timing, distance, feinting are all lost.

It's not all one-sided, though.. I think that the experienced martial artist of the day would have made numerous kills in battle, so psychologically they would have been superior fighters - after all, sparring/fencing is not the same as a duel to the death or war. More importantly, they would have been more well-rounded, being able to handle themselves in more situations. If bandits attacked the village they would have had to defend it with swords and pole-arms, etc. If they were attacked in a city or somewhere where weapons were not allowed they would have needed to fight unarmed or at least with knives. Indeed, if they lost their weapon/s on the battlefield they would have needed to be competent in wrestling or perish swiftly. They would have come up against a variety of different weapons and armours.

So if the world was suddenly thrown back into chaos, who would be better off? I think that it would have to be a combination.. If we took the best of all modern armed and unarmed martial arts, trained them as one art, using modern training equipment and science, and experimented for two or three generations that we'd have the upper hand for sure. That being said, we now have guns and a kid could blow my face off without any training, so who gives a fuck? ;D
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Trick on Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:36 pm

Maybe the number of lower to everage "fight to the death" fighters(bladed weapon wise)are greater today compared to ancient times due to modern medicine and modern sparring equipment. But when it comes to the best of the best of the best the ancient warrior probably would have the edge....we will never find out
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Yeung on Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:02 am

I think the ancients were searching for a system of perfect defence while we were not with all the gears and rules to protect us.
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Bao on Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:21 am

In some ways I believe that with modern training equipment we can become better fighters than those in ancient times. Modern medicine has improved significantly so that we may recover faster and treat injuries that would have crippled those in the past. In unarmed fighting we can soften the blows with gloves and headgear. In sword fighting we can fight full-contact and "die" over and over again with special training swords, fencing masks, gloves and chest protectors, learning from our mistakes. Not too long ago even getting a scratch could easily lead to death and this kind of equipment had not been invented, so it was a risky business.

Because of this I believe that it is possible for us to become better fighters than those of the past - especially when it comes to weapon arts, as the ancients would have engaged in battle far less than we do now. I'd go as far as saying that in my relatively short time of studying swordsmanship that I've done more sword fighting than most would have in their entire lives.


IMO, this is a very naive assessment. In the older days, people didn't live very long and they lived with death around them 424/7. Like in Europe in the 14th-17th centuries, children had very low chance of survive until adulthood and every birth was a 20% risk for the mother to die at birth by complications. The modern day person is much more comfortable and have much more to lose. The mind-set and the relationship to death of a medieval knight or a Samurai was completely different from the 21th century European. If you don't care about living or dying, or is comfortable with making your life a sacrifice any day possible, then you have a great advantage in battle. (A little bit similar to some MMA-artists and boxers today, some of them have very little respect for anyone and no self-respect whatsoever. ) If you think that practicing with a stick long enough could beat a good Samurai who faces and meet death on a daily basis, there's really nothing more to say... :-\
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby zhenwu on Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:45 am

I think a normal farmer from 1900 would beat the shit out of... most of us =)
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby middleway on Tue Mar 06, 2018 4:29 am

On edged weapons, the ancients would have the advantage imo. No amount of 'training' or modern equipment will compare to living with your blade day in day out and relying on it to save your life. This is why a modern soldier is generally much better with firearms that the average joe.

On H2H combat, Modern professional fighters far exceed their old generation counterparts IMO. For clarity (and as needs to be said everytime such statements are made!) I do not believe this diminishes the value or merit of the old arts AT ALL.

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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby GrahamB on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:22 am

It's really hard to know how good the ancient Greeks were at Pankration. I suspect they might have been pretty darn good... MMA is a relatively young sport. Have we caught up with where they were at? Who knows.

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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:35 am

Claiming someone's post is naive, and then following with a comparison of European knights and samurai warriors while stating that the latter didn't care about life or death is...well, you already said it. ;)
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby middleway on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:37 am

It's really hard to know how good the ancient Greeks were at Pankration. I suspect they might have been pretty darn good... MMA is a relatively young sport. Have we caught up with where they were at? Who knows.


Indeed we really cant know and its all just for fun really. Without real information on the level of ancient people we cant know if people in this time are 'better'.
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:41 am

middleway wrote:
It's really hard to know how good the ancient Greeks were at Pankration. I suspect they might have been pretty darn good... MMA is a relatively young sport. Have we caught up with where they were at? Who knows.


Indeed we really cant know and its all just for fun really. Without real information on the level of ancient people we cant know if people in this time are 'better'.


I agree, Chris. I think one thing we can at least draw from the past is inspiration. It's easy to break everything down and analyze it, but sometimes we just need some stories.
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby jaime_g on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:48 am

In sword fighting we can fight full-contact and "die" over and over again with special training swords, fencing masks, gloves and chest protectors, learning from our mistakes. Not too long ago even getting a scratch could easily lead to death and this kind of equipment had not been invented, so it was a risky business.

Because of this I believe that it is possible for us to become better fighters than those of the past - especially when it comes to weapon arts, as the ancients would have engaged in battle far less than we do now. I'd go as far as saying that in my relatively short time of studying swordsmanship that I've done more sword fighting than most would have in their entire lives. Training with wooden swords and pulling every blow and thrust is not the same at all. Timing, distance, feinting are all lost.


Ancients did a ton of sparring with weapons,with and without protections. The used wooden weapons, blunt steel weapons, even real weapons with the tip covered by a protection to avoid penetration. Masks, helmets,hats, gloves of many kinds, and pieces of armour were used for sparring.

Many kinds of fencing tournaments (sports!) asked for fighting until someone was bleeding. Many many accounts of people receiving greats hits in sparring and keeping the fight (one spanish text goes as far as saying if you are bleeding in the middle of a sparring fight, you should cover the wound without your opponent noticing it) Many people made a point on doing sparring without a mask to show courage (and yes, many lost eyes doing that).

I strongly recommend to not relate late 1800's-early 1900's training methods with real old school stuff
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby GrahamB on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:48 am

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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Tue Mar 06, 2018 5:54 am

GrahamB wrote:Some home truths about the Samurai:

https://www.facebook.com/morris.method/ ... 5318152539


Wow. That is a bit of fact with a lot of speculation, unverifiable information, and a heaping of cultural misunderstanding.
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby GrahamB on Tue Mar 06, 2018 6:02 am

The only thing we can ever know about the Samurai is that nobody will ever agree about the Samurai! lol ;D
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Re: Better than the Ancients?

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Tue Mar 06, 2018 6:06 am

We can know quite a bit about what most people think of as samurai--and then some. People even devote their lives to understanding the lives and beliefs of premodern inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago. Lot's of good work out there, and hopefully more to come!
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