Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SELF-DEFENSE: Southnarc (aka Craig Douglas) - Battle Glad and Strife Eager

 Battle Glad and Strife Eager
by Southnarc (aka Craig Douglas)

In the June 2002 issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine an article by Bill Bagwell titled "The Blade in War", was published. The piece is a historical overview of bladed combat over the ages. Bagwell begins with a look at how many casualties were inflicted in various battles over history in his treatise on the lethality of edged weapons, and moves from there into some thoughts and suppositions on the kind of men who waged primitive warfare.

It was this portion of the article that peaked my interest as Bagwell has some very insightful things to say about the generations of yore and what it took to be a warrior. What I've done is to cut out that portion of the article and let it stand alone. What follows are Bagwell's words and I think that he really hits several points home that the student of modern combatives would be wise to heed.

Excerpted from "The Blade in War"; Soldier of Fortune magazine, June 2002:

To quote from the Mongol war creed: "The vanquished can never be friends of the victor; the death of the former is necessary therefore for the safety of the latter." These are hard words that hard men lived by in hard times, and they provide a lesson if we will only observe it. That lesson is that combat with edged weapons breeds and develops the deadliest, most resolute fighter the world has ever known.

The reason for this developed combat efficiency is simple. Every combat engagement with an edged weapon, be it knife, or sword, or whatever, is intensely personal, and to survive one must actually deliver death to the opponent with one's own hand and through the expenditure of one's own muscular effort. It takes true will and resolve to accomplish this, as well as a fearlessness and indifference to injury and death. These qualities were very highly developed in the men at arms in the days of true blade cultures. This warrior mindset, generated by the use of the blade itself, was coupled with intense training and remarkable physical conditioning. Quoting a passage from War Through the Ages that describes a knight from the period of the Crusades is revealing today.

"As a physical specimen, the men at arms must have been incredibly tough, wiry, resistant to disease. The medieval lord in his castle tolerated filth and hardship which left weaklings small chance of survival; and the metabolism of the age is indicated by the fact that Europe imported spices to stomach dangerously tainted foods. That the knight was not usually a large man we know from suits of armor in modern museums. It may also be concluded that we had muscles of steel, since he wielded a lance and broadsword that would exhaust a heavier man of today. He was, in short, a sheer fighting animal bred by a relentless process of selection."
The death of the conquistador Francisco Pizzaro serves to further illustrate this point. Due to the execution of a rival, Diego de Almagro, Pizzaro was targeted for assassination.

The assailants decided to kill Pizzaro on Sunday, 26 June, 1541, as he walked home from church. Learning of the plan, Pizzaro did not attend mass that day and stayed home. The assailants, 10 in number, went instead to Pizzaro's residence to commit the murder. In the fight that followed, the old conquistador, fighting for his life in his own home at the age of 70, killed three of them with his sword before he himself was run through. Pizzaro, a product of a blade culture, was a dangerous, deadly, and resolute foe, more than a match on even terms with men half his age who sought to kill him.

The fact that Pizzaro killed three of his assassins before dying brings up another interesting point. These men-and there were uncounted thousands more like them-were products of blade cultures across the ages and across the geographical regions of the world. They were true killers of men in the purest sense. There are numerous accounts of individual feats of arms whereby a combatant would kill from three to ten or more opponents in a single deadly encounter with edged weapons. Paul Kirchner In his book The Deadliest Men, available from Paladin Press, cites the example of the noted Viking warrior/poet Egil Skallagrimsson. Egil was on a raid in Frisland, and in the ensuing battle became separated from his men and surrounded by the enemy. In fighting his way to safety, Skallagrimsson single-handedly killed 11 of them. In an ambush and battle with a group of Varmlanders on another occasion, Egil and his men killed 25 of them with Egil killing eight in one skirmish and eleven in another. Egil Skallagrimsson died of natural causes in the autumn of the year 990. He was 80 years old, having survived scores, perhaps even hundreds, of deadly encounters during loner than six decades of deadly combat.

Robert the Bruce was born 11 July 1274. From childhood, he was trained for war and mastered the weapons of the titled gentry. It was well he did, for the stormy and violent environment for the Scottish fight for independence from England generated particularly hard of conditions of combat and retribution that have spawned hatreds that endure to this day. In an era of skilled and adept fighting men on both sides, the exploits at arms of Robert the Bruce were such that he became a legend in his own time. One such instance involved an engagement in Robert's own earldom, Carrick, between Robert and about sixty of his followers, and the Macdowalls of Galloway. The Macdowalls had a force about 200 strong and were attempting to ford a steep-banked river under the cover of darkness, when they were discovered by Robert. According to Robert's 14th century biographer, John Barbour, Robert and then his followers mounted a successful defense of the river crossing. After the engagment, Robert's men found him sitting and resting. "They found lying in that place 14 slain by his hand" as well.

When you consider that throughout the ages men such as Pizzaro, Egil Skallagrimsson, Robert the Bruce, and countless others both known and unknown, participated in scores of individual battles and skirmishes in their lifetime, you begin to realize that many of these individuals killed hundreds of men in individual combat. The fact is lost today that this was not an unusual occurrence in the warrior societies that were the result of blade cultures throughout the world.

Firearms have changed the complexion of warfare. It is no longer necessary to be within arms reach of your opponent to kill him, and warfare has as a result become depersonalized to a very great extent. This has resulted in the near-disappearance of the driving emotion that perpetuated blood feuds that raged for generations and made some cultures such as the Vikings "battle glad" and "strife eager", if their chronicles are to be believed. 

You can contact Southnarc via his site:  http://shivworks.com/

In case you missed my other Southnarc/Craig Douglas entries I've posted, please check out:


Shep said...

If he had been assessed by the standards of today,the AVERAGE pre-industrial Zulu, Comanche, or Viking warrior would have been awarded a couple of Navy Crosses and half-a-dozen Purple Hearts before his fighting career was over.

Stickgrappler said...

Hello Shep:

Thank you for your reply.

LOL! Agreed!!

Very truly yours in the MA and SD,



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