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HMB & Buhurt


The Battle of Nations just took place in London and after watching the melees I am fairly unimpressed by the lack of skillset of many of the Buhurt fighters. That being said, I am not a critic of Buhurt itself as many of my fellow HEMA peers tend to be. I am simply a critic of sloppy footwork and bad technique or lack thereof. My main interest in Buhurt (as a non-participant) is a connection to the tournaments of history. Is Buhurt a modern rendition of a historical sport? I say "sport" because that is exactly what Buhurt is... it doesn't allow for thrusts and half-swording therefore doesn't represent a battle field melee. However, there are some historical sources that lend credence to it being closely akin to the medieval tournament scene. I spoke with Jonathan Burke (HEMA in Taiwan) about the historicity of Buhurt and he gave me a list of some resources that indicate affinity with the modern sport with the historical sport...
1. The Kaiserchronik (twelfth century); specifically uses the term "buhurt".
2. The Eneit by Heinrich von Veldeke (twelfth century); uses the French loan words "tjoste" and "tjostieren" for tourney of this nature.
3. Frauendienst by Ulrich von Liechtenstein (thirteenth century); uses the French loan words "tjoste" and "tjostieren" for tourney of this nature.
4. Matthew Paris (thirteenth century); describes "the martial game called Round Table", which appears to have been single combat with blunt weapons.
5. Sonse de Nansay (thirteenth century; describes tourneys with blunt weapons.
6. Appollonius von Tyrland by Heinrich von Neustadt (thirteenth century); describes foreis and Round Table.

There are undoubtedly more historical references than these but this is a good amount to consider. My main interest in this is due to the arguing within the HEMA community about Buhurt being a legitimate manifestation of a historical practice. I believe it is and I also feel that we should be working together to create a more vibrant modern medieval history resurgence of the arts and the sports of our ancestors.

The main difference I see between HEMA and Buhurt is that HEMA is a martial art - we do have sport tournaments but HEMA stands alone outside of the tournament scene as a systematic martial system; Buhurt is a sport and not a martial art as it cannot exist outside of its tournament scene. Doing Buhurt alone is like playing football by yourself - it cannot be done.

I think Buhurt has its place in modern historical re-enactment and research but I would like to see the combatants develop a meaningful skill set. I'd like to hear everyone elses thought about this.

So one of the top female polearm fighters in at IMCF, Lisa Galli, is a Knight in the SCA. Her brother, Jeff Galli, is tops in polearm in BOTN & IMCF. Several SCA Knights & royal peers are on Team USA. Most if not all of the top ranked bohurt fighters are great martial artists.

The question one should have in regards to your thoughts are; how many upper ranked HEMA fighters have gone into IMCF or BOTN and done well.

On a similar thought; have you seen Calcio Storico Florentino? Can you imagine that most of the top players are also great unarmed fighters?

I find it to be odd how many HEMA practitioners and fans discount the historicity or the martial prowess of Buhurt, HMB, ACL, and BoTN fighters. There are a surprisingly large amount of these guys who's entire livelihoods revolve around medieval combat, and while not all of the methods of combat can or will be direct analogues to harnesfechten due to the fact that you aren't allowed to stab people in the eyeballs during tournaments anymore, these men and women devote an almost slavish amount of time to their physical fitness, mixed martial arts skills, their parries and attacks, etc. They accept a crushingly brutal level of punishment in regards to modern sports on par with other extreme combat sports like MMA. It is most certainly a martial art, just as much as something more trivial and less damaging like Karate is considered a martial art. There are clear and defined techniques and styles, there are a set of rules and regulation regarding its use in sport, there are real world applications for the techniques used, I mean it has every single marker of a martial art.

Well said.


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