Paleo eskirmology

Pre-scientific Martial Arts

The Paleoeskirmological Method combines the Eskirmological Method with suitable elements of an Historical Method as a form of validation. Principally, it formally treats ‘Sources’ (historical documents, concerning martial arts) as ‘Data’.

Applying principles of Data Handling, we derive the basis of our practice.


The theoretical basis upon which the method stands is FUNCTION; that the original system, within it’s contemporary social-sphere, was principally a Combat System exposed regular testing ‘in-the-field’ (or in truly combative encounters). In which case, the objective of any system created at that time was as a realistic and functional system of fighting. Their interests were in survival by means of a suitable combative system derived from the pressures placed upon them by militancy and the lack of protection from any legislative system. This means that the optimal application of an exponential artefact was their most primary objective.


Attempting to recreate a physical culture from written accounts has its fair share of complexities and challenges. These challenges are derived from the difficulty of describing visceral experiences of combat and the human body into language which can replicate such experience in another person. Therefore, as scholars attempting to extrapolate Combat Systems from historical treatises, it is essential that, before any argument about the viability of books as a source for learning Combat Systems is made, the details about what a Combat System is, what it does and how it is composed is understood. It is from this basis that we may begin to isolate the kinds of components which can, and perhaps more importantly cannot, be transferred with the use of language.

Learning from historical manuscripts raises a simple question: is it possible to learn any martial art accurately from a book? It doesn’t matter whether that book is by a living author, or one who has been dead for hundreds of years (although this does often present additional palaeographic and historiographical considerations). One test might be to consider the reproduction of a combat system from a book, where living practitioners are available.

In which case, the student will learn solely from literature, and in isolation from other forms of direct or phenographic study. If after mastery of the resources’ descriptions his performance is accurate enough to be mistaken for having been transmitted via traditional (and direct) means, then we might be able to judge that his method of study has resulted in accurate transmission. Of course, this kind of test is very rare and if not entirely impossible today, because there are so many resources available. Even if an instructor is not available, DVDs, YouTube videos etc are entirely accessible. In some cases training can take place enmasse, in which a single ‘famed’ teacher/expert and teach literally millions via the internet. Each of those students gaining access to a master whom they might never have been able to learn from. Modern media aside, there are cases where students have learned their art entirely from a book.

A book is a static artefact, and cannot change once an ancient author has penned it. A student cannot ask this author questions, but only find his answers through the words contained within it. This itself leads to problems due to a concept of ‘interpretation’. This problem is outlined in the section on Challenges.

Part One: Eskirmological Method

Since our ancestors’ Combat Systems no longer exist in any practiced form, it is of growing interest to establish a means by which these systems may be recreated (albeit for leisure and ‘historical’ rather than existential and protective reasons). Because modern Eskirmology has an already established framework of terminology and deductions, the body of this study may be applied to these historical combat systems in a bid to identify them – and potentially recreate them correctly in lieu of context, risk considerations and modern scientific principles.

The Eskirmological Method is a means by which actions and reactions can be optimised to suit their ultimate teleology. This means that the pressures experienced by an original practitioner can instantly be experienced by means of a modern lifting a sword, against another wielding an anachronistic artefact. We are posed with the same eskirmological problems of offence and defence as an original fighter, and so any logical and pragmatic solutions we establish will be similar if not exactly the same as those original practiced. The Eskirmological Method (in short) seeks the parameters outlined in the COSTAC model:

  • Circumstances
  • Objectives
  • Strategy
  • Tactics
  • Actions
  • Contingency

For more information on this Method, please the Eskirmology website (

Using this Method it is possible to derive a set of logical Strategies, the bulk of which are used in the Unified Combat System and the current curriculum of Eskirmology. By identifying these logical strategies, we know that (based upon measurable and observable criteria) these strategies may have been used also by our ancestors. By consulting a set of historical records (the ‘data set’ for Paleoeskirmology), it is possible to accurately correlate a number of logical strategies within those records.

The limitation with the ARMA Method is that it interprets that which has historical evidence, and therefore can only ever re-create that which has been documented. The Paleoeskirmological Method, on the other hand, is based upon the logical purpose of the original fighting arts meaning that our understanding of the use of anachronistic weaponry is direct and not via the fossilised words of an historical source. Experience and logical understanding of combat using an anachronistic weapon – directed by function and a determination to solve the problems of Risk and Control in interpersonal combat using that weapon – first and foremost, then approaching historical records to source correlates. Of course, this source does have its importance, but in Paleoeskirmology, the historical source is always secondary as a route to true knowledge than our own experience itself. Therefore, with a solid foundation in Eskirmological Principles, Paleoeskirmology represents the closest possible, and logical, source for the re-creation of long-extant arms and armour.

The data from historical record is handled in a manner known as ‘Data reconciliation’ and referred to by Walczak in his AGISE Method. According to Walzak, his AGISE research method may be reduced to the following:

  • Analysis
  • Grouping
  • Interpolation
  • Synthesis
  • Extrapolation

Whilst there are indeed problems with this research method, it is a considerable step forward for identifying combat systems from historical records. The Paleoeskirmological Method is slightly different, but applies essentially the same formula of Compilation, Parsimony, Interpolation, Extrapolation. Using this method, it is possible to reason with better certainty:

  • The Circumstances the Combat System was devised for, and how these circumstances effected the development, design and practice of the Combat System.
  • The Objectives of the Combat System- termination of an enemy, neutralisation of the foe, escape from the opponent et al.
  • The Strategy, or the reconciliation between the current circumstance (state A) and the desired circumstance (state B)
  • The Tactics of how that reconcilation will be made on an operational level (i.e. circumvent sources of resistance)
  • The Actions – the tactic will predefine the types of Actions to be made.
  • Resistance – and contingency. This is the consideration of a subset of Tactics and Actions should the initial ones fail, meet resistance or the circumstances change.

From a number of Simple Actions (SA), it is possible to derive set statements regarding shared functions, and in doing so establish a process akin to Karl Popper’s Universal Statement (i.e. Principle); for example,

  • Technique X, Y, Z have shared functions, they all stem from engagement with an opponent
    • Technique X demonstrates forcing one’s way through the opponent’s guard.
    • Technique Y shows staying engaged to seek an opening.
    • Technique Z may be observed as yielding and circumventing resistance.

The logical conclusion is that the nodes for combative decision making are based upon the levels of force experienced whilst engaged, using an Assessment Model.

This page is just a simple example of the kinds of applications for the Paleoeskirmological Method, and a much more thorough paper will be produced shortly.

Part Two: Paleography and Textual Criticism

When we describe the use of written documents to form the basis of our understanding of an Historical Combat System, we must first go some way to understand the data-set. In this case, we must initiate close analysis of the historical records, considering the Higher Criticism of those sources (based upon what is known of the document itself relative to others), as well as Lower Criticism (using the actual language and data within the manuscript to inform our view). This is performed with the purpose of identifying the ‘Authority’ of a source, based upon it’s known origin, it’s author, it’s date et al. This allows sources to be ‘related’ to one another, and witness how a single account may be repeated elsewhere, or is a copy of a progenitor/parent text. In which case, we recognise where duplication occurs, and where new bodies of work occur within duplicated sources.

This process is based upon the Metzger (2005, 209-210) model of criticism, demonstrated as follows (modified to comply here with our topic):

  1. 1)      EXTERNAL EVIDENCE, involving considerations bearing upon:
    a)      The date of the witness or, rather, of the type of text.
    b)      The geographical distribution of the witnesses that agree in supporting a variant.
    c)      The genealogical relationship of texts and families of witnesses: Witnesses are weighed rather than counted.
    By applying this process to our historical sources, we may trace a logical ‘archetype’ version or an account closest to an original (known or unknown) source. Based upon this, we may identify links between various data-sets and suggest logical relationships between them. The result of which, of course, is to generate a chart known as a “Stemma” to demonstrate relationships and to understand which versions dominated the historical record (i.e. were copied the most, because they were either authoritative or more accessible). Local errors or consistency amongst local versions may also suggest data sharing. This is linked with internal analysis of the data provided within the paleography of the source:
    2)      INTERNAL EVIDENCE, involving two kinds of probabilities:
    a)      Transcriptional Probabilities depend upon considerations of palaeographical details and the habits of scribes. Thus:
    i)        In general the more difficult reading is to be preferred.
    ii)      In general the shorter reading is to be preferred.
    iii)    That reading is to be preferred which stands in verbal dissidence with the other.
    b)      Intrinsic Probabilities depend upon considerations of what the author was more likely to have written, taking into account:
    i)        the style and vocabulary of the author throughout the book,
    ii)      the immediate context,
    iii)    harmony with the usage of the author elsewhere, and, in the Martial Arts Sources,


Metzger, B (2005); The Text of the New Testament, Oxford University Press, USA.