The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Two Faces of Combat

The late Donn Draeger developed the science of Hopology, the study of weapons. Below is an excerpt from an article posted at the International Hopology Society website. The full article may be read here.


Hunter B. Armstrong
From the hoplological perspective, we clearly distinguish two primary types of combative systems, (fighting arts). As raised several times over the years in HOPLOS, and most recently in Donn Draeger’s article, “Understanding East Asian Combative Culture,”1 martial and civil fighting are two areas of combative behavior that have evolved for different applications under stimulus from different combative contexts. More importantly, however, I intend to show that their distinctions are based in biological adaptations though certainly influenced by cultural mechanisms.

Since the mid-1970’s with E.O. Wilson’s arousal of a general interest in sociobiology and greater emphasis on the biological perspective into the study of man’s behavior, great insights have been made into the wide scope of man’s performance and behavior. This area has further developed into a field now called “evolutionary psychology.” Much of these gains are results of work done in ethology (the study of animal behavior), a field that subsumes man’s behavior (albeit with a certain amount of emotional backlash). One of the leaders in the field is an Austrian scholar, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, who has specialized in man... the animal.

Here, mention should be made that both E.O. Wilson and Eibl-Eibesfeldt have both warned against the common error of many detractors of sociobiology, that of accusing sociobiology and bio-social anthropology (or evolutionary psychology) of claiming that man is an animal at the whim of his genes. Nothing could be further from the truth. These scholars continuously point out that though man is heavily influenced by his genetic makeup, it is the very fact that man can go against that influence and behave contrary to genetic structures that most distinctly separates him from his fellow animals. Nevertheless, to ignore the genetic influence is to do so at the risk of losing what is arguably the most important perspective into man’s behavior.

From the hoplological standpoint, we are, of course, looking at man’s combative behavior and performance, its evolution and continuing development. And here, as elsewhere in man’s behavior, culture has a heavy hand in the manifestation of a behavior whose roots are in genetic structures. It is appropriate, therefore, to look into both man’s culture and his biology, (i.e., animal behavior) to understand man’s biologically based, culturally manifested, combative behaviors.
Combative behavior, as such, is not a sphere of behavior that is generally looked at separately by students of human behavior. Indeed, at best it is relegated to a position as part of the over broad application of the term, “aggression.” Nevertheless, in studies on aggression a great deal of material pertinent to combative behavior has come to light.

Here, we should stop and define for the purposes of this article in particular and for hoplology in general, the meanings of such terms as aggression, combat, etc.

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