It was recently suggested to me that “It’s the name that really bothers people” regarding the Pan-European Theory. I had not thought of this before, but I think it must be true. And how sad that it is true, given that we cannot – essentially – call an apple an apple without someone spluttering with indignation. It is called the Pan-European Theory because it was effectively pan-European. Furthermore, I have no idea why “pan-European” should be deemed potentially offensive. It’s simply a descriptor. The fact is, if you acknowledge that strong analogies can be accurately made across the various linages and traditions of the CMA / HEMA, then you’re a “pan-Europeanist.” The semantics are immaterial.
TPET has been going the rounds for a while, and lots of people have weighed in, staked out contrary positions (some vehemently so), or jumped on the bandwagon (albeit in a weak-kneed, weasel-wordy kind of way). And, of course, we had absolutely nothing to do with their rather sudden declarations at all. No, the loudmouths screaming through bullhorns from the rooftops went completely unnoticed…
That said, there were proponents of some kind of “one Art to rule them all” while I was still laboring under the sad delusion that Fiore’s art was more defensive, and thus very different from Liechtenauer’s seemingly uber-aggressive berserker art. However, the parameters were never really all that clearly defined. Then we came in and produced much of that material. Thereafter, Michael Chidester did the HEMA collective a favor in further defining TPET by splitting it into two overall arguments or positions: weak and strong. Here, I simply took it one logical step further, and broke these down into developed “weak” and “strong” spectrums (well, after a few rough drafts), with their respective arguments presented.
Most modern practitioners of the CMA / HEMA fall somewhere within the above chart’s array of positions. This is meant to be the final version, though I’m willing to revise and collaborate if anyone out there has some good ideas…
The “Weak Spectrum” of the Pan-European Theory:
1, De Facto Pan-European Argument: The “strongest” of the arguments within the “Weak Spectrum” of the Pan-European Theory. Its argument is nine fold, and asserts that:
(1) A wealth of quotes derived from the source materials unmistakably point to the existence of a common core for all lineages, traditions, schools and styles within the Knightly Arts of medieval and Renaissance Europe. This considerable body of evidence,
…(2) coupled with the essentially “international” nature of feudal society,
…(3) and the existence of a historical fighting elite (the knightly class / warrior aristocracy / nobility) that operated within that society, also point to the existence of the postulated core. Furthermore,
…(4) one must acknowledge that it was the selfsame warrior aristocracy which was ultimately responsible for the organic emergence, maintenance and transmission of the Knightly Arts;
…(5) which were adjunct to, necessary for the propagation of, and indivisable from the cult of chivalry itself (which bound the aforesaid class/ caste together across tenuous borders). Additionally,
…(6) the identical weapons and other equipment of the aforesaid class also stand as strong indicators for the postulated core Art. Not only this, but…
…(7) the strong correlations and similarities (and in many cases even completely identical techniques / concepts) easily observed in the material of the known lineages and traditions when cross-analyzed;
…(8) together with the limitations of biomechanically effective fighting (as well as those capabilities and limitations imposed by a weapon’s design), all stand as irrefutable proof that there was indeed a pan-European Art of combat, from which all constituent fighting arts of medieval and Renaissance Europe were derived. And in conclusion,
…(9), all of the above provides a clear, verifiable, and most importantly necessary a priori framework for the CMA / HEMA source materials and their assorted traditions, lineages, arts, schools, styles and amalgamated canon.
A caveat: the aforementioned applied almost solely to the chivalric clique, which existed as an effectively borderless caste, with an elite culture which knew no “nation,” but only an exclusive, overarching, hierarchical, insulated society built on familial and political bonds (these same inextricably intertwined with the feudal system of the day).
The De Facto proponent holds that anti-PET arguments are untenable, and that due to the considerable evidence presented in favor of TPET, the burden of proof now lies with its detractors. Moreover, De Facto practitioners assert that any definitive counterargument must take into account, and thoroughly refute all nine points of the De Facto Pan-European Argument.
De Facto grants that the foundational Art was flexible enough to allow for self-evident subtle variation, though it asserts the primacy of the aforesaid foundation; and moreover posits that, due to the lack of any direct living lineage, it is beneficial to study more than one source / lineage / tradition. However, it maintains that, though the foundation is primary, a particular tradition or lineage’s method of presentation, or pedagogy, is important; precisely because each offers the modern student another glimpse at the overall Art.
Lastly, the De Facto position has the largest body of evidence to support it, is arguably the most well-rounded, refined and clearly delineated of all the various positions within either the “weak” or “strong” spectrum of TPET. It acknowledges the following:
Art, the (the definite article): The ecumenical principles that form the underpinning, integral foundation of the fighting arts found within medieval and Renaissance Europe. Particularly relevant to the longsword, but applying to all weapons, and even fighting without them.
art (lower case A): the method of presentation, or pedagogy, of an individual master. Related, but not identical to Lineage (see below), as there were/are demonstrable differences to be found even within the same lineage (compare Vadi to Fiore, for example. Vadi is clearly within Fiore’s lineage; yet Vadi’s “art” differs in minor ways, and excludes some material found in Fiore’s canon). A given master’s derivative “art.” Within Fiore’s art there are techniques not found in Liechtenauer’s, though both find their origin within the greater Art.
Lineage: An unbroken line of teaching from a single master.
School: The teachings of a single master within that master’s school of defense, as influenced by the applicable lineage and tradition to which that school belongs. There may be considerable overlap with other traditions and lineages. Very few masters learned from a single source.
Style: A style is a completely personal way of fighting, though it still conforms to the instruction that helped to form it (or a good one does, at least).
Tradition: The amalgamated lineages within a given region, or regions. May or may not contain several lineages, though one usually has a place of prominence. One of the main determining factors for a tradition is the weapons of choice found within it.
Evidence: see above.
Strength of evidence: Very strong (9 points).
Examples: Bradak, Heslop, Hull, Marsden (???)
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2, The Apathetic Pan-European Argument: holds many of the same opinions as De Facto, but views their expression or emphasis to be of little value. Moderately acknowledges that differences in weapon design will produce different overall arts, but holds that these differences are often circumstantial, and that all fighting arts will have an appreciable degree of overlap; occasionally even going so far as to posit that the differences between Kenjutsu and the Art of the Longsword are in many respects marginal. There are perhaps a few degrees or gradations within this position alone, ranging from weak, to moderate, to strong. May (but not necessarily) hold that studying more than one lineage / tradition / source is beneficial; and furthermore, may or may not necessarily acknowledge the primacy of the foundational core.
Evidence: identical weapons and other equipment; strong correlations, similarities, and even completely identical techniques / concepts observed in the material of the known lineages and traditions when cross-analyzed; the limitations of biomechanically effective fighting (as well as those imposed by a weapon‘s design).
Strength of evidence: Moderate (3 points).
Examples: Michael Chidester.
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The “Strong Spectrum” of the Pan-European Theory:
3, Hardline Pan-European Argument: the assorted traditions of the Chivalric Martial Arts / HEMA are so directly interrelated as to allow only the most negligible, flimsy individual expression. Pedagogies or instructional presentation are of little importance at all. The Hardliner also asserts the (ostensible) “superiority” of the Chivalric / Knightly Arts, as well as its branch-off arts, over all other comparable martial traditions (though this may simply be something of a knee-jerk push-back against the supposed “superiority” of the Asian martial arts, as touted by practitioners of the same).
Evidence: several quotes directly derived from the source materials which clearly and unmistakably make the case for a common core foundation; strong correlations, similarities, and even completely identical techniques / concepts observed in the material of the known lineages and traditions when cross-analyzed; the limitations of biomechanically effective fighting; because they say so.
Strength of evidence: Moderate (3 points)
Example: John Clements.
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4, Generalized Pan-European Argument: holds many of the same views as Hardline, but more moderately so. Additionally, Generalized is arguably more well-rounded and does not necessarily posit any ostensible “superiority” to other martial traditions.
Evidence: several quotes directly derived from the source materials which clearly and unmistakably make the case for a common core foundation; identical weapons and other equipment within medieval / Renaissance Europe; strong correlations, similarities, and even completely identical techniques / concepts observed in the material of the known lineages and traditions when cross-analyzed; the limitations of biomechanically effective fighting.
Strength of evidence: Fairly strong (4 & ½ points)
Example: Heslop three years ago.
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Purist: there is no pan-European fighting art. Furthermore, you should pick an altar to pray at forthwith. There are two options: Fiore or Liechtenauer, and only fools bastardize them by mixing, to any degree. If one does so, then it follows that one does not practice “Historical European Martial Arts;” as to engage in mixing of “styles” precludes faithfully reproducing some imagined, stagnant and hermetically sealed “tradition.” Never mind the fact that the historical masters tell us they themselves sought out many masters and selected the elements which worked for them, or that they deemed best (Fiore, for example; though he’s hardly the only one). Also, real swordsmen do not test cut or spar. Why? Because they say so. But they’ll qoute Doebringer out of context to support their claims; even though Doebringer expressly praises “play,” or sparring. In short, you’ll need to get comfortable with cognative dissonance if you espouse this position.
Evidence & strength thereof: Negligible-to-nonexistent.
Example: Hugh Knight.
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(5), Dogmatic: In a sense, this is essentially the default “agnostic” (Purist being the full-blown “atheistic” view) or noncommittal position to TPET. The Dogmatic practitioner may perhaps be dimly cognizant of the credence of TPET (to one degree or another), but does not treat with, let alone delve into more than one lineage (and may even eschew whole traditions, preferring to focus on one lineage alone, or perhaps even the work of a sole master. See “Liechtenauer fetishist” for more information). A strict adherence to “canon” is paramount to this view, and will often exclude source materials which they deem to be “outside” of their view of what constitutes “canon.” An example of the Dogmatic view is the exclusion of Talhoffer from the canon of the Liechtenauer lineage because Kal fails to mention him.
Evidence & strength thereof: doesn’t bother with such trifles.
Example: Jake Norwood (???)
(7), Moderate Pan-European Argument: To be found somewhere between Generalized and De Facto. Its defining characteristic from Generalized is that it is perhaps more defined, and provides additional evidence. Moderate is nominally part of the “Strong Spectrum,” but is the weakest thereof.
Evidence: several quotes directly derived from the source materials which clearly and unmistakably make the case for a common core foundation; identical weapons and other equipment within medieval / Renaissance Europe; strong correlations, similarities, and even completely identical techniques / concepts observed in the material of the known lineages and traditions when cross-analyzed; the limitations of biomechanically effective fighting (together with those capabilities and limitations imposed by a weapon‘s design).
Evidence: Strong (5 points).
Examples: Heslop about 2 years ago.
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(8), Minimalist Pan-European Argument: like Moderate Pan-Europeanism, the Minimalist stance is something of a sub-position; though it falls within the “Weak Argument Spectrum.” In many respects, Minimalist Pan-Europeanism is very similar to Apathetic Pan-Europeanism. To wit, both posit that the emphasis of the foundation or nucleus of the Knightly Arts is of little value.
However, whereas the Apathetic sees at least some value in the exploration, analysis, and expression within argument of the ecumenical principles of the Art, the Minimalist sees no value therein, holding such to be immaterial. Moreover, the minimalist holds that a great amount of overlap within martial arts will always be present, regardless of weapon design or similarities or differences (great or small) between respective cultures (say, European vs. Asian); and that, because of these factors, it is pointless to make appeals to the core (one could get the same benefit from studying Kenjutsu) and thus asserts the primacy of style / pedagogy. Lastly, the Minimalist sees no merit in studying more than one tradition / lineage. The Minimalist may, however, dabble in more than one tradition / lineage from time to time.
This position has the least in terms of supporting argument, source material evidence, or literature to support it; and moreover is inherently self-degrading or entropic (leads to Dogmatic/Purist). Though a sub-position, Minimalist Pan-Europeanism is nominally within the “Weak” spectrum, and is the weakest of the Weak arguments.
Evidence: the limitations of biomechanically effective fighting.
Strength of evidence: Very weak (not even a whole point).
Example: Bart Walczak.