Pugilism For Real-World Fighting?

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Real-world fighting isn’t a lot of fun. It’s nasty, brutal, and the anything-goes nature of a fight means people can get hurt. Badly.

Yet, let’s be honest for a second. Learning to fight can be a blast. Especially if you’re a history buff and are learning a historical method of fighting.

However, the question I’ve asked and seen asked more than almost any other is whether or not any of this is practical for the real world.

I took a look at that question myself a while back, as an outsider to the world of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) and offered my take. Over a brief time, I’ve started modifying some of my thinking a bit, but I’m fairly well settled on the validity of pugilism as a valid style of fighting for both HEMA uses and application on the streets.

I’m not the only one who thinks that, either.

First, blame Dave for this popping up. He found it and shared it with me and a few others.

Now, with that out of the way, I mostly agree with what Martin Austwick says here. Pugilism does teach you how to punch bare-knuckled, which means your hands are going to be safer and you’re going to be able to stay in the fight.

Where I sorta kinda disagree with him is the usefulness of catch-as-catch-can wrestling, commonly just called “catch wrestling.”

And, honestly, I don’t know that I disagree with him precisely. He doesn’t argue that catch wrestling is bad for the streets. He only points out that you really don’t want to go to the ground on a street fight, and I don’t know that he’s wrong with that.

But I also understand that a lot of fights end up there anyway. While pugilism may include techniques to prevent that, it’s likely to happen anyway and the pugilist would be lost…

…unless he’s also a wrestler.

Catch wrestling is an interesting style of fighting, one that’s gaining a bit of a resurgence and is even being used in the UFC. It uses a lot of join locks and things to cause pain to an opponent. Frankly, it sounds like it was right up Fiore di Liberi’s alley.

Anyway, catch wrestling’s use of joint locks can help take an opponent out of the fight. Or, at the very least, take the fight out of the opponent.

Of course, that’s just from an outside observer. I’m not a pugilist just yet, nor am I a wrestler, so take this with a grain of salt. I’m just a guy who has looked at violence and looked for potential solutions.

And, if those solutions also happen to be fascinating in general, so much the better.

However, pugilism appears as the clearly logical place to start. If this interests you, at least.

Luckily, there are Facebook groups dedicated to pugilism, as well as a number of books that detail it. While I suspect many pugilists dedicate themselves to one “master,” I’d argue it’s far better to learn from any book on pugilism you can get your grubby little paws on.

The truth is, there’s no One True Way on anything, so getting tons of input is perfectly valid. Learn what works for you and what doesn’t, then find ways to test that.

Now, I’m talking about sparring with willing partners, not picking fights. (How sad is it that I have to include that?)

For the record, here’s where I’m starting:

I’ll be sure to give you a review when I’m finished with it, though it may be a while with everything else I have going on.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

4 thoughts on “Pugilism For Real-World Fighting?”

  1. I have studied many forms of martial arts from the east and truly fell i love with Classical pugilism We have to remember in the early period that there were no rules, well some agreed to rules, but anything went such as knee and elbow strikes, grappling, kicks, gouging, biting, you name it, so it was brutal. So one can easily bring in simple kicks, knees, and grappling techniques to help you in self defense. Catch Wrestling, Glima, and Ringen truly have a lot to offer and if you study the historical writing, you will see that most of the things you find in Judo and other Asian arts for grappling you will see in our western arts.

    Now on the book Self Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies, by Col. Monstery, that is a book I started with, and you may find many of his techniques awkward, but it really is a good place to start. Also look at others such as mendoza. Great stuff. What you end up doing is using what best works for you ad your body type,but you have to train with it.

    1. Yeah, it’s a little awkward, but it still seems like a decent place to get started. I’m looking at catch wrestling to sort of round things out.

      Plus, I suspect I’ll see some overlap with Fiore’s grappling techniques.

  2. I agree with David Litts, there are many great self defense and offense techniques with in HEMA. Think about what they accomplished in and outside of the ring. I’ve had about 10 years off and on with a lot of unarmed HEMA. Also have had the opportunity to test the western tradition out against other arts ( in a as much as possible real but safe and courteous environment) and HEMA by far holds it’s own.

    Honesty, humility and analysis is well mannered and necessary, I just feel sometimes some sell this tradition a bit short. Perhaps not even realizing it.

    All the best
    Josh Perkins.

    1. I appreciate the input.

      More data is never a bad thing. It’s also a good “selling-point” for HEMA in general, potentially.

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