very roughly i think formalised martial arts arise in two circumstances: among marginalised underclasses denied the ability to wage symmetric combat (okinawan empty-handed techniques were developed in response to peasants being denied weapons, savate was invented b/c fistfighting carried heavy penalties), or among privileged warrior classes at low level endemic warfare
when the monopoly of force is working as advertised, martial arts are not useful, as superiority in numbers and materiel can be leveraged much more efficiently than trying to train individual enforcers — this is why cops are so bad at fighting, for example. when it starts to break down, the lumpens will start coming up with ways to counteract that superiority
This is a really good thread. I watch a lot of mainland and Hong Kong martial arts films and in none of them do I remember seeing the class conflict context of battles between martial arts schools.
Did you know about the background of concealing martial arts practice within Escrima and Capoeira?
@esvrld my personal favorite example of this phenomenon is capoiera, a martial art that is purposefully designed to look like dancing because it could be practiced by African slaves on Brazilian plantations who were otherwise obviously forbidden to learn any combat techniques. It focuses on sweeping and evasiveness because the expectation is that the fighter will be outnumbered. It evolved from Engolo, an Angolan ritual combat, that was brought over by people who had been enslaved. Eventually after Brazil abolished slavery capoiera was banned because the white upper classes caught on; it was basically driven underground, until the upper class decided that they could turn it into a sport/performance and make money off of it, which more or less brings us to the modern day
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