Welcome to Gothic Arms
This website is dedicated to the ancient and nearly dead martial art of Gothic Arms. What is the martial art of Gothic Arms you say? The condensed version is this; Gothic Arms is the modern name of the ancient fighting styles of the late medieval European, High Gothic and early Renaissance periods. Gothic Arms has, over the centuries, taken the best techniques of the major periods and styles and condensed them into a single cohesive style that is efficient and practical. The style has not been sporterized into a mainstream self-defense hobby or stylized discipline but has retained its very direct battlefield roots.
Now you may be wondering, "why haven't I heard of this style before?" Quite simply, there was never really a central name to it. Unlike many traditional Far East fighting styles which are rigidly styled into specific genres like Karate, Kung fu, Tai Kwon Do and so forth, Gothic Arms really didn't have a name per se much like what do you call the fighting arts of today's Special Forces, Navy Seals, Special Air Services and the whole host of modern professional fighting techniques? The Knights of old were every bit the Special Operations professional soldiers of their time.
Still, what did they call it then? "Learning to fight". Perhaps some of the old masters would give a particular set of moves a name but the short of it was learning to fight with a particular kind of weapon. The knights also learned how to wrestle and their hand-to-hand techniques were designed to survive the battlefield if they lost or broke their weapon and still take down another knight.
A knight's prowess is quite formidable. Their bodies were exceptionally fit and hardy and their minds even more hard and brutal in their efficiency of pursuing their lord's wishes. It was quite common for only a few knights and their personal troops to be sent out to settle an entire town's or village's problems with criminals or brigands. What you see in the movies and unfortunately read in many books, including textbooks, is wildly in error. The one thing that is absolutely true in the demise of this venerable style is it's fading away and being replaced by a wholly new kind of warfare caused by the introduction of the firearm and the false perceptions of some academics who have never wielded a sword on the field.
Now surely one must be thinking that there are lots of medieval hobbyists out there practicing ancient European styles with various clubs and organizations, and yes there are, lots of them, each claiming to be authentic or even purely fantastical in their particular style. Many of these styles are copied right out of the various medieval manuals of the period, like the works of Hans Talhoffer but that in itself is not what Gothic Arms is. What makes our Gothic Arms different from all of the other martial arts including most of the Asian styles is one primary thing, we block and attack by ZONE. The only other style that we know of that uses zone dynamics like Gothic Arms is for the science fiction, heavy armor based, sword technique as taught by the instructor at SciFiSwords.com which for them is directly based on the Gothic Arms style.
Our martial art is designed for the knight in heavy plate in the thick of melee combat that is happening in a 360-degree environment with severely limited vision from the wearing of the helmet, to not only survive but to create a command position on the field. The High Gothic Knight of old was the main battle tank of today, being able to withstand an incredible amount of pounding and being able to dish it out too. This style enables the knight the skills and discipline of not just surviving such a tumultuous environment but to capitalize and command the situation in his favor for unlike our poor soldiers today that have to fight for the politicians political agendas, the knights fought to win outright and they played for keeps. No Geneva Convention to guide them.
Gothic Arms uses blocks by ZONE, what does that really mean? The short of it is this, but we will have to use comparisons from other recognized martial arts to help the layman understand the concept of zone fighting. In most traditional weapons based martial arts, performing a block to stop an incoming blow, one gauges the "where, when and how" of the incoming blow. Most styles then reach out to block to actively intercept the incoming blow as far away from them as possible. Now this works just fine for most martial styles but the Gothic Arms style differs dramatically from this concept. Instead of reaching out for the block, we have a very tightly encircled imaginary bubble around us which is our zone, and block only just far enough away from our bodies to stop the incoming blow, usually mere inches away from ourselves instead of feet. Why block in so close you say? Several reasons really, first, is the extreme conservation of energy on our part. The need to conserve energy through out the long day of battle is absolutely required, for a tired knight is a dead knight. Battles for a knight many times lasted hours not minutes as in a more traditional martial environment. Moving merely inches is way more conservative in energy expenditure than feet. The use of heavy armor also makes the need to extend beyond our blocking area a wasted exercise if all we have to do is scrub off enough energy from the incoming blow to be ineffective. With the use of the zone concept, we also block by area as opposed to just the incoming weapon. With the limited vision of a helmet, one many times only gets to glimpse the incoming motion, so we block an entire sector of our zone, not just aiming for the incoming blow. This technique also allows a more effective way to track a feint or other deceptive move. Second, the need for a lightning fast, extremely powerful counter or return blow. If one blocks a blow from 2 feet from their body, you must first recoil or wind up back close to your body for the return, but if one is already close to the body, proper technique will allow a full power return blow almost instantly. This kind of return is also inherently difficult to block because the opponent is currently extended in their attack and you are controlling their extended weapon. There you go, powerful, potentially one shot kills with minimal energy expenditure, and already set-up for the next opponent.
The Gothic Arms technique also allows for a much closer range fight. Most martial arts sword styles range between opponents is usually anywhere from four to eight feet in separation and rarely closer than three feet except for the momentary contact of the blow, but Gothic Arms can be as close as only a few inches and still generate full power. But don't let the fact that we fight in close to think that we don't fight at range. A practitioner of Gothic Arms functional range for a hand-held weapon is effectively from twenty feet to touching the opponent and sometimes much longer depending upon the size of the practitioner and the size of the weapon. That is without having to run at the opponent, simply using range control techniques to command the fight. We also use our armor to its' full extent. Many styles try to avoid getting hit at all because they either don't have armor or their armor is very light, but with our armor being heavy and designed to take some severe punishment, we will allow our armor to take or redirect the hits to our advantage. We will move our bodies to change the mechanics of the incoming blows to allow the armor to do what it can do or to even control the opponent's weapon. Full plate armor will comfortably stop all but the most powerful of blows, so if you scrub off the energy by placement manipulation, even the most powerful strikes are relegated to just scratches on the armor. Gothic Arms teaches these techniques. Gothic Arms is not just the skill with a long-sword, it is the skill set of a knight. The knight learns how to use axes, maces, flails, knives, daggers, swords of all kinds from short-sword to great-sword and everything in between. Shield use, pole-arms, battlefield maneuvers, handling troops, archery, siege warfare and obviously the knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of armor.
The other unique thing about the Gothic Arms style is that each weapon type is NOT a new technique. In most Asian martial arts styles or most any martial arts style period, each weapon is a distinct discipline and technique. In Gothic Arms, we use essentially the very same technique for all of our fixed, non-flexible weapons. The style adapts from daggers to swords, axes, maces and hammers, all very easily and to pole-arms with only minor modifications to the primary techniques. This also allows the practitioner the easy pick-up and mastery of weapons they have never handled before, right on the battlefield if necessary. With flexible weapons like the flail, the defensive and offensive positions still apply, just learning the dynamics of a moving flexible weapon is all that is needed. Learning the initial technique of Gothic Arms is much more demanding than learning just one weapon at a time like most traditional martial arts styles but once you have the basics of the zone system, you can pick-up most any weapon and be reasonably competent right from the opening gate.
To give one an idea of the initial complexity of the style, it has thirty basic blocks and six basic thrust redirection techniques just for primary defense alone. One must master these moves just to pass the apprentice test for blocks. There are also at least two returns for each block, so the knowledge base and learning curve for the beginner can be quite steep, but the adaptability of the style once learned is remarkable.
Gothic Arms unlike many of today's martial arts is not a life style or ideology, it is a skill set for a particular war environment. We do not have the cultural mysticism of Kung Fu, the Samurai code of Karate or the driven attitude of Tae Kwon Do, but what we do have is a towering level of discipline and effective honor that the Samurai themselves could appreciate. Practitioners of Gothic Arms are encouraged to behave with the honor and courtesies of the Knights Code but as pointed out earlier, Gothic Arms is not a life style. Just like being a soldier is not just about shooting a gun, marksmanship is just a skill set for the greater being of a soldier. In all of life, one is responsible for all of ones actions, be honorable in all that you do.
We hope that this little introduction into the world of Gothic Arms is enlightening and encourage the historian or would be practitioner to delve much deeper into the practicalities of the ancient world. In all of our practices, the more we learn, the more we learn that we know very little, but one thing that has stood out repeatedly in the use of this style is that form always follows function. Gothic Arms has almost no flash or grace to it, but follows one thing consistently, survive and win the fight. All motions and form in this style are based on function and function alone, no wasted energy, no extra flash, no extra intimidation tactics, no extra emotion, just the job. If one looks at Olympic level runners, they work excessively on the perfect efficient motion for each and every stride, even if they are sprinters. They do just the job of running, just as fast as humanly possible.
We will certainly entertain worthwhile correspondence with most anyone, but we will not respond to people continuing the never ending and many times rude debate of who's style is better. Each martial arts style came into being because of various physical, cultural and technological environments of their times. If one really wants to get down to it, it really is about the individual and not necessarily the style for a really good street fighter will usually win in a bout with a brand new black belt and a first year Judo practitioner will mop the floor with the gutter punk. It really is about the individual and does the style fit that person. What ever martial art you decide to get into, the one question that you must answer is this, is this style right for me and am I right for this style? If you can answer yes to both questions, you are on the right path. You will do well.