Ancient Combat Techniques of the Past You Won’t Believe

As they say, “All is fair in love and war,” something the warriors and soldiers of the past seemed to have ingrained in their hearts long before rules and guidelines for warfare became a thing with the Geneva and Hague Conventions. In the past, it was just a lawless open world where anything was possible. The result has been some of the most unconventional, amazing and sometimes unbelievable fighting techniques. Winning is the name of the game, whatever the cost.

Pretending to be a cow

What are you willing to do to ensure the success of your plan to take over a castle?

It was during the First War of Scottish Independence against the English. By this time the Scots had successfully taken most but a few of the castles from the English. One of these was the fortress of Roxburgh, which was a key strategic fortress in a highly defensible position; A conventional siege proved useless to capture it. On February 19, 1313, Robert the Bruce’s first lieutenant, The Black Douglas, arrived and staged a rather unconventional attack on the seemingly formidable castle. his idea? Disguise yourself as a cow.

The ruins of the famous Roxburgh Castle, a favorite of Scottish kings, sit on a massive grassy hill between the Rivers Tweed and Teviot. Painter: EW Haslehust

The plan was to attack Mardi Gras, which was a Roman Catholic holiday “celebrated with much merriment and revelry.” The Black Douglas dressed 60 of his men in black cloaks and stood them on all fours around the castle to appear like cattle grazing in the fields. Even more convincing when they practiced mooing. However, while the English were busy with their feast, probably while feeling grateful for the plentiful food and cattle outside, the Scots began using their rope ladders attached to the ends of extra-long spears. They attached these ladders to the battlements, and it was only when one of the garrison members came out that he found that the cows were at the top of the ladder. He was quickly killed by Dirk and then his body was dragged over the castle wall.

Soon the castle was overrun by the Scots and the English governor locked himself in Donjeon’s main tower. He later had to surrender because he was badly wounded by an arrow and they wanted to return to England.

After the English were eliminated, Robert the Bruce ordered the fortifications demolished as he did most castles. The remains of the castle can still be found on the banks of the River Tweed.

Pankration, fight without borders

Pankration was an ancient Greek martial art that literally means “all power,” which pretty much tells you the principle behind it. Imagine boxing or wrestling, only you could bite your enemy’s nose or maybe gouge their eyes out if you felt like doing so would win you. As if that wasn’t brutal enough, attacking the enemy’s genitals and strangling them were also perfectly legal. It was pretty much expected as it was part of the ideal way of training soldiers.

The Battle of Thermopylae Engraving
The Battle of Thermopylae Engraving. (Abbott, Jacob, 1803-1879, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Spartans are said to have been well trained in the Pankration. In their final stand at Thermopylae, they reportedly used pankration abilities after losing their weapons. The Spartans fought with bare hands, feet, nails and teeth to kill as many Persians as possible before dying to the last man.

Bringing an oar into a sword fight

Duel between Miyamoto Musashi vs. Sasaki Kojiro. (Yoshifusa Utagawa (active ca. 1840-1860), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1612, on the island of Ganryu, a small town in the strait between Honshu and Kyushu, the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi was due to duel a skilled opponent in a sword fight. Mushashi himself was a legend, having killed his first opponent at the age of 13 and fought a total of 60 duels in which he was victorious. Now it’s important to note that Musashi was known to have dedicated his entire life to the way of the sword. He is said to have refused to even climb into a bathtub because he couldn’t go unarmed for even a moment.

His opponent Sasaki Kojiro was no stumbling block, he was a martial arts teacher to the Shogun of Japan and was very much feared and respected as a swordsman. His advantage was making his own swords a few inches longer than standard swords, giving him a range advantage over his opponents. Mushashi was aware of this and how dangerous it was in a sword fight, although he knew he could neither afford nor have the time to create a new sword that could match Kojiro’s range. On the day of the duel, Musashi took his time carving a makeshift sword out of one of the boat’s oars that would row him to the island, being careful to make it longer than he expected for Kajiro’s sword, and so came about several hours late. His opponent, Sasaki Kojiro, was understandably upset that he had to wait, and he threw his sword scabbard aside to show his anger and that he meant business. Kojiro was the perfect samurai in looks and demeanor, and wore his finest attire for the duel should he be killed. That way he could be buried looking his best. Mushashi was practically a beggar by comparison, appearing in dirty rags as if he knew he would not be buried that day.

Musashi was serious too. By angering his opponent, he probably expected to gain an advantage, since he expected his opponent’s anger to make him careless. He took his wooden rudder of a sword and the two attacked each other twice. Mushashi’s longer oaken sword worked, Kojiro’s first fleeing blow cut no further than Musashi’s headband, while Mushashi’s blow slashed Kirjiro’s head. In the second attack, Kajiro’s punch again sliced ​​through Mushashi’s clothing without hurting him, while Mushashi’s punch slashed Kajiro’s throat, killing him.

Mushashi’s most famous duel was defeating the shogun’s personal martial arts instructor, who was armed with a makeshift wooden sword, and would probably make anyone think twice about challenging him to one-on-one.

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