Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Wallerstein Codex: A Distinct Tradition?


The Wallerstein Codex has been argued to be of a distinct “tradition” or “style” from that of Master Leichtenauer (and the rest of Europe, depending on your point of view). This is a nearly inarguable assertion in that the Codex has no identifiable tradition because it contains almost no “foundational” techniques by way of comparison to the majority of other personal martial art works of the time. The hypothesis is based not on evidence, but a lack of evidence; a negative. In fact, many (but not all) of what could be considered foundational concepts and techniques are glaringly absent, making it apparent that they were intentionally left out, and that the unfinished book was designed around supplementary techniques (perhaps its intended selling point, were it ever marketed in its day). That is, unless you think that the Codex is full of the foundational techniques of yet another decisively different “style,” in which case I’d say that more work needs to be done before positing public theories on the basis and origin of combat methodologies. The techniques contained within the Codex are obviously peripheral and supplemental, as opposed to any traditional basis of a martial art. But given this, and the fact that there is no real demonstrated overall “tradition” from the Germanic lands outside that often attributed to Leichtenauer, it seems a rather naïve argument. In fact, it seems all the more naïve in that there is apparently no distinct tradition to the Art of the Longsword but a European one. The book is arguably several efforts condensed into one volume, and like most such books, contains many techniques found in others throughout Europe (along with identical weaponry), alongside a few found nowhere else.
On another point, a "style" can hardly be discerned from dead pages, as a chosen, written selection and type of presentation leaves reality only to the imagination. A "tradition" is more arguable. In either case, an ancient and dead art is hard to discern as it will never be seen as it was.
In light of all this, the Wallerstein Codex sheds some light on just how large and sophisticated the Art of Fighting was in Europe at the time, being a listing of so many peripheral techniques often left out, in whole or in part, from the “core” books of the day. It is a distinct and outstanding supplemental perspective to the fighting arts of Europe at the time, and likewise an asset to the modern practitioner.

-C

Copyright Aug 2009, Casper Bradak

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