Usage and History
Unarmed combat is a vital part of any martial arts system and this was no different in Medieval Europe. Fighting unarmed is something that almost every person in the middle ages would have some experience with, but only warriors and knights had the time to perfect the techniques. Unarmed combat was part of the training for any swordsman and continued to be important with rapier combat during the Renaissance.
While Sword Academy stresses armed combat; just like the historical masters we also study accurate unarmed combat. While it is not usually associated with European fighting styles, there is extensive documentation in many of the manuals we study.
Being trained in unarmed combat is of great value because once you have closed inside the range of your weapon or if a weapon is unavailable, it is still necessary to be able to attack and defend. Skill in unarmed combat also allows a combatant to see openings that would otherwise be missed. Knowing when to throw a punch, kick a leg or step in and throw an opponent to the ground is valuable even when fighting armed. Because of the nature of Medieval combat most of the unarmed techniques are designed to cause debilitating injuries and differ from modern submission wrestling.
Unarmed combat was also conducted while wearing full plate armor. Wrestling in armor can often cause more damage to an opponent than most weapons because of the protection armor provides. Joints can be manipulated and twisted and the protruding edges of armor plates can be hooked and locked to perform devastating throws.
Another form of combat that is similar to unarmed is dagger fighting. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance it was common for people to carry daggers with them and when fights broke out it was necessary to be able to fight with them and against them.