To help those who are unaccustomed with research methods and how to approach the source material I have here written down some example types of questions that I personally would use when setting up a new research project. The types of questions work with most topics, but are here specifically posed on the topic of Close Combat.
- What material have other researchers published on the topic?
- Under what circumstances do you enter into close combat?
- When should you avoid it?
- How do you do enter close combat?
- Is it used differently in different contexts (weapons, social contexts, time periods, self-defense, war, for fun)
- What techniques are used?
- How do you act offensively in close combat?
- How do you act defensively in close combat?
- What principles are those techniques based on?
- Can the various techniques be grouped together according to those principles, circumstances or contexts?
- How do you exit close combat?
- How does the treatise you have chosen to examine relate to the teachings in other treatises?
- Do other treatises teach other ways of doing the above, working with different principles and techniques?
When you have begun finding some of the answers to such questions, then you can start posing one or several hypotheses, i.e. provisionary explanations or ideas, that later will form your thesis, the main point of your theory; which is your more complete explanation for a phenomenon, such as one examplified here with the topic of close combat.
To find answers to all these questions we need to use different tools. Here and now I won't go into how to actually validate your hypothesis other than saying that it requires actual aggressive sparring with a resisting opponent in as close conditions as is possible with a reasonably maintained level of safety.
Some of the resources I use regularly are the following:
So how do you find the answers to these questions then? Books are of course the old, traditional way and while it can be seen as slow, it has one thing that speaks for it; quality control. The simple fact that it has been published means it has passed some form of screening before being published. However, this factor is somewhat diminished by the fact that our research progresses so quickly that a book only five years old is often quite outdated. Also, the fact that a book is published isn't a guarantee for neither quality nor correctness, since the publisher naturally give more respect to already published researchers, than new unpublished ones. The content is less relevant than the likelihood of selling more copies. Adding to that, the formal academic world usually has little knowledge or understanding of actual use of arms and armour etc, as displayed in the sources we study.
Still, I am personally often surprised reading books that are even 10 years old, discovering answers to questions we have been looking for for some time, here explained by the first generation of modern HEMA researchers. Not to mention what we can find in the books of the HEMA Pioneers of the 19th cent. There is a bit of disconnect in the research community and a lot of work is done over and over again. With that in mind, reading already published HEMA books is a basic requirement.
A fairly comprehensive of the published books can be found on this site here: Printed Books.
There are plenty of good people and researchers willing to help and give advise out there. Look them up on forums and they will respond. Sometimes you may risk taking a beating for ideas they think are wrong, but stand your ground and instead try to prove your hypothesis and the other guys wrong. Use any possible conflict as fuel to keep you going when research is slow and frustrating...
Also, it is a good idea to search the forums for the topics you wish to research, as many things may well have been discussed in depth many times even.
This is an incredible resource that just keeps on getting better as more and more people join forces. Quality of translations can shift a bit and you need to be careful, but that is true for any source and translations in particular. If possible compare different versions and try to learn to read the texts in their original language. Once you have built a basic vocabulary of specific terms it won't be as difficult.
Make keyword searches so you can cross-reference different sources. This is one of Wiktenauer's greatest strength and invaluable for the larger groups of fencing treatises, like e.g. the Liechtenauer derived treatises, but not as apparent for the English, French or Italian treatises.
Keep in mind that there were no spelling rules up until the 19th century and at times being able to spell a word in many different ways was even considered a sign of a creative and intelligen mind. So, look through texts for different spellings of your keywords and list them so you can make proper extensive searches.
As you are here, you are of course already somewhat familiar with the site. Here to you can make keyword searches to cross-reference other people's articles on your topic of study. They are also filtered into different categories in the menu system.
This site also has more advise on how to research and write as can be seen in the main menu and the menu on the right, and as Chief Editor I will personally assist you in your writing if you wish.
Another incredible resource. Again you can make keyword searches, with various spellings, but also filter the results by time, going all the way back to the 15th century and have the original scanned documents displayed, but searchable. Many of the articles I am the most pleased with have used this extensively.
This very useful resource sometimes holds great material, with research of formal academics, but also other material available through Google Books.
Espresso. Several pots of espresso. It is the secret that drives the majority of the HEMA Research community. Apart from the odd Brits that somehow manage to avoid falling asleep from drinking that odd brew made from boiling various leaves and fruit peel.
Best of luck in your research, and remember to never hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need assistance in your research or writing!
Chief Editor and Responsible Publisher of HROARR
Research sites, books etc