An unfortunate phenomenon is apparent in some ‘self-defence’ programs which derive from martial arts which were invented for different purposes, such as for a sporting environment.

Others, potentially older systems, derive the basis for their teachings largely down to what has been inherited, not upon a credible, examined and tested set of behaviours. As Perrigard mentioned (1943, viii) “Many of the present methods are incommensurate with the needs. Often old smug institutionalised methods of instruction have adherents, generally of the gerontocracy class, whose sclerosed intellect eclipses their vision. They become negationists, refusing to abrogate out-moded customs.”

As such, the teaching of effective and logical Combat systems should be at the forefront of modern teaching of self-defence. It is the moral responsibility of all self-defence instructors to teach Combat Systems based upon the most up-to-date scientific knowledge. As Perrigard continues (1943, xi), “All knowledge is not new, but much quietly becomes obsolescent. It is high time that all these old miscellaneous bits of teaching were objectively evaluated, and the few effective methods incorporated into one master programme for teaching all-out hand-to-hand fighting methods.”

Studies of aggression have been made quite widely among animals, but the true value of such study is only recognised when findings aid in the interactions between human beings. John Archer has spent significant effort in drawing correlates between the psychology and behaviour of animal aggression, and it’s meaning towards understanding human aggression. Other scholars have also studied aggression among adolescents, gender differences, psychological implications and particular social circumstances. The aggression studied ranges from passive, verbal to physical, but the dynamics and implications of what happens within the interaction of physical aggression is rarely considered academically. Such a study would require, not only a suitable knowledge of the studies mentioned above, but also the psychology of decision making, the axiology of decisions and behaviours (M Smith, Archer et al), a thorough understanding of the conditions of combat, including the risks (Applegate, MacYoung et al); and finally and most importantly perhaps, a grounding in the combat systems which already exist (as has been studied amongst Hoplologists; Draeger, Smith, Armstrong, Donohue et al). Moreover, an understanding of the effects of aggression upon the psychology and biochemistry of those involved is also very important (Sorenson, Grossman et al). The overlay of these studies onto martial arts practice is an important part of reform.

The Collins English Dictionary (2003) allows us a suitable definition:

reform [rɪˈfɔːm] noun

  1. an improvement or change for the better, esp as a result of correction of legal or political abuses or malpractices
  2. a principle, campaign, or measure aimed at achieving such change
  3. improvement of morals or behaviour, esp by giving up some vice

As Mangan & Fan Hong (2003, 202) mention, although a general reformation of martial arts practices did occur, it only happened amongst a fairly marginalised group around the 1920’s. Notable scholars and reformists of this period, influenced by the practices and philosophies of modern sports included Zhang Zijiang (1882-1969), Wang Ziping (1887-1937) and Tang Hao (1897-1959) who placed the foundations to the JingWu Tiyuhui (Chinese Martial Sports Society) in 1910.  By 1929, it had 57 branches and 400,000 members, their slogan was highly reformist “Reform traditional martial arts with modern sciences and use them to build strong bodies for China”. The influence of the slogan was far reaching, prompting “Father of the Republic” Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925) to comment that he hoped the “spirit of JingWu” would spread across China. In 1915, the Beijing Sports Society petitioned the Education Minitry to add martial arts to every primary and middle school curricula, stating that it should be granted equal status with gymnastics and other sports. By 1932, the only martial art practiced widely in these schools was Taijichao, a slow-movement gymnastics version of Taijiquan.

Xie Shiyan who had been educated in Japan, and was professor at Beijing Normal University, writing on 17th August 1939 published an article in Tiyu Zhoubao (Sports Weekly) prompting the importance of reform:

There are no national boundaries in culture, let alone in physical education. If the ideas and practices of physical education are good for people, we should adopt them no matter if they are foreign or native … With regard to martial arts we have to exam them with scientific eyes. They contain feudal elements and should be reformed according to modern physiology, psychology, education and sports scientific methods.

Combining all of these applicable studies allows us to understand the complexities of combat, from the physical dimension and it’s influence upon functional actions in fighting. The combination of all these aspects is what we have called “Eskirmology” which literally means “Science of Fighting”.


A. Mangan, Fan Hong (2003); Sport in Asian society:past and present, Routledge.

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