Book Review:
English Martial Arts by Terry Brown

Journal of Western Martial Art

English Martial Arts
ISBN 1-898281-18-1
Terry Brown
Anglo Saxon Books @1997

Review By Edward Chart

Terry Brown's book English Martial Arts provides the reader with a window into the little known history of English martial arts.  First published in 1997, this book capitalizes on a growing interest in resurrecting ancient European martial arts in the West, a trend which has been on the rise over the last decade.  The reason for this developing trend is debatable, however a consistent view point which is shared by English Martial Artsmany practitioners, is the desire to give European martial arts the respectability that is currently enjoyed by their eastern contemporaries.  It is also significant to note that many of these re-creators are themselves students of eastern martial arts.  By far, however, it is the relative wealth of traditional texts and treaties on the subject of European martial arts which are now coming to light, that has provided the seeds which are now allowing people to rediscover these ancient methods.

 As a basis from which to begin a study of the English martial arts tradition, Terry Browns book is a ground breaking work.  The overall impression is one of  a well thought out essay on the history and traditions of the English Masters of Defense.  The language and structure make for an easy and engaging read, with plenty of  references listed in the appendix to satisfy even the most curious reader.  The book can be divided into two main sections, the first of which covers the history English Martial Arts and its most common weapons, while the second deals with a photographic depiction of various techniques for using the broadsword, sword&dagger, sword&dagger vs sword&shield, the bill, bare-fist fighting and various stances.

 Both sections are well written and well laid out, the historical section is quite engaging, with many anecdotal accounts drawn from the old Masters, as well as bloody accounts of their prize fighting.  The pictorial sequences detailing the recovered techniques of the Masters are very well done.  The sequential progression of the shots allows the reader to clearly follow the application of each of the techniques, while the diversity of weapons illustrated should give the reader a sense of how diverse the Science of Defense was.  By far the most engaging chapter in this book is aptly named Words of Wisdom, which will be thought provoking to any martial artist wether they be eastern or western in origin.

 As with all books as ambitious as this one, there are bound to be some weak points.  This work is no exception, and it is the absence of citations within the text to support Mr. Browns factual statements and anecdotal accounts that presents the biggest problem.  The most notable of these absences is the lack of any discussion about where the weapon techniques represented in this book are drawn from. This leaves the reader a little lost.  Overall, however, this book is quite good and it easily rises above its weakness.  I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Western Martial Arts traditions.

Journal of Western Martial Art