Closed Source HEMA

After writing my post on Open Source HEMA I remembered the discussions about the ARMA’s new Krumphau interpretation. To summarise, an ARMA member stated there was a new and improved version of the Krumphau being proliferated in the organisation, but was not at liberty to divulge it to the general public under request from the interpretation’s creator. Now this caused some consternation amongst certain people. The HEMA community has had it quite good in terms of public release of information, and the revelation that someone is keeping something secret can cause people to feel ostracised.

So are people morally obliged to share their research? Of course not, I find such a notion ridiculous. Would they benefit from sharing? My post on ‘Open Source HEMA’ made a case that it would, but when is something really closed, and what are disadvantages to sharing?

Whilst having released a massive amount of information into the public sphere, the ARMA is keeping some of their interpretations secret. Fair enough, say I, I’m certainly interested in what they have, but I’m not going to throw a tantrum if they don’t tell me. Does this make their interpretation at risk of being weakened by no open testing? Perhaps, but look at the membership numbers of the ARMA- They have several hundred members to test an interpretation on. So even if it is ‘Closed Source HEMA’, they may produce more robust interpretations than a small amateur community using ‘Open Source HEMA’.

So what benefits does a group or person get from withholding an interpretation or information? We don’t fight with swords anymore, so it’s not self-preservation. I don’t believe it can primarily be for money or employment, as whilst there are some teaching full-time, HEMA isn’t at a ‘big-bucks’ level (yet). So it has to be prestige. People don’t want their interpretations, which were developed through long hours of sweat and study, to be stolen or claimed by others. A way to ensure credit is to publish first, which takes time. Hiding your methods from outsiders can also help you win things like tournaments (assuming your methods are good), gaining you or your group prestige. Prestige can potentially lead to more members and even free trips overseas to teach. Finally, those teaching full-time, may feel an obligation to their paying customers not to share their methods with the non-paying public.

Groups and scholars with a solid foundation in martial arts and scholarly study can get away with being closed off to a degree. They have sweated and studied for many years and many have shared their ideas in closed ‘skilled’ HEMA circles, which can more beneficial due to the higher level of feedback compared with an assortment of youtube style comments you may get from the public. I do not, however, think ‘Ronnie the Re-enactor’, who has been studying ‘Talhoofner’ whilst eating his daily fat burger, could get away with creating an effective fighting art without outside help.  So in conclusion, I still think an interpretation will benefit from being proliferated as much as possible, but I understand why some may choose not to do so.

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~ by Magnus on 24 October, 2008.

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