I think, if I had spent a little longer thinking about the consequences, I would have seen all of this coming and I would have avoided it. I made the mistake of writing in haste, and with a level of casual criticism that is beneath me. But, like I told the offended authors, I wrote only because I actually care about their work. If I didn’t I would have ignored them from the start. I think I have patched things up, but I did get my name dragged through some mud and that was unexpected, even if I started it. I am aware that there is a deep vein of conflict in the non-academic community of historical martial arts. I did not know its full depths or how nasty they can be to each other. That was turned on me this weekend and it was not pleasant. There were entirely valid counterpoints to my review, counters to criticism I levelled without sufficient support. I’m not used to counters written with that level of invective (although I admit an admiration for their rhetorical flair. I did call them careless with sources, I didn’t and won’t call them poor writers).
The ICMS (k-zoo for short) is a very interdisciplinary conference and what’s more, it welcomes a large number of non-academics and ‘independent researchers’ who attend sessions and present papers. K-zoo is filled with a heady mix of traditional historians interested in the great men and important events of the past, social historians who dabble in anthropology, specialists in archeology, classics, material studies, along with literary scholars, philosophers, engineers, and monks. Yes, monks (and nuns to).
Bartolus de Saxoferrato (1313-1357) a Bolognese jurist, constructed one of the more ingenious arguments for special legal and social privileges for academics. The legal codes of Justinian defined the athletic hero as one who survived “at least three trials of courage in competition.”* Bartolus reasoned that the heroic trials of the academic began during the student years with constant testing by the Masters. The second trial took the form of the private disputation — the equivalent of the thesis defence. The final trial was the public disputation under the scrutiny of the University and the academic public. We might understand this now as the conference paper. Bartolus went further than the Roman legal precedent and claimed that his contemporary academic trials were the same, conceptually, as the joust and deeds of arms that defined the martial elites.