Victorian Europe

The victorian period saw a great resurgence in sportive martial arts across Europe. Polite society still regarded boxing and wrestling as brutal sports of the lower classes - and indeed these activities were extremely popular with those classes. This "lower-class" nature didn't stop the posh from sponsoring fighters, attending fights, and wagering recklessly large amounts of money, though; it simply kept them from participating.

As for armed martial arts, the period witnessed the development of sport quarterstaff forms (using a far shorter staff than the medieval version) and the widespread practice of singlestick (stickfighting based on broadsword combat). With dueling outlawed and combative fencing no longer acceptable to settle scores, sport fencing began to surge in popularity. New weapons and rules appeared to make fencing safer, shifting the emphasis to technique and sportsmanship.

This renaissance had some unfortunate consequences for martial-arts history, though. The writings of Victorian historians and fencing enthusiasts alike painted fencing as the pinnacle of swordfighting evolution. This myopic viewpoint helped generate the myth that knights were unskilled thugs when compared to skilled, elegant fencers - an error that would poison histories of the European martial arts until the present day.

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