Recently I was at a "Jogo do Pau" demonstration, and during the introduction it was said to be the only historic European martial art that kept being practiced until the present day.

It was at risk during the 20th century, probably because younger people preferred to live in urban areas and lost interest in it, but it kept being practiced by some people.

This opposes to historic European martial arts in general, that stopped being practiced a long time ago, and are in the process of being reconstructed from the few available historic documents.

I wonder is the statement about "Jogo do Pau" is accurate, or are there examples of other European historic practices that were kept alive until today.

  • 1
    Base forms of Boxing can be traced back to Ancient Greece (and even a couple of millennia earlier in the middle east). As with most arts it has evolved and modernised somewhat... Are you looking for arts that have not evolved? (boxing certainly seems to counter the statement)
    – Collett89
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 8:54
  • Maybe the person stating this was thinking of weapon practices (since HEMA is usually associated with sword fighting) - in that context, would the statement hold? Is there any more restricted sense in which the statement could be true? Commented May 23, 2018 at 10:11
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    Quaterstaves and fencing both use weapons and have manuals still in used written in the XV century. There is no way, shape, or form that this statement is valid. Unless you redefine word meanings… Commented May 23, 2018 at 12:04

2 Answers 2


NO, not even if one is being charitable.

Unarmed, we have Greek wrestling was a popular form of martial art, at least in Ancient Greece (about 1100 to 146 BC). and Glima, as pointed out by alex3wielki here is another one from the cold north of Europe and dates from Viking Age (793–1066 AD).

With weapons, we have fencing still uses manuals that were written in the XV century. The Quaterstaff is still used by martial artist and has manuals dating back from the XV century.

Therefore, Jogo do Pau is most certainly not the only European historical martial art in any shape or form. I suspect some clever marketing ploy or just a redefinition of terms that excludes everything else because it's not Jogo do Pau…

  • I take this as settled. I can see what the person doing the presentation meant, but the statement was bold to say the least, even if we limit teh scope to weapon practices. To be minimally accurate he could have said "one of the few" rather than "the only". I also challenge that "Jogo do Pau" can be considered a martial art, but that is another story. Commented May 24, 2018 at 8:44
  • It is a hyperbole commonly used in marital arts to show a mix of superiority and purity over others. We see it in Aikido all the time… Commented May 24, 2018 at 8:59

If we're talking about sword-fighting, there are a lot of historical reconstruction groups. A link to a Tournament of Warriors held in Lithuania. https://youtu.be/pZH74NSmpfM

And there is Glima. A grappling martial arts supposedly used by the vikings. More info here. Link to a championship video here

Our historical martial arts are not as famous as the Eastern ones, but there are still some alive.

Also, there still is an Olympic competition of wrestling. Check here.

I'm sure there are more examples but to answer your question. No, Jogo do Pau is not the only historical European martial art still alive.

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