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Παρασκευή 21 Ιουνίου 2013

The "Horse's smile" and the training of the Warrior

"Rememberyou will fight as you train!" 

   General William F. DePuy, 1st Commander of U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine    
   Command (TRADOC)

These words of General DePuy are the basic axiom when training professional Military Units. They have been instilled in every one of their fighters, thus demonstrating that these Military Units take very seriously the physical /psychological preparation of their members before their involvement in action.

Every Warrior is obliged to maintain his fighting abilities to the highest (possible) standard through realistic training, so that when he will face the enemy he will (hopefully) survive and perform his duty.

Every Commander of a Military Unit (that respects itself) must promote and reward the realistic training and behaviors that relate to it. Non-realistic training or behaviors that that negate it are dangerous and must be immediately dealt-with by the Instructors. Commanders and Instructors that allow behaviors that obstruct or negate realistic training are also dangerous and must be immediately removed.

“KORYVANTES” is NOT a military unit, nor a Martial Arts School. We do not claim to be creators of Warriors as this is the duty of State Armies and not the job of every fetishist who likes “play soldier”.  “KORYVANTES” is a Living History Association that studies, promotes, and has presented - in the highest possible historical accuracy and success - in two Archaeological Festivals (Poland 2011, France 2012) and multiple Academic events, the Greek Hoplite Warfare (Archaic and Classical period).

The historically accurate reconstruction of a battle scene in an Archaeological Festival is not War. He, who claims that events like modern kurultai are real battles, targets people of low intelligence. And to cut a long story short, we simply mention that if a modern kurultai was a war zone everyone there would move under cover…

If someone wants to live the excitement of war he might like to visit Syria or visit war torn Africa. Everything else is a Cultural/Archaeological Festival or a sports contest. The Modern Warrior is the one who knows to operate a laser targeting system to guide a laser bomb to its target and not a person wearing an ancient type cuirass and holding a shield.

Even if it’s not a War zone, an Archaeological Festival is a very complex environment in which we must operate with ABSOLUTE safety, not only for our members but for the spectators also. During a demonstration, complex drills are performed by a group or groups of armed men, with limited field of view and even more limited hearing due to enclose helmets usage. Even more bowshots, close combat weapons usage and the emotional burden tale their toll. Usually demonstrations are held close to the spectators (with children among them) and sometimes with no protective barriers. Our enemies are inaccuracy, bad taste and accidents from negligence.

This environment becomes even more complex as the demonstration team is usually composed from individuals with different profiles, experiences and levels of knowledge. In example in the same team may co-exist Martial Arts Instructors, Police / Military Personnel, also persons whose work does not allow them continual and professional level martial training. It’s definitely not a homogeneous team.

We have decided that persons who participate in our demonstrations must have at least done some form of National Service even as conscript soldiers. Our member's experience from their Service is then used by our Association as a building block, so more level of knowledge and skill can be added. In order to train our members in the context of our Association’s activities we have adopted the basic axiom of General DePuy, so to achieve the maximum historical accuracy in re-enacting ancient warfare and of course to avoid accidents.

That practically means that training includes simulation of the demonstration with gradual increasing intensity. In the last stages of the training weapon practice is also included. During training sessions, behaviors that obstruct or negate realistic training are strictly prohibited.

Individuals who carry and use weapons, without proper discipline are immediately banned from the Association. Trainees must have completed their National Service (in Greece is compulsory). Deserters have no place in the Association. People who are not psychologically ready to spent a time with limited freedoms (at least as they are perceived in the modern society) are totally unfit for every activity that demands the subjugation of individual will for the benefit of a team effort.

In conclusion the success of the Association comes from the fact that we treat our public demonstrations with the seriousness required for a military operation.

The training of the Warrior /Fighter

The most important parameter of the proverb "Remember, you will fight as you train!" is that realistic training is more than just simulating the operational environment. Realistic training must also simulate the psychology of the Warrior/Fighter during the operation. Its relatively easy to simulate the environment but extremely difficult to bring the trainee in a psychological condition as close as this of combat stress.

How do the above relate to the title of this article? They relate with the tendency of some trainees to smile during a training session. They also relate with the dangerous attitude of some “instructors” to reward these attitudes instead of dealing with it.

What is the “horse’s smile”?

It’s a derogatory phrase used in the sectors of Sales and Business Administration in order to describe the image of professional Salesmen and Executives who always appear with a big smile and their “white teeth” in common view.

It’s the smile we all know from commercials and it’s an important marketing tool. It works subconsciously with the consumer as (its believed) it transmits dynamism, faith, intention, health, appetite for work and promise for success. It brings to the consumer the message of: “I am the one you can trust… my product will cover all your needs... consider the job already done…” It persuades the buyer to buy toothpaste, diapers, soap, home, people, hopes…

The “horse’s smile” is almost mark of identity for the above-mentioned professions. Probably comes from the dark past where the slaves showed their teeth to their masters to demonstrate all the above: dynamism, faith, intention, health, appetite for work and promise to carry out their assigned duties.

Its worth noting that you will rarely (to never…) you will see this smile in recruiting posters or members of Professional Armies. This smile does not exist in the face of a military man in a war zone. This smile does not fit with a Martial Artist who will enter the ring. This smile has no place in a self-defense encounter or a battlefield. It’s not the characteristic of the light horseman scout.

Put it simply: If you go to battle with your (all white?) teeth in common view the less that will happen to you is not to have teeth after the battle… if you are so lucky and that is you only loss that is!

Of course you will find this smile in the faces of soldiers in propaganda posters or photos in the context of Psy-Ops ordered by the General Staff.

The warrior’s happy training…

So what the reason that Instructors and Martial Arts Trainees appear with the “horse’s smile”? Why some Instructors accept to show off their trainees by presenting them like… toothpaste salesmen?
  • Did the hoplites in the phalanx have this smile? Is it an accident that Ancient Art depicts smiling hoplites only in non-combat situations?
  • Did the aetoms of Delphoi and Parthenon depict smiling horsemen? The dying warrior from the Aphaia temple certainly does not smile.
  • Did the Mongol raiders of Tzengiz Chan smile? Contemporary art does not depict them as such.
  • Is there any military manual through the centuries that describes smiling as necessary element of military training? The works of Aeneias Tacticus and Onasander certainly do not mention it.

The final answer of these we leave it to the discretion of the reader…hoping not to hear that some people are training to repeat the heroism of Cynageiros in the Battle of Marathon -  the hero lost his head to a Persian axe and dead heroes are very poor substitute of living defenders!

As “KORYVANTES”, when we discover in our training sessions “happy trainees” we immediately remove them from the training ground and also relieve the Instructors from their duties.

Its widely known that some Martial Arts and reenactment Organizations consider “training with a smile” and advertise their happy trainee fighters (sic)

On seeing this phenomenon we “KORYVANTES” realize that these Instructors consider their “Martial Art” toothpaste, diaper or generally something to be sold – in the way set by TV commercials. They might want to persuade the viewer to buy their “product”. They consider their trainees as potential consumers of their “Martial Art” they aspire to. In no way they comprehend Military Training or have at least study a Military Manual.

Now if these “Instructors” consider themselves better than Onasander or Xenophon because with their contact with some magical art of Occult teachers (or steppe Shamans) what can we say…

To the “happy trainees” and future aspiring fighters of these schools we have only to advise that they will be very lucky if they only looser their teeth in their first encounter with a properly trained adversary.

To the high masters of ancient Martial Arts and leaders of happy-parade reenactors, we recommend http://www.barbie.com/ to be included in the chapter “Happy Training and Smiling Guide” of their training programs or monastery codes.

In the end we conclude (till evidence show otherwise) that the “horse’s smile” is not a Military Virtue or element of Military Training.

If of course a training manual that scientifically proves the opposite appears, we will gladly modify accordingly. (There is a chance that everything might be different according to the Greek Philosopher Aristotle)

Living History Association KORYVANTES.

P.S. We remind that:
  1. South African Special Forces Instructors stress to the trainees that: “the leopard shows its teeth only when attacking to kill the smiling chimpanzee”
  2. Drill Instructors worldwide deal with “smart ass” recruits with the phrase: “wipe that smile off your face or else I’ll do it!”


The Living history Association “KORYVANTES” is the carrier of the timeless (15th cent BC to 15th cent AD) tradition of Armored Greeks. It’s a tradition that is not related only with War as the heavy equipment was used by Traders, Diplomats, Priests and Leaders throughout centuries. The tradition of armor bearing Greeks is basic element of Hellenic Civilization, as the Tradition does not stop with the end of heavy armor usage during the 17th century, but has come to our days through the atavistic memory of the Greek Nation. As an example we mention the depiction of Alexander the Great from Theophilos and the religious images in the churches depicting Military Saints.

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