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- "If it's natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?"
- –Joan Baez
- "Those who in quarrels interpose, must often wipe a bloody nose."
- –John Gay
Historical Context Edit
Military training isn’t just about getting teenagers to keep step so they don’t trip over each other, or to all point their spears in the same direction so they don’t stab each other; military training includes getting them to follow orders (even senseless ones), to get and stay fit, and to kill (preferably without being killed, but that’s of secondary importance).
In militant civilizations, such as the Spartan and the Zulu, compulsory state-sponsored military training started in early childhood. In Sparta, the education system – the Agoge – emphasized obedience, endurance, courage, and self-control … and that loyalty to the state came ahead of all other concerns. By contrast, the goal of the Athenian education system was to produce thinkers trained in the arts and sciences, although prepared for war; young boys learned calisthenics and ball games, while older boys practiced ever more militaristic activities such as running, boxing, and wrestling.
Vegetius states that the Romans trained first for marching and fitness before even being allowed to train with weapons. Initially the new soldiers used wicker shields and wooden weapons, then graduated to the gladius, and finally were taught to use the pilum. So important was training for the imperial army that roofed halls were built for drill and sparring so these could continue even in winter. Far to the east in China, the military was – with the exception of a few professionals – made up of conscripts levied from the masses; although specifics varied from dynasty to dynasty, in general those in the Xianzu (reserves) were forcefully enrolled for a short stint of military training at the age of 20.
In feudal Japan those of the samurai class were born into austere lives of brutal training and conditioning. Although training regimes differed as much as the samurai themselves, some tenets remained constant throughout Japanese history: mental preparation, physical training, personal fortitude, along with unarmed and armed combat techniques. It is an ideal of military training still emulated around the world.