Episode 99: Frog DNA and Indonesia with Pradana

Episode 99: Frog DNA and Indonesia with Pradana

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Pradana Pandu Mahardhika lives in Bandung, Indonesia. He describes himself as a freelance translator/interpreter, amateur tailor, and professional procrastinator. In this episode we talk about how Pradana set up a historical martial arts club, Gwaith-i-Megyr, which was founded in 2016. He had been fencing as part of an informal group for a while, but when he decided to get some wooden swords made up, he found that the enthusiasm was really high, mainly from members of the Tolkien society. There are only three or four formal clubs in the whole of Indonesia, so it is still a small scene, and growth has of course been stalled by Covid.

We have an interesting chat about languages. Did you know the formal variety of Indonesian has no tenses? Pradana is fluent in four languages, but unfortunately he doesn’t have the knowledge of the Malay Arabic script that would enable him to translate some 16th century Malay sources on using arquebuses. If you have that skill, please get in touch!

More information on the Malay sources can be found here:

It turns out that the treatises aren’t available online, yet.

Pradana is also an archer and a tailor, with ambitions to become a pilot, so we talk about making medieval clothes and flying planes too. Here is a photo of Guy in his wedding suit which he had specially tailored to enable him to wear a sword.

Photo Credit: Georgia Bertazzi

Pradana’s blog on military history, fiction writing, historical fencing, and other unrelated subjects is at sillynewsboy.wordpress.com.


GW:  I'm here today with Pradana Pandu Mahardhika, author of the Gwaith-i-Megyr blog which makes historical martial arts accessible to Indonesian people with limited or no English skills. He is also an archer, tailor, and translator. So without further ado, Pradana, welcome to the show.


PPM:  Glad to be here to Guy. And just to clarify, it's not just a blog, it's actually the blog of the club and that kind of stuff.


GW:  OK, so my internet research skills have totally failed me again. Yes, it's the name of the club, right?


PPM: Yes. And the blog.


GW:  And the blog. And whereabouts, exactly, are you?


PPM:  I'm in Bandung, Indonesia. It's kind of a big, but relatively unknown country, I guess.


GW:  OK, so is Bandung one of the Indonesian islands, is that correct?


PPM:  No. It's one of the Indonesian cities. It's more like, Indonesia is, well, for most people it's easiest to say that it's somewhere between Singapore and Australia.


GW:  It takes up most of that space.


PPM:  Yeah. Well, actually, it's kind of bigger than that. To be fair, it's between India and Australia. If you draw a straight line between the two, then it's right in the middle. And yeah, it's a pretty big country about the size of the continental United States. But the United States is mostly land whereas Indonesia is mostly water.


GW:  That's a really good way of looking at it. Yeah, I hadn't thought of that. So which islands are you on?


PPM:  Java. A pretty big island. It's almost about the same size as England, not Britain, but England. No, I think England is slightly bigger, OK, as in up to the Western limit, the Clyde, the Tyne? But England, as in not including Scotland and stuff.


GW:  Yeah, England, not Britain.


PPM:  Yeah, but it has something like 150 million people on it.


GW:  Bloody hell, 150 million. There's about 40 million in England.


PPM:  Yep. And two million of them are in my city. Let's not even talk about the capital Jakarta, because that one has an official population figure of eight million and an unofficial one anywhere between 10 and 15 million.


GW:  Blimey. OK. And Java is where we got the names the coffee from, right?


PPM: Yup.


GW:  Do you drink a lot of coffee? I've only been to Indonesia once, let me just clarify my experience of Indonesia. I was in Singapore in 2006. On that trip, I had my fiancée at the time, now my wife, with me. And we went to this little resort place, Bintan, which is a short ferry ride from Singapore. And we stayed there for a few days and I got to ride an elephant, which is like the best thing ever. And that was my sum total experience of Indonesia. So I've sort of been there, but that's like, you know, paddling off the shore of Cornwall for a couple of days and then saying you've been to Britain.


PPM:  Well, it's more like you've been to Jersey or Guernsey.


GW: Yeah, that's true.


PPM:  That's Indonesia too, because that's the thing about Indonesia is like when you talk about Indonesian culture. It is the equivalent of speaking about European culture, it's such a big place with so many different people, so many different languages.


GW:  So it's like more like a federation of states.


PPM:  It's actually unitary state. Malaysia is smaller, but it's a federation. We have a unitary state with provinces, but we have just an insane amount of diversity. Just to illustrate, it's like just in my island alone, there at least three really big ethnic groups with several smaller ones. The Javanese is the biggest one. They live mostly in the central and eastern part of the island. And then there's the Sundanese who live basically where I am. But I'm not Sundanese, I’m Javanese. And then there's the Madurese who's actually from a large island off the coast of Java. But there, but there's a lot of them. So actually there are more Madurese living in Java than in Madura itself, and they're mostly in the East. And each of these three has their own language. And also, it would be more fair to say that the Sundanese have their language and the Madurese have their own language. And then the Javanese have maybe three or four different varieties of languages. Do you know Oki from Surabaya on the other end of the island? He has a club, too.


GW: I don't know.


PPM: No, maybe you haven't heard about him. But yeah, it's like the funny thing is that my Javanese, as in my mother's Javanese to be specific. It's actually the kind of Javanese that comes from the centre of the island, from the centre of the, no former, the kingdom still exists, they’re just no longer sovereign. They're more like, yeah, it's like, oh damn, my grandmother is literally a princess. So it’s like court Javanese, very polite, very complicated. And Oki’s Javanese is the ruder version. He would be comparable to what Australian is if it's English.


GW: Interesting.


PPM:  You insult people if you want to be polite, it's like if you're being normal, you insult the people you're talking with. But if you suddenly become polite, that means you hate the person you're talking with.


GW:  Do you know, when I first went to Australia, I was picked up from the airport by a guy called Scott Miller. Absolutely lovely man, and he was very careful to orient this English bloke that hadn’t been to Australia before to the norms of local culture. And he felt he had to warn me that if Australians like you, they’ll call you a cunt. He was a little bit not sure whether how comfortable I would be in this sort of rough and ready environment. So I literally said, well in that case, Scott, I hope you take it the right way if I say, I think you're an absolute fucking cunt. And he went, oh right, you'll be right.


PPM:  Well, I know Scott through Facebook, so we've never met. But and he has never called me a cunt, but I think Gary has from Melbourne.


GW:  Well, yeah, you know you're doing all right with the Australians when they are being extremely rude to you. I will drop Scott a note and tell him to call you a cunt so you feel a bit more included in an Australian HEMA.


PPM:  Oh yeah. My father is also Madurese, and so his Javanese is also relatively rude compared to my mother's. I take more after my mother.


GW:  Okay. Well, we can be as polite as you like on this show, but as you just heard. We don't have to be.


PPM:  If you want me to speak Javanese maybe or I don't know if you want me to speak English for this?


GW:  Well, actually, Katie, who will be transcribing this episode, would much prefer it, I think if we spoke English that was easy for the transcription engines to recognise.


PPM:  Yeah, I know because I've done transcriptions myself what with my line of work and all.


GW:  Now, we are going to get into that. But before we get to that, how did you get into historical martial arts?


PPM:  Sometimes that question just reminds me of how old I am, because I think I first ran into it when I was in elementary school and I had aspirations of becoming a fantasy novelist. And of course, you want to do research, you want to be able to write fight scenes realistically. And interestingly, that was also when the HACA, the Historical Armed Combat Association, I think you know that.


GW: It became ARMA.


PPM:  Yeah, it wasn't yet the ARMA. It was still led by Hank Greenheart, I think. It was in 1998 when I ran into their website.


GW:  That was a while ago.


PPM:  And well, it's like that.


GW: [sneezes]


PPM:  Gesundheit. Oh yeah. That's a funny thing. Because yeah, in Indonesia, we our response would usually vary by religion.


GW:  So you came across what was then the HACA, the Historical Armed Combat Association website in about 1998. And I mean, in 1998, I don't think I even knew the internet existed. I must have done.


PPM:  My internet back then was also still a dial up thing, you know, a modem that connects to the copper wire phone network. And yeah, so I don't exactly remember how I ran across it either, but I found it. But while searching about information about realistic sword fights. And then I got to middle school and then there was a little in modern fencing, but unfortunately I didn't go into it as seriously as I should have. Because, reading the HACA blog, and by then it was becoming the ARMA. And John Clements was already saying that, oh, no modern fencing is unrealistic. So I was just doing it, as a second best thing, which I kind of regret later.


GW:  Yeah, I did sport fencing quite a bit as a teenager and at university, because it was the closest thing I could get to real sword fighting. And although it is unrealistic in many ways, it still has an awful lot of useful stuff in it.


PPM:  Yeah, right. It's something I only realised much later. And then I got to university. That was in the early 2000s. In college I got into archery and became practically the club's resident coach for 10 years, even after I graduated.


GW: What kind of archery?


PPM:  Modern sport archery. But it's kind of a pretty relaxed club. And we also did plenty of some archery, the eastern kind. It's practically if you could bring the bow there, we're OK with it.




PPM:  And yeah, the joke was that I actually went to college for archery. My extracurricular were the classes.


GW:  I had the same thing with when I went to university, I was studying English lit and physiology and pharmacology as a minor and Spanish as a minor. And really, I was doing fencing on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tai Chi on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Cabudo on Fridays. Karate on Saturdays and Sundays there was usually a tournament somewhere. So yeah, really I was at university to do martial arts. The sort of formal instructional stuff was, the thing I was actually there to get a degree in, was fairly low down on my list of priorities.


PPM:  Yeah, that's I suspect that might be more typical than with think, in this community. In college I also went into an aikido dojo and I was there for a while.


GW: I love aikido.


PPM:  These were the kind of people I hung out with. And several of them were also curious about the old European traditions. So we created some kind of an informal study group. It never even had a name and the membership was constantly changing, and so we practised and it was unfortunately kind of messy. We mostly whacked each other with swords and it wasn't very systematic.


GW:  That's how we all started. I mean, you know, the youth of today, they don't know they're born. They show up to a club and there’s structured classes and there's loaner gear. Back in the not so good old days, you just sort of got whatever kit you could and whacked your friends as best you could. And that's how we started, really.


PPM:  Yeah, the unfortunate thing was that we were starting to get an idea of how to train more systematically in 2010, 2011. And that was also when I started to realise the value of what I had learnt in modern fencing and then tried to read on it. And it's like, the difference is that, oh, now I understand why we did these drills. But that was also around the time when people were starting to graduate from the Masters programmes. So the old group was starting to scatter all over the place, some to Jakarta and many of them went abroad. The one feder that we had back then, the one steel practice sword that survived everything we threw at them was an Arms and Armor Fechterspiel.


GW: That's my favourite sword. I have one right here.


PPM:  I'm not surprised. We kind of pitched in together, several people, to buy one, and it's like each of us owned part of it. But one of us who went to the U.S. ended up buying the rest of the shares when he left and took it with him.


GW:  OK. That's unfortunate. They are very, very good training tools, but they are not cheap.


PPM:  And well, it was also after the 2008 financial crunch. Anyway, so it’s like most of the rest of us could use the money.


GW:  Yeah, for sure. I imagine, the Indonesian historical martial arts scene, mostly interacts with itself in Indonesian. So those of us on the outside who don't speak Indonesian don't see any of it. So could you just tell us a bit about what is the scene like in Indonesia?


PPM:  Well, it's a bit like. There had been enthusiasts, you know, lone wolf enthusiasts, studying it and all for years for a while. In the early in the early 2010s, there was no formal clubs at all and everything and of course, my old study group was disbanding and I had nobody to practise with. And yeah, for a while, it's like we were just, you know, contacting each other randomly via Facebook. That was also when I got to know Oki from He's the first practitioner that I didn't know personally before I met him and everything. I only met him in person last year. Believe it or not. Wow. No, no, no, no. 2020.


GW:  Now in pandemic times, we lose a year here or there. It’s like last year it was 2019, right?


PPM:  Well, actually, I still remember at least it's 2020. But what is this? Is this 2024 already? And then, yeah, so I only really got a strong impulse to restart the whole thing when I got news of a workshop with Ilka. He's one of your students, right?


GW:  He is one of my students. Yeah, he trained with me from about 2002 to about, I think it was 2009, something like that.


PPM:  Yeah, there was a workshop on Bolognese. How is it pronounced in English?


GW:  Yeah, we say Bolognese, usually.


PPM:  Scherma Bolognese. It’s easier to pronounce it in Italian than in English. So he was teaching a workshop there for a week for the club people there in Singapore. But yeah, but there was also a weekend workshop open for random people. So I signed up for it and I saw that, oh damn, I missed that community. And maybe this time I should build one more formally. So I started by just checking out the furniture shops to see if any of them would be willing to make wooden swords. And it took a while because it turns out that getting wooden swords of the proper specification is much tougher than I expected.


GW:  Yeah, I'm lucky I'm a woodworker so I can just make my own, and actually building a wooden sword is not a trivial operation because you've got to get it right or it'll just break.


PPM:  Yeah, you probably know it even better than I do. It's like I went through several iterations with a furniture shop, and I think it was only the third or the fourth that was satisfactory. But once that got a little bit decent, I bought ten or something. At around the same time I was having some conversations with people from the Tolkien society because they were the people who seem to be most enthusiastic about this kind of thing. It's like there were other groups that might be interested from the martial arts side and then also other fictional fandoms. But the ones that seem like they were really, ooh, we want to do this, that was from the Tolkien society. And so at the beginning of 2016, I went to Jakarta, brought the swords to a meeting that we had arranged to just hang out and maybe practise a little. I was expecting that maybe two or three people there would buy the swords I had. Two or three or maybe four of the swords I brought there. But it turns out that the enthusiasm was so high that they bought almost all of it, and I had to insist that I'm going to keep two of these, because if not, then they would really have bought all of it. And I would have had to order a whole new batch from the furniture shop. And that was the story of how the club was founded in February 2016.


GW:  Oh, cool. And are there are lots of clubs in Indonesia now?


PPM:  The ones with formal organisation, I think there are three or four, depending on how you count it. There is us, the Gwaith-i-Megyr. We have one branch in Bandung and one in Jakarta, and we're kinda autonomous from each other. We don't spend a great deal of effort synchronising curricula and everything. But we generally consider each other to be the same club. And if you get in the wrong city, you just practise.


GW: That's nice.


PPM:  There's another club in Surabaya that's the one started by Oki, which I've mentioned before, and then there's another one in Jakarta, so Jakarta has two clubs. One is one of our branches and the other actually it split from us in 2019 over some differences in what they wanted to focus on. The founder wanted to have a paying club and also wanted to focus more on the competitive side. Well, we wanted to keep something of a more big band approach because some of us don't have competitive aspirations. Some of us do. So those are the three major clubs. And but Oki, just before the pandemic, he moved to Malang, another city in the east of the of the of the island. So it's even further east than Surabaya. Yeah, and he also hung out with the people he previously knew there and started a somewhat formal study group. But it doesn't practise much when he's not around, so it's like when he's there, there's a club, when he's not there, there's something like half a club.


GW:  And these are all on the island of Java, right?


PPM:  Yeah. Unfortunately, we haven't we don't have anything yet on the other islands, just individual practitioners.


GW:  OK. So I think if COVID can spread like it does, I think historical martial arts can spread too.


PPM:  Yeah, we're kind of wishing to go on trips and deliver workshops to people in cities that don't have them yet. But yeah, we manage to start it in at the beginning of 2020 with a bit of a workshop that invited people from all the three existing clubs back then, there was a workshop in Surabaya in January 2020. But then you know what happened afterwards, the lockdown in March 2020 and later. So it's like we haven't been able to push that any further yet.


GW:  Yeah, it's been really quite difficult for a lot of people because things were things were really kind of exploding in 2019 and then 2020 happened and all this sort of development. I know several people who used to have permanent spaces that they had for their club, and those spaces have had to close because they can't pay the rent because people can't show up to training, so they're not paying training fees. And so the space goes. It has been pretty brutal. But we keep going. Now, when I was doing some research for this conversation, I noticed that your LinkedIn account has your job title as Head Cutter, which for a historical martial arts person is perfect. But I don't think you're actually talking about cutting people's heads.


PPM:  Well, yeah, that's actually a pun, because, yeah, it's actually for Sartoria Insulindica, my one-man tailoring sweatshop. It's not exactly one man. Sometimes I subcontract the lesser work, but especially during the pandemic, it's been a one-man sweatshop. And I noticed that many of the tailoring houses in Savile Row or in Paris the title of their most skilled pattern maker, usually the most skilled person there is the one who makes a pattern right? Because the sewing and then much of the manual work is usually done by the apprentices and journeymen, so to say. Well, the head cutter is the one who makes the patterns because he or she is the one who knows how the pattern pieces interact with the three dimensional body shape of the client. And the most skilled cutter in the house is usually the Head Cutter, and I found that to be a really nice pun with my martial arts activity.


GW:  So you titled yourself. Excellent. Good. So you're the Head Cutter in your shop. So what kind of clothes do you make?


PPM:  That kind of varies because I started from both ends of the temporal spectrum. I learnt first by making tunics. I still have one of the oldest tunics I made, the early medieval tunics because they were really easy to learn to make right, if you have a sense of geometry, if you don't, this is going to be more like a three dimensional puzzle that doesn't make any sense.


GW:  So hang on, what is the connection between geometry and making medieval clothing?


PPM:  Well, I don't know if you've discussed this with Jess Finley or not, but the early medieval clothing is basically cut as a number of rectangular or triangular pieces in order to conserve fabric. So the way we cut clothes today with many curves and everything, it tends to leave many areas of unused or unusable cloth because what's left is not big enough for the remaining pattern pieces. Some people call that leftover. Some people call that “cabbages”. So if you hear cabbages in a sewing or tailoring setting, that's what it means. Because they look like chopped cabbage leaves, I guess. With early medieval tailoring, we are in the setting where cloth was a really expensive commodity. Spinning was notoriously time consuming, if you have to use a spindle and spin the thread manually. And then you also have to weave it manually. Also, the weaving is actually much more mechanisable than the spinning for quite a while. The critical parts in production was in the spinning, you couldn't spin enough to set to satisfy the needs of your weavers and eventually consumers. But basically, the production was kind of complicated, and when you have to weave with handlooms you are also limited by the span of your hands. It's going to be hard to pass the shuttle if the width of the fabric is wider than the span of your arms.


GW: Right. Of course.


PPM:  Yeah, you have to pass the shuttle behind the fabric and then flip it and pass the shuttle. And so the width of fabric was also very limited. We often see something as narrow as 45 or 60 centimetres. That's like 18 to 24 inches. So with those narrow pieces of fabric, you're going to have to combine them, to envelope the entire circumference of the body. So people got really creative. They found ways to cut rectangular and triangular pieces so that as little of it as possible was wasted.


GW:  OK.


PPM:  But the difference is that with modern cutting methods the shapes of the pattern pieces are very different. You know which one is the body piece because you could recognise if a T-shirt was cut up and then somebody just drew a line around it, then you're going to recognise it as the body piece of a T-shirt, right? It's like that, you know the difference. This is the body, this is the sleeves, and maybe you could set the right sleeve in to the left by mistake. But it's still a sleeve, at least you're not putting the body in the place of a sleeve. But with the with the medieval rectangular cutting system, which isn't unique to medieval Europe, it's actually a different cutting system was developed pretty much everywhere. The Chinese had their own. The Japanese kimono is still a rectangular cut thing. And Persian and Ottoman clothes were also based on that. That kind of thing was originally emphasised using rectangular pieces to take advantage of the rectangular shape of the fabric and make garments with as little waste as possible. But because of that, the problem is if everything is rectangular, how do you tell apart between the body and the sleeves?


GW:  Right? Well, as a woodworker, what you do is you write on it in something like chalk. When I make a piece of furniture, I'll have a stack of pieces and I use a really soft pencil. So you get big dark writing and I write what it is on it that way. So I guess they would chalk it.


PPM:  Yeah, that's smart. And we don't exactly know how they did it. But yeah, there are probably several different methods. But it's like basically the idea that you only do that chalk marking after you have a mental picture of what the finished product is going to look like and how the pieces are going to come together into it. And it's that mental model that's usually most difficult to acquire for beginners. So it's like how the two dimensional pattern pieces translate into which seams and which ones should be sewn first. Because if you sew the wrong seam first it's not going to make it impossible to finish the garment. But you might have to contort your way into it.


GW:  Do you mostly make medieval stuff or modern stuff?


PPM:  Hmm. Not really. That's the other thing that I that I picked up when I was first learning historical sewing. One was the very early medieval stuff. And the other was there was a late 19th century tailoring manual available for coats and military uniforms from WDF Vincent. And I read that and experimented with it and also asked around in tailoring forums and a few modern tailors I know. So I basically started from both ends of the spectrum. That was making modern stuff. And, well, not exactly modern stuff. Late 19th, very early 20th century stuff and maybe 9th, 10th century stuff, and then started going towards the middle from there.


GW:  So if I wanted a late 19th century coat, you are the man to talk to.


PPM:  Well, it kind of depends. It's like my work ethic isn’t the best these days. You might get it, but it's going to take rather longer than you expect.


GW:  Well, I have a very strict policy when I hire people to make stuff for me is I never haggle on the price. Whatever they ask for, if I can pay it that's what they get. And I never, ever haggle about the time, either. If they say it's going to take two years, I wait two years. It's fine. I don't mind. Because I've been in the position of the furniture maker and literally one friend of mine moved into a new house and asked whether I could make this sort of TV stand things with like shelves and drawers and stuff for her. And she was asking as a favour, which is fine if she was putting up a shelf, of course. I said, the problem right now is that you don't actually know what you're asking for do you? She said, what do you mean? I said, well, that's going to take about three hundred quid in materials and it's going to take me about six weeks of full time work. And she went, oh, I thought you'd knock it up in an afternoon. So yeah, I mean, she was asking for something reasonable in her head, but had the actuality of it is different. I know what it's like to have people commissioning stuff who have absolutely no idea of what it is they're really asking for. So my sympathies are entirely with the maker.


PPM:  Yeah, but I guess most people's experience with furniture these days is with IKEA stuff that can be assembled in one afternoon, but they don’t notice how long it takes to design and cut and match the pieces. Well, even the quality control could take hours.


GW:  And just finishing, like just the finishing can take ages.


PPM:  Ah, the finishing, that five percent physically, but 80 percent in terms of time and effort. Yes, that also applies to clothes. The finishing is often the most tiring because especially when you do the custom stuff, making the neckline neat or the edges. With custom tailored coats there is usually that thick stitching on the edges to keep the edge thin so that it's not going to balloon if you wash it or if you move it too much. So the stitching is really tiny and really precise, and the really good ones only do it by hand. It doesn't require much brainpower, but it does take a great deal of time.


GW:  I got my wedding suit made by a tailor in Singapore, and it's lovely. Good suit. It has a morning coat, knee length jacket. It is beautiful and I needed to have it adjusted so that my sword would hang right. Of course, I wasn't going to get married without wearing a sword. So I took it to a friend of mine in Helsinki who is a tailor.


PPM:  Oh, so you were planning to have the sword go over the front or was there going to be a slit?


GW:  The sword hung on my left hip and it sticks out quite far behind and the split on the morning coat, you have this single split at the back. It needed to have a split at the side instead of in the middle. It needed to be just the right height so the sword would hang nicely, so I took it to a friend of mine in Helsinki, who is a sort of, shall we say, traditional, top end tailor. Happens to be. He adjusted it for me and it was all done beautifully by hand and at mates’ rates getting it adjusted so the sword would hang right cost half as much as the whole suit.


PPM: I can only imagine.


GW:  Yeah, exactly. Because of course, he wasn't going to do it the way they do it in Singapore, where you've got basically kind of sweatshop things. And people sitting there saying machines going vroom, vroom, vroom. Yeah, I mean, the stitching on it is just beautiful.


PPM:  You unpick it by hand,


GW:  He unpicked it by hand. It goes to just the right place.


PPM:  Don't tell me. He also invited you for a couple of fittings.


GW:  Oh, it only needed the one fitting because it was he wasn't adjusting fit of the jacket itself. He was just adjusting the split for where the sword went. But it fits perfectly. It’s a beautiful thing.


PPM:  Yeah, I probably wouldn't have picked a morning coat to begin with for a sword because it was something developed after people actually stopped wearing swords. But so, yeah, I can imagine that. I probably would have suggested one of those very late 18th century clothes with a really dramatic cutaway.


GW: I think that would have solved the problem.


PPM:  Yeah, that was when people got kinda crazy and had their own thoughts about where fashion was going to be. It was when people were starting to, you know, no longer wear swords. But some of them who were still wearing swords were really enthusiastic about it and wanted to wear their swords everywhere.

You actually get some pretty insane ideas from that era.


GW:  Yeah. Well, I would put a picture of me on my wedding day with my coat and sword in the show notes, so the people who are listening can see what we are talking about.


PPM:  I can imagine. It's like if you if you alter it correctly, it's going to be quite nice.


GW:  Oh yeah, it's lovely. And the only thing is, is I only got married the once and it's not the sort of thing you can wear to most things. I've worn it to a few parties, but that's pretty much it. What I need to do is change my lifestyle such that there are more occasions for me to wear my wedding suit because it's lovely.


PPM:  Well, sometimes I’ve thought I've made myself a couple of modern jackets, but it's actually not quite modern. It's a bit of a hybrid, it's basically still cut like the late 19th century sack coats that I learnt from, but with modifications to make them look more modern, like a lower gorge line like this. Back in the late 19th century, it was way up here, right? But in the more modern times, you have more of the shirt showing. So I lowered the gorge line like that and it's like, unfortunately, I had a really pretty one back in 2013, but I lost it while going home from a translation job in Medan, in Sumatra. Another island. And then I made another as a replacement, but I was working out, and by the time I was done doing it about a year later, from the time I first cut the pattern, it no longer fit on the shoulders because my traps and deltoids had gotten bigger and I made new pattern and then I got a little bit lazy with that one. So that took two years to finish. And by the time I finished that, my traps and deltoids have grown even larger and I’m never going to get a coat that fits.


GW:  You need to sit down and think about this. A properly tailored jacket is built. It's a structure. It is a sophisticated thing to produce. But what if you could make one that fit like a tailored jacket but was adjustable in the shoulder dimension? You would make millions.


PPM:  Well, actually there were several ideas back then. Especially for hunting clothes. Action pleats and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, it still requires the basic pattern to fit pretty well. I think I also made the mistake with those previous two patterns in that I was kind of cutting it a little too close, I think. But this time I have a decent one that was originally developed for my jacket, for my HEMA jacket, for my padded fencing jacket, which I finished in early 2020. And I think it's because it was slightly big in order to accommodate all the padding. When I modified it to become a coat pattern, oh, it has enough space inside for the structure.


GW:  So do you make you make clothes for other people as a business at all?


PPM:  It's an on and off activity. I did, mostly in the mid-2010s, but then got lazy.


GW:  It’s a hard thing to make money at because most people don't understand why handmade clothes are expensive.


PPM:  Yeah, and I still make clothes for a few people. Mostly family and sometimes very close friends, the ones who are who don't mind the time needed because it's like they know that I often get kind of OCD about the quality of the finish and everything, and often just disassemble and reducing if I don’t like it. Well, it happens with furniture too, right? Sometimes you don't make a big mistake, but it looks wrong so you take it apart again and then tweak it a little?


GW:  Absolutely. It is common, before you glue the thing together, you put it together without the glue and see whether everything is coming together properly and then open it up and glue it up. It takes enormous confidence to do the glue up without a dry fit first. And sometimes I do that. When it’s dovetails I don't like to put my dovetails all the way together unless it's the final thing.


PPM:  Once you stick it, it's going to be pretty hard to disassemble again.


GW:  Yeah. Dovetails should fit properly the first time around. But you know, we all make mistakes. And in some projects, I actually when I make a mistake, I highlight it. So, for example, let me just turn the camera around so you can see it. This little chest of drawers under my monitor. There you are. Say hello to yourself. This little chest of drawers here. I made it to sit my monitor on and for my pens. It’s got drawers for pens and things, and it's got like various of spaces. But there are several mistakes on it. For example, I mean, the worst mistake is here. This drawer front is made of cherry, which has these bits missing where the tree has grown, you've got this kind of very waney edge. So I filled it with resin and it all looks lovely. And then I took this one very unusual, completely unique piece. And cut it four millimetres shorter than it should be. So it's got these little cherry strips on the ends here, because I had to basically stretch a piece of wood and make it bigger. This drawer here has this this walnut stripe here, where I routed out the groove for the drawer bottom on the wrong side of the wood. So instead of patching it with ash or just making a whole new piece, which wouldn't have taken very long, I thought, you know what? I'm just going to fill it up with walnut so I can preserve a memento of my complete inability to sensibly make furniture.


PPM:  Well, that kind of thing, you know, in tailoring in historical garments, you often see many of those mistakes that would not be forgiven today. The fabric is just a little too narrow for a skirt. People now would panic. People back then were just OK, just get a small triangular piece and patch it in there, right?


GW:  Well, because when the materials are really expensive, you simply can't afford to just throw away a panel.


PPM:  That’s not even the 10th century when everything was pieced. We still see that in the late 19th century, maybe even in the early 20th century, there are some really good, high quality garments. And then you see that kind of piecing there, which might shock people today. But back then, maybe people would say that this guy’s creative and working with the constraints of the material available to him, it's OK.


GW:  So by profession, you are a translator, right?


PPM:  Yeah. And interpreter,


GW:  OK, so that must really help with working with historical sources. Or do you not have those languages?


PPM:  It kind of depends. It does help in knowing that translations are always interpretations. There's a bit of an irony. It's like translators and interpreters often try to make themselves invisible. Depending on the client and everything sometimes they want the experience to be as if they were talking to the subject directly or reading the words of the author directly. But in reality, we know that there's no such thing as translation without any tweaks to take on how those different languages conceptualise things.


GW:  There are a few very simple phrases which work OK, from language to language, like “please open the door”. It's not open to much construction, but in some languages, just “please open the door” gets complicated because you would say it differently, depending on what sort of person you're talking to. If you're talking to somebody your social superior, you may have to say it differently to somebody who is perhaps a child or who someone to whom you are senior.


PPM:  Yeah, that's one of the things that the place in both Indonesian and Javanese. With Indonesian, the formal variety is very easy to learn. The grammar is pretty simple. It has no tenses.


GW: It has no tenses? That would make life so much easier.


PPM:  It also makes things complicated when you translate from Indonesian to English, because if you're not used to reading Indonesian, you might get confused about is this happening in the past or in the future? Or how do you convey? Sometimes it's neither. Sometimes you have to convey that sense of eternal present that Indonesians feel when they talk.


GW:  You must have a way of saying this happened in the past or this will happen in the future. There has to be some way.


PPM:  We usually add the time marker. If just you say, “saya makan”, it could mean “I ate” or “I'm eating” or “I will eat”, but if you at the time, “saya makan kemarin”, I ate yesterday. Suddenly just by adding “yesterday,” oh, that happened in the past.


GW:  OK, so you say “I go to pub yesterday”, “I go to pub today”, “I go to pub tomorrow” and that gives you the sense of.


PPM:  And there's also a work that functions similarly to “will”. “Akan”. It's very formal. You'll never see people using it in everyday conversation. But if you're a foreigner, people just expect you to use that.


PPM:  There’s almost like a different register of the language entirely for foreigners where people are going to give forgive more mistakes and let you get away with a lot of things.


GW:  That's one of the hardest things about learning to speak Finnish, when I was learning Finnish many moons ago, is that in English, English people are completely used to hearing people speaking English for whom is not their first language. So pretty much every English speaker is used to making accommodations for what the person probably means. Whereas in Finland, when I was learning Finnish in the early 2000s. There weren’t very many foreigners living in Finland who were learning Finnish. So the Finns had no experience of hearing bad Finnish and thus making allowances. So they would genuinely not understand what you just said because you made a minor grammatical mistake.


PPM: Ouch.


GW:  Yeah, it made it really hard. When speaking Italian, Italians are used to bad Italian because half of them speak bad Italian, and my Italian friends can shout to me all they want for saying that. But it's true.


PPM:  It's like the only people who speak real Italian are Romans, right?


GW:  They would say so, but my Tuscan friends would disagree. Yeah, you're probably right. So what languages do you speak?


PPM:  Fluently, well, fluently, Indonesian and English, obviously, and I have somewhat, it's like I listen fluently in Javanese, but I speak rather awkwardly in that because it's that thing again. I'm not used to using the upper and lower registers. I know how to speak in the middle register like when you're speaking to an equal or somebody who is only slightly inferior or superior to you that you could just wave it off. And I think that's part of the difficulty of being somewhat partly self educated in the westernised internet online environment. It's like you tend to not develop that sense of who's higher than you, who is lower than you and you get used to talking to foreigners who just assume you're an equal. I still want to learn Javanese better, especially for talking up and down like that. But it's like for the moment, I guess I’d call myself moderately fluent in the middle register. But if I have to talk to somebody who's much older than me or much higher in social rank than me… And then I think I'm also moderately fluent in Sundanese, the local language here in Bandung. Because the ethnic group here is Sundanese and I've lived here practically for my almost my entire life. And so, one two three four, Indonesian, English, Javanese and Sundanese. And then, I think I can speak tourist French and German.


GW: OK, that's pretty good.


PPM:  Like, I can buy a baguette. But anything more complicated, bye. Then I probably have a three or two or three year old kid’s level of proficiency. And then also at the really beginner level, I'm studying many languages like Latin, Italian, Russian. Russian, I mostly know greetings and military terms. So if you ask me to read something about a Russian reconnaissance strike, complex, then maybe I'll understand about 25 percent of the words. But if you told me to read the newspaper, I'd probably just stare at it blankly.


GW:  I've had that same experience in Italian. When I lived in Italy in 2015 for a bit, I had this fantastic conversation in a car with Andrea Conti and somebody else in the car whose name I'm blanking on. And we were chatting about Vadi and historical fencing in terms of the Vadi’s De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi, which I was working on at the time, and we had this entire conversation in Italian. No problem. Well, I mean, my Italian isn't great, but it's good enough for that. But as soon as we get off the subject of historical martial arts, but I couldn't have a conversation about food or clothes or the news or any of that stuff in Italian. I just don't have the vocabulary for it.


PPM:  Yeah, that's pretty understandable. If you're asking how many languages I speak fluently, then I guess just those four. But yeah, it's like that lower levels of proficiency in French, I guess I can feel Spanish, too.


GW:  Ah, Spanish is quite easy.


PPM:  Yeah. But why do they have so many tenses?


GW:  The secret to speaking Spanish, because I lived in Peru when I was a kid and my social life was conducted in Spanish, it's the only non-English language that I've ever been conversationally completely comfortable in, and what you do is you just don't bother with the tenses so much. You just use whichever tense you feel like and it be fine. It's only really in written Spanish that you have to be super precise, because spoken Spanish is very relaxed and written Spanish is very formal,


PPM:  Spoken Spanish is kind of like quantum mechanics. It has a probability value for the tenses.


GW:  Now, of course, my Spanish friends right now will be jumping up and down going, “That’s not quite true, Guy. We do care.” But you know, you got the future, there's options. Just pick one. There’s the present. There are options. Just pick one. And if you don't know what you're doing, use the subjunctive. You can always just use the subjunctive.


PPM:  It's like that kind of lower level. I think I also have it in German, the degree where you might have just enough to order food at a restaurant because of course, I needed to study the German sources, especially Liechtenauer stuff. But the funny thing is when I speak German, somehow it's so weird because there’s normal German people speaking. Sometimes I watch Deutsche Welle and they sound like normal people. But whenever I try to speak German, I always sound like a mad scientist.


GW:  Well, I go to Germany fairly regularly, or I did pre-pandemic, and I think there are pretty much like three words you have to know to take part in German conversation. And that's “ja”, which is yes. “Nein”, which is no, and “genau”.


PPM: Exactly.


GW:  Yeah, it's a sort of a social filler word that you can use in pretty much any situation. And when telling a group of students to go off and do the thing you just told them to do, “los”. Which is like, get on with it, I think. I mean, it could be that the students are lying to me and actually, these words have completely different meanings, and they're all just quietly laughing into their very large steins of beer. Four words, ja, nein, genau, and los. Yeah. So, clearly from what you said about the Russian military stuff, you have a fairly deep interest in military history, and there's a lot of that on your blog at sillynewsboy.wordpress.com. Why did you choose that name for your blog?


PPM:  Oh, well, I wasn't in the mood to think about picking a name and at that time, I wasn't even aware of newsboy caps, that I made myself, obviously. I still do when I go outside. But these days I’m mostly at home, so I don't wear caps. But yeah, I think I even explained that in the blog, but it's in a page that I wrote years ago and then forgot. So I don't know if it's still there.


GW:  You write about military history, so that's obviously connected in some sort of indirect way to the historical sword fighting stuff. So what is it in your head that makes all these things fit together?


PPM:  The weird thing is I'm actually more familiar with military history and military science in general than with swordy stuff. With the sword things, I was only able to practise it for real basically starting from 2010, 2011 like that, I only had started getting an idea of what it takes to get to get good. But military history and military science, I have been reading stuff like that since I was eight or something. Back then when my parents bought encyclopedias, I usually read world history sections first. And of course, part of it stemmed from my age old desire to be a fantasy writer. Of course, you have to know history to do proper world building. But I guess it's kind of like that. It's like, you start it, you come in there for world building, but then you just get interested in that and started learning how complicated historiography is. And I think the funniest thing is the more you know about it, the more I start to appreciate the uncertainties of history. So sometimes there are times when we just have to say we don't know.


GW:  Which is very hard for a lot of people.


PPM:  Yeah, and sometimes that's also the kind of thing when we're reading sources for historical martial arts. But on the other hand, this history for history’s sake itself, it's not exactly finding the truth, but finding better questions that lead us closer to the truth. But sometimes you finally get to a point where the questions become unanswerable because the sources are just unavailable or too contradictory, but there's also the other side of history, which is history, as something that we take lessons from, something that we use to inform policy making, decision making and all that kind of stuff. And in that kind of thing, you eventually have to draw lessons from extremely incomplete information. And that's really more like what we do in historical martial arts. You try to fill it in with what we call the frog DNA.


GW: I hate that term.


PPM:  It takes us down completely the wrong path.


GW:  Frog DNA, it comes from the movie Jurassic Park. And it's like, no, this is not what we're doing at all. It's not even remotely comparable to frog DNA. And yes, oh, you accidentally hit one of my buttons. Let's pretend it didn't happen. Please carry on. I just interrupted you.


PPM:  While we're discussing Jurassic Park. That’s funny saying it's like Jurassic Park. Back in the 1990s, I remember seeing it in the theatres when it first came out. I was still a kid and I was really impressed. But Jurassic Park back then really made use of cutting edge research into paleontology. Yeah, the dinosaurs were really up to date, T-Rexs were no longer hulking brutes that had to leave their tails on the ground to balance themselves. They had a more horizontal body position. With the tail used to balance in the much more active position when they run. But by the time we get the sequels in Jurassic World. It's suddenly like people already got attached to the image of the dinosaurs according to the 1990s state of the art research. So when we try to give them an image, a more up-to-date image according to current research, where the velociraptor is actually much smaller, because Jurassic Park was made during an era when there's another kind of dinosaur that's the right size for your Jurassic Park raptors, it's Deinonychus, you know, like “terrifying claws”. Yeah, it's actually the right size, but at that time in the early 1990s, there was a proposal that it was a junior synonym to velociraptor, that they were actually the same dinosaur, that they were similar enough that they shouldn't be put in separate genus. Just that one is a different species from the other. But later on, we found out that that's not the case, that the Deinonychus is different enough, that it should be in a different genus. But the name stuck, and Deinonychus isn't quite as easy to pronounce in English, and it maybe doesn't sound as cool. So the raptor stayed that size and it's like we also know that their appearance now is more like murder chickens. If you saw them, you still be terrified. And of course, if you've seen chicken in farms, you'd be even more terrified to see a chicken that size. But yeah, I guess, the film executives thought that if you see a chicken that size, you're going to laugh because it's on a screen, not a real chicken trying to attack you. In which case you know that it's about to murder you. So they stuck to the old things. And they cleverly retcon that by saying that a great deal of that mistake was from the use of frog DNA instead of bird DNA. That basically, modern dinosaurs that are crocodile DNA. Well, crocodiles aren't dinosaurs, but it's like other than birds, they're the closest thing, right?


GW:  Yeah. I was honestly not expecting a disquisition on the historical inaccuracies in Jurassic Park, but I'm very glad we accidentally stumbled into that area. That's fantastic.


PPM:  It also has a bearing on historical martial arts. If you stick frog DNA into a dinosaur instead of chicken, then you get something that diverges away towards looking more like a frog.


GW:  It's like if you put sport fencing DNA into medieval combat that is probably going to work less well than putting, say, traditional Japanese sword fighting stuff into the medieval combat because they're actually much closer in terms of their intent and structure.


PPM:  Also, in that sense, we also have to be careful because a lot of what was going on in the Middle Ages was more sporting than we think.


GW:  Well, absolutely true. Tournaments and jousts and what have you, that's where reputations were made. Doing really well at a tournament was like getting an Olympic gold medal. You are basically set for life. So I have a couple of questions that you're probably familiar with because I have a feeling you've probably listened to one or two episodes of the podcast before. And my first is what is the best idea you haven’t acted on?


PPM:  My entire life is a story of best ideas I never acted on.


GW: Really? Tell us more.


PPM:   Oh yeah, one of the things that we discussed before in the lead up to this interview is that, yeah, my childhood dream was to be a fighter pilot. Also later on, I just wanted to be able to fly. I haven’t been able to.


GW: It’s so good.


PPM:  I have been in a glider, held the controls, and I was also given the chance to fiddle with the controls a little in a kit plane. It was a Piper Cub kit plane. Piper Cubs are no longer built, but people can assemble and build them themselves as kits. One of my friends had one and even so I wasn't really in full control. It’s actually just a weird thing. I'm not a good driver at all, as in automobiles or motorcycles, because I think my sense of space in a vehicle has been permanently shaped by that thing in the air. If you're in a car, you have to get comfortable with a car being just maybe three or four metres away from you. But yeah, if you're in an aircraft, if there's something three or four metres away from you, then you've already collided.


GW:  Yeah, or you are a world class stunt pilot doing aerobatics. Oh my god, that scared the shit out of me just seeing it. You're right. And the weird thing is, driving a car, the only kind of controls you have are speed and yaw. You can't roll, and you can't pitch. There’s no pitch and there’s no roll. I've only been flying for a little bit and I've been driving cars for like thirty years or more. But it means it's like getting back in the car is like, why can't I bring the nose up?


PPM:  Seriously, if you've been in most civilian planes and then you get in the car, you turn the wheel and you expect the car to roll, right?


GW:  Yes, absolutely. And if you're on a very, very tight corner, it will roll a little bit. But the roll in a car is undesirable. But the roll in the plate is what you want to change direction. What stopped you from becoming a fighter pilot?


PPM:  Number one, I’m short. I’m three or four centimetres too short to get into the Air Force.


GW:  Ah, OK, that's the sort of constraint there's not much you can do about.


PPM:  Yeah. Also, and honestly, I can tweak that by putting a thick sole on my shoe to reach the rudder pedals because if I was in a Soviet plane, it would probably not be such a big deal because, the thing I notice is that I've been in fighter pilot fighter cockpits, on the ground of course, you know, air shows and all. It's much easier to do that when you're just visiting an air show and asking to be shown it. Sometimes the American cockpits feel like they're built for people who are really big.


GW:  Yeah, well, they are.


PPM:  Yeah. I've also been in a MiG 21 cockpit, and many Americans found that cramped. But for me, it's OK. It's not the most comfortable, but it's pretty manageable. So sometimes it's also a matter of the aircraft built to different ergonomic constraints.


GW:  Sure. And in civilian planes like the Cessna 152 that I’m learning to fly in it has an adjustable seat so you can be pretty short and still reach the pedals.


PPM:  You could even adjust the pedals and the yokes to some degree.


GW:  I don't think the pedals and yokes can be adjusted.


PPM:  Not in the cockpit, but during maintenance. You could tweak it a little, easily.


GW:  Possibly. But the first plane I ever flew, long ago in Helsinki, was an Icarus, which has fixed seats. So if you're the wrong height for the plane, that's it. It's not going to work. Actually putting in an adjustable seat isn't that much of an engineering challenge.


PPM:  Yeah, it's like just put in a reel, right?


GW:  Yeah. So you're not a fighter pilot because you're too short. Well, that's fair enough. So what other good ideas have you had that you haven’t acted on, because you seem to have actually acted on quite a lot. You started a historical fencing club and you have these blogs and you make clothes.


PPM:  Well, being a pilot is not such a huge bummer because I guess I think that if I could get abroad and live there for a couple of years, then it's going to be easier to find places where I could get training as a pilot on a hobbyist level, because in Indonesia here the difficulty is usually most pilot schools only provide the ones the kind of education programme that leads to the airline track.


GW:  Right. So it's very expensive.


PPM:  Yeah. So it's not only very expensive, but pretty much you have to go all the way to the CPL, to the commercial pilot licence level and then the ATPL, the air transport pilot licencing. I just want the PPL, come on.


GW:  Well, come to the UK. I will take you up.


PPM:  I would gladly do that when I, when I get the chance and the money.


GW:  It's not cheap. It is not cheap. It took me 10 years to work myself to the point where I can just about afford to start actually taking it seriously. 10 years of actually working towards it.


PPM:  Yes, even more expensive here. Well, yeah, maybe fuel is slightly cheaper, but it's more expensive relative to the average income.


GW:  All right. OK, yes. Of course, relative to income it is vastly more expensive.


PPM:  The other thing is, is that sometimes in, I don't know what it's like in the UK, but I've been to some places where there are flying clubs that allow you to help out with maintenance and just general random duties in the hangar and on the on the airfield. And it's like for every 10 hours or five you do that you get one flight hour for free.


GW: That does happen. It’s mostly in America I think. I’ve not seen that happen in the UK, but I know at least one person who got that licence that way.


PPM:  Yeah, unfortunately, there's no such thing like that in Indonesia. Or if there are, then it's usually in some really kinda distant club that only a few people can afford to visit regularly.


GW:  Well, yeah, you need a private pilot's licence and the plane just to get there.


PPM:  Another good idea I haven't acted on. Well, learn how to operate a sewing machine properly.


GW: I was not expecting that!


PPM:  I’m pretty good at hand sewing. But when I run a sewing machine, there's about a 50 percent chance of things getting caught, or maybe rather 40 percent chance of things being caught and 10 percent chance of the sewing machine starting to smoke or parts flying away.


GW:  OK, so you could just get someone who knows how to do it to teach you and actually practise and get good at it.


PPM:  I’d like somebody to be able to point out my mistakes because people think that sewing with a sewing machine should be easier than hand sewing, right? But in my experience, it's not. You also need skills to adjust the thread tension on the top and bottom because you only need to screw up one of them to screw up the complete screw up the whole thing.


GW:  I've used a sewing machine and I've done some hand sewing and yeah, hand sewing is slow but reliable. Yeah, sewing machines for me, I've used them a few times and it's like, OK, do I want to spend 20 hours getting a solid familiarity with the machine before I actually do a project? Or do I want to just spend those 20 hours producing the project by hand?


PPM:  I don't look down on people who use sewing machines because I know just how getting the machine running without fucking anything up, that takes skill.


GW:  It absolutely does. I used to type with like two or three fingers, really slowly. And it was dreadful. And many years ago, a friend of mine who I was chatting with over the internet, because I said typing is really slow, can we just switch to a voice call? And he was like, “What, you can't touch type?” And he was like, “Guy, you're a writer. You need to know how to touch type.” Well, I’m not really a writer, but OK. And so actually I was sort of shamed into it and I learnt to touch type. And it took me about a month of being really uncomfortable. And it was just horrible because my fingers wouldn't go where they're supposed to go. But I stuck with it. And now I touch type and have done for years, and it is transformative in the amount of text I can produce in a reasonable time. I would recommend if you actually have a sewing machine and you actually like sewing, as you seem to do. It is probably worth don't make anything, but do technical studies of, OK, how do we set the thing up for this kind of stitch and how we run this kind of material through? And then just spend a little while doing the technical practise to master the machine. And you’ll probably find it doesn't take you two years to make a jacket.


PPM:  OK, well, I guess it's like for my own jackets I’m still going to take quite a while because some of these old patterns, they have many parts that are really awkward to do by machine, especially when you get to the curved seams. But for everyday stuff, like just repairing my shorts when the pocket corner starts developing holes. Yeah, that would have been so much faster if I could use a sewing machine.


GW:  Yeah. Well, who knows, maybe next time we talk, you'll be an expert on the machine.


PPM: Well not an expert, but I might get competent.


GW:  OK, you must be expecting this question, not least because I did send you the questions before we talked, but if you had a million pounds to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide, how would you spend it?


PPM:  I am probably going to be a little selfish and use it to move out of my parent's place first because it's kind of tricky going out to practice, arranging schedules and having space to store all the equipment when you don't have your own place, right?


GW:  OK, that's technically in violation of the grant. The grant won’t be issued to get you out of your parent's place. The grant will be issued to improve historical martial arts worldwide, so broaden your focus.


PPM:  The best thing is that I'd probably be able to, you know, practise more often with the with the current group. And of course, a million dollars goes quite a long way, and I'd probably just use that to hire training space altogether. And then there are so many things that I could use it on. Maybe it's not exactly on historical martial arts, but I wanted for a while to hire people to do latent transcription of some 16th century Malay thesis on Arquebus. You know, early firearms shooting.


GW:  Hang on, there are Malaysian treatises?


PPM:  More like Malay, because we don't exactly know which side of the street it is. It could be from the Indonesian side, from the Sumatran side, or it might be from the Malaysian side.


GW:  So Malay as a language, not Malaysia as a place. Hang on, did you say there are 16th century Malay sources on using arquebuses?


PPM:  Maybe not exactly 16th. I don't remember the exact time, but the Malay was already fairly modern, so it wouldn't be that much further back than the 13th century or so. And obviously, you get guns mostly in the modern looking firearms, mostly through Ottoman and Portuguese imports in the 16th century. So at the earliest it's the 16th, but it could be the 17th or 18th, because these weapons, these matchlocks, kept getting used in the islands on the Malay peninsula and the islands of what is now Indonesia and the Philippines into the 19th century or so.


GW:  So you have access to these sources in Malay.


PPM:  There are actually several pretty good, publicly available facsimiles. They're in Malay and the Malay isn’t very old. If you could read it, I could probably understand it. The average modern Indonesian would be only slightly confused by the choice of words. But the problem is that Malay at that time was mostly written in Arabic script, in the Malay Arabic script.


GW:  So you need someone who can read the Malay Arabic script and romanise it into something that can be read by modern readers.


PPM:  It would suddenly become much more available to researchers everywhere.


GW:  That isn't going to cost a million dollars, that's something we could actually do.


PPM:  Yeah, but well, that's back to the best ideas you've never acted upon. It's like sometimes you just collect these ideas and then forget to work upon them.


GW:  Send me links to those sources and I will put them in the show notes. And it's not impossible that there's someone listening to this podcast who actually has that skill, and then they can get in touch with me and tell me how much it's going to cost to get it romanised. Send me the links and I'll put it in the show notes, and we'll see what happens from there. You never know. We might get super lucky.


PPM:  Because there are so many of those weird sources that stuck in the back of my mind. There's also one of the things that I've written about in my blog. There's an early 15th century German translation of Odysseus, where I read in a book about the reception of Odysseus, that translation, interestingly, has an addendum and a commentary by the contemporary translator that knights, which in this case was a translation for the legionary recruit. The knight should learn knife and sword. Does that sound familiar? Oh, Messer und Schwert. Like in the Liechtenauer treatises you should learn Messer and Schwert. I want to find that exact passage. The treatise is publicly available. There are good scans, but the problem is that the letters are those really thick gothic letters from that era and kind of difficult to read. And obviously, you have to read them fairly closely to find out which section this is whether this is the addendum or a translation of the original Latin. I haven't been able to find the time to do that. And that's also another thing that I thought about paying somebody to squint at it, probably somebody who is already more damaged than mine, who wouldn’t feel so much pain from squinting.


GW:  So, transliterating.


PPM: Transcribing.


GW:  Yeah, that's a pretty good use of the money, very on topic for historical martial arts. If I had the money, I would give you some of it. I wouldn't give you the money just so you can move out of your parents’ house. I would certainly give you the money for the transcriptions.


PPM:  One million dollars goes quite a long way here. It's the equivalent of about 14 trillion rupiah. I think with that much money I probably would be able to put down maybe a year's rent or even some down payment for a space that I'd be able to use, not just as a training space and storage for my club equipment. But I would probably be able to put a library in it too maybe even stick a server for people.


GW:  For a million dollars you could easily build. I mean, I have a space training space in Helsinki that is fairly big and we have a small library and all that. I didn't cost me anything like a million dollars. Maybe a tenth of that. If you did build this thing, I mean, if it is maybe the absolute centre of downtown Jakarta, it might cost you a million dollars. But I think if you're a bit careful about where you put it, you can afford some pretty good.


PPM:  Land in Bandung is nowhere near as expensive as it is in Jakarta. It is one of the more expensive cities, but it is nothing compared to Jakarta.


GW:  Right, OK. So if we do find you a million dollars, we can expect you to be building this historical martial arts training centre and library.


PPM:  And a server as a repository of the scanned and transcribed stuff to make it available. Of course, if you don't make it available to even more people, what’s the point of using a million dollars for it.


GW:  Exactly. I couldn't agree more. Well, thank you very much for joining me today for Pradana. It's been great talking to you.


PPM:  The sentiment is shared on this side of the screen.


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