engaged in combat

Nudity in combat

Nudity in combat is the practice of entering combat without clothing and armor. It is rarely practiced because, apart from the social aspects of nudity, the combatant lacks even the basic protection of clothes, e.g. when diving for cover, or crawling. Also the combatant misses the practicality of hiding/carrying objects in pockets and attached to clothes. The artistic convention of heroic nudity, however, was established in the art of ancient Greece by the Archaic period.


Celtic peoples

Polybius' Histories describe how the Celts visually intimidated the Roman enemy before they engaged in the fight: naked, furiously shaking their long hair, shrieking brutally, bragging and defiant, showing an outrageous contempt for their own life. Diodorus Siculus reported other instances of such combat: "Some use iron breast-plates in battle, while others fight naked, trusting only in the protection which nature gives. Roman historians recorded that the Gaesatae fought naked in the battles in the Po Valley in Italy in the Cisalpine War.

Julius Caesar records in his account of the Gallic War that the Gauls went into battle naked save for their weapons.

Sometimes the soldiers wore no clothing but were covered in war paint, a custom that allegedly gave the Picts their name.

Modern occurrences

In some present martial arts which are designed to be fit for military fighting, full or partial nudity still occurs. The traditional donga style of stick fighting practiced by the young warriors, now bearing firearms, of the Omo Valley Suri tribe, often practiced entirely naked: serious injury is not uncommon, and it is occasionally fatal. Another example is the stick fighting style of the neighbouring Nyangatom, which fight bare-chested; the goal is to mark the adversary with visible stripes on the back.

In modern Liberia, soldiers under "General Butt Naked" Joshua Blahyi fought naked in order to terrorize their opponents.


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