Let's say a supernatural being descended to our reality in medieval times. He destroyed all weapons and knowledge about metallurgy and anyone who tries to forge or use a weapon die.

But this god-like being gives full knowledge of all martial art styles to all humans. The only weapons allowed are wooden sticks, clubs and shields or any nature´s stuff like stones, etc. I mean that no metal is allowed in this world, at least for melee combat. No armor, no ranged weapons like bows. Throwing weapons with your hands is allowed. Siege weapons only to take down doors.

Now wars are fought with wooden weapons and bare fists/feet.

How different would warfare, tactics and weapons be?

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    $\begingroup$ Society collapses because farmers are no longer able to repair their plows or harvest their crops. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ What if while chopping wood I accidentally strike my friend? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ Does a person die if s/he sharpens a wooden stick and throws it at someone pointy end first? What about throwing a club, or a rock? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ This seems oddly specific with several loopholes. For example, there are all kinds of historical weapons that aren't made of metal (bone, glass, stone, and wood of course). Supposing though that only melee wooden weapons are allowed though, that still leaves the possibilities wide open for all sorts of things to be carved out of wood. Regardless, the question you're asking is how different would things be and that isn't really something quantifiable. Perhaps the question should be something more along the lines of useful/logical tactics in warfare under such conditions? $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ this looks very opinion based to me $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2017 at 18:50

4 Answers 4


The comments are hashing out some loopholes in the discussion (which provide some valuable insight), but trying to take the question at more-or-less face value

1. Standing armies become far less important

In a world where literally everyone has effective mastery over the viable military form, standing armies aren't nearly as important. Already in many historic societies large armies were only formed when needed, but now with literally no need of combat training, creating armies in times of need is far, far easier and faster.

2. Guerilla warfare is the defacto standard

...Further, when any house spouse, child, farmer, craftsman, noble... can join in battle, controlling the populace is near impossible. Any people you attempt to subdue are capable of taking your troops on. This is a huge problem for actually conquering an enemy, and it becomes an extremely powerful tool for the defending nation, tribe, or people.

3. Logistics and strategy will outweigh tactics

Assuming your only real force in combat are some variation of martial artists, intelligent commanders will need to figure out some way to create an edge. After all, everyone has troops composed of hundreds of men (and women?) who have mastered multiple forms of warfare. They'll start exploring means outside of the martial arts to empower their forces. Supply lines? Dragoon-style forces? Troop distribution? Whatever they can find.

4. Large armies will be far harder to maintain

Speaking of supply lines, most historic societies had trouble with them. Instead many resulted to pillaging the lands they moved through simply in order to support their troops. Since every farmer and shepherd can defend their own land, making forced acquisition costly... well... this causes problems.

5. Troops will be allowed to do their own thing (more than they were previously)

Assuming that the mastery of various martial arts comes with the theory behind them, your troops will understand the "why" and "how" of the forms, movements, and practices that compose the martial arts; they'll understand the theories that drive the function. This will allow them to have a tactical understanding in the midst of battle far, far better your average joe holding a spear.

In ye olde times organization and command of troops was already difficult (those societies who figured out methods of command and organization through, say, trumpet calls and tight, well practiced formations are generally highlighted in history books), so self-sufficient and self-empowered units is faster, more dynamic, and simply... easier. Unless a civilization has already pioneered advanced military command and organization tactics, this is an easy win. Some level of localized command during battle will be maintained, but for ho-hum kingdom without much knowledge of warfare hands-off will be the best approach.


How would the world change? It would go something like this:

Kali: "Ares, man, how do you stop people from doing small-joint-manipulation on you? Even if you win, you are horribly, horribly mangled."

Ares: "I tell you what, let's just throw our clubs at his head. KO him right there, and we don't get horribly mangled."

Kali: "Ares, I found this really hard rock! It's all brown and stuff, but it's harder than flint"

Ares: "Oh! That's great! Let's put it on the end of our staves! And make it pointy because that will be better at hurting people!"

Kali: "I'm going to call this a 'spear'."


Ares: "You know what would be sweet? If we had many small spears and some sort of super-spear launcher."

Kali: "I'm ahead of you there. I made this thing I'm calling a 'bow.'"

Ares: "I don't want to get hit with that. I've made something I called a 'shield'. I feel like we've done this before..."

Anti-Metal God: "Yes, you have, and I don't like where this is going."

In short, nothing would change. Armor, weapons, and the race between them would still happen, and very much in the same way.


People would stop fighting completely.

This, of course, is a loophole. You give "full knowledge of all martial arts styles" to everyone. The vast majority of martial training regiments which dare to call themselves an "art" have, at the pinnacle of achievement, the ability to not need to fight.

If you give everyone full knowledge of every martial art, including these arts, then you must also give everyone an understanding of how not-fighting must be the only way. Without that understanding, you do not have the full knowledge of these arts. You simply cannot learn them without inner peace.

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    $\begingroup$ And as the saying goes, an armed society is a polite society. In regards to this, that means everyone is a martial arts master, which means they are equally as good as you are well barring any major physical differences, which... in the world of martial arts isn't as huge of an issue until grappling happens. If anything it would be long drawn out fights that end with both sides very beat up. IF there is a fight, it better be for a good reason as most people would not be willing to fight a war of attrition. $\endgroup$
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ You might see a lot of people going to the gym - because with equal knowledge, being bigger/stronger is going to be an advantage. Then again, if someone is bigger/stronger, maybe I just won't fight them: you can't lose a fight you don't join. $\endgroup$
    – Ghotir
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ Everyone with full knowledge of martial arts will gain a powerful sense of self-control and discipline. Plus a realization that fighting achieves effectively nothing. Since everybody, the whole population, now shares this mind-set, conflict will be resolved through negotiation and discussion. I did enough martial arts to recognize the validity of this proposition. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 7:44

I think then wooden weapons become much more sophisticated; hardened, dried and sharpened; perhaps soaked in liquids that make them denser. Pointy ends can be very effective, including in all-wooden arrows, or a throwing cross (say a four pointer with a good rock in the middle for weight).

Since stones are allowed, flint can be knapped to a scalpel sharp and lasting cutting edge; so it can be (indeed was) used to tip weapons. It is brittle; but perhaps wooden weapons with an embedded flint edge would make good knives and cutting swords.

Socially, warriors are chosen by try out or conscription at a very early age, like six, and trained all day every day in martial arts, including the use of every imaginable type of wooden weapon, offensive and defensive (like fighting with a shield). They never have any other profession, they are trained, they fight, in older age they may become generals or trainers, they may be allowed to have wives and children if they survive some required number of battles and kills. This doesn't have to be all males; female martial artists can often hold their own against males (IRL that is a major motivation for females learning martial arts. The blade of her forearm against the throat of an attacker can kill him; there is a vulnerable point in the pelvis to kick that breaks it in two and makes it impossible for the attacker to stand up.)

As far as tactics: The obvious one is to have an army of ruthless, highly trained martial artists that attack the untrained citizens of the opponent, killing them all. Or killing all the adults and males over six, taking the rest of the males as new warriors, and (like Moses) give all the virgin females to male soldiers, to be the mothers of their children.

Beyond that, ambush when possible, deception and guerilla tactics when possible, "specialist" silent night in-person assassination teams when possible (analogous to our Seal Team Six operations and spies), otherwise direct confrontation or siege when all other options are exhausted.


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