Since the eagle was considered the spirit closest to the creator, eagle feathers were sacred to American Indians. Any warrior could possess an eagle feather, but he could only wear an eagle feather after he had earned a verified coup during battle. Thus, wearing an eagle feather was a great honor and commanded respect amongst other warriors. The more coups a warrior earned; the more eagle feathers the warrior could wear. Thus, when a warrior earned many coups, his fellow warriors would donate eagle feathers to create a headdress of eagle feathers that signified the warrior’s coups, and they would give the headdress (war bonnet) to the warrior to signify their honoring his greatness. In point sparring, the fighters do not seek to injure the opponent with attacks. The fighters only seek to touch the opponent and earn a score. In effect, they are stating to the opponent, “I could have hurt you, but I did not, and there was nothing you could have done to stop me!” The purpose in outscoring the opponent in point sparring falls short of trying to disgrace or dishonor the opponent in war, but it does reflect the need to feel superior to the opponent. Martial artist show respect to a fighter who collects the most points (coups) and reward the fighter with a trophy or medal. The more awards the fighter collects, the greater the fighter’s respect in the fighting community. Point sparring of modern martial art fighters is similar to the “counting coup” of great Native American warriors; however, one should consider what happened to the Lakota who put more importance on “counting coup” in battle than on killing the enemy. The Lakota were defeated by the Europeans whose only purpose in battle was to kill the enemy.
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