HEMA and Russia

Discussion in 'Western Martial Arts - General' started by Nobufusa, Nov 3, 2020.

  1. Nobufusa

    Nobufusa Yellow Belt

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    I noticed with HEMA, that most, if not all of the historical manuals seem to come from western Europe, specifically: Italy, Germany, England, Spain etc.

    I was curious to know if any historical combat manuals exist from Russia or other Eastern European countries? Surely there must be something.
     
  2. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    There are no combat manuals on Knightly fighting hailing from the Russian area during the Medieval period that I've heard of. There does seem to be a fair amount of artwork and iconography. From what I've heard, it generally matches up with the fundamentals of what we know of the German, Italian, and English systems.

    I don't recall seeing any Spanish origin medieval fight books. That may be because Moorish (Islamic) conquest of Spain started around a little after 700 A.D. and didn't get fully rung out until a little before 1500 A.D.

    Past that time, Renaissance and post-Renaissance fighting manuals are very clearly extant in every European area, including stretching into Russia (if you want to include Russia as European - there's an argument).

    However, with most of the single-handed sword systems during this period, there was an ever-growing "melting pot" of traditions. While George Silver complains about the un-English-nes of the imported Rapier style when compared to the English (and therefore superior) Broadsword system, as the same sort of swords (Rapiers, Smallswords, Military Sabers, and Dueling Sabers) began to spread across the broader continent, so also did the instruction in them. I have a buddy who's been studying Russian Martial Arts for decades and recently made a detailed study of Russian saber (shashka) systems and their origins. The extremely distilled version is that Russia imported European fencing Masters who taught saber in their tradition then the Russian culture put their spin on it. You can kinda say it's like all Military or Dueling saber systems in Europe are the same flavor of cake (vanilla?) but that each culture put their own flavor of icing on top of it.

    Because of the time period involved and the location, it would be most likely that any martial systems from then would have a Byzantium/Slavic flavor to them.

    A few years back video and stories of an allegedly remote Slavic area surfaced with the claim that these people had kept sword & buckler (or was it saber & buckler?) alive as a living tradition. It made a great splash and had many people both authenticating and debunking. I don't know whatever became of it. The video I saw seemed a little like martial dance as a method of transmission and competition. It "felt" a little like how some Jogo do Pau is practiced.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  3. Gweilo

    Gweilo Master Black Belt

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    I have done some research on Russian medieval fighting systems, as pointed out by IKlawson, modern Russia covers many older regions, most of the information I could find was mainly folklore and included stories of Bogatyrs, which stem back to times of Turks and Mongols etc, it would be interesting to see if you can find any literature on it. The only saved link I have is below, and may need Google translating, all the best.

    Богатыри
     
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  4. Christopher Adamchek

    Christopher Adamchek Purple Belt

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  5. Nobufusa

    Nobufusa Yellow Belt

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    Well, what little I know of the subject, I am under the impression that Spaniards (following the Reconquista) were very famous duelists, and had the most powerful military in Europe before the Armada was destroyed by the British in some battle I forgot the name of. They were also known for their powerful Tercio units.

    Yes, I certainly would consider Russia as part of European civilization. They are Indo-European people, who speak an Indo-European language, the Rus state was founded by Varangians from Scandinavia and their genetics are European and their culture is European. Moreover, the Romanov dynasty were basically cousins of the British and German royal houses. Russia certainly is Europe.

    That is interesting that you stated that Russia imported European saber masters, do you have any primary source evidence for this? I have heard that Napoleon considered the Cossacks to be the best troops in all of Europe, if that is the case, I am not sure why Russia would feel the need to import foreign instructors.
     
  6. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Everyone was famous duelists. The dueling culture spanned across the nations. I participated in republishing an antique book on dueling. But my favorite duel was Richard Peeke against the entire Spanish military (almost).

    Yes. A good buddy has been researching Russian martial arts (and Spanish, and Portuguese, and some others) for decades. He went and studied in Russia. He's been studying European fencing for 30 years or so. He went down a serious Russian saber rabbit hole. Found the documents, the imported masters, and the manuals they wrote. If you really want, I can get a name for you.

    And John Gaspard Le Marchant, a Brit with a non-British name, considered most rank-and-file English military saber skills against the French to be poor and then wrote a book with standard military saber mixed with a healthy dose of Highland Broadsword (I've studied it). The point is that it's not a different system at its base, it just has a different cultural flavor; well trained and experienced groups can obviously be "better" at those skills because practice and experience does that.

    Europe was a giant freaking melting pot and the sword work all got mixed together by the late middle ages at least, and probably well before. Trade routes connecting them all and constant wars pretty much guaranteed this. And that's on top of the fact that, as you mentioned, the royalty was all related to each other. When they're mixing that heavily, there's no logical reason to believe, outside of nationalism, jingoism, and wishful thinking, that their fighting systems would be isolated, insulated, and unique.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
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  7. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    I touched base with my buddy. To quote: " Alexandre Valville taught the Imperial Guard contrepoint in the early 1800s. After that, his student Sokolov taught there, including bayonet, baton, etc."

    This went on to become a basis for much of what we now consider "classic" Cossack Shashka technique.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  8. Nobufusa

    Nobufusa Yellow Belt

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    Informative! The reason I am asking is that I would like to gift a Russian friend of mine a historical Russian martial arts manual. I think he would like it.
     
  9. Gweilo

    Gweilo Master Black Belt

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    That is going to be difficult, these types of books are very rare outside of Russia, and if you can find them they are in pdf format, and in Russian language.
    Most fighting skills were passed on through family, or guarded secrets until recently, like Cossack Shashka. Most of whats available is stseplyalka-svalka, or more commonly known as Russian boxing, which was a sport in peace time, with village V village, boys, first then men fought, the only real rules where not to strike your opponent whilst they are on the ground, a tradition without that rule still goes on without the rules by groups of youths in Rural areas of Russia today, and with rules in the modern version called Strelka, both can be seen on youtube. So unless your friend can read Russian, you may have to look for a different gift.
     
  10. Nobufusa

    Nobufusa Yellow Belt

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    I have access to Russian books, that isn't an issue.


    [/QUOTE] So unless your friend can read Russian, you may have to look for a different gift.[/QUOTE]

    Well, I don't mean to be rude, but I did just say my friend is Russian...
     
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  11. Gweilo

    Gweilo Master Black Belt

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    Appologys I missed that
     
  12. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    I've heard rumors that Sokolov's manual has been reprinted as part of the modern Cossack pride revival.
    The Inscription Rules Fencing Art - Sokolov 1843​

    I think you can still find a PDF of images scans from the original if you look in the right places.

    I've seen one or two images from Sokolov, I think (maybe - it's been a while). IMS, one of the unique flavors of the saber system is a multiple moulinet before strike instead of the standard single moulinet before strike. Gives it a whirling, active, almost performance art flavor.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk123
     
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