The Navaja. Spanish heritage of Norman origin

It is not a secret that the richest fencing culture from immemorial times is rightfully owned by Spain. Numerous conquering wars in the history are known, which resulted in the formation of the Spanish fencing school that left behind the works of the great maestros, such as Pacheco de Narvaez's "The Book of the Greatness of the Sword", Jerónimo de Carranza's "Philosophy of the Weapon", Gerard Thibaut's "The Academy of the Sword" and others.

However, along with long blade weapons in Spain, weapons with a short blade (knives, daggers, stilettos) were widespread. This article discusses one of the most famous duel knives in Spain, which is navaja. To date, Navaja is an integral part of the Spanish heritage.

While studying the history of this knife, most of the sources indicate that the Navaja has Spanish origins. Nevertheless, does this statement correspond to the actual state of affairs?

Here one has to pay attention to the appearance of the Navaja itself. It consists of two parts: a hilt, which is made by the image of a bull horn, and a blade that represents the shape of a bear claw. Thus, another question arises: are the any bears found in Spain? The answer is obvious: they are not there. However, it is the “combination” of animals two that we see in the view of the Pantheon of the Slavic gods, namely, Veles. On the left hand of Veles there a bull, and on the right hand a bear. Moreover, as it is known, Veles was not only the god of wellbeing and success, but also he is perceived as millstones capable of grinding anybody. According to ancient tales, Veles managed to know the powers of Light and the powers of Darkness equally.


If the Navaja symbolizes the combination of a bear and a bull, it becomes obvious that this knife has a much more ancient history, which takes its roots in the North during the Viking times. It was the Norman warriors who were the first to use Navaja in boarding combat, working together with a long sword. In addition, initially Navaja as a combat weapon was not a folding one. It appeared In in a folding form in Spain during the time of Charles V and his conquest wars.

Folding Navaja emerged when it was necessary to hide it, for the convenience purposes. Undoubtedly, such a variant of carrying a weapon could be useful for all representatives of crime. However, this knife is quite expensive and was not designed for mass production and carrying. The presence of Navaja spoke about a certain status. We could say that we are dealing with a cult, authoritative knife, designed to clarify the relationship between the status of representatives of crime. In addition, given the specific shape of the blade with the bent end, fencing with Navaja requires a special approach and skill as well. For example, hitting strikes must be applied at an angle and not in a direct manner. The cutting surface also has its own characteristics, and the blows are applied by the end of the blade. In addition, great importance is the grip of the knife which changes the approach in the striking technique.

To date, practically no one on the territory of the CIS is engaged in Navaja fencing and does not teach this art, despite the fact that Navaja itself is a fairly well-known version of weapons in the world. However, in early 2018, Ukraine hosted a cultural and historical seminar on the Spanish technique of sword fencing. The seminar was held at the Spanish Fencing School "Destreza Achinech" which is rightly called to be the guardian of ancient chivalric traditions.

In the course of the seminar, the technique of working with a Canary knife, a stone knife and a navaja was given in the frameworks of the third level of training with bladed weapons. The blade handling technique was taught by a scientist, candidate of psychological sciences, the head of the

Research Institute of “World martial art traditions and criminalistic research of weapon handling”, Professor of Destreza Oleg Maltsev. According to Oleg Maltsev, fencing with a knife is much more difficult than sword fencing, sword or saber one. While handling the long blade one might use small steps to approach an enemy. As for fencing with a knife, footwork plays one of the main roles. They seem to “carry” one, shifting his position and leading away from the line of attack.  That what nurtures coordination in the person, mind and ability to quick- think in extreme situations.

"Speeds ​​in fencing are much faster than in life. When one learns to make decisions and act in this kind of a rhythm, then in life, at slower speeds he will think much faster. Fencing is an excellent tool for educating the mind and increasing the speed of thinking. As a result, all skills obtained during fencing are integrated into life, which makes one extremely effective. "

Author: Oleg Starinov