About saber and the Cossack martial art. Professor Vadim Zadunaisky

Professor Vadim Zadunaisky took part in the marathon dedicated to the project "Mysteries of Russian and Slavic schools of fencing". Vadim Zadunaisky is a doctor of historical sciences, professor, researcher of Cossack culture and a descended of Cossacks. In an interview with the special correspondent of the German edition of the World of Martial Arts, Konstantin Slobodyanyuk, Vadim Zadunaisky spoke about the results of his research and conclusions that were drawn during these studies. The conversation was about the definition of Russian and Slavic schools of fencing, about what comes in the beginning of the studies, about Cossack blades and dagger handling. There was also a discussion about whether there is a hand-to-hand fight in the Cossack tradition. Let us share a brief information about biography of Professor Vadim Zadunaisky. Vadim Zadunaisky became one of the founders of the first Cossack community on the territory of the USSR in 1984. He has a big interest in Cossack subjects. He himself has Cossack roots by his father and mother line in the Azov Cossack army and Little Russian Cossack regiments, including relations with the Kuban Cossacks. One of his ancestors is Viktor Mikhailovich Zadunaisky who has founded the Azov army in 1828. The first time Vadim Zadunaisky took a saber in his hand was when he was 10 years old, and that determined his interest on “a household level”, as for the scientific interest subsequently became the basis for the research of the archives primarily of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Poland. Based on these studies, he managed to substantiate the essence of what we can call Ukrainian type of Cossack martial art. According to the professor, it is very similar to the don martial art. For cavalrymen it is about a sabre and pike, for kuban’s and Black Sea Cossacks saber only, since the pike was abandoned. If it comes to the kuban-plastun type of combat, it is the possession of a bayonet from the Mosin rifle, as it became the basis for developing the parameters of the martial art. Martial art was of an exclusively practical one and not a sport type, classic type of martial arts as the main task is the victory in an armed combat. In regard to a question of what is Russian and Slavic schools of fencing are scientist Vadim Zadunaisky told that the Slavic martial arts school is a very vague concept, since one has no choice but include the peculiarities of the traditions formation of many Slavic people: Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Czech. As a basis for the research work he used the archival sources, and not only looked into representatives of martial arts that live now. The archives about regimental schools, training regimental commands, summer camps of Cossack perfection were studied, including materials on stanitsa training. They contain one component of what we can call martial arts, and it is about the upbringing of a warrior. There is also evidence that in the village of Anastasievka (Kuban army) children at the age 8 -10 took part in the Cossack competitions, and that is the way of life of the Cossack organization. The professor expressed an assumption in regard to the formation of a fighting culture in society which is a focus on the art of war. Even the Cossacks did not have a school in the form of sports martial arts, accordingly, the Slavic school of martial arts could not have been formed, therefore one can speak about this only in the context of practical martial art.

The materials studied suggest that Cossack martial arts were formed by the XIX century, when the standardization of rules and training was minimal, which in principle represents the Cossack martial art. These standards were fixed on the Cossack society level, as well as in the state level documents, illuminated by the tsarist authorities in the decrees of fencing and the use of military weapons. In other territories, such as Ukraine and Poland, this was not the case since it is not indicated anywhere that young people were trained on the basis of combat training, not to mention the training of cold weapon handling.

Cossack martial art was formed due to the following factors:

1) the military way of life of the Cossack community;
2) the priority of military service and, accordingly, the preparation for it in the Cossack community;
3) preparation control for service by Cossack self-government bodies;
4) determination by the organs of the higher imperial administration of the corresponding requirements and representation of Cossacks' rights to engage in a specific way of training young people for military service, including the right to carry weapons.

As it was already mentioned, the training of Cossacks began with the draft from a small age, and its basis was the stabbing and cutting blows. Wooden prototype of the sabre was used to avoid injuries, and it corresponded to combat weapons both in weight and in length. This kind of an approach can be found in the training of Russian cavalrymen in the charter of 1861, where it is was determined, that the rank and file personnel conducts classes and trainings using wooden weapons in order not to get injuries that could impede the performance of military duties. In addition, and for the purpose of independent investigation of the Cossack draft, Vadim Zadunaisky advises to study the research of Boris Frolov, who published several books devoted to cold weapons.

Training began with methods such as scrolling, unwinding of the wrist, elbow and shoulder of the corresponding hand in horizontal and vertical planes, also they use to twist the "eight". All these exercises were aimed at preparing one to handle a cold steel. Same applied to other military weapons training. Professor stressed, that the training was conducted both on foot and on horseback. During training on foot, as a rule, the position as if sitting on a horse was adopted, with one hand simulating a hold on the reins, and the other hand hold the weapon. The simplest strikes were performed standing on the ground. The next stage was training on a wooden horse. By the beginning of the XX century, the Cossack armies had a three lines of service: 4 years in the regiment, 4 years of temporary combat training, and last 4 years Cossack used to live in the village and was involved, except on holidays for a combat training. In the event of war, mobilization was immediate. The Cossacks of the second and third stages of the service were sergeants and junior officers who trained young Cossacks.
After training on a wooden horse one used to start training on a real horse, then he proceeded to train on a horse, which went by step, afterwards - a trot, and then - a gallop and a complete din. Training was carried out on stuffed animals, vines and clay on foot and on a horseback. In Kuban, for example, they used to use cut vegetables for a training, such as “kavuns” and melons. A separate place was allocated for "rings" they were used to train thrusting strikes.

"Classic line" which was held by a Cossack, demonstrated the quality of handling cold weapons, and it consisted from 3-6 vines. They were located on either side of the rider and created a "corridor", where they had to be cut down at full gallop. At the end of the corridor there was a "circle" which was the target for a thrusting blow. This is described in the instructions of 1911 for the training of Cossacks in training camps. Project was approved in 1912. It clearly described how to hold a Cossack sword, how to handle and so on.

Besides attacking techniques Cossacks studied defensive ones. This is a confirmed fact, which, according to the scientist, he met in the archives of Krasnodar and Rostov. Also, Vadim Zadunaisky noted that Cossacks were trained in an attacking mode in the first place rather a defensive one. During the first year of training it was necessary to teach how to attack. Further in the document the explanation (literally) is presented: "A good attack is already a part of defense". The best tactic was to impose his character of combat contact on the enemy.

All these facts have caused a lot of discussions about what kind of school is this. By the beginning of the XX century, the Italian school of sword handling was used in the training of cavalrymen in the Russian Empire. If we speak about the regulations of the Russian Empire of 1860-1869 one may also see the relationship with the French school.

The Cossacks had no attachment to the imperial school, and there was only one requirement which is to deliver a strike, as they can and as they practice.

Vadim Zadunaisky notes an interesting fact that he happened to encounter with - the French charter, where it was stated, that the distinctive feature of the French school is the priority of thrusts over the blows. The Cossacks, on the contrary, had a priority of beating strikes, but at the same time they also practiced thrusts. The initial phase in French documents includes three strikes and one thrust. Preparation of all Cossacks before they get into the service, namely the Cossacks of school age, included three main defensive techniques and three strikes, one might say, the basics. All these blows are described in the statute of Gladkov in 1899 and in the instructions of 1912.
The first blow was applied from the top to the bottom, both from the right of horse’ head and from the left; the second blow is from the right and with the swing; third strike - depending on the situation: either with full or partial scrolling along the tangent; "thrust" left and right with shoulder “hit” and pulling after the hit. These blows were known by all young men who reached the age of 13.
Three protective techniques provided protection from a blow from the top to the bottom and an oblique strike, where the blade was located above the head and at an angle so that while bending the elbow joint an opponent's weapon did not slip. Due to the absence of a guard, it was by no means possible to take protection upon oneself. In order to protect against the right-hand blow of the enemy, movement was made to the right of itself, towards the enemy's blade, the blade was placed in the direction of the enemy and slightly obliquely. In the third protective element, the point of the blade was directed towards the ground by the blade from itself. Accordingly, there are three attacking blows and one thrust, out of these three, two strikes are similar. In this case it is considered that there are three of them, and consequently there are three elements of defense.
The art of the highest level was mastered by masters, and it included five more attacking and approximately three defensive techniques.
With an attacking blow (twist), the blade moved to the plane to oneself. Another twist was carried out in the direction of the bottom-up; a horizontal twist was used. Another strike - a thrust with a deviation to back and on the side. The total number of techniques in training reconstructed by Professor Vadim were 18. This arsenal is considered peculiar because it uses kicks, half-sit., spits on the opponent's face, a kick with a knee and a blow with the support of the hand. A blow with the support of the hand was used in the bayonet battle of Cossack members. This is less systematized and more versatile in comparison with saber combat.
The use of blades by the Cossacks is described in the statute and instructions for the Kuban and Tersk Cossacks, where a separate subsection was assigned to a dagger handling. This is a famous Cossack dagger modeled after the Caucasians. Only two methods of mastering them are described, which was learned by Cossacks on the first level, and both strikes were of a thrusting nature - a forward blow and from below. More experienced fighters could use more tricks, but this was less common, since horse-fighting always took place on sabers.

The fate of daggers for black sea, and then the kuban Cossacks, began with their introduction in the early 40s of the XIX century. Later, the production of daggers became on the factory level, and the compulsory version of the Cossack dagger was introduced in 1904.

In 1909, a permit was issued, signed by Nicholas II, about the possibility of the Cossacks coming out with checkers and other weapons of their fathers and grandfathers. On this basis, the Cossacks were given the opportunity to remain distinct in the choice of weapons and to have a unique combat training that distinguished them from regular cavalry officers who took courses at the highest gymnastic fencing school in the Russian Empire.

The primary blade for the Black Sea Cossacks was 42-45 cm, while the officer's blades were shorter and lighter. The blade was taken from the usual Caucasian kama without a stake, that is, sharpened from both sides, and with a sharp end, since it was mainly stabbing blows. The dagger of 1904 was longer - more than 50 cm, and the officer's was 42-45 cm. There were four lobes, the length of the handle was 12-15 cm, and the guard was missing. Also, daggers were made not only of the classical sample of kama, but also of the type of the bebut with a rounded ending, but this is a rarity. They worked as a dagger as a Norman grip, as well as Greek.

If we talk about the hand-to-hand fighting of the Cossacks, then, by examining their preparation and taking into account the essence of the documentary basis, it can be said that the concept of hand-to-hand combat is not in the ratio of what is put into this term in modern life.

Logical models of working with weapons (sabre or dagger) in the Cossacks turn into the same logical models of work already in hand-to-hand combat without the use of weapons, that is, the movements and geometry remain the same. The use of these models predetermined the work of either the fist or the palm. In a greater degree, the blows predominated, and to a lesser extent the wrestling techniques. The punches were not only the same as we used to see today, they were also applied by the back of the fist (you can make a comparison using a hammer).

These models were reported to colleagues by professor Vadim Zadunaisky who tried or are trying to revive the Cossack martial art. According to the professor, this was better understood by the Cossacks on the Don and Kuban, rather than in Ukraine, due to the absence of clan ties. Excessive influence of martial arts, which are already formed in our country - Eastern and European, which do not have a base of work with weapons, turns all this into a fun, because the Cossack martial art is aimed at defeating and destroying the enemy.

Author: Oleg Starinov