THE DECISIVE ARGUMENT AND HIGH ART
Hand-to-hand fight has always served as a kind of visiting card of the Russian Army. Even now in the era of the predominance of firearms, it often becomes the last and decisive argument able to turn the tide of any battle.The fearless attacks of Ingush horsemen, the rapid raids of Tatar regiments, and the desperate courage of Bashkir soldiers inspired the enemy with no less horror than the “Russian bayonet”…this list can be continued infinitely! Each nation of the Russian Empire had its own military traditions and combat techniques, and skills honed for centuries. Each nation had made its own invaluable contribution to the formation of the concept “Russian hand-to-hand fight”.
Any national culture has three necessary components – material culture, moral culture and physical culture. The physical culture, which largely determines the Russian national identity, includes the skill of single combat from ancient times.
Hand-to-hand fight is complex and versatile concept. On one hand, any battle which includes the use of edged weapon can be called hand-to-hand fight. On the other hand, the modern sense of this term means rather one of the styles of single fight which characterized by the presence of:
Hand-to-hand fight has two main directions – applied and sport. Applied direction is practiced in the army and different special divisions. Practically there is no limitation for methods that are used in the army, the main task of the soldier is to disable the enemy or put the opponent out of action with guarantee. Another thing is the use of techniques by law enforcement agencies. Depending of the task the techniques may vary, but in any case the opponent shouldn’t be injured and even more killed. That’s why the training process is based on the development of required skills.
The sport direction differs from applied one, first of all, by the limitation related to the safety of the fighters. Dangerous traumatic tricks and hits are prohibited, protective equipment is used, evaluation system of the action of fighters is introduced, and duel time limit for fights and tournaments is established.
As a full-fledged sports and applied martial art hand–to-hand fight was formed in the seventies of the last century. The specialists from the USSR State Security Committee became the authors of the style. They analyzed the tremendous experience gained over millennia of the development of various styles of martial arts and put it on the latest achievements of psychology, biology and medicine. As a result, the most perfect applied style appeared, able to resist the “Eastern” and “Western” schools.
Soviet and Russian school of hand-to-hand fight is not as well-known as its numerous “Eastern” and “Western” competitors. And it is not a matter of efficiency, but only of the enormous funds spent on advertising and marketing. In many countries (a classic example is South Korea) the promotion of national forms of fight was raised to the rank of priority state programs. Time, however, puts everything in its place, and the combat system, which was born in a great country, occupies a worthy place in sport arenas and training halls.
Hand-to-hand fight did not arise on an empty place, but became the natural continuation of the military practices and traditions of many generations of Russian warriors – from the bogatyrs of pre-Mongol Russia to the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War. The history of hand-to-hand fight is inseparably linked with the history of Russia and, by following this connection, one can see and understand the source of its true strength.
Professional ancient warriors with outstanding physical strength and special combat skills are usually called bogatyrs. Actually, the word “bogatyr” itself has Turkic or Mongolian origin and came along with the Horde invasion. From the historical point of view, it should be more correct to consider the word “knight”, denoting a powerful and skilled warrior.
For a long time, historical science considered bogatyrs as fictional characters, who came from folklore. However, researchers noted the presence of many details and detailed “household” descriptions in the epics. It would be difficult to expect these details from a simple “fairy tale” story.
The epic theory received a crushing blow in the eighties of the last century, when it was proved that the personality of the monk Elijah Pechersky, whose relics rest in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra and the first Russian hero Ilya Muromets, was proved to be exact. The analyses showed surprising coincidence – physique, age and even the presence of childhood paralysis of the legs! Do you remember “sat on the stove thirty and three years”? Modern researchers also make parallels between other bogatyrs and real historical persons. So, Dobrynya Nikitich relates to the uncle of Prince Vladimir voivoda Dobrynya, and Alyosha Popovich – to Rostov boyar Alexander (Olesha) Popovich.
The existence of real prototypes confirmed the reality of a special class of professional warriors – the elite and, using modern terms, the special forces of the Russian army. “Spetsnaz motives” can be really seen in the actions of bogatyrs – fulfillment of the particularly complex tasks, the use of non-standard methods, effective actions alone or by small forces against a great number of opponents. Thanks to the natural physical strength, faith in God, living life in accordance to the foundations of the Ortodox faith, moral and strong willed qualities (again use the modern term), knowledge of tactics and strategy of warfare, and, also, having techniques of hand-to-hand fight, bogatyrs reached the top of the military art.
Unlike their northern fellows, the Vikings, who considered to be in a special state of a “fighting trance” as the best way of fighting and despised all sorts of “tricks”, the bogatyrs kept cold head during the battle and actively used a wide variety of defense and attack methods. In that they were more like representatives of the classic “Eastern” martial art schools. For example, one of the “main” folk bogatyrs Alyosha Popovich did not have special physical abilities, according to some sources, even suffered from a limp, but try to meet him in a fight! The bogatyr was nimble, “evasive”, owned cunning tricks that allowed him to deal with much stronger opponents. Obviously, this historical prototype had exactly these qualities which kept his memory alive.
Certainly, the epics were much more hyperbolized, many of the details were made by later authors, that’s why conclusions about the very existence of bogatyrs, as well as their fighting techniques and tactics, should be done on the basis of known historical facts and general logic of military art.
For professional warriors the skill to master the weapons was vital necessity which meant the existence of special training system. The training concerned as ordinary squads and so the representatives of the nobility from their childhood. In general, they became the prototypes of the epic bogatyrs. One of the most famous and undoubted historical examples is the Great Prince Alexander Nevskyi who was canonized and sainted for his righteous life. From childhood he studied military science, participated in the battles, had a good command of weapons and had uncommon physical strength. According to the legend, the weight of his sword was seventy-two kilograms! Let’s make a discount on folk art, but nevertheless, it should be recognized that before us the description of an extraordinary warrior!
Children’s armor designed for the sons of Russian princes testifies to a serious and systematic approach to the education and training of soldiers. Real exemplars are presented in the Armory of the Moscow Kremlin.
Legends also describe “udaletsky” fun – training and sports battles are described in the epics as well as “practical” trainings, when a warrior went to the field and called an equal opponent for a fight from the troops of the enemy (following “epic” terminology such practice was called “polyakovaniye”). The oldest literary and historical source “The Tale of the Time Years”, according to the interpretation of historian S.M. Solovyov, directly confirms the existence of sport and demonstrative competitions of hand-to-hand fight – “… we see a place fully occupied and a lot of people there, suppose they start to push each other…” Kostomarov also wrote the same, describing wrestling and fist fights competitions as a “fun”, amusement since ancient times…”
The structure of the Russian army (here it is appropriate to speak of pre-Mongol period), with the presence of “bogatyrs outposts” standing separately in the steppe, initially meant the leading of the battle with a numerically superior (often many times) enemy. The task of the outpost was to delay the advance of the enemy as much as possible and warn the cities about the beginning of the raid. Such tactic was possible only in the case of perfect mastery of the art of battle, as outposts did not have powerful defenses, and surviving of garrison depended only from the individual skill and strength of mind of warriors.
From the practical point of view, combat training included skill of using cold weapon (with extremely wide arsenal – swords, spears, various battle axes, maces, bludgeons etc.), throwing techniques (“lifted and threw on the earth from all over…”), striking and kicking techniques, chocking techniques (“squeezed the enemy so hard that the spirit left his body…”).
Cold steel itself served as a fine stimulus to constant trainings and exercises. A strong blow with a sword requires not only physical strength but special technique, and certain types of weapons (like a bludgeon) without proper training can be dangerous for the fighter himself. Certainly, at that time, it was difficult to talk about the existence of the united “all-Russian” school of hand-to-hand fight. Training centers were localized in the squads (for royalty, boyar or, in the case of Novgorod, “republicans”).
Constant fighting and border clashes have helped to adopt the most effective techniques and methods of warfare.
Practice of hand-to-hand fight in Ancient Russia was oriented, first of all, on skillful use of cold weapon, and mainly had military and applied character. Even the demonstration of the strength and youthful boldness at holidays, feasts and etc. had emphasized the potential military qualities, while the winner in fights was considered as a future defender.
The “Bogatyr” period of the development of Russian hand-to-hand fight laid the basis not only of the technique, but also of moral and ethical standards and rules, which later became a part of the Military Code of behavior of the Russian warrior. It was then that the service to the Fatherland, faith in God helped to establish the concept of honor, dignity, nobility, protection of the weak and fidelity to a word.
Fortunately, during the fall of the Soviet Union, sports hand-to-hand fight, was maintained and developed by the efforts of enthusiasts, especially in the former Soviet Republics (today in independent states) where, like in Russia, it had its independent “post-Soviet” history of growth – the history of creation of National Hand-to-Hand Fight Federations.
The common past, a similar system of the state support and development of sports in general, as well as constant interaction of countries at the level of power ministries and departments, helped hand-to-hand fight to come to international level. In 2006, by the initiative of the National Federations, the Union of Public Associations “International Federation of Hand-to-Hand Fight” HSIF was established.
The main objectives of the Federation are:
The main goal is the inclusion of hand-to-hand fight in the Olympic Games program.
Under the auspices of the Federation, World, European and Asian Championships, World Cups and international tournaments are regularly held among men and women, boys and girls in the age categories of 12-13 years, 14-15 years, 16-17 years, 18 years and older. Official competitions are held in two disciplines: “Fight” and “Self-defense”. Since recent time, under the flags of Federation international competitions in army hand-to-hand fight have begun to take place.
Besides public interest, the real needs of the force structures in qualified personnel have not gone anywhere, and, therefore, hand-to-hand fight is an essential part of the service and applied training of the army special forces, as well as of employees of the security and law enforcement agencies of many countries.
Now hand-to-hand fight is going through a real Renaissance. As a combat sport it captures more and more supporters all over the world who want to fulfil themselves in the fighting arena. HSIF closely cooperates with representatives of the other types of martial arts who participate in the Federation’s events with great interest. To promote hand-to-hand fight H2HFIGHT Champions League was created, which holds bright and spectacular tournaments according to the classic Western canons of the “fight” show. But only athletes who have achieved the highest results at the amateur level can participate in tournaments. Champions League fights are always a manifestation of the highest level of martial arts.
Hand-to-hand fight is bright and many-sided.
It is a perfect weapon in the arsenal of armies and special services!
It is a relentless sport competition!
It is a healthy lifestyle!
It is a thrilling show!
It is an instrument of harmonious development of the body and spirit!
It is strong moral principles!
It is a way of life!
Everyone can choose for themselves their own, the only and unique definition of hand-to-hand fight.