Eastern European Saber

A forum for Polish and other Eastern European saber systems.
john h
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby john h » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:06 am

Almost no western texts talk about using the off hand, Hutton references it in regards to ‘dirty play’ and occasionally it will be mentioned in the ‘authors notes’/advice area. Most of the texts we do have are for ‘school work,’ sword fighting taught in a school or Salle. It was ungentlemanly to grapple and corps a corps rules were almost always enforced. The military manuals do not cover grappling much, I would assume there would be a whole other section on training the recruits that thus the sword training would not cover it. I never bothered looking for the other side of military manuals or reading those sections. For reference in one military manual that is over 600 pages long only 50 pages were dedicated to the sword (and it was a reprint of a different manual,) so I glossed over the rest.

Hutton on 'grappling' "seizing either the person or the weapon of the opponent is, like it's accessory the pass, reguarded as obsolete in the modern fencing room, though in old times it formed a regular part of the system of instruction: and it seemed to have held it's own on account of its usefulness..."

This mostly goes to show the attitude towards grappling in the salle by the 19th C.

I’ll agree the pass is used for the off hand. Then the question of why do we pass more on the messer than we do on the sabre. My answer is length of blade: A simple exercise on this, if you cut at my head with the last six inches of the blade and I guard, can I reach your hilt with my left hand? This will define if I wish to move to grappling and use my left hand regularly. On a Sabre of any decent length if I am cutting with the last six inches of the blade, the answer is no. Thus I cannot move to grips or disarm you with any ease. If I want to get into a grapple with you I must close the distance and begin employing my left arm. This is time you will have to react as well and generally I will not be able to do it unless I have already moved into your space with my guard. If I cannot quickly employ the left hand then it is a liability if it sticks out or widens my stance, thus we have all the different ways to remove the left arm from the target area.

On a Messer if you cut my head, with my guard I can reach your arm with my left arm and thus more left hand work can be employed in Messer fighting than in a longer blade. Why some Messer texts/art shows the arm secured behind the back instead of available to use I do not know, perhaps ‘gentlemanly rules’ like we see in later Sabre texts.

On the side of a wide stance as Russ noted and as Fick is teaching for side sword, it does suite better for rough terrain. It also occurred to me that, at least as far as the Morrozo side sword stuff and to an extent baskethilt and targe, most of the older sword in one hand is using the same footwork as when you are employing a left handed weapon as you can see with Morrozo’s works. Be it buckler, dagger whatever, you will square up a bit more when you employ your left hand. This is also seen in the Sihk Tulwar and buckler. How common was it for older Polish/Hungarian to use an offhand weapon when fighting? I personally believe for battlefield you just about always found something for your left hand to do, but this won’t be ‘taught’ in ‘school texts.’ The military texts spend very little time on footwork and some don’t even discuss it. The only way they got the Scots to drop their targe was to forbid them taking it into battle.

From the sword dance, be careful, look what this poor girl did to her pants ;) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nCT93ki ... re=related

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Tyler Brandon
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Tyler Brandon » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:34 am

I'm going with John H here. I have yet to find any Western text seriously referencing off hand usage. That being said other manuals/parts of manuals reference unarmed combat and I believe that there is a good chance that in a good training environment the two would be taught in combnation by an instructor and at the very least experienced soliders would have had the sense to combine the two. Considering the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps stressed boxing-wrestling-fencing as a combo in the early-mid 20th century, that seems to be a valid hypothesis.

Agai, in agreement with John H, blade length is going to be a major factor. Using a cutlass the off-hand options are going to be greater. Infantry saber less so, cavalry saber almost never. Not to say that a close range fight is implossible but I think intentionally closing is only really possible against and untrained or poorly/limited trained opponent.

Noting that the text is limited I have read accounts of off hand use and here in the States usgae with a tomahawk/bowie knife in the off hand. I can't recall the sources and if I find them I will post them. For Western saber this is a situation with zilch in the manuals and only rare accounts after the fact.

In the full Cold Steel Saber/Cutlass DVD they address off hand use with and with a weapon.
Can't post vid from work but if you can handle it there is a Lynn Thompson youtube video w/ P1908 saber and Laredo Bowie (At least you'll get to see some of Dave Baker's fine aluminum balde in action ;) )

I can't get the exact page up or linked from work but check out CDB's "Saber of the Battlefield." I find the scenarios presnted work well with the using the offhand against an unexperienced fighter theory.
http://cbd.atspace.com/articles.html

For off hand its seems the only way to build any concepts would be to trust the anecdotal evidnece and reconstruct from common sense experimentation and knowledge of period striking/grappling techniques. After all, in a fight you do what you have to to live.
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Richard Marsden
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Richard Marsden » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:40 pm

All good reasons for the off-hand to not be used, or perhaps rarely.

SO... if in Eastern European saber they are using the pass more often, how and why? If they are at all. I posted earlier why I'm leaning toward this.

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Tyler Brandon
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Tyler Brandon » Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:51 pm

I found this plate in Sir William Hope's 1707 A New Short and Easy Method of Fencing.

http://www.sirwilliamhope.org/Library/H ... Poster.jpg

This work does dicuss using the offhand. Figure 11 shows use of the off hand in use. Haven't seen it elsewhere

For anyone interested, here is Lynn in action with Jason Heck
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE3koHQcNMk
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Richard Marsden
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Richard Marsden » Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:20 pm

Looks like some of the grips in smalls-sword!

On my end, I'm chatting up a guy researching Ottoman arts. He thinks the off-hand was used in Turkish saber arts. Like us, he has few resources and is piecing things together as best he can. It's neat!

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Tyler Brandon
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Tyler Brandon » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:02 pm

@ Richard

The evidence is limited and mostly anecdotal but looking at the use of the offhand in other arts it make sense for saber. The intent of most manuals would make it outside their purview. Any instruction would have been outside that or something fighters implemented on their own.

I don't doubt its historical use but modern HEMAists are left to reivent the wheel. By continuing to look at other sword arts and what others have done I think we can reconstruct it well.

I don't have insight on off-hand in Eastern saber but it does seem odd that it would be used by the Ottomans and in Western Europe but not by Eastern Europeans.

Either the two extremes had parallel development or it fell out of use in Eastern Europe.
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Richard Marsden
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Richard Marsden » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:29 pm

We're doing good!

I think our best bet to re-create Eastern European saber will be to

A - Use other sources from the West and what little we have from Eastern Europe.

B - Look at period art.

C - Look at other nearby places and or others who use similar weapons historically.

D - Guess and compare results and challenge ourselves to try and find links.

When we guess, it would be nice, but not mandatory to try and link it to something A through C, which I think everyone here is doing a fine job of. My own views morph as I learn more and explore, which to me is exciting. I don't mind trying something, finding out it doesn't work, or discovering new sources and moving on. I've been very fortunate to get lots of input from the community on this one! So please keep it up.

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Richard Marsden
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Richard Marsden » Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:37 am

Okay, so I outlined my thoughts on stance, and feel free to revisit it. I'm building a system as I go, so if I seem whimsical- I am.

Targets

Image
The Zabloki interpretation of Starzewski I think is pretty sensible. One of the artifacts of the steel sabers I'm using is, we have the steep curve, but for safety we have a modern guard, which removes the lovely hand strikes indicated above.

I think something else to consider is false edge cuts, and the pamphlet Keith shared has lots of good specifics for Polish techniques derived from resources.
http://www.historical-academy.co.uk/wor ... 0Sabre.pdf

john h
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby john h » Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:16 am

On the topic of footwork, I relooked at how I consider footwork and what the purpose of it is. Sabre is by its nature a cavalry weapon, when you trace it back to its ‘roots’ a curved cutting weapon it almost always goes back to the preferred weapon for use on a horse, while a strait blade seems to be more suited to footmen. The offhand for cavalry is the horse, thus much training is geared strictly to using the blade in one had.

Next does the battlefield differ from a duel, obviously yes. On a battlefield I am confident I would square up my feet and use footwork that would be more ‘natural.’ If I were to teach something that was intended to deal with more than one person I would want it to be more like walking than the fencing stances. Fencing stances are great for a one on one duel but in a mass melee I would not want to give a slim profile to one target and have his friend show up at my back side. So I’m leaning to the different footwork being suited to single combat or mass combat.

In regards to targeting the hands: I originally got knuckle bows for my ‘trainer’ weapons. The idea was you needed to learn to protect your hands when you fight. I also wanted to encourage the ‘withdrawn’ guard that is appropriate with a knuckle bow. After my students routinely get hit in the hands I realized this wasn’t going to be learned well so I have replaced the guards with full guards. The ‘engaging guard’ you use is dictated by the hand protection you have.

Polish blades generally used a knuckle bow and thus you have a withdrawn guard that is held close to your body. The other extreme would be full hand protection like a basket hilt which has an almost fully extended arm in your ‘engaging guard.’ One of the defining aspects of the ‘Polish’ system is the lack of hand protection and what guards you use due to that and how to form the cuts because of your withdrawn guards. I would be conscious in your training not to let the presence of hand protection change your engaging guard. Keep that hand back and the tip up rather than sticking the hand forward and putting your point on target.

Discussion on engaging guards - http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB3/vi ... 31&t=17419

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Tyler Brandon
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Re: Eastern European Saber

Postby Tyler Brandon » Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:53 am

I agree in battle footwork is going to be more natural than in a 1v1 situation. Using saber until the 19th century was generally reserved for cavalry thus the offhand controls the horse as John H states. But during the Napoleonic era they became popular with infantry and the saber's baby brother the cutlass had long been at see. This combined with increased use of pistols especially after the introduction on the revolver adds another dimension.

We hear of troopers with sword in one hand pistol in the other and reign in their teeth. On foot, the 19th century officer is likely to have his revolver in the off-hand to shoot as well as pistol-whip. I could even see using the pistol for rudimentary parrying, especially if it had a finger tab like this and you wern't gripping with it.

Image
Last edited by Tyler Brandon on Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Hikaru Sulu: Fencing.

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