Polish Cross-Cutting

A forum for Polish and other Eastern European saber systems.
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Richard Marsden
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Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Richard Marsden » Sun Jun 23, 2013 11:08 am

We'll be tackling this in more detail in the book.

The Sieniawski family have this to say-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8Qt_9OpgYw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyfuwLLVUdM

And article
http://www.hroarr.com/tag/sieniawski/

Let's take a bit of a closer look, now that we have video and text.

The phrase cross-cutting is in the sources, but not described well.

So, the sources below are neat- but note the years.

“The fencing art, the cross-cutting art, the art of cutting in a cross, kreuzhiebe der fechter; The Fencer needs to be teaching his student to fence, to perform thrusts, and parry for as long as it takes for the student himself to become the master and be able to teach his former teacher a lesson or two. . . . Damn him to the gallows, he’s cutting in such a flurry, likely in the style of the cross-cutting art.” (Słownik języka polskiego, tom 5 M. Samuela Bogumiła Linde, Lwów 1859 [Dictionary of Polish, vol. 5 by M.

“In the old days, Poles, who used only such weapons as are designed for cutting, had tremendous skill both on the battlefield, and in individual combat, which so often occurred at gatherings and brawls during various diets, and hardly ever did they go into such subtle techniques as the Germans do, instead basing their entire fencing art on the art of cross-cutting, that is on two quick successive cuts that went in a cross-wise fashion, from left diagonally to the right, and the other way round.” (Encyklopedia Powszechna Tom ósmy S. Orgelbrand Warszawa 1861 [General Encyclopaedia, vol. 8, by S. Orgelbrand, Warsaw 1861])

“The Cross-cutting art – this is how the nobles of Old Poland named the skillful cuts with a saber. (…) Anyone who knew the cross-cutting art well was esteemed and respected by his fellow noblemen: the skill and agility of those fierce fighters was always something to be admired. Often, if two such formidable fencers stood back to back and defended against the oncoming rabble, they could fight their way through the throng, and escape with little harm to themselves. The tradition of the cross-cutting art, which was known even not so long ago amongst the legionnaires who served in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw, is now entirely lost.” (Encyklopedia Powszechna Tom szesnasty S. Orgelbrand Warszawa 1864, [General Encyclopaedia, vol. 16, by S. Orgelbrand, Warsaw 1864) (Note the last line)

“Fencing, from German fechten ‘to fight’, in Polish szermierka. After the curved saber became widespread in Poland, we developed a style of fencing that was the most famous style in the world. Poles became so incredibly skilled at fencing with a curved saber that no other nation in the world could match them in this art. They called it the cross-cutting art because cuts and parries were formed in the shape of the cross.” (“Encyklopedia Staropolska”, Zygmunt Gloger, Warszawa 1900-1903)[Old Polish Encyclopaedia, Zygmunt Gloger, Warsaw 1900-1900])

And so on. The snippets are all 19th and 20th (just barely) comments- with one going so far as to say the art is lost at the time of the writing. I don't want to outright discount them- but like with Starzewski's material, I take it with a grain of salt. Additionally, according to Norman Davies, the Polish histories of the 19th century are nationalistic and romanticized- as were so many other nationalities' works during that period.

The only near-period comment is this- which I love because it has lots of saber clues in one shot!

Father Jezierski from the 18th century:
“It seems that, just as merriment has its own outward ways of expression, where the national character is exhibited in various dances, so the movements resulting from anger influence the ways one uses steel. The Hungarian cuts from the left, the Muscovite from above, the Turk towards himself, and the Pole uses cross-cuts.”

So far, this isn't much to go on. Marcelli has some saber comments, but they are in reference to the rapier. When he says 'sword' he means rapier according to translator Carlo Parisi.

The Sieniawski family think the cuts are

During the strike, the curvature of the saber makes the strike become a slice or a draw, which increases the effectiveness of cutting.

The movement of the arm must be broad enough for the blade to go fully through the target. If the cut is too shallow, the main property of a curved blade won’t be used, that is increasing the power of the cut through slicing or drawing.

The weight of the saber means that the shoulder and wrist need to cooperate. The elbow is almost entirely straight when executing the cut, which means that the shoulder joint takes most of the load. Whilst the shoulder gives the cut its strength, the wrist is responsible for speed and direction.

In order for the weapon to have the appropriate energy, you need to take a swing and align the edge on an appropriate plane. In a correct cut, the blade should inscribe a circle that passes through the axis of the body and returns to the starting position. In some cut combinations the blade, after passing the axis of the body, goes behind the back, gaining the energy necessary for a second cut.


Bartoz goes on to say this is the only way to perform a strong cut and use the curve of the blade. If you watch the video, you can see they try to keep a rock-solid elbow.

So, we've been far more open as to what cuts and blows are available in 17th century Polish saber duels. Pasek, in his 17th century memoirs cuts people, but not into pieces and when trying to finish people off- tended to stab them. Kitowicz's early 18th century account notes in personal duels, people were not cut in half, but a fellow might lose a hand, have his head dented, or get cut on the cheek. Starzewski noted the hand is targeted in practice, while the core in earnest in his 19th century material. (He also favored wrist-powered cuts)

There is a LOT of room for interpretation here, so now it's time for the dedicated researchers and dreamers to comment as best they can. I'll be taking relevant notes!

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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Ben Floyd » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:38 am

Thanks for the post. Very interesting...
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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby KeithFarrell » Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:43 am

It is a stylistic element that practitioners of Polish sabre should try to implement if possible, that differentiates the system stylistically from other systems.

For example, early Scottish broadsword could be characterised as:
- stay in hanging guard
- strike out at an opening
- return to hanging guard

Slightly later, the Angelo style of broadsword/sabre had the stylistic element that every defence was to be accompanied by a slip, so the legs were in constant motion back and forth.

Looking at some of the other systems, even those that did not slip with every parry, the general advice seemed to be to make one attack on the lunge and then withdraw under some form of parry or guard position.

The Polish cross cuts are quite different: stylistically, it means that you have to make at least two cuts upon your advance and before your withdrawal. How do you structure your footwork to support two cuts moving forward rather than just one? Interesting question, I have some ideas, but I don't know how well they will stand up in fast moving sparring.The cross cuts should involve striking from side to side and between shallow and core targets, and feinting is very important.

The problem with doing a lot of feints and cross cuts like that on every advance is that an opponent will then begin to note your pattern, and so you cannot allow yourself to become predictable. An interesting problem that arises from the stylistic feature.
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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Andreas Engström » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:06 am

KeithFarrell wrote:The Polish cross cuts are quite different: stylistically, it means that you have to make at least two cuts upon your advance and before your withdrawal. How do you structure your footwork to support two cuts moving forward rather than just one? Interesting question, I have some ideas, but I don't know how well they will stand up in fast moving sparring.The cross cuts should involve striking from side to side and between shallow and core targets, and feinting is very important.

The problem with doing a lot of feints and cross cuts like that on every advance is that an opponent will then begin to note your pattern, and so you cannot allow yourself to become predictable. An interesting problem that arises from the stylistic feature.

The Swedish system doesn't advocate doing two (or indeed more) attacks on each advance, but certainly expects you to do it some of the time, even often, especially against an opponent that tends to retreat when defending. There's quite a lot of instruction on how to structure the footwork for this, and for which attacks go well together - I'll be going through some of it in my "advanced" sabre class at FightCamp in August.

-Andreas

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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Olek F. » Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:18 am

The Polish cross cuts are quite different: stylistically, it means that you have to make at least two cuts upon your advance and before your withdrawal.

I understand it differently: IMO it may as well mean that in a typical exchange you cut two times in quick succession - first strike being a deflecting parry, immediately followed by a cut to opponent's body from the opposite side.

Quotes from Marcelli in the article were truly enlightening for me - they kind of glued together many loose fragments of information that were known to me until now. Together they seem to give much clearer picture on how the Polish school of sabre may have looked like in the 17th century.

We experimented a bit with the interpretation and the results were pretty interesting. It came out totally different from the 19th century sabre fighting doctrine. At the end we put the intepretations to the test in a free play session.
We fought according to a set of principles:
- we were using overhead guard as shown and described in the article,
- the blades were to be kept in constant motion and out of reach for the opponent,
- we tried to rely entirely on deflecting parries and cuts performed from a moulinet (static parries used as a last resort, panic defence),
- cuts powered by the wrist and arm movement, elbow stiffened,
- we focused on the blade work so the footwork is intentionally reduced to swaying and short, linear moves.
- armed hand is the primary target

We recorded the session. I hesitated to make the video public: it was our very first attempt and it looks pretty silly at times. But you can see what was the idea.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdSZijI4i0E
We used padded boffers. Cuts from the moulinet are extremely powerful and we feared that without proper skill we might harm each other with steel.

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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby KeithFarrell » Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:32 pm

Andreas Engström wrote:
KeithFarrell wrote:The Polish cross cuts are quite different: stylistically, it means that you have to make at least two cuts upon your advance and before your withdrawal. How do you structure your footwork to support two cuts moving forward rather than just one? Interesting question, I have some ideas, but I don't know how well they will stand up in fast moving sparring.The cross cuts should involve striking from side to side and between shallow and core targets, and feinting is very important.

The problem with doing a lot of feints and cross cuts like that on every advance is that an opponent will then begin to note your pattern, and so you cannot allow yourself to become predictable. An interesting problem that arises from the stylistic feature.

The Swedish system doesn't advocate doing two (or indeed more) attacks on each advance, but certainly expects you to do it some of the time, even often, especially against an opponent that tends to retreat when defending. There's quite a lot of instruction on how to structure the footwork for this, and for which attacks go well together - I'll be going through some of it in my "advanced" sabre class at FightCamp in August.

-Andreas


Well then, seems that you have just talked me into attending your "advanced" sabre class at FightCamp :P
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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Tyler Brandon » Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:39 pm

I agree that the first cut is a deflection parry and the second is the actual strike. The videos in the linked thread on shasqua could provide some ideas and concepts for footwork.

viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2859
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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Richard Marsden » Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:41 pm

Our Sieniawski companions also show a two strike method. One to bait a parry high, then another to hit elsewhere.

The sources are very vague and open to interpretation. So, in the book, do we want to settle on 'cross-cutting' or do we want to be more open-ended about it and show different interpretations of cross-cutting, sort of like how we show different stance positions based on materials?

Thanks for all the comments and insight.

Olek = One of the things with the continual movement that gets me is, how long can a person reasonably do it with a properly weighted blade. Can you get get me a selection of historical blade weights by any chance for the Polish saber?

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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Tyler Brandon » Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:51 pm

Richard Marsden wrote:Our Sieniawski companions also show a two strike method. One to bait a parry high, then another to hit elsewhere.

The sources are very vague and open to interpretation. So, in the book, do we want to settle on 'cross-cutting' or do we want to be more open-ended about it and show different interpretations of cross-cutting, sort of like how we show different stance positions based on materials?


In the shasqua videos they often deflect and then thrust. As you mention in the OP, Pasek tended to use a thrust when he sought to kill. Perhaps the Poles used a simialr action to the Russians and Cossacks? A technique we could employ in our reconstruction.
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Re: Polish Cross-Cutting

Postby Richard Marsden » Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:45 pm

A beat and a strike is a possibility. I'm curious if the term is loose, meaning 'two cuts from different directions' and that's that. Anything that does it- is a part of the cross-cutting art. It's so hard to say because beyond the father J's comment, what else do we have that is 17th or even 18th century?


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