1989 Wydawnictwo "Sport i Turystyka" Warsaw, Poland   - 

2000 Richard Orli

Swrd.jpg (1720 bytes)

POLISH  SABER FENCING

FROM THE XVIth TO THE XVIIIth CENTURIES

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The Point of Cavalry

lancer.jpg (57289 bytes)

Zablocki acknowledges the importance of the use of the point (versus the edge-cut) for cavalry, and 'spearing' with the point is correct sabre usage in a "charge."*  However, sabre fencing, mostly done on foot, but sometime in cavalry melee fights, tended to use edge-cuts.  Hence, the emphasis on cutting technique.

 

As a cavalry weapon, the sabre tended to be a secondary weapon reserved for the chaos of a melee.  The primary shock weapon of most types of medium to heavy Polish cavalry units in the 16th-19th C. was the lance.**    A common secondary weapon used in preference to the sabre in the charge in the 16th-17th C. was an extra-long ( 1-1.4 meters) 'koncerz', an entirely straight point-only sword.  The sabre seemed to be the principle shock weapon only of some light skirmishers armed with the bow or pistol prior the 18th C., and later of dragoons and other units organized in a  Western style of the 19th C.

 

* Dezydery Chlapowski reported in his 1837 'Pamietniki'   that his men were properly trained with the sabre to use the point.  In close engagement, they typically inflicted many 'kills' while suffering only wounds and bruises from the wild slashes of poorly trained  cavalry. "Waving their sabers above their heads,"...the Hungarian Cavalry... "often ended up striking thin air. Even when they struck home, the best they achieved was a wound."  (Dezydery Chlapowski, Memoirs of a Polish Lancer, Emperor's Press, 1992. p. 68)

**The famous Polish Lancer regiment of Napoleon's Old Guard was rated as light cavalry in consideration of its mobility, but was often committed to head-to-head battles with heavy cavalry (always victoriously).

 

 

 

 

 

Targets illustrated per Michal Starzewski, 1830

Starzewski.jpg (24597 bytes)

On the right are targets "czyli rdzennych" - cut deep or 'to the bone'. Labels translate into 'forehead', 'cheek', 'breast', etc. 

To the left are hand targets, "czyli plytkich" - cut shallow.

 

 

 

Highlights of Wojciech Zablocki's review

"ANALYSIS OF FENCING MOVEMENTS"

(Analiza Dzialan Szermierczych) in 

Ciecia Prawdziwa Szabla

(Wydawnictwo "Sport i Turystyka" Warsaw, Poland, 1989)

 

Zablocki provides a brief review of traditional Polish Sabre fencing technique, based largely on the 1830 work by Michal Starzewski, the "Treatise on Fencing", the only known period sabre manual in the Polish language.  Four topic groups are presented:

1) Attacks (natarcia)

2) Wards or parries (zaslony)  

3) Reposts (odpowiezi)

4) Timing actions (e.g. evasions and stop cuts)

Eleven attack approaches or directions are defined:

1) Head cut

2) Cut right forehead

3) Cut left forehead

4) Back cut

5) Breast cut - high diagonal

6) Breast/belly cut - low

7) Thrust - straight, horizontal

8) Thrust -low to belly

9) Cut on the arm from the outside - side or high

10) Cut on the arm from the inside - high

11) Cut on the arm from below - reverse angle (from left)

 

In general, the pictures below are self-explanatory to an experienced fencer.

 

1) Attacks (natarcia)

a. Cuts

Direct cut on the head

 headcutDirect2.jpg (15221 bytes)

Attempting cut on the head from the elbow

Cut on the wrist

p42ArmcutR.jpg (12277 bytes)

Attempting cut on the head from the shoulder (slicing) p42slash.jpg (11541 bytes)

Curve cut on the head from the wrist*p42_moulanie.jpg (15045 bytes)

b. Thrusts (pchniecie)

Thrust from the upper linep44Thrust.jpg (11049 bytes)

Low posture (on-guard)

p44LowWard.jpg (14600 bytes)

High posture (on-guard)p44HighWard.jpg (16172 bytes)

Cut on the arm from the outside (see: Cut on the wrist)

Cut on the arm from the insidep43ArmCut.jpg (10842 bytes)

Cut on the arm from belowp46armcutUnder.jpg (11348 bytes)

c. Feints (zwodzone)

Feint head-to-side attack. (One example of the several feints possible.)p47fient.jpg (17463 bytes)

d. Beats

Beat-Four (inside high line) sweep cut to headp48BeatHeadCut.jpg (8599 bytes)

Cut to stomach from belowp48StomachCut.jpg (12386 bytes)

The following are all essentially the modern fencing parries

Wards (zaslony)

a) Simple Wards

Parry one, Inside high line, point downpGuards1-3.jpg (30223 bytes)

Parry two,outside low line, point down

Parry three, outside high line, point up

Parry  four, inside high line, point uppWards4-6.jpg (54497 bytes)

Parry five, head, arm inside

Parry six, head, arm outside

(Illustration of Grips)P52GripsSwing.jpg (7121 bytes)

p52grips.jpg (20072 bytes)

b) Sweeping Wards

 

Sweep/Beat Five from Two.

 

Evasions and Timing Actions

Passa Sotto#

p54_passaSoto.jpg (8354 bytes)

Stop Cut*, delivered simultaneously with backward evasion.

p54stop.jpg (12238 bytes)

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Zablocki is pronounced Za'b-wo-ski

 

 

In summary, there is little difference in the described technique from that found in any contemporary Western treatment of sabre fencing.  The moves and stances would be generally familiar to a modern sport sabre fencer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Curve cut on the head from the wrist = moulanet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

# Passa sotto = duck.

*Stop cut = a counter attack into a developing first attack.

 

Zabloski wrote a book on historic saber fencing, due out Summer 2001.