|© 1989 Wydawnictwo "Sport i Turystyka" Warsaw,
© 2000 Richard Orli
|POLISH SABER FENCING
FROM THE XVIth TO THE XVIIIth CENTURIES
The Point of Cavalry
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
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
"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)
Direct cut on the head
Attempting cut on the head from the elbow
Cut on the wrist
Attempting cut on the head from the shoulder (slicing)
Curve cut on the head from the wrist*
b. Thrusts (pchniecie)
Low posture (on-guard)
Cut on the arm from the outside (see: Cut on the wrist)
c. Feints (zwodzone)
Feint head-to-side attack. (One example of the several feints possible.)
Beat-Four (inside high line) sweep cut to head
Cut to stomach from below
The following are all essentially the modern fencing parries
a) Simple Wards
Parry two,outside low line, point down
Parry three, outside high line, point up
Parry five, head, arm inside
Parry six, head, arm outside
b) Sweeping Wards
Sweep/Beat Five from Two.
Evasions and Timing Actions
Stop Cut*, delivered simultaneously with backward evasion.
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.