The Buckler Leads the Way

Photo of warriors from Khevsureti, 1935, taken by Halliburton.

This past Friday I had the honor to assist my friend Mike Cherba of Northwest Armizare with his online class for “Cybersquatch” (hosted by the fine folk at Lonin League in Seattle). In preparation for the class we worked in Mike’s backyard–it’s a large space and allows us to follow better the protocols necessary during this pandemic. None of us had counted on wildfires and smoke, so, at the last minute we were forced indoors. While not ideal, we made it work, but you can see from our actions how cramped it was–this was less an issue for the Georgian material than the examples Mike pulled from the Dardi School or I 33. It was, as always, great fun!

Our friends at Lonin have shared the footage of this year’s Zoom classes online, both on fb and via Youtube; a link to Mike’s class I’ve placed below. NB: there is valuable information here for interested fencers at any stage of training, but newer students may be unfamiliar with the examples. MS I. 33 or the Walpurgis Fechtbook, ca. 14th century, is the earliest known work on swordplay from western Europe and features selections of a sword and buckler system that may reflect less aristocratic combat traditions. The Dardi School, often referred to as the “Bolognese School,” looks to a Bolognese master, Filippo Dardi (d. 1464), whose successors–Antonion Manciolino, Achille Marozzo, Angelo Viggiani, and Giovanni dall’Agocchie–produced works that share many features in common. All cover the sword, but some also include buckler, rotella, montante/spadone, and pole-arms. Many students of I 33 and the Bolognese tradition pursue sword and buckler, though naturally there are differing interpretations of both systems.

Georgian _pari_ or buckler with “Shashka” trainer next to my usual Italian tools.

Mike Cherba, who has worked on the highland Georgian fighting arts for over a decade, has introduced this fascinating folk system to an audience outside the Republic of Georgia and Georgian enclaves outside it. In this he has been aided by two Georgian friends, Vakhtang and Niko, both of whom had a chance to study with the last three surviving masters of this art in the 1990s. This was a combat system that employed sword and buckler into the 20th century! Mike’s research, and the experience of Georgian martial artists, smiths, and dance teams continue to reveal aspects of what was clearly an intense, viable, and sometimes brutally efficient martial art. The Soviets, to name a modern example, not only had their special forces adopt some Georgian principles, but even tried to transform the more playful version of the system, Parikaoaba, into a “people’s” pastime.

Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgNUdkl-osg

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