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Thread: Georgian Khridoli - Surviving medieval sword tradition?

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    Not sure about the sources--but there is a part of me that wants this to be the Real Thing. Some parts of the demo seemed rehearsed--I don't have a problem with that. There were some things that were just showy--I'd like to know if that's part of the tradition or not. Then again, considering that I've seen legitimate accounts of prowess being displayed through similar acrobatics, it could be part of a tradition, though I don't see the immediate martial aspects, except perhaps control of you weapon.

    Some of the sword and shield work reminded me of I.33--there were many times where sword and buckler moved together, but it was fast and hard to see. On the other hand, the speed was something that I hadn't seen in most people's I.33 and made me think it probably is there, just most people aren't quite there with it. There were also times that the buckler dropped back and apparently out of the fight, though I could have been mistaken.

    The wrestling with the dagger--brief though it was--also looked legit. And whatever it is they are doing, they seem to have practiced it. Granted, they could have practiced just what we saw over and over and over again, but I would tend to believe it until I saw the negative proof. I especially think that these traditions--if they exist--should be at least recorded if not preserved, and if this is the Real Thing, it could add insights into the reconstructions others are doing.

    But maybe I'm just an optimist!


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    I haven't watched all the videos yet, but wouldn't that be related to what this article talks about?

    http://www.swordhistory.com/excerpts/crusaders.html

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    Yeah, I just saw that. There's also one with some of the 'boxing' that looks interesting (some of it is more dagger fighting, really).

    -Josh
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  6. Quote Originally Posted by Vincent Le Chevalier View Post
    I haven't watched all the videos yet, but wouldn't that be related to what this article talks about?

    http://www.swordhistory.com/excerpts/crusaders.html
    That article is what came to my mind right away.
    Very cool.

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    This is Brothers in Arms come down from the mountain. All these videos show is people hitting swords on swords or on bucklers. If there was any martial skill in this, it has been lost to the ages as it was transformed into a dance routine.

    These videos were revealed about four years ago and nothing has come of it yet.
    Last edited by D.S. Hill; 02-26-2008 at 10:17 AM. Reason: add last line
    Woodcrafter1372
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    Another 22 video clips of Georgian martial arts at http://www.youtube.com/user/georgianmen .

    From what I've seen of the video clips so far, the saber work is comparable to other ostensibly traditional Slavic styles; the sword and buckler fencing is indeed reminiscent of that shown in I.33; the dagger and unarmed combat resembles that shown in Talhoffer, dei Liberi and others.

    All in all, it's very interesting material. I wonder how much of this is documentably historical, as distinct from being a (relatively) modern reconstruction; over the past several years we've seen the emergence a number of purportedly ancient, hitherto little-known martial arts from countries including Italy, Korea, Peru, Egypt and several eastern European nations. Some of them are clearly recreations of ancestral fighting styles, perhaps inspired by surviving folk-level traditions but including modern elements; others seem to be more purely living-lineage styles, finally coming to light as communication technology filters in to remote regions.

    Again, very interesting stuff, and it must surely be worthy of investigation by the HEMA/WMA communities.

    Cheers,

    Tony

  9. They are still a very isolated community. It's too bad that we could not have documented their martial culture twenty years ago when they were younger.

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    Awesome

    Their empty hand stuff looks a lot like Fiore. The swordwork looks very much like I.33.

    There is sanother video (russina/Greek script) of a newscast with them in it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_CvA...eature=related
    They don't seem to be unknown - just news to us in the English Speaking world.
    The appearance of old style combatants out of Georgia in WW1 is well documented in military history. John said he would look it up for me in his military history book. When I find that I will ive the reference here.

    If these guys have shown up in New York and the Bronx someone should look them up.

    It at least looks authentic. If nothing else they have done some really impressive study and work.
    Last edited by Jeff Richardson; 02-26-2008 at 09:29 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Richardson View Post
    They don't seem to be unknown - just news to us in the English Speaking world.
    Certainly not unknown to them!
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    Quote Originally Posted by D.S. Hill View Post
    This is Brothers in Arms come down from the mountain. All these videos show is people hitting swords on swords or on bucklers. If there was any martial skill in this, it has been lost to the ages as it was transformed into a dance routine.

    These videos were revealed about four years ago and nothing has come of it yet.
    Yes, however, there may be import hidden behind the obvious with strikes against weapon or shield the safety version of the paired practice. This is not unlike many of the Japanese styles where you learn the bunkai after the external form. Just a thought, don't know. This might be the real thing, a reconstruction, or fabrication.

    Steve

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    For a full speed demo with no safety gear..... I wouldn't be throwing blows directly at my partners head either.

    Looks like they know what they are doing to me.
    Jeff Richardson
    http://duellatoria.com/

    "The Will is the captain general of our army and our fortress" 1587 Ghisliero pg. 108

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    I agree with Tony - very interesting stuff, particularly the sword and buckler and dagger fighting. If it is a recreation, it still seems to be drawing from...something. The guy in NYC seems to be more crisp then the young guys in Georgia, interestingly enough.

    Regardless, I think it's worth exploring.

    Greg
    Greg Mele
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    "If the tongue could cut
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    The sword-flailing demo in the street looked a lot like Gatka, but I know a few reenactor vikings in Moscow who do the same thing with more skill as a demo in pubs and clubs ... completely made up but very nice to watch. Common in Russian reenactment groups.
    I haven't studied the other clips much yet but I'm going to look very very closely for what the old mountain men do and what the guys in the street demo do.

    The iron plate bucklers (in the black and white film and with the old guys in the mountains) I handled this January in a nice antiquities shop behind the Gum (Shopping centre) in Red Square. I also got to play with a Sable (Sabre) scabbard and plated baldric.

    Great collection of youtubes there, thanks Louie!

    Edit ;
    http://www.swordhistory.com/excerpts/crusaders.html
    This article is interesting. Notice in the first youtube and in this article it STRESSES low posture, one knee down ... shown in the old photos and old film snippets.
    Notice the general absence of this characteristic in the modern scenes, for example during the second youtube clip sword-action somebody is kneeling for a few seconds at the start and two seconds near the end of the clip. All else is standing. Why would this be?
    Last edited by Michael Ulfric Douglas; 02-27-2008 at 12:12 PM.

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    Khridoli -- Sword and Buckler

    This is actually something I've been digging into for some time. Khridoli, is actually an amalgamation of several regional arts within Georgia. The Sword and Buckler stuff comes from the Khevsur region. These are in fact the people That Amberger refers to as the "Lost Crusaders". Though that is a strongly incorrect label according to more recent ethnographic studies. (http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~bsp/pu...02_03-kurt.pdf
    Begin on page 36 for the relevant details.

    There is strong evidence that the sword and buckler form of the region survived into the 20th century. For example, here we see a photograph from 1910 which shows Khevsur tribesmen wearing and/or carrying bucklers.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:K...C_ca._1910.JPG

    I recently managed to find a facsimile of a document written in the 1950s by a Soviet Researcher at the Грузинский Государственный Институт Физической Културы (Gruzinski Gosudarstvenni Institute for Physical Culture) titled Парикаоба: Хевсурское Фехтование Which appears to be a scholarly attempt by the author, one V. I. Elashvili to deconstruct the Khevsurian Fencing system (Хевсурское Фехтование) and record it in an organized form. My Russian is pretty rusty, but that is how it appears to me. Anyone who is more fluent than I is welcome to correct me.

    There are many pieces of this system that appear to be similar to I.33, and many which appear to be different. There are positions shown in this page of the document which appear to be analagous to Prima and Secunda, but also this odd Kneeling posture which shows up several times. As does a Squatting variant.

    There are also several shots of the positions of sword and buckler together, which do resemble I.33.

    You can find the document most easily here:
    http://mtavari.myweb.ge/books/parikaoba.rar
    It is in djvu format though. I'm working on getting a pdf version up online somewhere, as well as transcribing it and translating it.

    I hope this helps.
    -Mike

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    I.33 is a snapshot in time of what to do with a sword and buckler. It is not a system in and of itself. This is why we see such similarities throughout the ages. The human body can only bend so many ways. Which is why the I.33 starts off with the seven blows the common or untrained fighter will use.
    Woodcrafter1372
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    You can see more video of the documentary, including the old guys doing their thing, here:

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm...ndid=125323453
    Greg Mele
    Chicago Swordplay Guild

    Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

    Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

    "If the tongue could cut
    as the sword can do,
    the dead would be infinite."

    Filippo Vadi, "Arte Dimicandi Gladiatoria" (c.1482 - 87)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gregory Mele View Post
    The guy in NYC seems to be more crisp then the young guys in Georgia, interestingly enough.

    Greg
    Hmmm... I htought those were some of the same people and the NYC stuff was just newer. I will have to look again.


    Thanks for the Myspace link.
    Jeff Richardson
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    "The Will is the captain general of our army and our fortress" 1587 Ghisliero pg. 108

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    I dunno, I've heard about this before, but I can't help but be sceptical as to the 'unbroken lineage'.

  21. #21
    The blurb on the MySpace page (note highlighted lines):

    If the words ..terra incognita,.. ..forgotten land,.. or ..lost crusaders.. evoke a sense of mystery and adventure in your heart, then browse through these few pages that will take you on a short journey deep into the Caucasus, where hidden among the snowy peaks lies a land long forgotten, lost to the Western world: Khevsuria .. the homeland of the Khevsur warriors, defenders of the True Cross. Historically, these Georgian highlanders would come down from mountains only in answer to the summons of the Georgian Kings, to meet some great crisis, to protect the small Georgian kingdom that was surrounded on all sides by Islamic foes. Hundreds of years later, when the power of the Russian Tsars ended the Georgian monarchy, the Khevsurs and their remote highland home faded into oblivion, only to be rediscovered by the famous American traveler Richard Halliburton in 1930s. Astonished, he observed Khevsur warriors still wearing armor and practicing sword fighting, awaiting for the day when a Georgian King returns to Georgia and calls the highlanders to their sacred duty. It was the Communists who finally succeeded in destroying the traditional Khevsurian ways. Today Khevsuria is dying, only a few very old highlanders are still guarding the decaying ruins of fortified villages and castles and, as young generation leave mountains for an easier life on the plains, no one remains to learn ways of the sword, to listen to tales of past glory. This film will focus on three Khevsur elders, living examples of a way of life almost gone forever. These three men are the last masters of a unique medieval Georgian style of sword-fighting and sword-play. Three ancient worthies, their bodies bearing numerous scars, but still dedicated swordsmen, from time to time checking the antique blades of their swords; their shields and chain-mail blackened by rust and time, by ruthless time... With sadness they put away their now useless armor and weapons, thinking of the days of their youth when sword and dagger were the pride of every Khevsur... Time shows no mercy toward these brave old warriors. We taking this last opportunity to capture on film the life and knowledge of these last Caucasian swordsmen, their unique martial art, its roots buried in the distant past, almost forgotten in Georgia and yet still unknown to the outer world. Their refined art has a strange resemblance to the one described in a famous German fencing manuscript of the 14th century. Could Khevsurian warriors possibly be the descendants of crusaders? This is truly our last chance to learn of this great craft: with these masters gone, the world will lose forever their unique knowledge.
    So, at least someone involved in the production is aware of the similarity between what these old fighters are doing in Georgia and the historical treatises. That doesn't prove anything in either direction, but certainly is food for thought.

    Going by the updates on the page, it looks as if the documentary has now completed principal photography thanks to a grant from the Georgian Ministry of Culture.

    This has to be worth contacting the producers ...

    Tony

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    I see no reason

    To doubt that this swordplay is traditional, it seems unlikely that someone who lives in such a remote place would import new passtimes.

    It is very likely that the use of sword and buckler and other weapons of the hand were primary to self defense in such remote places until very recently. I can't really buy the "lost crusaders" stuff. But I certainly buy the "traditional Swordplay" idea.

    As an aside... anyone who plays at the sword and buckler in earnest is going to look like the play of I.33, its a pragmatic straight forward system designed to offend and defend humans with particular tools, just from a body mechanic standpoint there is going to be similarities
    Brian McIlmoyle, Provost
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    Isolation allows strange things

    Quote Originally Posted by Brice Stratford McFarlane View Post
    I dunno, I've heard about this before, but I can't help but be sceptical as to the 'unbroken lineage'.
    Given the extreme isolation of these villages in the mountains, I wouldn't be too sceptical. We have a lot of anthropological evidence that small, largely isolated societies which are well adapted to their niche can stay relatively static for a long time.

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    I can appreciate that obviously there are plenty of very isolated settlements and so on in the Ukraine and other mountainous regions, but from what I can gather and as far as it looks to me (and I concede that I am in noo way an expert in Georgian martial arts, culture, tradition, history and whatnot, so I don't profess to be 'right', just explaining my ill-informed opinion) we just have an amalgam of styles that have been pieced together from memories of Georgian martial arts, Remaining combat sports, Russian Sambo (which has roots in Georgian wrestling and boxing), and whatever written treatises or journals that could be found. Now fundamentally I don't see how that makes Khridoli any different from all the other western martial arts groups that scatter the world.

    Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:

    Until the beginning of 20th century, in every region of Georgia there were special areas for competitions in martial arts and other sports similar to old Olympic games. The competitions used to be held like military maneuvers in which several thousand men fought by the rules of saldasti (a special boxing style with additional use of swords and other combat weapon made from wood).

    Diversity and multiform features of fighting styles practised in various regions of Georgia had crucial influences on formation of Georgian Martial arts and its rich culture. Each part of Georgia had its unique military traditions. More than 30 styles of wrestling and boxing have been practiced in Georgia, as well as, wide range of armaments and combat rules Along with rich traditions in martial arts, Georgians also possessed “Warrior Code” counting 365 rules.[citation needed] Due to the constant military readiness, the rules were in action all over Georgia and actually defined the code of conduct and way of life for all Georgians. Unfortunately, in XIX century, traditions of Georgian martial arts were posed to serious danger. After the occupation, the Russian Empire started repressing all aspect of Georgian cultural heritage, and especially, military traditions. Moreover, after the second occupation in 1921, Georgian martial arts along with the whole Georgian State went under control of Russian Bolsheviks.

    Georgian wrestling and boxing turned into major basis for creation of Russian sambo. In course of 70 years, revival and practice of Georgian martial arts was strictly banned.

    Since 1980-ies, several initiative groups started functioning in order revive Georgian martial arts from various sources, practical study and folk memory. In 1989, Georgian Martial Arts Department was created at the Rustaveli Society. Later in 1990, Federation of Georgian Martial Arts - Khridoli was formed and named. The first president was Levan Kikaleishvili, the Head of the Hall - Kakhaber Zarnadze, consultants - Alexander Dorsavelidze, Guram Kajaia. Many old and new groups working with the same goal started joining the Federation: Nikolz Abazadze, David Abazadze, Vaso Kakhutashvili, (club Chauki); Nodar Lursmanashvili(club Tori); Nukri Mchedlishvili, Lado Metskhvarishvili, Manuchar Beselia(club Iberieli Mglebi); Zura Chachanidze, Giorgi Kokoshashvili(club Khogais Mindi); David Alania, Paata Ochigava(club Kiborji - later it was renamed to Kolkha); Giorgi Ambardanishvii(club Dzlevai); Bakhva Chabukiani (club Dahkari); David Gulbani(club Lemi); Archil Gogoladze(club Kartli). Later, the Federation members opened additional clubs: club Davitiani in Kutaisi by Nika Chachava; club Samtskhe in Akhaltsikhe and Adigeni by Zaza Chilingarashvili; club Odishi in Senaki bu Zaal kantartia.[citation needed]
    Referring to the Khevsur sword technique as khridoli (a contemporary amalgam of 'revived' Georgian martial arts) is misleading and as far as I know innacurate, as is all this talk of 'descendants of the crusaders', which seems to me to be the most awful fabrication. The khevsur retained outdated weaponry, true, though for them to have remained a specifically martial culture regular combat and battle would have been necessary, and as they remained off the radar from everyone else for so long I don't see how this could be possible. If the sword techniques were kept alive within the tribe, surely they would have to have been diluted to a sport with safety measures and controlled conditions, in the same way contemporary sports fencing and boxing has. It seems to me more likely that the weaponry was retained more as a cultural and ceremonial symbol, and 'combat' was nothing more than sport and entertainment.

    Now if this is the case the Khevsur fencing style is still very interesting, and inarguably valuable where study of western swordsmanship is concerned, but it is in no way an 'unbroken lineage' of 'crusader knights' who 'lived and died by the sword', being more of a slavic equivalent of classical fencing. It all just seems so exaggerated and fabricated in order to make an interesting documentary and ally khridoli with some sort of spin doctored chivalric heritage, whereas having looking at the videos, and bearing in mind that 'khridoli' is the result of attempts to revive Georgian martial arts that died out and not an original Georgian art itself, I find it hard to see how khridoli is anything other than a modern martial art dealing with medieval weaponry and drawing on historical sources (such as the Khevsur fencing method) for inspiration. If this is the case, how is it any different from the reconstructed western martial arts represented all over these forums? It all just seems to be so much spin.

    I would love to be wrong, and I hope the documentary proves me so. I remain sceptical.
    Last edited by Brice Stratford McFarlane; 02-27-2008 at 06:51 PM. Reason: review of original documentation

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    Coincidences?

    Their refined art has a strange resemblance to the one described in a famous German fencing manuscript of the 14th century. Could Khevsurian warriors possibly be the descendants of crusaders?
    Actually, modern ethnographers believe that this is not true. The Khevsureti have several unique religious observervations that to an outsider would seem to indicate a connection to the crusades, but when examined more deeply appear to be relics of the region's prechristian traditions. Again, I suggest reading the excellent paper on the ethnography of the region from by Shorena Kurtsikidze and Vakhtang Chikovani. Georgia's Pankisi Gorge: An Ethnographic Survey

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Wolf View Post
    So, at least someone involved in the production is aware of the similarity between what these old fighters are doing in Georgia and the historical treatises. That doesn't prove anything in either direction, but certainly is food for thought.
    Tony
    So if you visit this Georgian webpage and check out the books section you will find that they include a couple of german texts from the 1500s, as well. I suspect these guys are much more familier with the Western European Martial arts than we are with what they practice.

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