Just like a sword symbolized affiliation to chivalry in Medieval Europe, in the 17-18th century sabres became an established symbol of the independent Kozak caste. In the words of a prominent Kozak culture researcher, Dmytro Yavornytsky, a sabre was something so dear to Kozaks that they called it ‘Sister Sabre’, ‘Mamma’ or ‘Dear Wife’.
According to the same specialist, Kozaks glorified sabers over other weapons, especially rifles. They considered sabres ‘honest’ and noble weapons, as they were only used in battles against honorable adversaries, who never resorted to vile tricks during a fight and everything came down to one’s mastery.
The word ‘saber’ (Ukr. шабля/shablya) derives from the Hungarian szablya (szabni) – to cut, slice.
Sabres play an extremely important part in the development of the Kozaks martial arts. The system of saber moves also served as a basis for close combat techniques. Kozaks constantly worked on improving their battle technique.
A sabre’s lightness and curvature allowed the execution of fulminant sliding and deflective strokes, ‘drawing’ various circular shapes. The slightly bent handle and the blade’s curvature let Kozaks stab their adversary; during these attacks the blade could be set both vertically and horizontally (often used to fall back and in counter attacks).
A characteristic feature of the Kozak saber battle technique was the usage of different kinds of ‘povzunets’ (kicks performed in a deep squat, or during a fall), and moves performed by the free hand to strike or capture the enemy. The simultaneous use of two sabres in battle is also a characteristic Kozak technique. And it didn’t have to be just sabres – Kozaks used two pistols, two spires or any other weapon simultaneously.
The use of Kozak sabres is very popular in modern Ukrainian folk dance stage productions. They are used not just as a ‘fashion statement’ and a finishing touch to the performers’ costumes. Many productions include battle scenes, based on actual Kozak combat training techniques.
These scenes are always a true wow factor and are massively popular with audiences. Dynamic movements, steel blades shining in the spotlight, sparks pouring from the collision of sabres.. Nonetheless, such battles can be quite dangerous for the dancers. Often in the spur of the moment, and lacking sufficient experience, dancers risk getting injured. Therefore, excellence and ease of saber manipulations require constant tireless training.
This, primarily, concerns your wrists. Looking at dances involving sabres, it seems so easy, looks like you wouldn’t even feel the weapon in hand, it being relatively light. But give it a try – see if you can work a saber for at least a minute. Without a doubt, a dancer without proper training will be quite sore afterwards.
To wield a saber - train your arms, warm them up. Then – start small - begin learning various circuits and moves. At first slowly, and then accelerating with every little bit. There aren’t that many original saber combat moves, but by experimenting and combining different ones, you can get pretty interesting if not spectacular results. The one thing to remember is constant training! And don’t forget that even though for dancers, sabres are primarily a prop, they’re still weapons!
We are sure that eventually you’ll succeed and be rewarded with standing ovations from the audience!
If you’re looking for sabres for you dance group – check out our website store or send us a message and we’ll give you a quote!