Buza

Buza

Buza is a mixed martial art based on Russian north-western (Novgorod-area) martial traditions. Besides hand-to-hand fighting, Buza also includes techniques for using medieval Russian weapons, and “war-dances”. Till the second half of the ХХ century it was very common in Russian villages.

Buza is a mixed martial art created in the 1990’s by G. N. Bazlov in Tver, Russia. It includes war dance, hand to hand combat, and medieval Russian weapons combat. According to the creator, Buza is based on the traditional fighting styles practiced in the second half of the 20th century in the villages of Tver, Novgorod, Vologda, and Pskov Oblasts.

Buza – is a Russian northwestern martial tradition established in clan retinues of Slovens and Krivichs of Novgorod Land. Until the second half of the XX century it existed in village artels (a Russian term meaning “associations of people engaged in the same activity”) of fist cuff fighters. It includes martial dancing, methods of armed and unarmed combat.

Quite recently, there have been and there are still many established systems of stick, knife and fist cuff fighting, wrestling and many other systems of martial knowledge inside the village (and urban) clans of fist cuff fighters that very often have hidden the most efficient fighting techniques and methods of training from each other. All these methods of fighting, training and contests were called “Buza.” The ancient term “Galanikha” widespread on a territory to the south of Tver was sometimes used as a synonym. Various names were often used to designate the musical theme that accompanied the contests. These are “Sharaevka” and “Kalinka.” The name of “Skobar” is adopted by the society of fist cuff fighting fans of St. Petersburg as their own style name.

The roots of our Buza as a system and culture differ from the roots of the system of St. Petersburg. Along with this, the martial culture of the warrior clans of northwestern Russia evidently has some common progenitor.

Since 1989, our researchers have organized expeditions on the basis of the Tver state university to villages of Tver Region and neighboring provinces to collect the most efficient fighting and training methods in various clans of fist cuff fighters of Buza. The expeditions began according to initiative of the adult people whom the parents – fist cuff fighters had taught to love the Russian wrestling. Despite the active breakup of the clans that began after World War II (peasants left the villages after they received passports) many people retained the clan fighting traditions in their clans because they were functionally necessary. Of course, the whole martial culture of Buza is degrading without the clan of fist cuff fighters but many families have managed to preserve the fighting systems almost in a canonic form. The wish to study traditions of Buza and the rites and to try to find the roots made us start seeking for fighters and martial clans.

Some people accuse those who study the Russian wrestling of falsification saying that no written sources and evidences of ethnographers have been preserved. These are lies. I can point your attention at the perfect book of Lukashov “There were battles” (“Ved byli skhvatki boevye”) and researches of Doctor of Historic Sciences Gorbunov. These are amazingly accurate and credible books. What about the wrestling textbooks? Why they have not been written whereas Japanese, Chinese or even Europeans have them.

Transfer of such specific experience on paper has not been established in Russian culture. Tradition demands its transfer “from hand to hand, from heart to heart.” Russian martial art is a non-written tradition like song, dancing and wooden architecture.

Where and how was the hand-to-hand combat tradition preserved and how was it transferred?

The medium that preserved Buza was a clan of fist fighters, “artel,” which was sometimes called “partiya” or “vataga.” This martial clan of men had to maintain order in a village, defend its residents, settle conflicts with neighbors and participate in combat contests with neighboring artels. The martial artel is a direct heir of experience of clans of the northern Cossacks who preserved peace and order in entire northwestern Russia by their raids on foot or on boats. The major part of them was ousted to the borders of the state later by the policy of the Moscow princes. Those who stayed in their homeland brought the tradition to us preserving it in martial artels.

How was training organized in the martial artels? The clans of fist cuff fighters were formed inside of a village according to ages. Among children they were called “beseda” and there could be from three to seven besedas. To the adult “partiya” boys were transferred approximately by 18 years old or before service in the army. The artels of the village were united into an “okrug” that was usually formed around a church. Thus, all fighters belonged to one parish and their clan was strengthened not only by warrior brotherhood but also by common prayer in a temple. Transfer of experience and skills took place in the besedas and rose to a new stage after transfer to a senior beseda.

Parents, senior brothers and uncles played a big role in training of the youth. Many families cherished special tricks that they tried to hide from outsiders. Contests took place inside of an artel permanently and every family wanted its own clan to win. “Uncles” play a special role. They are teachers in the besedas or in smaller groups of children. The role of the uncles is similar to a role of modern coaches who supervise the general training of fighters and organize training. Senior besedas also play a kind of pedagogical role for the junior ones. They should stir up the youth permanently, create difficulties for them, “torture” and “beat” them a little, without haughtiness and malice, throw into a river in the clothes, attack with snowballs etc. All this generates cautiousness and permanent readiness of the young for parrying of attacks.

Along with this, if the young were offended and the young could not rebuff the strangers, the senior beseda was obliged to defend them and rebuff the evildoers. If this was not done, the senior were punished by those who were older than them. Sometimes children’s conflicts grew to a size of artel conflicts and in this case they were settled on the level of atamans or battles between villages were appointed.

The training differed from the training common for modern sports clubs significantly. The major part of it were contests at assembles in wrestling, various kinds of fist cuff and stick fighting and other martial contests. During the non-holiday assemblies fighters learned fighting skills from seniors or from the uncle under his supervision. The assemblies took place in summer in the streets, on hills, at crossroads, on bridges. In autumn and in spring and during a rain men gathered on threshing floors or in threshing barns. Houses were rented for winter.

Traditions adjusted to modern life were formed in our time. Training begins from common lining up and reading of the main prayers. The training ends with lining up and reading of the main prayers too.

The weapons were traditionally placed at the exit from a house for the fighters “to be able to meet the enemy conveniently.” Due to this tradition it is common to leave sticks, knifes and any training items near the exit from the gym in the corners and on the walls. It is possible to place ancient pictures that show battles of fighters and wrestlers and portraits of old uncles on the walls. It is good to find places for training not far from water sources to end every training with swimming or rubbing with snow. For a common discussion that crowns the training the artel sits down on benches or on the ground in a circle that should be even and round and should have no “holes.” It is necessary to wash the gym before every training regardless of its cleanness and independent from whether it is your own gym or a gym that you occupy temporarily.

The fist cuff fighters traditionally did not have any special clothes and they wore ordinary Russian national suits. There was a special fashion in wearing of this suit and according to this fashion it was possible to tell a fist cuff fighter without any mistake. The symbolism of wearing hats and caftans (coats later) informed a knowing person about intentions of a fighter and about his mood. Tradition requires us to train in everyday clothes. The military field uniform is especially good for field training and assemblies because it is functionally adjusted to such conditions.

There is also a tradition of training in the national clothes. This is very important because a fighter who wears the clothes of ancestors in which they have defended independence of the Fatherland for centuries gets internally united with them, stops feeling the gap of generations and comes to understanding of the Russian martial spirit faster. Proportions of combinations of these three kinds of clothes are determined by the uncle. It is important that everything be appropriate and make sense.

Training may be accompanied by national music. It is up to the uncle to decide which one. Fighting is organized accompanied by special music. If there are no instruments it is possible to fight with accompaniment of claps of the hands, tambourine, hits of stick on stick etc.

Fishing and hunting were traditionally important elements of fighter training in the ancient times. Skills of disguising, path finding, placing of traps, overnight rest in a forest, swamp or field, finding food, making of the items necessary in a field, sharp shooting and endless forest skills were very useful for the fighters.

In modern life it is possible to partially substitute this with long trips and survival contests, hunting and fishing.

The nutrition system is a tradition of Russian Orthodox Christian fasts. During these days it is necessary not only to abstain from various kinds of food but also confess, receive communion and try to eradicate your vices. Those who wish to get acquainted with traditions of the Russian Orthodox Christian fasts need to turn to the priests or, if there is no such possibility, to books of the fathers of the Orthodox Christian Church.

To a special section of nutrition it is possible to attribute experience of consumption of wild plants, methods of food cooking in a forest and knowledge of herbs.

Even modern martial clans of northwestern Russia have a tradition to decorate the handles of knives in the shape of animal, bird and fish heads. The common name of such knives was “pike.”

Very often an animal muzzle on the handle corresponded to the favorite animal and in this case knife fighting became a fighting of two animals and the knives became their symbols. In the mythology of Eastern Slavs the last battle of the Lie with the Truth ended with a battle in the form of animals. They adopted the look of various animals and the Truth finally won in the form of a wolf.

Knife fighting often had a nature of judicial combat and “God’s trial.” The fighters believed that the Lord will help the person who is right and will find the person who is not right.

Story-tellers played a special role in upbringing of fighters. The secret meanings of the familiar fairy tales were revealed to the boys by 18 years old. In the northwest of Russia the godfathers explained the concealed meaning of fairy tales to the boys when they turned 18.

Legends told us that there were special “schools” for boys in the ancient times where the boys were trained from 12 to 18 years old.  Such schools did not survive until our times and only reminiscences about them and family and clan traditions of fairy tales interpretation remained.

Division of the dancing tradition into two or even three parts began approximately in the 1920s-1930s.

Organizing dancing ensembles and choruses the cultural and educational workers emasculated the live dancing traditions and removed improvisation and game element from it. Dancing stopped being a game and entertainment of participants and henceforth had to entertain the viewers. Scenario came after departure of skilled spontaneity to the scenic folk dancing. Actions of dancers were rigidly regulated, which killed the initiative and attraction and dancing excitement together with it. Nonetheless, it was necessary to make dancing a show and hence movements of a dancer were polished like in Chinese taolu, Japanese kata or West European ballet. Acrobatic “jumps” and “movements in squatting position,” “wheels” and “rotations” started dominating. These difficult elements required good physical skills and special training for a veteran who already knew how to dance. Thus appeared the Soviet school of scenic folk dancing, and the school of dancing acrobatics, unofficial but so necessary for the cultural and educational workers, appeared inside of it. The real martial acrobatic elements of men’s East Slavic dancing were preserved in these unofficial schools and transmitted from a teacher to an apprentice.

In the village folk tradition men’s choreography continues its existence as if in “illegal” condition.

The cultural and educational workers sent to village clubs did all their best to remake the real folk dancing. They did not understand anything in it and only saw clearly a huge difference of the folk dancing from the sterilized “cultural” “folk ballet” with which it has been planned to destroy the folk dancing tradition (and this goal has almost been achieved).

Such martial dances as Buza and others like it, let us call them conventionally “pod draku” (“for fighting”), have remained unchanged. The dance “pod Russkogo” was less lucky, first of all because of the war. Such element as dancing in a squatting position started disappearing rapidly right after the war. It is difficult to dance in a squatting position, with jumps, movements and rotations, it is necessary to know how to do this, but the ranks of dancers have been reduced. Results of the subversion cultural program of the cultural and educational workers also seemed to start having effect by that time. From stages of clubs and from television and from cinema screens later choreography of aliens was imposed on Russians and posed as “real folk culture.” Every folklore collector had to encounter destructive influence of this Martian culture both on folk dancers and on viewers.

Another problem of preserving of the martial men’s choreography grew obvious only at the end of the 1990s. Learning the live folk dancing culture, specialists in folklore usually encountered elderly dancers. Majority of them could not perform many sophisticated elements of the men’s dancing physically. Many specialists in folklore started getting a wrong idea that acrobatics in dancing was invented by cultural and educational workers. Our polls during the expeditions form a steady opinion that in the past when dancers were young such dances as Russkogo, Barynya and Buza to a smaller extent were abundant with sophisticated acrobatic elements. It seems that this is simple and it is necessary just to take the dancing acrobatics remaining in the scenic dancing and to apply it to live folklore dancing.

However, there are some difficulties. Majority of specialists in folklore are not acquainted with these elements and have no one to learn them from. Many of specialists in folklore are not physically trained for mastering of difficult pas and hence keep insisting that jumps, wheels, movements in squatting position etc are not inherent to the live Russian dancing.

The third serious barrier in studying of the men’s martial dancing is the level of national martial training necessary for a researcher.

The third branch of the men’s dancing was inseparably connected with tradition of the northwestern hand-to-hand combat. This martial dancing fulfilled a function of non-written method of transmission of applied information. The movements selected by the ethnos for centuries and the most convenient for fighting were transferred plastically together with the method of breathing and sound extraction against the background of special psychophysical condition. Majority of elements of martial dancing has an applied combat meaning. Their non-sensible repetition leads to inevitable distortion of the dancing archetype, plastic and meaning of dancing. Unfortunately, due to lack of training of ethnologists and specialists in folklore collectors in this field of the folk culture the Russian science has insufficient quantity of audio and video materials dedicated to martial dancing and its combat elements. Specialists simply did not look for them or looked for them unskillfully.

Conclusions:

  1. Tradition of performance of combat elements of the men’s East Slavic dancing was preserved in the scenic dancing. It is necessary to use them both in men’s dancing and in applied acrobatics of Russian hand-to-hand combat after their cleaning from theatrical artificialness (to stretch the toe, to unfold the shoulders etc).
  2. Collector of men’s choreography should be educated as ethnographer and specialist in folklore, should know the basics of Russian hand-to-hand fighting and should be physically trained for mastering of difficult pas right on the spot.
  3. The tradition of men’s choreography split in the 1920s-1930s starts restoring itself and an interesting epoch of discoveries and success begins for researchers and those who practice the men’s dancing. Everything returns to its natural course.
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