Kartuli Parikaoba (ქართული ფარიკაობა)

Thoughts on thrusting in Khevsur swordplay

One thing I've really struggled with in my study of Khevsur martial arts is the use of the thrust.  As I understand things, there are some very interesting cultural constructs surrounding when it IS or IS NOT okay to thrust in Georgian culture.  As a result of this, Elashvili documents NO use of the thrust in his text Parikaoba.  that book is an attempt to capture and put down the basics of the friendliest least violent form of Khevsur sword and buckler.  But despite the name of this blog, what we're trying to work on and study is "Lashkroba" which is the most serious and most violent of the three distinct levels of Khevsur fencing.


The three levels are:

  1. Parikaoba (we're showing off)
  2. Chra-Chriloba (We're settling a dispute but don't want to kill or seriously injure each other)
  3. Lashkroba (This is war to the knife)

As the intensity goes up, so too, does the use of the thrust.  The thrust is considered lethal, and there is MUCH less documentation about it.  (I have an excellent article about the use of the thrust in dagger fighting in Georgia by Vakhtang Kiziria that I'm translating in the background as I work on other things right now)  and much of what we know of the use of the thrust comes from anecdotes and stories, or from interviews from the last remaining Khevsur who truly practiced the arts in earnest in their youth.  It is from that last, as relayed to me by Vakhtang, that some of my latest thoughts on where and how the thrust comes into play in Lashkroba come.  As far as I can tell, the thrusts the Khevsur used come in two, possibly three flavors.  Under the buckler, plunging from above the buckler, and possibly angled inward from the side of the buckler.  (the last i have no direct evidence for yet, but it fits with the rest of what seems to be shown to us in the other evidence and the completeness of the arcs of attack addressed via the cut.)  I've been playing with this recently in my daily practice, which I often video and post on my  YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/c/MikeCherba  Watch there for a more formal video on thrusting in Khevsur swordplay along with some more formal content on Active buckler use!

Quarantine practice. Several different pell drills with sword and buckler.

A little solo pell work during shelter-in-place. My phone mirrored this and I still need to get it fixed. I'm very much NOT left handed.
Basic 3 cut drill
ups and downs drill
Buckler press drill
Drill to cut with hanging parries
cut to a low guard with a thrust
Straight cuts from the upper angles
power cuts to the level shift and thrust
parry of a thrust with transfer and counter cut (4 variations IIRC)
Cut combinations from the high profiled guard



Time for another installment of material.  I HAD hoped to have recovered enough from this bug to be able to post a video this week, but that's going to have to wait..  Instead enjoy this material on parrying to go with the first portion of the striking material I posted last week!  Note to self.  I need to reshoot these with an attacking sword and make sure to get EACH of them.   But note here that all parries are made with the sword blade vertical or nearly so.  If you tilt the blade, you need to tilt it toward the side the striking sword is coming FROM.  This is different from parrying with sword alone.


All parries in Lashkroba are made with the closed guards. You could, I suppose, execute each parry with the open guards using nothing but the buckler, but this is not described in the literature that we have, and must therfore remain suppositional. These parries also primarily are intended to defend against cuts, not thrusts, as Elashvili attempts to excise the thrust from the system and describe only a sportified variant of the friendly Parikaoba and it is from Elashvili that we draw most of our system. (though this is supplemented with other sources everywhere possible) Despite the absence of a described parry against the thrust, it can be inferred from the construction of the buckler and then supplemented with techniques taken from other systems that were likely related (such as the Persian shamshir and separ described by Dr Khorasani in his text Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran) It is worth noting that key characteristics shared by all of these parries are:

  1. The parry is made with full extension of the arms (as far from the body as possible)
  2. Parries against cuts are to be made with the EDGE of the buckler, not the face.
  3. Parries are intended to immediately set up a riposte and thus often rely strongly on the buckler to intercept and drive aside a blade to create the opening for the counter.
  4. The base form of all parries is made with the blade in Guard A and pointed nearly vertical.

Sometimes in addition to the buckler the fencers will grip a short stick in their buckler hand (of up to one meter in length and 3-3.5cm in diameter) projecting downward below the buckler. Generally in these cases 2/3 of the stick projects below the buckler. Sometimes a knife is used here in place of the buckler. This can cause some issues when attempting to transition to Guards F and G (in the case of F you likely will take it with the right hand over the left instead of under), but compensates by providing a much stronger defense against low strikes.

Parry A (or head)

To defend against a vertical or near vertical cut to the head, quickly raise the joined sword and buckler together above the forehead, keeping the elbows slightly bent. Ideally, the upper rim of the buckler is positioned to intercept the incoming strike rather than the face or the sword blade.




Parry E

To defend against strikes to the left hand side of your face extend your arms forward and to the left, raising the arms slightly. Nearly straightening the elbows. Don't raise them too much, as that opens you up to a change of direction on the attack and makes your arms a target for a rising cut. The blade remains nearly vertical and the edge of the buckler should intercept the incoming blow. The sword serves mostly to prevent the strike from slipping off the buckler or splitting the hands to strike the forearm.

Parry F

In Parry F, like Parry E, you develop the arms forward and left, straightening the elbows. This time however, the hands do not raise and the buckler will typically catch the incoming strike on its upper left quadrant. Here the sword remaining vertical helps close off the upper line and prevent the blow from reaching you if the buckler misses.

Parry G

In Parry G, the arms develop as before, only you will turn more strongly toward that side and bring your hands lower. The bottom edge of the buckler should reach about knee height in order to close off the low line. (in classical terms, we're going to close off attacks into 1st) The body may take on a slight lean to the left. If the strike is targeted VERY low (below the knee) you may need to quickly drop into the low stance variant to defend the target.

Parry B

Parry B is developed as Parry E only with the hands shifting to the right.

Parry C

Parry C is developed as Parry F only with the hands shifting to the right side.

Parry D

Parry D is developed like Parry G, only with the hands going right as in Parries B and C.


Parries against the Thrust

Because of Elashvili's omission of thrusting; and thus of any parries against the thrust (the variant of the system he describes after all is exclusively cut focused) we must look at other evidence to show how to parry a thrust within the Khevsur system. The parries described in this section are either derived from other Georgian evidence (one from an article by one of Elashvili's students) and from physical evidence of the buckler and the described psychology of the system.

There are a few clues in the construction of the buckler. The buckler has several layers which overlap strongly in the center, and may have a slight boss mound in the center as well. Behind this there is a pad against which sit the fingers of the buckler hand gripping the straps in a fist. One defense against a thrust in this position, to be made with the buckler rather than via setting it aside with the sword, is to punch into the opponents sword tip. Catching the thrust and jarring the sword arm. This is viable against level thrusts to the midsection, but not to the high or low targets.

Another, more effective defense against the thrust that we have evidence for in the Khevsur system is to parry with the blade of your sword (or the dagger/stick that is in the buckler hand if using one) and immediately seek to transfer control of the opponent's blade to the buckler itself, thus freeing the sword to make a riposte. While the riposte can be made either with the buckler or via separation of the hands, it is often more efficacious to separate them in this case, provided that control of the opponent's sword is maintained.  (this goes towards what I term the 3 Ss of Georgian swordplay.  Seek, Suppress, Strike.  But that is a topic for another time.)


Striking (part 1)

Okay.  So this is one of the sections of the book I'm not really happy with.  As a result I'm going to break this up into sections and make liberal use of videos to explain it.  Today We'll cover the core mechanic section with hands joined or retreating behind the buckler.  This is the best documented cutting mechanic we have.  The cuts from the profiled guards are more complicated.  The thrusts we use and describe are almost entirely speculative, or reconstructed from other sources.  Elashvili does not show any thrusts, in fact he goes out of his way to ignore the use of thrusts.  He is trying to describe a "safe" sporting form of the art rather than the full battlefield art and being a classically trained fencer he sees the thrust as far deadlier.

The basic form of the cut are what I describe as a "joined" cut.  As Elashvili puts it:

Offensive operations using the shashka are characterized by the fact that the opponents use exceptionally light chopping blows, which strike at different places in the target zone and are executed using sharp motions of the hands in the plane of the strike. Both hands move forward simultaneously (right, holding the shashka and the left the buckler).

He also notes that Lunging is absent, the intensity of blows does not rise from Parikaoba to Chra-Chriloba (I'll do another bit on the three formal levels of fighting.  Parikaoba can be thought of as "we're showing off", Chra-Chriloba as "we're settling a dispute but don't want to start a feud."), and that the blows to him resemble those used in the French school of spadroon fencing.  

The goal of the joined cuts is to inflict a controlled wound.  According to Elashvili, this is accomplished by projecting the hands forward (both sword and buckler together) as the sword moves in the plane defined by it's age.  So from Guard A you would push your hands forward and snap your wrist downward to make a chopping strike downward.  This is very awkward feeling at first.  And I have found in my review old ethnographic footage, that this is only one of two main ways of striking in Khevsureti.  The other method is similar, only instead of keeping the hands together, the sword arm is allowed to flicker forward, returning immediately behind the buckler. 

In these videos you might notice that the swords seem to curve forward.  This is because to be "safe" for their demonstration on camera, they simply reverse the blade and fence with the unsharpened spine.  

The two methods here also present something else that we need to understand.  Khevsur fencing is not A style, but rather a family of styles with many common elements.  Each passed down through a family or within a village.  What Elashvili documented is only a slice of the rich art that existed.  We have done our best to fill in gaps from other (Mostly Georgian) sources alongside the bits he has preserved so diligently for us.


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