2019-11-06

Russ Mitchell

  It is always a pleasure to find out that a nice new fencing treatise has been written. I felt this when I came across Russ Mitchell's new book, entitled Hungarian Hussar Sabre and Fokos Fencing. [1] There is a really detailed YT review of this book, I'm going to use it as a template for this post. [2]

  From the back cover copy of the book:
Hungarian Hussar Sabre and Fokos Fencing provides a heavily-illustrated, step-by-step guide for how to fence — and how to teach! — Hungarian sabre fencing, as well as how to use the “fokos,” or long-handled axe traditional to Hungary and East-Central Europe.  It covers everything from basic stance work and tactics to complete synoptic tables and how to troubleshoot students who are having difficulty with the material.  The manual also provides translated comparative material in order to demonstrate how the lineage the author learned is — and is not — like other methods of fencing taught in Hungary and at the Wiener-Neustadt cadet school in the mid-to-late 19th century up through World War One.

  Unfortunately I don't have this book at my disposal, nevertheless one could have a rather detailed impression of it from many different sources (YT, other reviews). Probably the most obvious thing about Hussar Sabre & Fokos is the quality of illustrations, and the really nice general layout of the book.

Countercut [3]

  Some additional pages [6]:

Page 15

Page ? [4]

Page ?

   There are some additional drawings shown in the video [sabre: 3:10; 3:31; 3:43; fokosh: 5:02].

  After this general overview of the available images, let's return to the content of the book (~200 pages). It has three main sections: a) older style Hungarian sabre fencing with a heavily curved sword; b) fokosh fencing and c) late Hungarian sabre, the late 19th century [6:42]. The reviewer says that the sabre fencing described in the book is from the 15th or 16th century. [1:07] To be honest I have serious doubt about this claim... He explains that it isn't a recreation of an existing treatise, basically it is a book that Russ Mitchell wrote based on what he learned from Csaba Hidán (1963), a Hungarian archaeologist and historian from the Károli Gáspár University in Budapest.

  A short remark regarding the last section of the book: from the pictures it is obvious that Russ translated the sabre section of a Hungarian book written by Samu Chappon in 1892 (a rough translation of the title: Theory of the Art of Fencing). [5] The drawings were made by Chappon himself, and unfortunately they are not very good. A well known Hungarian HEMA fencer and researcher started to translate part of this book in 2011, and published some  excerpts on his blog.

  It might be that in the future I will expand this post with additional stuff from the book and about the book.
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  1. It is worth noting that fokosh is a more correct version of spelling, because this way you can ensure that foreign readers pronounce this Hungarian word properly.
  2. The book was published in April 2019, and the review was written in August.
  3. Illustrator: Kat Laurange [7]; (New book
  4. I think it is an absolutely nice feature of this book: the head of Csaba Hidán together with some remarks about important issues.
  5. There is a much better version of Chappon's book, the third edition, published in 1911 with the same text, but with photographs. It is available online at the National Library"s site.
  6. https://www.woodenswords.com/Hungarian_Hussar_Sabre_and_Fokos_Fencing_p/book-hun01.htm
  7. Illustrator's post: „Introducing ... THE PROJECT THAT ATE MY LIFE. --- Hungarian Hussar Sabre and Fokos* Fencing is a book by Russ Mitchell, detailing the specific style of sabre fencing he picked up as a student in Hungary, learning from one of the holders of the Hussar Sabre tradition passed down from father to son in a very long line. I've been studying with Russ for several years, and when he said he wanted to write an illustrated book to teach others the style, I agreed to do the illustrations. --- It took A VERY LONG TIME. --- In part because of many things that happened in my personal life (including having a baby right in the middle of when I was supposed to be finishing the work), in another part because this is seriously one of the biggest, and hardest, projects I have taken on as a freelancer. In days to come I'll be sharing some of my favorites of the illustrations, but for now, here's the cover. --- And if it sounds like a book you might be interested in, you're in luck! It's live and on Amazon right now, so gallop on over and have a look-see!” (Source)

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