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Czechoslovak Bayonet

Tradition has it that the first bayonets were made in the beginning of the seventeenth century in the French town Bayonne, which was the origin of the name bayonet. Whoever’s idea it was to stick a dagger in the end of a firearm, this innovation meant a significant change in warfare. Infantry was no longer dependent on pikemen in defence, but could defend itself against cavalry attacks itself, reloading while protected by the bayonets of their brothers-in-arms. It could fulfil the tactical role of riflemen, as well as the offensive role of pikemen, which in the era of inaccurate firearms was a great deal. The bayonet kept the role of a kind of spear protecting the infantry from cavalry attack until the end of the nineteenth century, in the tactical system of defence known as the infantry square, where rows of infantrymen arranged into a square replaced the classic “hedgehog” pike formation.

The century of the bayonet was no doubt the nineteenth century. Despite the massive development of firearms, battlefields often saw situations arise when the use of “cold steel” had to be resorted to. The bayonet therefore came into its own, in man-to-man combat, bayonet charges, and situations where infantry had to take defensive positions in square formations, an effective defence against cavalry charges, during which it could carry our defensive fire in all directions. From the beginning of the twentieth century to this day, bayonet fighting is understood to be one of a number of styles of close-quarter combat. Training in bayonet fighting is a good method of increasing the physical and psychological readiness of soldiers.

In 1952 bayonet fencing was instituted as a defence discipline in the then Czechoslovakia, not only in the military, but also in civilian fencing clubs. The then State committee for physical education and sport introduced instructor courses of this sport, for coaches as well as judges and referees. The meaning of the discipline for the civil defence of the nation was constantly underlined. A year later, the bayonet was placed with the classical sporting weapons (the épée, foil and sabre) as a fourth fencing weapon.

The technique for bayonet fencing was based on military training practice, and did not differ greatly from the techniques of the nineteenth century. The gear used was also similar, differing only in the fact that fencers wore more sturdy gloves protecting the whole forearm, on both hands. The target area was the whole body including the head, with the exception of the forearm and the legs from the knees down. Blows with the butt of the weapon were banned as a safety precaution. The weapons used were wooden replicas of rifles with metal barrels, which had spring-loaded bayonets with blunt points inserted into them. The military as well as the sporting version of the rifle with the spring-loaded bayonet are weapons of original Czechoslovak manufacture.

Fencing with the bayonet as a compulsory sporting discipline was not too popular among fencers. The heavy replica rifle with the spring-loaded bayonet dealt strong blows, and hands tired by the demanding fencing with the heavy weapon at competitions often did not have enough sensitivity for subsequent bouts of fencing with the other more subtle weapons. In the 1960s the Svazarm organisation (Union for Cooperation with the Army) stopped bayonet fencing, which was the end of bayonet fencing as a sporting discipline in Czechoslovakia.

This did not mean the total end of bayonet fencing here, however. It was saved thanks to fencing master Josef Šolc, active member of the Czech Fencing Club Riegel from 1949 to this day, who passed on the methodology and practice of this discipline to his club colleague Mr. Leonid Křížek, who teaches bayonet fencing in the Czech Lands Salle d’Armes, Prague, home of the ARS DIMICATORIA school of historical fencing, and the BARBASETTI MILITARY SABRE (since 1895) club, as one of the weapons of classical fencing.

Methodology: maestro Josef Šolc, maître d’armes Leonid Křížek, prévôt d’armes Michael Kňažko
Instructors: maître d’armes Leonid Křížek, prévôt d’armes Michael Kňažko
Methodology manuals:
Miroslav Tyrš: Tělocvik ve vojště, Šermování bodákem 1868

Turnvorschrift für die k.u.k. Fußtruppen, Bajonettfechten, Wien 1903

Ministerstvo národní obrany, Vo-1b: Šerm bodákem, Praha 1923

Vojenský ústav vědecký: Rukověť pro poddůstojníky, Praha 1938
Generální inspektorát vládního vojska: Šerm bodákem, Praha 1940

Wydawnictwo “Prasa Wojskowa”: Szermierka na bagnety, Warszawa 1950

Wydawnictwo glównego komitetu kultury fizycznej: Sportowa szermierka na bagnety, Warszawa 1951
Svazarm: Pravidla šermu bodákem, Praha 1957
Naše vojsko, Karel Züber, Stanislav Skalický: Šerm bodákem, Praha 1958
Leonid Křížek: Historie evropských duelů a šermu III – Od duelového ke sportovnímu kolbišti, Praha 2015

Target area: the whole body excepting the forearm and the shins, thrust