Russian Fist-Fighting

Russian fist-fighting is entertainment, training of fighters, and also a test of one’s masculinity.

“Throwing your fists around,” – used to say in the old days, although still today in Russia the same expression is used.

Mass Fist-Fighting Tournaments

Fist-fighting for spectators were held on major holidays. Particular attention was paid to fist fights during Maslenitsa. This had a special meaning: all the fighters were in winter clothes and hats, that softened the blows, and the snow was still there that eliminated injuries when the fighters fell down.

There were always several fighters participating in the fights: a social group against another group, a street against another street, or a village against another village. They say that on the Moscow River there could be gathered around several thousand fighters from each bank. As much as possible the organizers tried pickingthe fighters so that both teams were about equal.

Teams prepared for fights in advance. The best fighters were picked to join in. Some fighting teamshad their preparation rituals for fights, including regular visits to the Russian steam rooms, nourishing diet plans and, if time allowed, special exercises.

There were also special rituals that were supposed to give courage and luck to fighters. For example, they were offered to kill a snake, take its tongue and put in their boot.

Fist fights took place with lots of spectators.

In Soviet times this tradition got lost. Mass fist fights remained, but not as an entertainment element but rather as hooliganism. Of course, they were no longer part of any celebrations and were held in secret.

Only at the end of the 20th fist fights during Maslenitsa got revived.

The Rules of Fist-Fighting

Traditional Russian fist fights assumed a special respect for the opponent. Of course, both parties wanted to win, but only in a fair fight.

The rules of fist fighting have long gone beyond the competition itself and became common sayingsthat today are known since childhood:

  • Don’t hit a man when he’s down
  • Don’t strike in the back

The fight went on until the win, when the opponent was down or ran away.

The main difference between Russian fist-fighting from a scuffle is in the manifestation of courage and bravery.


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