уторак, 16. април 2019.

Serbian warrior code

Medieval western European knights and Japanese Samurai from the same period are widely known and their codes of conduct became famous and highly praised in modern times.

The Code of Chivalry of medieval warriors dictated that a Knight should be brave and fearless in battle but would also exhibit cultured Knightly qualities showing themselves to be devout, loyal, courteous and generous. The qualities expected of a Medieval knight included bravery, courtesy, honor and gallantry toward women from which we get the image of the Knight In Shining Armor. The concept of a Code of Chivalry led to an idealized view of medieval knights in later times resulted in various legends knights and their adventures.
Bushido , probably the best known warrior’s code of conduct is basically a copy of European Code of Chivalry. Bushido was followed by Japan's samurai warriors and their precursors in feudal Japan, as well as much of central and east Asia. The principles of bushido emphasized honor, courage, frugality, skill in the martial arts, and loyalty to a warrior's master (daimyo) above all else

While history gave its final word on real medieval knights in Europe and Japan which is quite different from myths and legends,  there is a small country in Europe whose knights ,and not only knights but all warriors until today upheld the code of honor to the maximum possible level.  Serbian warriors had and still have the hardest code of conduct among all the warriors anywhere on the world. Also Serbian code of conduct was pretty much different from its western European or Japanese counterpart and there are several reasons for this.
First reason was socio- political system, Serbia never had slavery nor Feudalism. Slavery in ancient world played an important role in society and the economy, but Serbian people never had slaves and they would rather die than become one. While social hierarchy played important role in ancient Greece and Rome, among Serbian people such hierarchy was completely unknown, everyone were equal and there was no leaders. The only case when leaders were chosen was time of war , people would chose a war leader but immediately after the war he would return to everyday life and would not have any special privileges nor his social status would be  different from any other person . Unlike Feudal  western Europe where peasants were part of the property(land) and were basically slaves who could not marry or even travel without the special permission of their lord in Serbia peasants were free people . On the west feudal lord had complete control over the lives of the people on his land, Feudal lords were also part of the judicial system and it was there responsibility to uphold the law. In Serbia  nobility who owned most of the land was not a part of the judicial system which was independent and based in Roman Law, peasants were really protected by law and had the right to sue the landlord. Also, after 30 years of renting one piece of land peasants earned a form of pseudo-ownership, the landlord could expel  them form the property although the peasants could not sell the land which still belonged to the landlord.  Even if knight owned the land he had no real power over the peasants until the law was broken and even then law protected the peasants. The idea of freedom and equality among all people is in the very root of Serbian ( and other Slavic) culture.   Serbian people were free since the beginning of history and they value freedom above all else. That is the reason why Serbia never tried to occupy any foreign territory, all wars were defense wars without exception.

Second reason was religious. Majority of Serbian people were and still are devoted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.  Unlike Roman Catholic church which was dominant political force in Europe for centuries and was more interested in political domination and economical domination by any means necessary including war, political persecutions, slaughter of heretics ect where millions of people became victims of the “Church” and the Monarch that Church controlled , Eastern Orthodox Church remained on the original path of Jesus Christ, being what Church suppose to be . Serbian Orthodox Church never had any direct influence nor connections to politics and if any influence was made it went to direction of peace. Serbian Orthodox Church was people’s church , it cared for its people and shared its destiny . Often, throughout history the church fathers along with priests and monks put them self in front of the incoming evil and took the first and hardest blow giving the common people time to find refuge for woman, children and elderly. Simply it cannot be found in Christian world (or any other religious realm) closer connection between Church and its people. In Serbia, Church represents much more than  just a religion it is a pillar of Serbian national being. There is no boundary between nationality and fate, being Serbian means being Orthodox Christian. Church was behind cultural and scientific progress for centuries. Its influence was and still is in every pore of the society and in every aspect of life but in very specific way. Church’s influence is,  much more spiritual in the past, equally moral, ethical, cultural and in dark ages that ravaged western world , kept and preserved classical Greek literature, science, medicine ,history ect which were taught to upper social classes. While western Europe swam in blood from religious persecution of the “heretics” where millions were slaughtered because their fate, witches were burned alive and books considered enemies and burned along with their owners, these things never happened in Serbia. No one believed in witches and books were not burned but kept and preserved as the rare treasure they were at the time. “Heresy” was forbidden by law but there was no death penalty for it. In fact in 13th century Serbian law was the most progressive and the most advanced law system in Europe based in Roman Law but improved and adjusted to the socio-political system in the country.  It is impossible to separate Serbian nation from its church, they are one and the same. This Church through the course of centuries , nurtured the moral and ethical code of Serbian people , that code in many ways improved original moral code from the Bible , making it more strict and more diverse in order to cover any possible situation. This code is the most strict but most emphatic moral code, the true representation of Christian values and believes. Christianity had such a deep roots in Serbian culture due to the fact that ancient Slavic people already had moral code identical to that form the New Testament based in love, understanding , compassion and acceptance.

Third reason is cultural. In Serbian society, the family and mutual support among members is highly valued. It is common to find several generations living under the same roof. Grandparents often help to look after their grandchildren while children look after their parents as they age. Many family members in the extended family try to remain in close contact with one another. Serbians will often view their cousins as siblings, in part because the Serbian language does not distinguish between cousins and siblings. Serbs have a special name for each direct and indiect ancestor 16 generations back, and for 5 future generations. Besides this, Serbs can easily determine relation to most cousins of the second and third generation simply by having particular name for uncles and aunts. Not only this, but their children are not called „cousins“ – they are brothers and sisters on uncle’s/aunt’s side. While in most countries the law allows marriage between 4th degree cousins in Serbia 4th degree cousins are considered close family , only in very special occasion Church will examine and maybe allow marriage between 7th degree cousins. There is the tendency among Serbians to stay in close proximity to their family in order to remain emotionally close. For example, children tend not to be encouraged to be independent or leave home. If they do move out, younger generations often live near their relatives. It is common for a Serbian family to host events or to frequently visit their family in order to maintain familial ties.

The typical household structure is patriarchal, with authority tending to come from the most senior male. Women are considered equal to men but are expected to honor their husband, on the other hand husband is expected to treat his wife as equal. In the past role of woman different from today but was still way better than anywhere else in the feudal world.  Age also gives authority in Serbian families and in society in general. The elderly are given utmost respect and are consulted when major decisions are made.
Giving the close bonds among relative Serbian build a strong bonds among friends and they are ready to help each other at any moment. This is clearly visible in small towns where people are closer and “old ways” are still the only ways. Especially in the time of tragedy literary the whole town will come to help and closest relatives and neighbors will take over everything on them self until the necessary things are finished ( like funeral ). Even people who hate each other will forget their dispute in the time of need and help as much as they can. Friends in Serbia have much closer relationships than closest relatives in most of the world.

The typically Western sense of individualism is not as prevalent in Serbia. They are often more family- and friend-minded. Individualism is most common in the time of danger such as war or some natural disaster when people sacrifice them self in order to save others.
“ Inat” is a peculiarly Serbian concept. Many nations will claim that it exists all over the world, but nowhere has the track record and evidence to back up the claim like Serbia. In short, it is the idea of doing something precisely because you have been told you can’t, the acting out of proud defiance in the face of insurmountable odds. It is record numbers turning up for a fun run in the streets of a city under aerial bombardment, or men and women holding BBQ parties on the roofs of that same town. It is being given the choice of changing religion or dying, and subsequently going for the latter.
The people of Serbia have never played nice with those in power, be they Ottoman leaders in the 17th century or international alliances in the 20th, or their own leaders. Serbs don’t like to be told what to do, especially by countries perceived as trying to police the world. Serbs have extremely strong sense of national pride and  they value the autonomy of the nation.
Hospitality plays important role in Serbian culture. Being invited to someone’s home for a meal is a great honor. Serbian family treats guests as royalty and they will serve only the best of everything they have. In the past hospitality played great social role because Serbs will cease all hostility towards person they shared food with. Even if the worst enemy seeks shelter and food he cannot be denied and he will be protected by all means necessary.
Honor is an extremely important principle in Serbia and is closely related to family values. One’s honor is connected with family reputation. Thus, preservation of honor is often understood in terms of the collective rather than the individual. In the event of an individual’s shortcoming, the whole family’s name and honor are often affected. There is also an expectation that family members will make necessary sacrifices for the common good. Family honor manifests in the loyalty that one has among family members. Betraying one’s kin brings a sense of dishonor and shame to the individual .Betrayal is one of the worst things individual can do in Serbia.

Based in Serbian culture and world view, code of honor of Serbian knight and the code of honor of the common soldier are the same. While in the West it was never expected from the common soldiers to follow any code of honor in Serbia that was natural thing. Knights and common people never differed as much as they did in the West in every way. Being a Knight in Serbia was the hardest possible thing , not only the warrior had to train rigorously with weapons but he also had to live his life as monk if he is not married and even if he was situation wouldn’t change much . Every Serbian knight also had to be educated in history with emphasis on every recorded battle of the past and military strategy, mathematic, reading maps, Greek language and sometimes poetry.
 But talking only about medieval knights wouldn’t be fair because same moral code guided Serbian warriors for centuries and it still in use today.
Serbia, like very few other countries on the world, never invaded other country, all wars were defensive wars. Serbia never fought against the enemy of the same size, we always fought unmeasurably stronger opponent. Serbia did loose wars but it was never defeated, never broken, never on its knees. Serbian warrior takes weapon in his hands for only one reason, to defend his children, to defend his family, woman and elderly, to defend his land which gives him life.  Never in its history Serbian warriors crossed the borders of other country in order to occupy, rule, to make colony, to have slaves, to rob natural resources and other valuable things. Serbian warrior can only fight the righteous fight, to defend what is sacred to him, his family and his land.
Serbian warrior is never afraid of death, not because he is insanely brave but because he is defending something much more valuable than his own life, he is defending his children, his family, his future. When you have you child behind no enemy can scare you, no force can break you, no evil can pass as long as you fight. In that fight there is simply no place for fear because if you are afraid everything you fight for will be ruined. Warrior may die ,battle may be lost, but his example will lead future generations on the path of final victory.
In Serbian culture death is not something to be feared, not in a way others fear death. Moment of death is a defining moment for Serbian warrior and the pinnacle of his life. The way Serbian warrior perceive death is described best in epic poetry. In epic poem, based on true events prior to WWI, old warrior, Krsta Radunovic sends his three sons to a battle against Turkish occupation forces and he is escorting them with these words :
“ There is no death , beside judgment day
Nor warrior’s glory without fighting
Those who die where they suppose to die
They built a monument for their lives “
All three sons died and old man, when he heard the news about his sons’ fate, with heart full of sorrow, said how proud he is and that he only regrets he couldn’t die with them together.
In other epic piece , the poet wrote these verses:
“ Everyone is born to die once
Honor and shame live forever”
Serbian warrior is afraid of dishonorable death, not death it’s self.
The way someone live and especially the way someone die is of outmost importance. Concepts of Honor and shame shaped the life of Serbian people from the beginning of time. Not only in war but in everyday life as well, keeping the honor intact is what life is all about. Life without honor is no life at all. There is no shame in losing the battle, no shame to be defeated by better or stronger opponent, if you die by fighting stronger opponent you gain eternal glory. On the other hand, lying, cheating, braking given word, is unforgettable and unforgivable. Loosing honor is worse than loosing life.
Someone’s life worth as much as his word. Saying things without consequences is completely alien to Serbian culture, once given, word cannot be broken, not even if that would mean certain death.
Warrior can lose only two things, face and honor. Neither of them can be bought, sold or owned separately from the person, either you have it or not. Those who die with honor stay alive in memory of the people and never truly die, same goes for those who lose honor.
Bravery and honor is so highly valued among Serbian people that there are countless examples of honoring fallen enemy who fought with honor, such enemy would get a funeral like any other Serbian hero. Captured in battle, brave enemy would be released with his weapons and would get respect like any other Serbian hero. Losing the battle or being captured does not mean losing honor. Serbian warrior is not a superman, he is just a man who fights for his freedom and his land and he is painfully aware that despite all efforts there will always be stronger, better, larger forces that cannot be overwhelmed.
Serbian warrior myth is more a real record of the events than an actual myth. While in other cultures knights do not have any flaws and they are undefeatable with often superhuman powers and magical weapons , Serbian knights on the other hand are so profoundly human, they have doubts, regrets, fears ,they make mistakes , yet they always manage to conquer fallen human nature and win the hardest battle of all, battle with them selfs. 
 Unlike western Europe there is nothing in Serbian ethos that will attack in any way strict warrior’s code. One of the key pieces of European literacy which is a corner stone of western civilization , Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” was dedicated to only one thing, to ridicule high moral values of the knight , totally unfit for the modern world. This piece proclaims poor knight for a fool and down to earth servant on a donkey for an example of wisdom , promoting the victory of the practical mind. History showed consequences of this set of values. Western “enlightened” nations  occupied most of the planet killing hundreds  millions , making them into slaves, robbing their natural resources and destroying entire civilizations and their cultural heritage. In their madness they will give them self right to judge others, wildly attacking anything different proclaiming it dangerous.
It that Europe a small nation will still uphold traditional moral values , Serbian national anthem still begins with words “ Lord give justice to all…”  . Because of that , because of their faith, their moral values , their love for truth and justice Serbian people faced physical annihilation 3 times only in 20st century. In WWI country known as “dungeon of nations” along with germans and Bulgarians killed 30% of entire population, that was the largest genocide in the history of human kind. In WWII same enemies with support of Vatican killed over 2 million people, where 800 000 Serbs were killed in concentration camp Jasenovac in Croatia. First and only time in history of human kinds there was a concentration camp for children, Serbian children , opened with blessing of Vatican. In 1999 western countries under the umbrella of criminal , genocidal NATO alliance attacked Serbia and dropped so many uranium bombs that rate of cancer jumped 200 % . There isn’t a household in Serbia where someone didn’t die or is currently sick of cancer. This is the same pattern repeated so many times through history. Western “enlightened” nations first lead tremendous propaganda war convincing their people that Serbs are not human beings, that killing Serbian children is not a crime and then they send their soldiers to bring “culture” and these days “democracy”. Serbia was attacked for the same reason in the last 2000 years, we do not want to be like them, we have our own values ,our own faith, our own way of life, and we want to stay like that. West and East tried to change us, to break us, to make us more suitable for their global plans but we were never defeated and despite of all we still keep our heads high, we still live for justice and peace, we still pray in our own church.
 Despite everything that was done to Serbian people, there is no hate nor desire for revenge. Serbian people do not forget, ever, but Serbian people do forgive easily, giving anyone a second chance.
While fierce during fighting Serbian warrior would never do anything to dishonor his enemy, alive or dead. While many armies would rob prisoners of war often taking everything including cloths and same thing they did to fallen ones, Serbs never did such a thing. On the other hand, knowing with kind of people they fight, Serbs would always dress their best clothes and bring gold pieces that enemy could find something on their corpses, it was dishonorable if enemy would find a warrior in poor cloths and without money. Even in death, people cared about these things , no one wanted to be remembered as poor.
Mutilating corpses  was common thing , especially for middle eastern muslim armies although examples on the west are not rare. Such thing was  impossible in Serbia, enemy corpses if no one claimed them would be buried with military honors. Even more , there are examples where enemy soldiers were burred together with Serbian soldiers in the same tomb. After the battle on Cer and Kolubara where first WWI allied victory was won by small Serbian army that defeated more 10 times stronger opponent , several thousand Hungarian and Austrian soldiers found their final rest in the same tomb with their enemy. Serbian army honored all victims of that insane attack. While alive, Hungarian and Austria soldiers were enemies, but in death we are all equal in front of the Lord and we will all answer for our deeds. Dead soldier is no one’s enemy , just a lost souls that needs prayer for forgiveness of his sins.  
Prisoners of war were often treated better than regular army, simply , there is nothing that would make Serbian solider to do anything wrong to  person who cannot defend him self. Even in the last war , all NATO soldiers caught on the territory of Serbia were returned to their homes in much better condition than when they came.
Perfect example how Serbian warriors treated enemy, especially wounded ones can be found during Serbo-Bulgarian war in 1885. Bulgarian army, although well armed didn’t have any medical equipment , nor medical staff and many wounded soldiers suffered immensely. Being aware of the situation Serbia stopped the war for a day a allowed Red Cross train with medical supplies to go to Bulgaria. Although not well equipped its self ,Serbian army added four complete field hospitals to the Red Cross train composition. No army in history of human kind did such a thing for the enemy.
Other example happed in modern times, more precisely in 1993. During civil war in Bosnia all sides, Serbs, Croats and muslims were enemies. In summer 1993 overwhelmed by local muslims and “holy warriors, muslim terrorists from middle east Croats , stunned by the ferocity of muslims decided to search refuge from another enemy, Serbian army. Although extremely scared and fed with anti Serbian propaganda they realized that there is no other way. 15o Croat civilians and 450 members of Croatian rebel army seek help from Serbian army. Immediately Serbian army command refitted a school into refugee center and all necessary material was provided with children’s food and clothes that was found in an instant. Army command appealed to the civil population to help and in a matter of instant local people brought everything. Sick refugees were sent to the nearest hospitals. Wounded Serbian soldiers on their demand waited to receive help until several pregnant coratian woman finished the labor. All refugees , their condition, treatment and  medical procedures were recorded by Red Cross and on their demand sent mostly to Croatia and other places according to their desires . Two years later croatin so called army burned  a bus full of Serbian refugees , mostly woman and children.
About bravery of Serbian soldiers countless books were written. Serbian army never fought weaker opponent  and never fought on equal terms. Serbian army always fought stronger opponent and often fought the impossible odds and at the end always won.
In 1330 A.D. 15000 Serbs completely destroyed 80 000 bulgarian soldiers. Instead of concurring Bulgaria and robbing it , Serbian King saved Bulgaria from total annihilation , established a new king and preserved Bulgaria as independent country
In 1389. A.D. 12 000 Serbs met between 30 000 and 40 000 turks in the Kosovo field. Serbs won the battle but that victory was so expensive that country couldn’t recover biologically form the loss of man but Turks were stopped and didn’t manage to enter Serbia next 70 years.
In 1402. A.D. in the battle of Angora , Serbian army fought on Turkish side. Turks lost, Turkish ruler was captured and all prisoners executed, all but Serbs. Tamerlane was so impressed by skill, discipline and bravery of the Serbian army that he released the with complete weapons.
In 1806.A.D. 9000 Serbs with 5 cannons fought against 40 000 well equipped Turks on the field of Mishar. After fierce battle Turks escaped in Bosnia losing 6000 people. On Serbian side 500 people died.
In 1809. A.D. near city of Nis 16 -18000 Serbs fought 36-40 000 Turks. Overwhelmed by the number of enemies Serbian defense broke and Turks entered the Serbian camp. Fierce battle was fought all day. Seeing the impossible situation , Serbian commander Stevan Sindjelic took his pistol , entered the gunpowder magazine and fire his gun in th nearest barrel. The entire camp was destroyed leaving a the end of the day 4000  dead Serbs and 16 000 dead Turks. In order to punish Serbs , turks collected all heads of Serbian soldiers and made 4 meters tall tower made of those skulls.
November 1914 A.D. First major battle of WWI. Austro Hungarian army with 450 000 solders, well equipped entered Serbia in with plane to crush Serbian army in one decisive blow. On the other hand Serbian army had less 400 000  soldiers , poorly equipped and almost without artillery ammo. Loses on both sides were immense , Austo hungrian army had 30 000 dead, 173 000 wounded and 70 000 captured soldiers. Serbia had 22 000 dead, 91 000 wounded and 19 000 captured. Invading army was totally destroyed and this was first allied victory in WWI.

Orthodox Christmas 1915 , battle of Mojkovac. 20 000 Austrians with 45 cannons attacked 6500 Serbian soldiers from Montenegro who had 25 cannons. It is the bloodiest battle of WWI. Invading army was totally destroyed , Austrian field commander committed suicide after such a defeat.
1918 . Thessaloniky front., 62 000 Serbian soldiers literary destroyed 600 000 German , Austrian and Bulgarian soldiers. German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm sent a telegram to Bulgarian king Ferdinand :” 62 000 Serbian soldiers decided the outcome of the war! Such embarrassment!
In September 1941 Royalist and Communist resistance rose against Germans and in a few days liberated a large part of Serbia forming the biggest free territory in occupied Europe known as Uzice republic.
9. April- 10. June 1999 , battle for Koshare. 2000 Serbian soldiers and  few Russian  voluntaries fought against more than 6000 albanian terrorist , French foreign legion, Italian mercenaries with a support of NATO air forces and artillery. Serbian army lost 108 people died, 150 wounded and one light military vehicle  destroyed. Other side had more than 200 killed, around 350 wounded , 5 tanks destroyed,  2 A-10 thunderbolt II,   one  F-117а and one  F-16 . Despite hell of fire coming from the air and earth, Serbian soldiers did not retreat one foot never allowing terrorist to enter Serbia.

I will finish this article with few quotations from one of the most beloved rulers of Serbia , Lazar Hrebeljanovic . These vise words were said when he was informed about the size and strength of the Turkish army which was coming to occupy Serbia. Painfully aware that there are no chance for victory he still led his people to the battle, most important battle in Serbian history and while he lost his life he didn’t lost the battle and his words led Serbian people through centuries and gave them strength to do things others can only read in fantasy books.
“I do not decide whether or not I will go into battle by the strength of force that is threating me, but by the importance of holy things I am defending.”
“It is better that our grandchildren remember our deaths than our sons to forget us alive”
“I don’t put my head into the grave, I am putting into foundation of our future”

недеља, 24. фебруар 2019.

Youngest soldier of WWI

The origins of the First World War lay in Austro-Serbian antagonism. After occupying predominantly Serbian territory of Bosnia and Hertzegovina in 1908.  Austro-Hungarian Monarchy considered Serbia as a natural next step in their colonial expansion and tried to provoke the war at any cost. For years Austrian press was dehumanizing Serbian people, portrait them as lesser beings, preparing its people to physically destroy the whole nation.
Serbian sculls as a birthday present to Austrian emperor 

"Once upon a time there was Serbia, now all Serbian are hanged, only sheeps left ."

On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb student and member of a multi-ethnic organization of national revolutionaries called Young Bosnia, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The political objective of the assassination was the independence of the southern Austro-Hungarian provinces mainly populated by Slavs from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria-Hungary delivered the July Ultimatum to Serbia, a series of ten demands intentionally made unacceptable in order to provoke a war with Serbia. When Serbia agreed to only eight of the ten demands, Austria-Hungary declared war on 28 July 1914. While western historians trying to connect organization of this assassination to Serbian secret service the truth is that Austrian Archduke had mental problems and was not seen as proper inheritor of the throne. All indicates that assassination was organized by german and Austrian secret service.
It is important to sat that Serbia lost 30 % of all population in WWI and 65% of male population, 1 200 000 people,  due to systematic war crimes committed by Austrian, German, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Croatian soldiers.

 Austrian army killing Serbian civilians ,mostly woman, elderly people and children

Story about the youngest soldier of the great war started in 1914. Momčilo Gavrić was the youngest soldier in the First World War. He was born in May 1st, in 1906 in a village near the town of Loznica in Western Serbia, as the eighth child of eleven. At the very start of the Great War, Austro-Hungarian Monarchy concentrated the bulk of its forces at the Drina river, whose surroundings became the battlefield in the first phase of the war. During the first onslaught of the enemy, in the nearby village of Trbušnica near the town of Loznica, the entire village was slaughtered  including the  family of the seven  years old Momčilo Gavrić, whereas he himself was saved by pure luck , he was not at home when enemy soldiers arrived. His own words about the massacre :”  I saw in my front yard a massacre, I saw soldiers killing my parents and seven brothers and sisters .I was hidden behind the bush and when saw all that blood ...the whole yard was red from blood, all killed, slaughtered with knives and bayonets , house in flame … I just froze , couldn’t move or speak .”

He ran into the 6th Artillery Division of the Serbian Army which was, at the time, stationed on Mount Gucevo near his home village. He was taken by the 6th Artillery Division as a war orphan and a soldier called Milos Misovic was assigned as his caretaker. The boy pinpointed the location of the Austro-Hungarians that same evening, and was given control of the trigger of one of the Serbian batteries, which was considered as an act of personal revenge for the death of his family.

At the age of 8, after the Battle at mountain  Cer, one of the bloodiest battles of the great war and  first Allied victory over the Central Powers in the First World War, and the first aerial dogfight of the war took place during the battle he was promoted to the rank of Corporal by the commander of his unit, and given a military uniform. In 9 days  more than 15,000 troops were killed, with additional 50,000 wounded and 5000 captured on both sides. The losses of the Austro-Hungarian army were much bigger than the Serbian opponent and they were pushed back to the Austrian governed Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was their initial position for the invasion.
At the age of eight, he was the youngest soldier in the War and the youngest Corporal in history.
In the fall of 1915 the Mackensen Offensive crushed Serbian resistance . Serbia was occupied by joint forces of Austro-Hungarian, German and Bulgarian armies, but the Serbian government and Army refused to capitulate.The alternative meant a huge, exodus-like retreat of the remnants of the Army through Albanian mountains, with a goal to reach the Allied territory in Greece, in the winter of 1915. The historical event is often referred as the “Albanian Golgotha”, which illustrates the horrors of the retreat by foot during winter time. Corporal Gavric crossed Albania with the rest of his comrades-in-arms and was given the “Albanian Medal” as a commemoration for his effort.When his unit was sent to Thessaloniki, Major Tucović sent him to Sorovits where he hastily went through the equivalent of four grades of elementary education.

In Kajmakčalan, Field Marshal Mišić was stunned when he saw a uniformed ten-year-old boy in the trenches. Major Tucović explained the situation to him that Gavrić had been with them since the Battle of Cer, and that he had both been taught discipline and been wounded during his time in the unit. Mišić promoted Gavrić to Lance Sergeant, and the order was read out to the whole division.
He was wounded several times during his service but continued to go back to the trenches, until the liberation of Serbia was completed and the war was over
After the war he was granted a scholarship in Great Britain, as part of an aid program for war orphans.  Gavric finished his education at the Henry Wreight School in Faversham, Kent, graduating in 1921. After graduation, he returned to Serbia and was reunited with his three brothers who had survived the war.
During WWII short campaign after which Nazi Germany occupied Yugoslavia, his regiment was captured, but he somehow managed to escape. In 1943 he was sent to Banjica concentration camp with his Jewish friend but later released by intervention of police official who remembered the boy soldier from WWI.
After WWII he was prosecuted by communist regime and almost killed and he spent year and half in prison where he was tortured the entire time. After he was released he couldn't talk for several years due to a trauma and later he never talked abut his time in communist prison. He died in 1993 at the age of 87.
Momcilo Gavric was given, in the course of time, memorials dedicated to him on the island of Corfu in Greece and most recently a monument in Belgrade. Also, a street in the town of Loznica bears his name.

Samurai vs Western knight

There is a never ending discussion about fencing skill of the samurai and western warriors and who would win in a duel. Such  duel actually happened and the winner is western warrior.

Alexander Lexo Saichich was born on 5 August 1873 in the village of Vinicka in Berane.  Lekso graduated from high school in Dubrovnik from where he went to Belgrade to study at the Infantry school in Serbian Military Academy. After Belgrade he spent three years serving in Montenegro .  He wanted to improve his military skills and gain more experience and progress  headed for Istanbul to join the Turkish army and served as one of the  Emperor's  personal bodyguards  where he also spent three years.  When Japan declared war to Russia , Serbia and Montenegro as a support to Russia declared war to Japan and send each several companies of voluntaries. Alexander Lekso Sajčić  joined  Montenegro units with a rank of lieutenant . He was one of the bravest soldiers of that war and many stories of his bravery and skills are still told in Russia , Serbia and Montenegro. He was wounded 4 times , two times in the head , once in a chest and once in the shoulder but never missed any combat operation and he was always in front of his company leading his soldiers.

In Eastern Manchuria, near the city of Vladivostok on Sypingayskih positions, during the second year of the conflict  armies were about to clash.  While Russian tacticians were searching for the best way to win after series of defeats, a rider came forward from the opposite side. The commander of the Japanese addressed the Russians through his messenger. He demanded that they send one warrior for a duel against his samurai. Russians were confused by the unusual request from the Japanese General who demanded that before the battle they arrange a duel between two of their champions. They knew how much significance this duel had for the upcoming battle. Reputation of the samurai and their sword skills were very well known among Russian soldiers and no one wanted to face fierce Japanese duelist, no one except Alexander. As soon as the request for a duelist spread across the camp, tall and slim lieutenant showed up at the commander's tent entrance requesting a permission to fight. Seeing young lieutenant so skinny the commander refused him at firs but young warrior didn’t want to leave the tent without permission to fight. Commander ordered to find him the best horse and gave him a sabre

Two man met in the middle of the battle field and the duel started. After taking several serious blows (he never fully recovered from these wounds), Saichich somehow managed to defeat the samurai. Samurai’s horse has swept away, dragging his masters’s dead body whose feet stuck in the stirrup. The corpse of a samurai knight fell a hundred meters before the first rows of the Japanese troops. Saichich drove up to the opponent, bowed and went galloping back to his. After winning the duel, Aleksandar Lexo Saichich became a Knight of the Order of St. Anne, the highest Russian award, and the owner of many other differences. In addition, the Russian government has identified him a good amount of gold Napoleons 40 annually for life. In the distant Manchuria, he was promoted to the rank of captain until the end of the war he commanded a squadron of horse-Amur Dragoons. Sabre, which he defeated samurai, now kept at the Military Museum in Moscow

After the war he went back to Montenegro and served in a court of the King Nicola.On  April 7, 1911.  in Cetinje hospital “Danilo I” died captain Aleksandar Lexo Saichich from the effects of falling from the top floor of the Royal Palace saving himself from a fire. In the funeral procession, which two days later, while attending State Orchestra and the honorary squad moved to the cemetery, along with the palace and the diplomatic entourage, silently walked mass of people.

At the head of the procession, as a kind of document of the deceased, on several pillows lay orders and medals: Russian Orders of St. Vladimir, with swords and ribbon Grade II, St. Anne’s I and II, St. Stanislaus with swords and ribbon II and III, Russian medal for being wounded , Montenegrin medal for bravery and Danilov Order IV degree, the Italian cross and many more

 In 2006 Montenegro and Japan finally sign a peace treaty and ended more than a century long war.

понедељак, 18. фебруар 2019.

Reinventing Wing Chun

Wing Chun became popular after Bruce Lee’s premature death and spread like wild fire all over the world. During late 1970’s and 1980’s “kung fu craze” took over the planet.  At the beginning the only known and available style came from Yip Man. Not much was known about Wing Chun history and development in general. Yip Man’s story about the origin of the art was accepted as factual truth.
 This situation didn’t change for a quite some time but by the end of 1990’s things slowly started to change.  Wing Chun enthusiast started to travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan and China to research the art’s history and development.  Many interesting facts emerged and many different branches of the art became known and got a lot public attention.
In 2000’s number of people who traveled to the east and did research increased as well as number of people who went to Hong Kong and China and started training in different styles of Wing Chun which are usually very different from Yip Man’s style. Public interest in history and different styles development constantly increasing and development of information technology enabled an instant exchange of information. 
On the other side, non of these researchers had a degree in history or archaeology nor anyone had sufficient funds and of course no one had a resources of any historical research facility. People did their best with the knowledge and resources they had.  A lot of information surfaced and amount new information increase daily. On the other hand, inexperience, lack of knowledge and research skills, enormous cultural gap and absence of any scientific standards in gathering and processing the data resulted in great fluctuation in quality of information.
Research became new trend and created a new market. Wing Chun people, after decades of doing same thing, stared to search more exotic, older, more original style. Never ending search for the oldest and most original style started. To meet demand requirements, many teachers started to reinvent their styles, historically and technically. Old theories were proven wrong and new are emerging almost every day. Complete Wing Chun theory is reinvented always bringing some new old, never seen before, original concepts and principles. In essence, teachers or better “teachers” are making existing theory more complicated using modern science vocabulary and butchered physics theories mixed with old Chinese expressions  in order to make their teachings more exclusive, more mystical but scientific at the same time. Over time, “teachers” who are selling these exotic things found them self in a problem because Wing Chun has very limited amount of movements and certain movement, let’s say Tan Sao will always be Tan Sao, no matter how complicated explanation is. To resolve this problem they started to mix other martial arts with Wing Chun and declare it older, more original form of the style. Some of these “oldest” , “original” styles do not look like Wing Chun anymore. While evolving is natural thing and also necessary, mixing other styles and then call that mixture oldest original style is simply cheating people for money. Tai Chi”push hands” will never be Wing Chun “chi sao” no matter how hard someone tries to show it that way. There is nothing wrong to put Tai Chi “push hands” in wing chun but be honest about it, say what it is. Same goes for White Crane , grappling and other things people put in their Wing Chun and claim they were part of the style originally.
The other thing mixed with Wing Chun is Qi gong. Despite the fact that Qi gong is modern invention based on older Taoist esoteric practice and was never part of any kung fu style before 1920’s , Wing Chun became “internal” art in last few decades and “teachers” claim that Qi gong was originally part of the art, especially of the art they are teaching. Many systems of Qi gong are incorporated in the style from various sources, even some originally Wing Chun movements and parts of the forms were redefined and now are taught as Qi Gong forms.
From historical point of view, we do not know more today than we knew 30 years ago despite all the research. There are many reasons for that. There are no real historical sources about the early history of the art, no written documents, simply nothing besides so called “oral histories”. Problem with kung fu oral histories is that they are completely false because their purpose is not to record historical events but to set up moral code, a perfect example for students  personified in a character of a famous warrior ancestor ad to give style a prestige. Over time all “ancestors” proved to be nothing more than mythical characters and never really existed. In order to give a style historical significance many people are trying to connect Wing Chun with real historical figures and events and since there are no real evidence to support or discard these claims a lot of theories are circulating today presented as real histories. Another group of practitioners are trying to push the time of the art’s creation further back in the past believing that older means better or more original. They counterfeit “evidence” and cherry pick real historical fact to fabricate believable story. Also they are searching a source of the art in impossible places like Emei or Wudang mountain and styles that never existed before modern times.
In everlasting struggle for more students and money “teachers” are ready to do almost anything in order to sell their “arts”. Their deceptions are quite elaborate and person without a large amount of knowledge can easily fall into the trap of “oldest”, “original” style of Wing Chun.

субота, 02. фебруар 2019.

God spear Li

The most prominent figure in Baji quan history is Li Shu Wen. He was born in 1864 in Cangzhou, Hebei. He became a martial arts master extraordinaire and earned himself the nickname "God of Spear Li".His prowess was said to be enough that he boasted that he did not have to strike the same opponent twice.
During his childhood, his family was poor, he could not attend school. Together with his father, he learned the art from Huang SiHai. When Huang SiHai followed Zhang ZhiWan, the governor of Henan, in order to be his bodyguard (i.e. should be in 1876), Li ShuWen and his father, both disciples of Huang SiHai, followed Huang SiHai. After the death of his father, Li ShuWen travelled freely here and there, visiting some teachers and friends. Later when he got a bit older, his skill gradually got mature and he went to Beijing to serve as martial instructor. At that time, the martial art instructors were divided in two categories: the first category were private teachers, specially employed by government officials in order to teach their children. The other kind of instructor would set up by themselves their schools where people who want to learn martial arts would come. During the greater part of his life, r Li Shu Wen served as an instructor, roaming around Beijing and Tianjin, either as private or independent instructor. Mr Li had many disciples, when he got 51 year old he cut his hair and went to Hei Long Jiang province to serve as instructor for Mr Xu LanZhou, the commander of the 1st army, and taught martial art to Mr Xu’s 4 sons. Later on, he followed Xu LanZhou’s move to Beijing, Tianjin, XuZhou, Shanxi, following the troops everywhere they went.In his later life, he became an adviser to Fu ZhenSong, grandmaster of Wudang quan, after famously fighting him to a standstill.
Li Shu Wen had many students and some of them became important figures in history of martial arts. Four of his students from Luo Tong Village were Han Hua Chen, Ma Ying Tu, Ma Fong Tzu and Zhou Shu De. These four introduced a form of BaJi Quan to the Central Martial Academy in Nanjing, a very important organization at the time dedicated to modernizing martial technique and education during the Republican period. Other disciples include warlords such as Li Jin Lin who was a famous swordsman, Ren Guo Dong, Zhang Xiang Wu, Na Yu Kuen, Liu Hu Chen and Liu Xu Dong. Li Shuwen's student Huo Dian Ge was abodyguard of Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China, Li Chenwu was bodyguard to Mao Ze Dong and and Liu Yun Qiao was instructor of the bodyguards of Chiang Kai Shek. This is why baji is known as the bodyguard style

Li was extremely gifted fighter, his martial skills reached the highest possible level. Although his stature was small and his appearance unimpressive, his skill was marvelous. Exceedingly brave with hot temper he fought countless times causing heavy injuries and sometimes even a death of the opponent. Because of his life style he was in constant fear for his life and over the years became overly paranoid. He never traveled same road twice, not even his closest friends and students knew where and when he would travel nor which road he will take. He never used the door to enter his house after travel, he always used a different window to enter in fear of an ambush. Unfortunately all this security measures didn’t help him. He met his end in 1934. Li Shuwen killed far too many people during his life in either martial arts matches or self defense, causing victims' relatives to hold a grudge. He died of a poisonous tea served by one of them.
In pop culture Li Shuwen is depicted as an "Assassin-class" character in the video game Fate/Extra and as a "Lancer-class" and "Assassin-class" that was recently released in Fate/Grand Order. The Japanese manga "Kenji" depicted Li Shuwen according to numerous accounts from various sources, notably from Li Shuwen's last student Liu Yunqiao.

уторак, 01. јануар 2019.

External training in internal arts

Prevalent opinion among majority of “internal” martial arts followers is that no strength training is needed and they will get necessary power form “internal” sources which they “cultivate” through different kind of exercises which do not involve any hard work. Many of the teachers of these arts hold a position that strength training of any kind will actually damage “Internal” training and slow down if not completely stop students’ advancement in internal skills development. More than just have such claims, there are actually a whole bunch of pseudoscientific explanations why strength training damage and is opposed to “internal’ training.

How and why people started to believe in these claims is a matter of long social, historical, economical and psychological study and far beyond the format of one blog article. The main point is that reality of fighting and historical sources as well as a large number of teachers who still preserve traditional way of training show completely different picture. In violent times of Qing dynasty rule martial arts were in deed a tool of survival and no one cared about “internal cultivation” of anything, the only thing people were considered about was efficiency of their arts. In fact there was no such a thing as “internal” or “external” martial arts at the time, that classification came to existence in the 1920’s. No matter what style someone practiced basic requirements for successful fighting were same as today-punching power, kicking power and overall body strength to successfully execute grappling techniques must be at certain level, even more , because people at the time didn’t fight for sport but for survival.

Let’s take a look at the most famous “internal” art today, Tai Chi. Common perception of Tai Chi is that art is slow, effortless, doesn’t require any physical strength. On the other hand Tai Chi teachers spread stories how heroes of the past fought using this very art and defeated countless enemies and they manage to do that by “cultivating” (I really hate that word used in martial arts context) “internal” powers. Of course , all these stories are pure lies. Like it was said before, ‘internal” development was not part of martial arts at the time, Qigong was mixed with kung fu by the very end of Qing dynasty rule and republican period. Also, Tai Chi teachers today fail to mention how those old masters actually practiced their arts.  

Chenjiagou Village, in China’s Henan province, is the place where style today known as Tai Chi was created. Many Chen family members made their living as bodyguards or merchant caravans escort. In more recent times Chen villagers protected the region from roving gangs of bandits, several major battles between Chen villagers and bandits are well documented .
Practice in Chenjiagou allows to cut through many misunderstandings about Tai Chi and to see firsthand acquiring skills process. In essence Tai Chi is a close range throwing and grappling system. While highest level of proficiency really do not use too much physical power they are extremely hard to achieve and only few lucky ones with enough of time can come that level. But achieving that level is impossible without passing all lower levels of proficiency and they all include strength. It is impossible to build real combat reflexes that respond to real attacks without using any kind of power. At the beginning it will be strength against strength technique execution, which is completely normal and this, as any other step cannot be skipped. Next level can roughly be explained as strength plus technique in execution that will ensure the victory. Over time, as reflexes become better and experience grow the amount of strength used in technique execution will decrease, but will never stop completely, not in the realistic condition of fighting (whether it is a competition match or self defense situation).  In the past strength training of Tai Chi was much more rigorous than today but it is still pretty demanding.

Tai Chi stone lifting exercise

As in many other styles, lifting heavy stones is done as a means to training the waist and lower body. There is still 80 kg stone used by Yang Lu Chan when he was learning Tai Vhi in Chen village . Tai Chi  Ball training is used to strengthen the torso, condition the muscles, and in- crease physical power. Stories are handed down of past masters training with stone balls weighing 60kg. Students in the Chenjiagou today use a basketball filled with sand to train the system’s unique  rotational movement.

Tai Chi stone ball

Weapons training is another means of developing strength in the Chen Tai Chi curriculum. Today’s practitioners use weapons ranging from a few kilograms to more than twenty kilos.
Training with heavy pole weapon characteristic for almost all kung fu styles , Tai Chi , Ba Gua and Xing Yi included

Xing Yi, one of the” major three” representative of internal arts uses a lot of strength training. For beginning Xing Yi practitioners are doing lots of pushups, ab exercises, variations of squatting exercises, partner resistance work, isometrics and bag work,. If we look at many of the traditional Xing Yi neigong sets (, we will find many exercises that serve the function of strengthening the body, in addition to training other specific aspects of that particular art. Weights of different size and shape are used in this arts for various training purposes

Wight training in Xing Yi

Ba Gua training in Taiwan and China has a lot of conditioning and strength training. In addition to lots of pushups , sit ups and squats Ba Gua has some specific exercises and training tools for developing power. A 3m-long resistance cord is used, with the two ends fixed to something solid. The practitioner should try to move slowly with the cord resisting the arms, legs or waist. One can practice this on the spot or with moving steps.  Spring cord is similar to the above exercise, with the cord attached to springs rather than a solid wall. Heavy iron ball is also used in training for developing certain physical  attributes in this style 

Using iron balls in Ba Gua training 

Baji quan uses a vast array of different exercises for conditioning with emphasis on legs and core muscles. There are a lot of two man resistance drills, as well as a lot of general physical fitness exercises and weight training. Using heavy versions of traditional weapons and heavy poles is also used.
Bjiquan , training shoulder strike on a tree

As we can see, traditional practicing approach in “internal” styles include lots of pure “external” physical conditioning and strength training which is necessary if given art is to be used in competition or real life confrontation.  

недеља, 23. децембар 2018.

White Crane battle array

Tainan, the first settlement build in Taiwan and capital of the island for centuries still holds honorable title as the "cultural capital".

People in Tainan area worked on their lands and were devoted to farming and fishing thus they established a profound connection with this land and the ocean. In order to provide everything necessary for stable life, like good weather, enough rain, protection against typhoons and pirates, a culture full of customs, worshiping gods, pilgrimages, religious and magical rituals developed over time and it is still deeply rooted in this area. The pace of modernization perhaps did not go too fast in Tainan, or perhaps the effect of mass rural life did not fully destroy the relationship between man and land, in any case Tainan is perhaps the last oasis of true, untouched by progress, traditional south Chinese traditional culture and way of life.

Perhaps the best representation diverse cultural life in Tainan area are thriving temple. From the beginning to the end of the year, from spring to fall, there are different types of temple festivals. There wasn’t a day in a year without drums bang, firecrackers burst out, procession with statues of gods. Tainan can be called the temple city because temples are literary everywhere, Almost every street has at least one temple and that is not exaggeration. Very temple holds a procession with music, dancing, kung fu performance once a year celebrating a birthday of a god  to which it is dedicated.  Of course there are many other festivals, performances and public rituals, as much as temple processions.

Tainan also has rich martial arts culture. Being a frontier area for centuries, Taiwan was “Wild West” of Chinese empire, in many ways much more dangerous and in need for fighting skills than any other place in Asia at the time. Basically, outside the walls of Tainan fortress there was no laws besides the law of the strongest. In order to survive villages organized and train their own militias to repel the pirates, head hunters and other bandits. Over time Ching dynasty established better control of the island but people still continued to practice martial arts, after centuries of constant struggle martial arts became not only part of everyday life but also a part of religious rituals, celebrations and culture in general.

One unique religious martial performance which can be found only in Tainan’s Chiku district is White Crane array.  

One group of man who followed Koshiga arrived in Tainan in 1661. Escaping government persecution they brought their families and all valuable things. Among those treasures were old statues of the deities they worshiped which had and still have tremendous impact on life and beliefs of local people. Settlers along with their precious relics changed places several times in 2 centuries to finally settle down in Shulin, Chiku district and build a temple in 1852. Temple was in later years rebuild several times and today’s final shape got in the middle of the 1980’s. 

White Crane array  was founded in 1928 , The villager Huang Dabin, who served as the village chief, worked on organization of the martial arts performance to protect the religious procession . At that time, the Taoist rituals were performed before the main ceremony to ask the Jade Emperor for signs and guidance . The village chief got the message in a dream that the two deities "White Crane" and "White Crane Boy", should the procession and protect the main deity. This is how the only White Crane battle array in Taiwan was born.  
The White Crane Array is evolved from another battle array specific for south of Taiwan, the Sung Chiang battle array.  

At the beginning , White Crane array was held every three years and that was the reason that this tradition almost disappeared .Government took steps to preserve this unique tradition and today many young people joined the White Crane group and performances were held yearly with future plans to make a tourist attraction of it and trained artisans will perform at least the parts of the array daily ad offer martial arts classes.

In essence the White Crane Array is a version of Sung Chiang battle but unlike other traditional Sung Chuang arrays, the performance of the “White Crane"  and the ‘White Crane boy”  precedes the main performance . White Crane Array includes the boy, the white crane, the 36 martial team members, and the  gongs and drums players , total of 41 people.

The protagonist of the squad is a white crane-shaped hooded prop. The main body is made of thin bamboo frame and is worn by one person. Both hands hold wings.           

and many people take turns to perform. a white crane boy who guides the white crane (this is decorated by a mask with a head), which is the leader of the white crane array, shuttles between them and jumps with the white crane  .

The white crane is made of bamboo skeleton and covered with white cloth. When it is performed, it is worn by one person, and both hands hold their wings. The walking and jumping  mimics the various postures of the white crane The white crane boy also, wearing a mask, sometimes leading the way, and sometimes dancing with the white crane. The performance of the White Cranes is always in the accompanied with gongs and drums. The soul of the array is the drummer. The crane dance and formation of martial performance changes by various drums beats.

After the procession with statute of the god is finished,  White Crane and White Crane Boy t begin to circle and then enter martial arts performances that includes individual and group weapons exercises, empty hand forms and fighting choreographies. 

This is just one of many unique and beautiful things that can be found in Taiwan and just one of many reasons why learning Kung Fu here is so special and basically necessary in order for a practitioner to fully understand traditional Chinese culture unchanged by politics and foreign influences.