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Interview with the Professor Valery Vadimovich Maystrovoy

At the end of April 2012, the International Federation of Martial Arts and Russian Fistfight Combat “Stenka” conducted anexhibition performance and seminar, directed by the President of the Federation Professor Valery Vadimovich Maystrovoy, in Tiba prefecture and Tokyo.

- Valery Vadimovich, because I know you as the President of the Russian Okinawan Karate and Kobudō Federation, the President of International Martial Arts Federation STENKA, the holder of the 6th dan in Okinawan Karate and Kobudō, the 6th Dan Matsubayashi-ryu karate, and the 6th dan Matsumura seito-ryu, the technical director of Okinawan karate in Europe, the official representative of International Pencak-silat Federation in Russia, Eastern Europe, and The Commonwealth of Independent States countries, and the President of European Sport Association of Martial Arts, located inSwitzerland, I have the following questions:

- Why the traditions of Russian martial art “Stenka” are not enjoying popularity and why they had been forgotten?

V.M. - The traditions of Russian martial art ‘Stenka’ have existed in Russiafor more than a thousand years, but now they are almost completely forgotten or misinterpreted. However, this is a part of crucial traditions of the Cossack’s and countrymen’ way life that is a root structure of our entire nation.

‘Stenka’ is the first officially identified martial art in the world! And its rules were described by the Empress KatherineI herself, in a famous decree from July 21, 1726 titled “On the Prohibition of Fistfight Combat without Permission from the Chief of Police Office”, a real historical document. This document stipulated that from that time on it was prohibited to conductsuch fights without specially selected judges and responsible officials; in addition,it was prohibited to use cold weapons, finishing off the fallen, etc. Other regulatorylimitations, included into this document, made it possible to deem this decree thefirst publication of official ‘Stenka’ competition rules.

And, what is remarkable, the responsible officials had an obligation to submit written reports after the fights.

- What are the traditions of this Russian martialarts school, how can the key philosophy of the school be summarized?

V.M. - The main tradition of ‘Stenka’ is training in vital martial skills using collective, communal methods of teaching. While classical Eastern, as wellas Western European models are founded on a union of a teacher and a student,traditions and philosophy of ‘Stenka’ are radically different. Group combat ‘Stenka na stenku’ (‘Wall to wall’), which is the basis of the entire training approach, places very dissimilar requirements on students and teachers. The philosophyof ‘Stenka’ is universality. ‘Stenka’ - it is when every single piece of woodhas its special function. Indeed, all barge boards and widow trims in Russian villages are always strictly functional. Nothing is unnecessary!

It does not matter whether one is building ashrine, embroidering, or engaging into combat - everything should be ergonomicand follow the universal principle.


- What are the differences between Russian martialarts ‘Stenka’ school and other schools?

V.M. - Differences are very notable in everything. It is enough to see ‘Stenka’once to recognize that there are no borrowings, that 'Stenka' is a completely authentic school. At the same time, it is important to understand that we are living in the 21st century, not in the 19th, and,naturally, ‘Stenka’ is changing to find its identity in the contemporary world.

- How sizable is the current interest in Russian martial arts traditions, Russian ‘Stenka’ school in Russia and abroad?

V.M. - The problem here is that during the Soviet era ‘Stenka’ was almost completely forgotten, and nobody considered this matter seriously for 80 years.However, currently we are conducting extensive work to cultivate ‘Stenka’; wealready have chapters in 9 countries and I hope that ‘Stenka’ will become an Olympic sport because of its development history and uniqueness.

- What are the spiritual and practical valuesof Russian martial art ‘Stenka’?

V.M. - The spiritual significance of ‘Stenka’ is hard to underestimate - this is what is defined by UNESCO as an intangible cultural treasure for the entire human kind. The practical value is also quite high: thanks to out team’sefforts, police forces in 9 countries have already added ‘Stenka’ training methods to their arsenal. But, first and foremost, ‘Stenka’ is an intangible transnational cultural heritage of the entire humankind. Despite its thousand-year history, ‘Stenka’ is in danger of nearly falling into oblivion, or, what iseven worse, completely incorrect interpretation.

- What are the dimensions of openness of the school versus knowledge closed to outsiders, what are interactions between ‘Stenka’and other schools, their representatives, and students?

V.M. - We are completely open to cooperation; our fighters participate inmost prestigious international competitions in different types of martial arts,and, time after time, they prove a very high efficiency of ‘Stenka’ training methods. As a matter of fact, for a fighter who is used to fighting against many,one opponent, even well-prepared, is not a big problem. We are performing atmany festivals, for instance, in 2009 we participated in the famous Bersi inParis. We are organizing and conducting competitions and seminars. Taking into considerationthat we just started in 2008, the result is pretty good.

- What is better - individual or group practice?

V.M. - ‘Stenka’ is a team where all for one, and one for all. A group is necessary to feel ‘Stenka’s spirit, fellowship, and other concepts and unique features of‘ Stenka’ that have been preserved in our language. However, individual trainingis best to study the nuances of styles in strike and strike protection techniques, and using weapons.

Unlike in systems that teach one-on-one, individual combat, the basis of ‘Stenka’ is group combat. In this sense, the significance of ‘Stenka’ is hard to underestimate. We live in a society and each individual’sproblems are also problems of the environment. Once again, ‘Stenka’s philosophyis all for one, and one for all.

Even if you are a professional in Budo and you and your friend are walking in a troubled neighborhood and you are attacked by 10 hooligans with baseball bats, do you have a two-against-ten defense tacticin your arsenal, where the two work harmoniously, as one person? You can learn this only in ‘Stenka’. Other martial art systems simply do not incorporate thisexperience.

- When is your book on ‘Stenka’ - traditions of Russian martial art scheduled to appear in Japanese?

V.M. - My book “Stenka- Russian Martial Art” was published in France in 2008, in French, understandably. If everything goes well, I hope to have another edition in Japan in 2013, in Japanese. It should be done to improve the understanding of the very idea of ‘Stenka’ and why, in my opinion, it would be useful for the Japanese. After all, Japanese and Russians use even carpenter’s plane differently, Russians plane away from their bodies, and Japanese plane toward their bodies. This is why it cannot be done without a fundamental understanding of the basics, why everything is different.

- Do you plan to visit Japan again?

V.M. - I plan to come again in October of this year to conduct a seminar in support of our ‘Stenka’ jyuku in Tokyo. In addition, it is possible that we will open a chapter in Sapporo; in this case, we will conduct a series of seminars and exhibition performances in Hokkaido.

The interview was conducted by Natalia Yurkanova

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