|John L. Sullivan: Bareknuckle Boxing Champion|
While cruising aimlessly on the internet, I found this interesting article concerning Bareknuckle Boxing. While many people think of drunk Irish bar patrons or Gangs of New York when they hear the term Bareknuckle Boxing or "fisticuffs", these fighters were actually highly skilled and competent athletes. There are recorded matches of opponents fighting for upwards of six hours of action with little pause. Bareknuckle boxing was also occasionally modified to allow short kicks to the lower body for self defense purposes. While wildly popular in America during the 1800s, it was also found far earlier in Russia in a more extreme manner.
Russian fistfighting was a sports spectacle where members of a village would gather together for a massive brawl. Each side was called a "wall" and would be commanded by a leader who served as a tactician, ordering contingents of his men around the "battlefield"/arena. In fact, Russian fistfighting, although governed by strict rules (such as not hitting someone who had fallen), was a simulation of warfare at the time. The goal of the game was to push the other "wall" out of the arena. This could be done through bashing the other team into retreat, through complex encirclement to funnel the opposing side outwards, or through the brute force of simply pressing the other team out with more men.
What is highly interesting about both methods of fighting is the stance the fighters took. While modern day boxing evolved from these arts, Russian fistfighting and Bareknuckle boxing resemble the Chinese kung fu art of Wing Chun/Ving Tsun. The head is kept up and slightly tilted back. One fist is held in front of the other and the elbows are kept in tight and close to the body. Strikes were very linear and carried little body rotation, often striking with a vertical fist. Elements of hand trapping were also observed. Russian peasants and average American workers had little to no contact with the Chinese, let alone Chinese who practiced martial arts. Therefore, it is often assumed that these arts developed themselves independently.