Source of fencing knowledge
The Hungarian-Polish Sabre Fencing School London has been teaching military sabre fencing based on the methodology developed in the Miklos Toldi Royal Hungarian Institute of Military Sports and Fencing (Miklós Toldi és Honvéd Sporttanár Vívómester képző Intézet) founded in 1925.
We are the only school in Europe which teaches military sabre fencing. We have a constant contact with living swordsmen from Miklós Toldi Institute and also a documented family tree of our school that dates to the first half of the 18th century.
Click on the picture to explore the family tree.
THE WAY OF SABRE FROM HUNGARY TO POLAND
The presence of Hungarians in the Polish history is considerable although we sometimes fail to notice it. The most popular figure is Stephen Báthory, the Duke of Transylvania who took to the Polish throne and revolutionized our army in the 16th century, making it virtually invincible. One of the key changes was the introduction of sabres as basic elements of a soldier’s equipment. They replaced swords, gradually turning into the Polish national weapon. The first type of sabre which became popular in Poland was named after the Transylvania-born king, and later gave rise to the development of the Hussar sabre, a typically Polish weapon whose popularity spread across the world.
HUNGARIAN FENCING IN POLAND
Hungarians taught us not only how to make sabres but also how to use them in fight. The source of fencing knowledge for our predecessors before the World War II was the Miklós Toldi Royal Hungarian Institute of Military Sports and Fencing in Budapest. During the Interbellum we encouraged some fencing masters from the Institute to relocate to Poland. One of them was Major János Kevey whose life story had a very long Polish chapter. Before WWII he was teaching Polish soldiers how to fence, later (in the antebellum period) becoming the manager of our national fencing team. Thanks to his awareness of methods adopted in the army-oriented Toldi Miklós Institute, he was able to form a successful team whose primary member was Jerzy Pawłowski.
Another notable fencing master from the Institute was János Szűcs who brought up the golden generation of Hungarian fencers. One of his most gifted students was Tibor Pézsa, frequently referred to as the “Sabre Fencing General.” The Hungarian Polish Sabre Fencing School is in regular touch with Mr Pézsa who shares his military fencing knowledge with us.
MIKLÓS TOLDI INSTITUTE
Toldi Miklós Royal Hungarian Institute of Military Sports and Fencing is a prestigious fencing center which started its operations in the early 20th century. The head swordsman of the Institute was Lászlo Borsódy, an outstanding fencer and researcher of fight techniques. Before he began working at the Institute, he had spent years learning and gaining fencing experience at Europe’s top schools. Institute was developing new fight techniques and teaching how to use three types of weapon – sabre, épée and foil, focusing primarily on technical improvements of sabre, Hungarian national weapon. The Institute would only accept military men who managed to meet stringent enrollment criteria. It pumped out many exceptional fencing masters and fencers. The former group includes János Szűts and János Kevey, while the latter comprises Aladár Gerevich and György Piller-Jekelfalssy.
László Borsody (1878 -1939)
One of the founders of the Institute was László Borsody who erected it with Geller Alfrédd in 1925. Then they both managed this prestigious centre.
László Borsody graduated from two fencing schools. He started at the Wiener-Neustadt Military Academy (Austria) under the guidance of Luigi Barbasseti. Then he studied at the Budapest Ludoviká Military School where he also served out his two year assistantship and earned the rank of master.
With his extensive knowledge and experience, he developed his own combat system and teaching methodology for sabre fencing which was soon called the contemporary Hungarian style. Training sessions based on his system produced excellent results. Many-time Olympic medallists were weaned on these methods: György Piller, Aladár Gerevich and many prominent fencing masters spearheaded by János Szűts and János Kevey. Borsodi was an absolute perfectionist, extremely demanding for himself and his students. He could spend entire days working with György Piller on new fencing techniques and strategies.
After Borsody’s retirement, two eminent alumni of the Institute, fencing masters János Szűts and János Kevey took over the directorship of the academy.
The first, János Szűts, took on fencing at the Institute at the age of 22. When Borsódy retired in 1936, Szűts took over as the chief sabre fencing master and became the head of the Miklós Toldi Institute. In 1938, he went to Paris to teach sabre and learn épée and foil fencing under the guidance of French masters.
He was behind sport successes of such fencers as: Aladár Gerevich (who was also earlier taught by László Brosody), Pál Kovács, Tibor Berczelly, Bertalan Papp, Attila Keresztes, Szabolcs Örley and Tibor Pézsa.
During World War 2, he was sent to a French prisoner-of-war camp . After the war, there was nothing he could go back to as the vommunists appropriated all his belongings. In 1948, he became the head coach of the Hungarian Olympic team in sabre. He was behind sport successes of such fencers as: Aladár Gerevich (who was also earlier taught by László Brosódi), Pál Kovács, Tibor Berczelly, Bertalan Papp, Attila Keresztes, Szabolcs Örley and Tibor Pézsa. Each of them earned his Olympic gold medal and numerous World Championships. The last mentioned fencer, Tibor Pézsa, was the favourite disciple of his maestro. When János Szűts suffered from Parkinson’s disease three years before his death, it was Pézsa who took care of him, and arranged for his master’s funeral with ceremonial military procession and honours after his death in 1976.
Tibor Pézsa (born 1935)
Tibor Pézsa, called the “Sabre Fencing General”, world champion and Olympic champion in sabre fencing. At the age of eighteen, he began his fencing career in Ester Gomp, then he learned sabre in the Budapest Honvéd Club under the command of Major Istvan Bujnowski (1957). Finally, he trained under the tutelage of János Szűts, fencing master, who was first an alumnus of the pre-war Miklos Toldi Institute, and then its chief swordsman. In late 1950s, Tibor Pézsa earned his first successes in competitions. In 1962, he won his silver medal at the World Championship held in Buenos Aires. Two years later he scored his greatest success winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo (1964).
At first, his teacher, János Szűts taught him competitive fencing only. However, when Pézsa became the Olympic champion, Szűcs started passing to his favourite disciple his knowledge of military fencing gained in the Miklos Toldi Institute.
In 1973, Tibor Pézsa decided to retire as a fencer and began his coaching career. From 1978 to 1982, he led the Hungarian national team of sabre fencers. In 1985-1989, he coached the German and Saudi Arabian teams. In 1989, he became an advisor to the Hungarian army. Today he remains in the shadows, and teaches military fencing to very few disciples.
Major János Richter Kevey (1907 -1991)
Apart from János Szűts, there was one more officer from the Miklos Toldi Institute who had similar successes as a fencing master: Major János Richter Kevey. His first encounter with sabre fencing took place in secondary school. He continued his training as a university student. His first master was Gustav Tomanóczy, fencing teacher at the Military Institute for Fencing and Gymnastics Teachers’ Development of Wiener-Neustadt. In 1930, he began training at the university club which qualified him for his first successful competitions. In 1935, he enrolled at the Miklós Toldi Institute to graduate in 1937 as a master of three weapons (sabre, épée and foil). The next year, he came to Poland to teach fencing, and was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta for his achievements in this area. In 1940, he won the title of the Champion of Hungary in épée fencing.
From 1947 to 1958, he coached the Polish national team, and was behind the successes of such famous Polish fencers as Jerzy Pawłowski, Wojciech Zabłocki, Ryszard Zub, Marian Kuszewski and Andrzej Piątkowski. János Kevey was not a lenient coach. His charges began their training every morning between 6 and 7. His training methods were harsh – swimming in icy water in winter or mountain climbing with heavy backpacks in the summer. But his results were remarkable. Kevey authored that perfect flash and footwork of Polish fencers.
In 1952, he published “Saber Fencing” (written in Polish). In 1959, he left Poland for Italy where he worked as a coach in Turin, Rome and Milan. In 2007, his star was unveiled on the Walk of Sports Fame in Władysławowo.