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    [size=14pt]Types of physical exercise in Medieval Serbia (XII-XIV century)[/size]
    [size=8pt]- Download the full article as PDF, for easier reading.[/size]

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      [li]Junaštvo znači, biti sposoban obraniti sebe od drugih.
      Čojstvo znači, biti sposoban obraniti druge od sebe.
      Bez čojstva nema junaštva, kao što bez noći nema dana.
      Tako je bilo i vazda će biti…

      [size=8pt]- The medieval Serbian code of honour[/size]


      [li]Valor means being able to defend yourself from others.
      Humanity means being able to defend the others from yourself.
      Without humanity there is no valor, as there is no day without the night.
      For so it was, and so it will always be…


    It is often said of a nation that it is as rich as its history. All the efforts and desire to get to the roots of our past lead us inevitably to the Middle Ages and connect us to the spirit of the rule of the House of Nemanjić. A profound influence this dynasty exerted on the history of the people of Serbia points out their greatness and significance. Serbian army from the period of the Nemanjić reign was famed for its bravery, agility, endurance, persistence, wisdom and skillfulness varying by the type of warfare. Brave voivode and warriors were the apple of Serbia’s eye, which in turn caused heroism to become a lifestyle.

    This very dynasty was described in many epic poems, thus creating a great source of information about the lifestyle of the Serbian people in the Middle Ages. In those epic poems one can find specific types of physical exercise important for the history of physical training and activity in the Middle Ages. Interpreting the poems from Pre-Kosovo period is very important, but they were superficially researched in the respect that only the forms of training were cited. Therefore, the authors of this paper decided to make a more thorough analysis of their theoretical character. This research will advert to forms of physical exercise in Europe in this period of time

    Epic poems depicted heroes who fought for freedom and justice. The poems were mostly created during the long winter social gatherings, when the elders narrated to the young. These stories celebrated the heroes and their deeds exactly as people had imagined them to be, wanted and needed them to be. The narration often endowed the heroes with supernatural and superhuman qualities necessary for a long lasting fight against the Ottoman Turks.

    From the literary point of view, the Battle of Kosovo was an ideal topic for epic poetry and its form. The battle was the most important and central historical event for Serbian people. It was considered to be the turning point from one epoch into another, the crucial moment from which to start counting the time – as the time before and the time after the battle. It is exactly in those motives and poems that we can find characteristic kinds of physical exercises which were important for the history of physical training and activities in medieval Serbia.

    The Serbian poetry from the period of the House of Nemanjić represents an interesting field of research for the history of physical education, i.e. research on the types of physical training and activities specific only to Serbia. Socio-economic circumstances were different in Europe, which caused specific development of types of physical exercise.

    Sport activities in medieval Europe consisted of folk games played by local peasants, tournaments staged for knights and nobles, archery contests, and activities in which animals were brutalized. The folk games, often violent and dangerous and sometimes organized to maim or kill animals, emerged in connection with local peasant customs. The tournaments and archery contests were linked with military training and the desire for entertainment among the feudal aristocracy and those who served them.

    It should be mentioned that those types of physical exercise for the people from the upper social status were different from those in the lower strata, in Europe as well as in Serbia. This paper treats the upper and the lower social classes in Serbia. Peasant games had little structure and few rules, and were played in peasant villages. The upper class paid little attention to peasant games, and had access to more equipment and facilities. Their ownership of horses allowed them to indulge in various forms of horse racing, hunting and hawking.

    In the ruling circles of Europe knights tournaments and jousts were favored, but the patricians and traders from the cities imitated the aristocrats and organized their own knights performances.

    Epic poetry in Serbia can be observed from several different angles. One of them is analyzing heroic poems through the prism of physical exercises and activities specific for the period of the Nemanjić dynasty. Thus, the objective of this paper is the research and analysis of the epic poetry from this period, or, more precisely, analyzing the cycle of Pre-Kosovo poems (Uroš and the House of Mrnjavčević, The Building of Skadar, The Wedding of Tsar Dušan, The Wedding of Sibinjanin Janko, Banović Strahinja and The Wedding of King Vukašin).

    Thus, the aim of this paper is to introduce the wide audience to sublime Serbian epic poetry as an important part of the history of physical training and activities in Serbia during the Nemanjić dynasty and also to make it available to the expert audience. In this way, we could encourage further research of this period. Actually, this obliges us towards a better explanation of the overall concept of physical exercise during the reign of the House of Nemanjić. Therefore, for the history of physical training and practice, Serbian epic poetry represents a basic source of knowledge about the social circumstances, and particularly the types of physical exercise in the Middle Ages in Serbia.

    *** More about the METHODS AND MATERIALS as well as TYPES OF PHYSICAL EXERCISES in the full article

    Secular culture of medieval Serbia included two important factors: literacy of laymen and the knightly cult in its practical form. The skill at arms was a necessity and a diversion at the same time, and was modified in sport and contest. Exercising and training in the use of arms were a part of general lifestyle. Professional soldiers were expected to train regularly and to gather occasionally for joined training and learning.

    Physical exercise in Europe as a part of education was mostly represented in the upbringing of knights, and later of craftsmen’s and merchants’ children. The knights’ education comprised the abovementioned knightly skills. The main goal of developing those skills was to make people ready and able to protect faith, the sovereign, and a lady.

    The House of Nemanjić ruled Serbia for over 200 years (1166-1371) as the most important medieval Serbian governing dynasty. Their importance in Serbian history comes from the fact that during their reign the establishment of the independent medieval Serbian state was accomplished, with its greatest territorial, economical and cultural influence, as well as that of Serbian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

    Serbian people were ready for the Middle Ages. In their own country, in a sophisticated and enlightened monarchy, battles, war and military service in peace were regulated by laws. The law books written by St. Simeon and St. Sava also incorporated military law, which regulated military service and the whole system of defense. These laws must have been valid for a long time, because Stefan the First-Crowned quoted them, and some 150 years later Tsar Dušan’s Code confirmed and improved military rights and obligations.

    A philosophical basis for fighting as well as the moral and ethic principles were drawn up by Rastko Nemanjić (St. Sava). This set of beliefs was very different from all other fighting systems, because its main features were humanity, struggle for justice, non-aggression, and self-defense. It very strictly forbade crossing the limit which distinguished good from evil, God from the devil.

    Along with the development of the society itself, through ancestor cult, mythology, and under the great influence of fairy tales, epic poetry developed in Serbia. Its main aim was to save the memory of the ancestors and the brave warriors who by their brave deeds endowed the people. Epic poetry was the greatest achievement of Serbian literature, while it is also a source of information on the medieval social circumstances and types of physical exercise and training at the same time.

    The reason why epic poetry deserves our special attention lies in its value and its specific character. Although it contains numerous hyperboles, which were necessary to maintain the spirit of freedom in the enslaved people, it can be used for a study into types of physical exercising in this period. All exercise was actually directed to strengthening young people’s physical abilities, as well as fortifying patriotism, courage, bravery, determination and honor. Types of physical exercise had a direct influence on developing the spirit of heroism and manliness. Some forms of physical exercise had a prominent entertaining character (climbing walls, riding, running and jumping), while others had an immediate military and practical value (throwing the mace and the spear, fencing, marksmanship, wrestling, horsemanship, and hunting). We can conclude with great certainty that these types of physical exercises were dominant in developing the psycho-physical ability in Serbian knights.

    These forms of physical exercise were strongly connected to the tradition of preserving and cultivating folk customs. As people lived in villages, far away from cities, and occasionally far even from the Ottoman invaders, the most popular kinds of entertainment for young people were dancing (combined country-dance which is the basic form of dancing) and competitions in board jump, hurling a stone from the shoulder, wrestling, swimming and diving. These forms of folk competitions can be seen even today during celebrations in some villages.

    Therefore, for the history of physical education, epic poetry represents a basic source of information about social circumstances and, more specifically, types of physical exercise, their importance and practical value.

    [size=8pt]Blagojević, M. (1989). Serbia in the Nemanjić dynasty. Belgrade: BIGZ (in Serbian).
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    Holmes, G.(1988). The Oxford history of medieval Europe. GB: Oxford University Press.
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    Jović, M., & Radić, K. (1989). Serbian countries and serbian rulers. Paraćin: Vuk Karadžić.
    Karadžić, V. (1969). Serbian epic poems. Second Book. Belgrade: Nolit (in Serbian).
    Nogo, P. R. (1987). Serbian epic poems, classics. Belgrade: BIGZ (in Serbian).
    Pajović, M. (2001). Serbian rulers countries. Podgorica: Gramatik (in Serbian).
    Savić, Z. (2008). History of Olympism and Olympic education. Niš: GIP-Timok DOO Knjaževac (in Serbian).
    Zaječaranović, G. (1974). Basics of the methodology of science (in Serbian).
    Živanović, N. (2002). A Contribution to the epistemology of physical Eeducation, Second edition, Niš: Panoptikum (in Serbian).

    [size=8pt]Savić, Zvezdan, Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Niš
    Stojiljković, Nenad, Filozofski fakultet – Departman za istoriju, Univerzitet u Nišu[/size]

    [size=8pt]©2012 Sports Academy Belgrade. All rights reserved. Publication of this journal is financially supported by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Development Republic of Serbia.[/size]



    [size=15pt]European Medieval Martial Arts[/size]
    [size=8pt]- Visit School of Fencing Saint George, Belgrade.[/size]

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    European fencing techniques with the Slavic swords,Schiavona (basket-hilted sword), Schiavonesca (medieval longsword also known as the Serbian sword) as well as rapiers and some others. Additionally some fencing techniques with the longsword from Trnavský šermiarsky cech, a fencing guild in Slovakia. For additional videos concerning the techniques, here the gallery of videos, from the Saint George School of Fencing.

    [td]Mačevanje u Beogradu – fencing in Belgrade[/td]
    [td]Zwerchhau, absetzen, nachreissen – longsword techniques training[/td]


    Our own native martial arts and the philosophy that accompanied it have been seriously neglected, with media favorising mostly the Asian ones. It is our duty to support their revival.

    [size=12pt]I do not seek eternity, I am the eternity.[/size]
    [size=8pt]- Inscription on an european sword from the 400-700 AD[/size]

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