PARTIZAN: «EXPERIENCED FIGHTERS KNOW THE PRICE OF A MISTAKE»
Dear readers! Few days left before the main battle of the fall, that is Dynamo Cup, and we are completing a series of introductions of the championship favorites with a big piece on the legendary team, which has forever inscribed its name in the hall of fame of Historic Medieval Battle. We give you, truly, the titans of knightly sports, a solid team that from the very beginning of its existence did not know what it means to catch up with the leaders, for it was they who firmly held the garland for many years — team Partizan.
As you remember, in the 2017, this team stunned its rivals and fans with the news of their untimely vacation. However, its members did not disappear from the radars, we could observe their various activities throughout the season, and closer to November and the most attentive observers began to notice formidable determination emanating from the team.
Today you are being presented a conversation with the two pillars of this powerful team. Igor Kravchenko — a fighter and curator of the youth league, who wasted no time and in less than a year, launched the sensational project of the HMB School as its president. And the team leader is Dmitry Kunchenko, who is also the field captain of the Russian national team at the world championship Battle of the Nations, as well as the hero of motivational videos about how to stand up to the end under the blows of three or more halberds. A man who remains undefeated, even when losing.
Our editorial office, in its desire to possess the most up-to-date and objective information, takes on ever new heights, more and more recklessly invading the personal space of the most non-public people. But those diamonds of information, truth and eloquence, which we manage to get in these harsh conditions, are definitely worth any effort.
Greetings, the first question will be the most longed for by the world HMB community, missing the unsurpassed leaders in 5vs5. There are rumors about the return of Partizan to the tournament scene already at Dynamo Cup 2018. Is it true? Are there any planned changes in the composition of the team or will we be seeing the performance of the classic dream team?
IK: Hello. Well, I can definitely say that we will take part in this Dynamo Cup. And in more detail in terms of the composition and future plans of the team, captain Dmitry Kunchenko will give a better answer.
DK: Yes, indeed, we are returning to our sport. Actually, we did not leave far, except for the time being paused our performance in the 5 vs 5 nomination as part of team Partizan. But, the team did not stop its existence, we did not declare retirement or the disbandment of the team, we just took a break due to the reassessment of goals, after the 2017 World Championship in Barcelona. Accordingly, at this Dynamo Cup, we decided to perform in order to, as they say, for the old times sake. The team roster will, unfortunately, be not quite the same. I can say that we will have a “newbie” this season, a young man named Grigory Blonsky, we arranged his transfer from the Old Friends team. :) This, I think, was expected, and it is no secret to anyone. As for our old guard — a couple of people have not returned, they took a break, it has been extended, and they are still not in a hurry get back in line.
Can you clarify, who exactly?
DK: I do not want to reassure the rivals :)
During your absence on the world stage, did you worry about the successes of the Russian national team, which actually remained without a top team?
IK: As for me personally, I continued to compete during this period. We, certainly, did worry for the success of the team and did everything possible for its success.
DK: In my opinion, the question is not entirely correct, because we did not leave the world arena. As I said, after the defeat at the Battle of the Nations in 2017 in the royal nomination (men's 21 vs 21 fights — ed.note), We just set priorities in a different way and came to the conclusion that you can’t get by with only the fives. Our country has always been ahead of the rest of the world at 21 vs 21, and defeat, as it usually happens, brought us down to earth. We realized that we need to attend to this nomination too. It is not a secret for anyone that we never trained for it separately, did not have any special meetings, did not analyze, did not train together. Starting from 2010 everything was based on our experience from these notorious buhurts, which everyone now loves to remember — 150 vs 150, 200 vs 200. Everything went from there and remained at that level. In addition, precisely because of defeat, we realized that this nomination requires special attention. Since 5 vs 5 somehow would have been covered (after all, we still have 3-4 top world-class teams), there was no point in splitting up between the nominations. We also found that all the representatives of these teams, despite having a lot of experience in the mass battles, lost their skills, began to panic, got nervous, lost their vision of themselves on the field. The picture of the battle to some extent acquired the features of the fives. The mass battles began to resemble not our signature formation combat, but the Ukrainian style, in which they clearly surpass us, and eventually, surpassed. They were faster, more agile, more coherent. The recognition of this truth led to the fact that we decided to fix it, and simply shifted our priorities, as I said.
From the main roster our team, only Evgeny Gladkov took a break and did not go to the “Battle of the Nations” due to family circumstances, and the rest of the main team were there, representing Russia in 21 vs 21. Also, the members of Partizan team have reinforced some of the fives. But the main focus of our activities fell on the royal nomination. And I believe that the result we have shown is a direct result of the work done. That defeat forced us to admit that everything could end for our team sooner or later. It can fail, degrade due to the fact that everything rests on experienced fighters, the average age of which is a lot over 30. The entire top of the national team is not getting younger — this is a fact. And then who cares how many times we were world champions... Although, purely for the sake of statistics, at the moment team Partizan won the World Championship 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. We missed two years: France 2013 - because of injuries, and 2018 because of changes in goals.
And for the fives we were calm. All that was asked of us as material assistance in the form of two or three exceptional fighters who were in shape, who were trained, who did not need to switch to pole arms for training, i.e. they fought, they wanted, they could — we provided such assistance. Because we have common and we have a common result.
If it's not a secret, what did the team and you personally do during your vacation? Do you feel rested and ready for new victories?
IK: I think most of the team dealt with, so to say, everyday issues. And, as I said earlier, I did not have a break. I feel good, but of course, the Dynamo Cup will show how someone feels and what he is ready for :)
DK: After the Battle of the Nations of 2017, I continued to train in armor for a couple of months, then I was forbidden to do it for health reasons. I stopped, and gradually, after 2-3 months, I came to the conclusion that I needed to put energy somewhere. I went to college. And not to say that I had a rest there... But the training process did not stop, it just became less intense, and acquired a different direction. The freed up resource were sent to the administrative work, the functioning of the national team. That is, I believe that this year we really prepared for the royal nomination: we held events, gatherings. Purposefully, they did not take shields and swords in our hands, trained with pole arms. Still, this is an old forgotten art that requires practice. It needs to be revised.
This year, that I went to college, I wanted to die from everything every day :). Because I came home at half past ten, the training was fully transferred to the mornings. It was necessary to have time to train, and to work, and to Study. All other aspects of life — family, children — also did not disappear anywhere. But, answering directly to your question, I will say the following: when I put on my armor, I realized that I must return. After the break, I showed a unique level below the baseboard, but still knocked out a couple of people and realized that it was still mine.
How and when did you get the idea to create the project “HMB School”?
DK: The defeat of 2017, which served as a kind of catalyst and made it possible to bring into shape all those ideas and thoughts that were in the air, had an effect. I suppose, under a different set of circumstances, it could well have turned out that we would just have retired as undefeated champions. Of course, this is cool and honorable, and I even think that we would be remembered for a couple of years, cited as an example, etc. But then the question arises: what did we leave behind? What then? I have already heard the same idea to train children for at least five years from Evgeny Vladimirovich (Evgeny Rene, the ideological inspirer of most of the projects of the HMB world — ed.note). But in order for such ideas to find incarnation, something must happen. So, this happened, and the consequence was the realization that for the further functioning of our team at the same level, in order to develop, it is necessary to move forward. Move forward, at least in order to remain at the same level, the level of stable victories. Therefore, we shifted the emphasis, and directed the time and effort not to train personally, these five to eight people. A tremendous work has been done to create a number of organizations and projects that complement each other; their functioning is based on mutual intersection. One of these key projects is the HMB School.
What guided you in the distribution of leadership positions? In particular, how did the Schools president was chosen?
DK: Let's put it this way, I agree with all your previous respondents who said that in many ways we really are the driving force, the legislators of our direction. We have many ideas, no less projects, and as a rule, it is all not a single person, but a collective mind that comes up with it. So, the one who is ready for this brings it to life, the one who has the resources of time, energy, etc. Among them, there was just such an active person, Igor Kravchenko — he invented it, wanted it and began to bring it to life.
How do you evaluate the level of training of young people — those who are already training under the guidance of top fighters of the Russian Federation. Are there progress, achievements?
IK: There is progress, undoubtedly, representatives of the HMB Schools already are earning medals in regional and qualifying tournaments, and we are talking not about famous or top athletes, but about people who just recently came to HMB — this is the best proof of success. Strategically, of course, we are counting on more global results in the field of training of HMB athletes, a greater number of them and bringing the quality of training to a completely different level is one of the main tasks for schools today.
DK: Here I’ll open the veil of secrecy: all these projects, including the HMB Schools, were initially aimed primarily at one big global idea — to create a system, transparent and objective, which will make it possible to form a national team in terms of quality, and desirably better one than we have now. To gather people who share the same goals and objectives as we have set them, winning the maximum number of medals, preferably gold — in other words, total domination. To achieve this, there were taken several vectors into development. Some more insight. For example, we are currently working on creating statistics of fighters, which will include their physical indicators and real effectiveness on the battlefield. We already have an sample of the algorithm for this calculation. The only thing is that at the moment there are not enough interested people who would like to contribute to the development of these ideas, who would really like to do all this for the good of the movement. Because the work is painstaking and there is a lot of it, but there are not enough hands for everything — we are all living people, and, besides activities in the HMB movement, we have our families, work, studies, etc., as I have already described with a personal example. Therefore, I don’t have objective assessments at the moment, even though we are now trying to move away from subjectivity in this matter, and not act according to the old principle “this guy’s cool, let’s take him!” We strive for an objective assessment and hope to implement this system during couple of years. There will be competitions and tournaments between schools. I.e., the very idea of schools, I think, is clear to you — it is aimed at replenishing the ranks of the national team, regardless of club affiliation. Here I will again share a secret: if club Bern won’t be able compete, to occupy the main amount of seats and the dominant position, then we will lose our positions, and these will be our problems. However, globally for the Russian HMB movement, it won’t be for worse. This is a competition, a free market.
Who comes to HMB schools? Is there any harsh selection, initiation? In other words, is it possible to get in for an ordinary person from the street?
IK: The very essence of Schools is that absolutely anyone, of any level of training, can come to the School and study, that is what is actually is happening today. We see how representatives of completely different ages and professions come to the Schools, students from various universities, young men and women, athletes and people who, thanks to HMB, came to do sports for the first time. Particularly gratifying is the fact that many people who previously had nothing to do with our movement come in, so we promote medieval battles to the masses, this is good news. HMB Schools are open to everyone.
DK: Anyone can spend 1500-2000 rubles, come and start training. In my opinion it’s great.
How tight is the collaboration between branches? Does the approach to the training process differ in each of them? How is the exchange of experience, techniques, etc.?
IK: Exchange of experience takes place all the time, school coaches conduct joint trainings, seminars, participate in battles and simply communicate. The general concept of training is based on academic sports, from which the fundamentals of wrestling and striking techniques are taken, strength and general physical training, in parallel, the development of a unified methodology, the first part of which will soon see the light. Of course, there are differences in the training of fighters of each of the schools, which depend on the coaches. And it is this that will allow us to carry out a selection of approaches and methods based on the sports results of their pupils, to identify the best training methods and refine them.
DK: My vision is such that, naturally, the approaches are completely different; they are almost like different styles of combat. At this stage, there is no standardization; every coach now just teaches what he knows best.
Is that a good thing in your opinion? Or is it better to develop a unified system?
DK: Of course, the work on standardization is being done and, no doubt, sooner or later it will happen. We set the task for the next five years to make this selection mechanism work.
It is well known that some fighters of the team conduct open seminars. In this regard, do you have any concerns that the victorious techniques of the Russian national team will become public? Do you share secrets with potential rivals?
DK: There are no secrets here. This is an open secret. Everyone knows the fundamentals: train — and there will be success. The question is not in the number of moves, and not even in the quality of coaches. The question is entirely different — the desire of a person to achieve something, to get into prizes, to conquer peaks, etc. We have examples before our eyes when, to put it mildly, not the toughest fighters with scattered technique become champions. Seven times.
IK: Of course, at the master classes, top fighters share their experiences and nuances in conducting one or another technique. But then, I think everyone understands that these nuances are at best 10% of success, and the remaining 90% is a long and painstaking work on yourself. In this regard, I believe, it is necessary to think not so much about competition as about one’s ability or inability to overcome laziness and organize oneself.
Have your opponents ever tried to defeat you with your own methods?
DK: Of course. I will tell you a story, on the example of the development of battles in 5 vs 5. We, as part of the Partizan team, met several times and thought about how we could change the approach to the training process, tactics, weapons, etc., so that there was a leap. What for? Because, catching up is always much easier psychologically. It is incredibly difficult; literally, a titanic effort is needed to remain at the peak of world sport for several years in a row. Everyone wants to beat us; everyone always wanted to win us, beat us, kill us, etc. However, no one succeeded, except in isolated cases. There were no systematic defeats. However, there were a number of key defeats, which only led to an increase in the desire to train, to practice, because eventually everyone gets tired of this. And we really do not train until they beat us. Very hard, if possible. Even if we win the battle, but we draw on moral and volitional or some other qualities, and at the same time we had been beaten up — we will change the approach.
As we already understood, a fighter of any club can come to train, but to open a School branch in your region - under what conditions is it possible? Is it planned to expand the network of schools, for example, abroad? IK: We have requirements for the gyms, requirements for the coaching staff, the organization of the work of the school and its cooperation with the center. We are open to dialogue with everyone who wants to interact and, by the way, I am pleased to see that there are more such people. Increasingly, they are already asking me the question not “what will you give us”, but “what should be done in order to open a school”. Of course, everyone is welcome, but we need to understand that we do not need the Potemkin villages (a construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that a situation is better than it really is — ed.note), which means that we’re approaching the choice of those with whom we will cooperate openly, but legibly. On the issue of opening schools abroad, I think, there is no need to rush things. First will set up a network and structure in Russia — and then we will see.
What is the main reason for the existence of this structure? Can we say that the students of the Schools will in the future become the core of the national teams?
DK: In fact, this is the main idea of the emergence of schools. This is the main idea of changing the approach to selection, because the current selection system is biased.
IK: As I said at the first conference of the HMB Schools, their goal is to educate and train fighters for the Russian national team and promote HMB to the masses. If we are talking about the formation of the core of the national team, naturally it does not mean that if you are in the School, then you immediately get into the national team — only the most worthy fighters will get there according to the results of the qualifying competitions. Then the question arises: who has more chances to win them? The answer to my opinion is simple — those who are more trained in specially created conditions under the guidance of highly qualified coaches using the vast experience of victories and the correctly chosen material and technical base. Naturally, the harvest will be higher where the soil is well prepared and growth takes place under the strict supervision of eminent specialists.
Let us go back to the competition. If we compare the two largest events in the world of HMB - Battle of the Nations and Dynamo Cup — is there any difference for you in the degree of responsibility?
DK: I will not compare these two championships, because the format of their conduct is completely different. That is, at the Battle of the Nations we have to win everyone for four days at the maximum pace, take all the prized places and get all the medals. Even in women's nominations, victories became paramount. As for the Dynamo Cup, it is usually one day under an incredible stress — there are more fights, the intensity is higher. Because everything takes place in a short time and in a limited space. I’ll just say it differently: our training is designed for two key check points — this is the Dynamo Cup and the Battle of the Nations. Accordingly, two or three days before we begin to engage, get ready and all that. :)
A bit seditious question: are you afraid to lose? Or such an outcome is not considered at all?
DK: Of course, the probability is high, and our fearsome name is getting forgotten. That is, of course, the very name Partizan always forged a half of the victory. I would not like to lose as a fighter, of course. It is unpleasant. Is it bad in terms of the development of the movement in Russia? No, this is not bad, but rather very good. Because then, perhaps, there will be some kind of competition, someone will believe in their strengths. Perhaps this will give an incentive to young guys to compete and train. From this point of view, our loss is a blessing. And from the point of view of development in the near future in 3-5 years, this is excellent. After all, it is no secret to anyone that the competition has disappeared. In many ways, due to the fact that intrigue disappeared in the distribution of prizes, people just stopped progressing, started trying to find loopholes to return to the first league in order to beat young boys. Some have left the movement altogether. But when you look at the young guys who are now fighting, it seems that they are not afraid of anything at all. Young men run, not afraid to make mistakes, it is given to them as if it is easy. And all our guys with experience of 5-7-10 years are very cautious, they know the price of a mistake.
Do you have prelaunch jitters?
DK: You know, psychologically I went through many fights; there were a lot of moments when I realized that absolutely everything depended on us. And 2015, 2016 years in Prague were significant in this sense that, for example, if we lose, Ukraine will take the first place, because the rest of our teams have dropped out. I will say this — there are jitters, they are incredibly strong, I realize that a lot of people are watching me, even more — on some YouTube, and then my knees start to shake. But at this moment I understand that either I’ll calm down, or... For this case, I always had one effective method. I look at all these rivals — they are gigantic, super-cool, wow, they will kill everyone. Then I look at our boys, I remember how many times we were on the verge of defeat, how many times we pulled back out, how many times we did not give up, and I imagine that now it will be exactly the same. At this moment, when become calm, everything is fine. I admit that one day this will not going to happen. Hopefully not.
In anticipation of the upcoming championship — parting word to your rivals, looking forward to the return of the favorites.
DK: Treat us condescendingly, after all, are veterans of the movement, old people, and it is not good to beat the elderly :). But seriously, I will say this — go for it. Beat us, win, and claim the glory. You will be rewarded.
It would be blasphemy to try to add something to these words, so we just going to wish veterans a great performance, health and strength to justify the hopes of their fans. And to the viewers we wish not to miss a single entrance of this team on the lists. Dynamo Cup waits its champions!
Interview: M. Golovina, S. Fyodorova, D. Medvedev Translation: Georgy Yurchak